JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)Calvin Ridley is quick to point out the only numbers that matter: 5-2.
The Jacksonville Jaguars receiver insists the team’s record should be the focus and not his productivity. Signed to give quarterback Trevor Lawrence a big-play threat, Ridley has 40 yards receiving or fewer in five of seven games this season.
He had one catch for 5 yards in a 31-24 win at New Orleans last Thursday and has just five receptions for 35 yards over the past two weeks, a frustrating stretch for Ridley and probably thousands of others who were expecting him to be a fantasy football stud in his return to the NFL.
Coach Doug Pederson was quick to defend Ridley on Wednesday, saying the Saints and others disguised coverages and rolled an extra defender his way. It opened the field up for Christian Kirk, who finished with six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.
“There was a guy underneath and a guy over top,” Pederson said. “There’s not a lot of places to throw the football. Defenses understand what Calvin can do. … Calvin has been a big part and will continue to be a big part of the offense.
“The success that we have is going to be because of Calvin’s success on the field. We just have to understand that defenses are going to be aware of where he is and they’re going to defend him. … It’s kind of a give and take there.”
Ridley has 27 receptions for 368 yards and two scores. The former Alabama star caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns despite playing on a broken left foot in 2020. He had 31 receptions for 281 yards and two scores before sitting out the final two months of the 2021 season to focus on his mental health. He was suspended for the entire 2022 season for gambling on games while he was away.
The Jaguars gave up a fifth-round draft pick in 2023 and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2024 to get Ridley from Atlanta at the trade deadline last year.
The 28-year-old Ridley, entering the final year of his rookie contract and counting roughly $11 million against the salary cap, was solid in the season opener and even better against Buffalo in London.
He’s been otherwise mostly quiet.
“They’re showing a little bit of respect out there,” Ridley said. “It is what it is, but we’re winning the games.”
Ridley’s numbers would be considerably better had he not dropped two touchdown passes against Houston and was ruled out of bounds – a call he questioned – on a long throw last week against New Orleans.
“It’s hard sometimes, but I’m here to help the team get wins and we’re 5-2, and I’m happy about that,” Ridley said. “This is all part of the game.”
Ridley joked that he’d like to see less attention this week at Pittsburgh (4-2), although he added that’s unlikely given he’s facing former college teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“You’ve got to always know where he’s at,” Ridley said. “He’s a ballhawk. He’s going to find the ball. He’s going to fly around. Smart, physical, just an all-around great player.”
The Jaguars say the same about Ridley, insisting the numbers don’t tell the full story. One potential issue: the Jaguars have played most of the season without fellow receiver Zay Jones (knee). It’s hardly a coincidence that Ridley’s most impactful games came when Jones was healthy.
“He brings a lot,” Kirk said. “Just his presence out there, his speed, his physicality, the ability to make contested catches and whatnot. He just opens up our offense.”
And he surely takes pressure off Ridley. Jones is expected to return against the Steelers after being inactive in four of the past five games, and that could be the difference for Ridley.
“I think we’re getting close,” Ridley said. “We only can get better. But you only get better if you continue to keep working and competing. Eventually it’s going to shoot through. It’s going to work eventually in the right games.”
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