Falcons’ Matt Ryan Expresses Confidence in Calvin Ridley’s Replacement

Falcons WR Tajae Sharpe

Getty Russell Gage #14 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates with Olamide Zaccheaus #17 and Tajae Sharpe #4.

The Atlanta Falcons will be without starting wide receiver Calvin Ridley in Week 9 as he steps away from football to take care of his mental health.

Sliding into his place is former 2016 fifth-round draft pick Tajae Sharpe, who has played 99 total snaps in the past two games that Ridley has been unavailable for. Through those games, he caught 9 of 11 targets for 111 yards.

In his most recent start against the Carolina Panthers, Sharpe led the team through the air, catching five out of his six targets for 58 yards.

Moving forward without Ridley for the unforeseeable future may or may not break Atlanta’s offense but until then, quarterback Matt Ryan is confident that Sharpe can be the guy to step up.

“I think Tajae has done a good job all year,” Ryan said following the Falcons 19-13 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, Oct. 31. “At different times where he has been asked to go in and make plays, I thought he did that for us today. Made a couple of good plays. I have a lot of confidence in Tajae that he will go in and be a good player for us.”

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Sharpe Is a UMass Product

Tajae Sharpe

GettyFormer Titans WR Tajae Sharpe #19.

Sharpe, 26, was originally drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fifth round (140 overall) of the 2016 NFL draft out of the University of Massachusetts.

Making Tennessee’s 53-man roster as a rookie didn’t come easy for Sharpe as he spent training camp competing against Andre Johnson, Dorial Green-Beckham and Kendall Wright. However, after he outperformed them in the offseason, he was named the starting wideout opposite to Rishard Matthews, thus making his first debut in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

Sharped finished his rookie campaign with 41 receptions for 522 yards and two scores.

Unfortunately, the following season, he didn’t play a single game after being placed on the injured reserve with a foot injury ahead of Week 1. Sharpe returned for Tennessee in 2018 and 2019, but his fifth-year option was declined in 2020 following a production decline. He spent most of the year on the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad. After being waved in December, he ended up in Kansas City before landing with the Falcons in May of 2021.

Aside from Sharpe, the Falcons could also turn to veteran wideout Marvin Hall, who they signed as an emergency plan on Tuesday, Nov. 2.


Hall Joins the Falcons at a Time of Need

The Falcons re-signed speedster Marvin Hall to the practice squad, who had previously spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons with the team.

Hall, 28, has been a journeyman after signing with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He didn’t see any playing time until 2017 when he first signed the Falcons and scored his first NFL career touchdown, a 40-yard reception from Matt Ryan, on just his second day with the team.

More recently, Hall recorded 291 receiving yards through 11 games with the Detroit Lions in 2020 last season, which marked the most productive season of his six-year career.

The Falcons still have Russell Gage, who is recovering from a groin injury, available as a top receiver, but their WR depth runs pretty thin. Expect Hall to be elevated to the active roster on game day.

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