Calvin Ridley aiming to 'keep the standard high' for Falcons following Julio Jones trade

The departure of Julio Jones turned eyes toward Nashville, but back in Atlanta, Calvin Ridley had quietly ascended to top billing in the Falcons' receiving corps.

With Jones gone, it's now Ridley's room to lead. He feels he's learned enough from his time spent with Jones to take the reins, because there's a high bar to reach now that the Falcons great is gone.

"Obviously Julio Jones is one of the best receivers to ever play the game and to come through Atlanta," Ridley said, via 11 Alive News' Maria Martin. "My goal is to keep it high, to keep the standard high."

Ridley flourished in his third professional season while playing opposite Jones, catching 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games. His statistical explosion was just the latest step in a progression many could see coming after he posted consecutive 800-plus-yard seasons in his first two years in the NFL.

Ridley credited Jones for helping him break out in 2020, and as Ridley explained it, Jones didn't have to do much more than just be himself to push Ridley to reach new heights.

"I used to literally try to outdo him and that kept me hungry every day, every week," Ridley said of Jones.

Now, Ridley will have to find a new teammate to attempt to outwork -- he said quarterback Matt Ryan might be his new challenger -- as he aims to continue finding success. It won't be quite as easy without Jones on the field, as Ridley will now be opposing defenses' No. 1 focus when it comes to stopping Atlanta receivers.

Then again, the Falcons did just select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts -- arguably the best overall talent in his draft class -- with the fourth-overall pick in late April. It might not be long before defenses start turning their attention toward figuring out how to stop Pitts, again unlocking more opportunities for Ridley.

Above all, Ridley just needs to stay healthy to reach his peak potential. He has a quarterback he can count on in Ryan and a new running mate in Pitts, and after undergoing minor foot surgery recently, he hasn't been able to participate at full speed in minicamp, instead being limited to meetings and walkthroughs. He should be good to go for training camp, though, and that's when he'll take his first true steps as Atlanta's No. 1 receiver.

If he took anything away from Jones' time in Atlanta, it was learning how to carry himself with confidence. He'll need it as he takes up his new mantle.

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