Giants need Pro Bowl James Bradberry to show up with 'savvy' Calvin Ridley coming to town

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James Bradberry/Calvin Ridley Treated Image
James Bradberry/Calvin Ridley Treated Image

James Bradberry had a pivotal interception late in the fourth quarter against the Washington Football Team that could’ve iced the game had the Giants’ offense scored a touchdown with their prime field position. But other than that great look on the route and good jump on the ball thrown, Bradberry didn’t have his best game.

In fact, the Pro Bowl corner from a year ago has had a rough go in the first two contests. In Week 1 against the Denver Broncos, he allowed six of seven targets his way to be caught for 65 yards and a touchdown with a 144.9 NFL Passer Rating as well, per Pro Football Focus.

Then, this past Thursday, it was six of eight targets for 50 yards, a touchdown, and the interception with a 90.6 rating.

Last week specifically, Bradberry was mainly matched up with Terry McLaurin, one of the speediest receivers in the game. He had 47 yards and that touchdown on five receptions when Bradberry was covering him, according to PFF. And heading into this week, he has an even tougher opponent to go against: Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley.

“Ridley’s as good as they come,” head coach Joe Judge said before Wednesday’s practice. “He’s savvy, runs great routes, has good hands. He’s very quick at going upfield. He has agility in open space to make you miss if you’re not a good, sound tackler. Fundamentals in the open space will be key against this guy.”

For his standards, Ridley has had modest numbers to start his new campaign without Julio Jones opposite him for the first time in his career. He’s hauled in 12 receptions on 16 targets for 114 yards and a touchdown. Some games, when the matchup presents itself, those are his total numbers after 60 minutes.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan, despite Atlanta losing to move to 0-2, looked much better in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that meant 10 targets for Ridley, who should be expected to be his first look on most dropbacks.

And after just two games, the Giants’ secondary – arguably their biggest strength on paper heading into training camp – has been the main culprit in the defense allowing 575 passing yards (287.5) already this season. So you can see why this matchup is crucial for Bradberry, granted he's covering him, to win.

Judge explained further what makes Ridley such a threat on the outside.

“It’s not just one thing,” he said when asked what he does so well. “I think this guy’s got a lot of experience for one. He’s very savvy. He has great awareness in space when he’s playing against zone, really finding the open spot. He doesn’t really tip his routes at the top. That’s the other thing, too. He doesn’t get high on his pad level and his feet get out in front of his body. This guy can really run and press chest over knees, over toes and make sudden cuts.”

Will Bradberry be on him all game? Of course, Judge wouldn’t give up his game plan for the Falcons. But if it does come down to Bradberry on him more times than not, Judge doesn’t mind. Bradberry, after all, is the team’s top corner and he’s liked what he’s seen thus far.

“I’m pleased with the way James is progressing,” he said. “There’s obviously things that every player on this team [needs] to keep doing better. We’re far from a finished product. But I like the way he comes out, works, and competes. I’ve seen a lot of production obviously in games. He’s competing for us. I think James is off to a good start for us.”

Bradberry will be looking to get off to a better start in Week 3 than he has to kick off the new season, as Ridley could get things going for Atlanta really quick if he isn’t at his best.