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NY Jets free agent film study: Did Calvin Ridley disappoint in 2023?

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By: Andrew Fialkow

Based on his film, would Calvin Ridley be a worthwhile pursuit for the New York Jets?

The New York Jets may not have a ton of options to upgrade their wide receiver room before the draft. Tee Higgins is likely to be tagged. It seems as if Davante Adams is happy in Vegas. Mike Evans is likely to be re-signed. So where does that leave them?

The next best option should be Calvin Ridley.

Word on the street was that he had a pretty up and down year. The film and stats mirror that as well.

Ridley finished the 2023 season with 807 completed air yards out of 1,923 (!) intended air yards. In other words, the passes thrown in Ridley’s direction could have yielded up to 1,923 yards through the air if all were caught, but he ended up gaining only 807 air yards on his completed receptions. This means there were 1,116 air yards left on the field across his incomplete targets. Yes, that is a lot of yards missed out on.

Per ESPN’s WR metrics, Ridley ranked 80th on catch score out of 153 qualified WRs and 124th in YAC score. Not good. Ridley had a uncharacteristically high drop rate, ranked 25th-highest out of 92 WRs at 8.4%. He was also 83rd out of 95 WRs with 2.7 YAC per reception (second-lowest in his career although he’s never been a huge YAC guy).

I still see Ridley as a great route running receiver who has a unique ability to get open. This is something the Jets desperately need across from Garrett Wilson.

Despite his route running, Ridley posted the lowest catch rate (catches/targets) of his career at 56%. A lot of that was rust and lack of chemistry in my opinion. As the season went on, the team-wide chemistry should have improved within the Jags O, but they really just never hit their peak the way they should’ve as a whole, and Ridley’s stats mirrored that as their WR1.

His 2023 season has an insane amount of coulda shoulda woulda. Here is a full minute of clips that should have been catches for Ridley, whether it was a bad drop or him just missing getting his feet in bounds:

Besides the near-misses, how did Ridley’s strengths look on film?

They looked pretty damn good to me.

Clip #1 (Lined up Wide Right)

Crisp curl route from Ridley here, which he turns up field for a massive gain. He still has some YAC ability despite the stats not being great for him. I love how he understands the vacancy in the zone and comes back to the ball to make the catch.

Clip #2 (Lined up Wide Right)

Great burst on his release. He then gets in the CB’s blindspot once, and then twice, and then quickly changes direction and stops. He gets five yards of separation on a deep curl route. His tempo on running this route is absolutely phenomenal and something that should be praised. He really understands timing well.

Clip #3 (Lined up Wide Left)

Just a straight fade/go route here for Ridley. He does a good job getting an outside release against press but L’Jarius Sneed does a really good job staying in phase. Great contested catch here from Ridley as he shows late hands and makes a really good adjustment to the ball.

Clip #4 (Lined up Slot Right)

Love getting Ridley in the slot here for a big third down conversion. This is a slot fade route that Rodgers and Davante had elite chemistry on throughout their GB career together. Ridley gets matched up with Micah Hyde and easily wins off the line. T-Law throws a great ball and it’s an easy big conversion. Another good example of his ability to separate and track the ball effortlessly on deep balls.

Clip #5 (Lined up Wide Right)

Beautiful back shoulder adjustment against press coverage. This is another route that is a staple in the west coast offense with Rodgers. Ridley adjusts to this ball really easily and the late hands makes it indefensible for the DB. Back shoulder throws are impossible to stop if the WR and QB are on the same page. Ridley being QB-friendly throughout this tape is encouraging to see, especially since it was his first year with Lawrence.

The bottom line is that Ridley’s season had a lot of what-ifs. He had not played real football for two years, but he still showed that he is elite at the things we thought he was elite at. As shown from the film, he is an A+ route runner who has the ability to change direction with the best of them, has great ball tracking ability, and displays a good understanding of offenses.

I think his fit in the offense with Rodgers and GW across from him would be seamless, and with the options left on the market, the NYJ may need to make a strong move for Ridley.

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Originally posted on Jets XFactor