And on Monday ahead of Week 13’s game against the Buccaneers, head coach Arthur Smith said there was still “no update” on Ridley’s return.
“As soon as we get an update, we’ll give an update,” Smith said during Monday’s press conference. “I know that you’ve got to ask, but there is nothing to update.”
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Ridley Announced He Was Stepping Away From Football in Week 8
After a surprisingly rough start to the season, Ridley made his decision to step away from football to take care of his mental health until further notice.
“These past few weeks have been very challenging and as much as I’d like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental wellbeing,” Ridley wrote on Twitter. “This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future. I want to thank my teammates, the entire Atlanta Falcons organization, our great fans, my friends, and my family for all of their support during this time.”
The following week, the Falcons placed him on the non-football injury list, which would keep him sidelined for at least three weeks. Ridley hasn’t played in the last five games and has 31 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns on the 2021 season so far.
The Falcons’ offense has clearly struggled with the lack of reliable receivers, losing 43-3 to the Cowboys in Week 10 and 25-0 to the Patriots in Week 11. However, they found some life in the offense in Week 12 against the Jaguars, thanks to the return of Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Falcons Need Ridley (Or Someone)
The Falcons have gone 2-3 with Ridley absent. And through two of those games, the Falcons have failed to score a single touchdown.
Running back Cordarrelle Patterson carried the team on its back with two touchdowns in his return last week and wideout Russell Gage finally scored his second touchdown of the season. without Ridley, Gage, who was set to be the Falcons No. 2 receiver this year, has been forced to be Atlanta’s No. 1 WR. He currently ranks fourth among Atlanta’s receivers with 270 yards––still sitting behind Ridley’s 281 yards.
The Falcons have also been relying on backups Olamide Zaccheaus and Tajae Sharpe. Zaccheaus has caught three touchdown passes so far for 222 yards while Sharpe has yet to score a touchdown but is right behind Zaccheaus with 213 yards.
Of course, Atlanta has still has rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, who leads the team with 661 receiving yards, as a target. However, opposing defenses have been doing whatever it takes to keep the ball away from him.
Ultimately, the Falcons’ only threat on offense right now is Patterson (while Sharpe and Gage are busy running into each other). But Cordarrelle is about to be slowed down this week against a dangerous Tampa Bay Buccaneers run defense, thus relying on the passing game. Patterson is also helpful in that, but the team can’t solely count on him.
Someone is going to have to step up on offense if Atlanta wants even a slight chance against the Bucs or a playoff picture.