As Xavien Howard made clear yesterday, there are a lot of people — both fans and players — that don’t even know who the Falcons starting quarterback is going into 2023. That’s going to change — for better or for worse — in a matter of a couple of months.
Over the last two seasons, Arthur Smith has proved that he can turn lemons into lemonade as a play-caller. The Falcons had very little to write home about under center, and their defense has been among the worst in the league, yet they’ve remained competitive, going a combined 14-20 in the last two seasons thanks to a creative running game that has established itself as one of the league’s best last year.
Now, Smith finally has some talent. The defense should be much-improved after spending in gobs during the offseason, upgrading at all three levels but particularly along the defensive front, which has long been a problem in Atlanta.
The offense also is loaded with talent. The line is poised to be one of the best in the league. They return four of five starters, and they moved up to draft Matthew Bergeron 35th overall, who they hope will establish himself as a starter in his rookie season. But it’s the skill group that has the potential to really shock people around the league.
The Falcons have spent top 10 picks in each of the last three years on a tight end, wide receiver, and running back. Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Bijan Robinson have star potential and will be staples of Atlanta’s offense. Which is a group that also includes Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, and Jonnu Smith. The idea of positionless football is real in Atlanta, and Arthur Smith is going to have a field day scheming these guys open. It’s up to Desmond Ridder to make the right decisions, something Smith noted he has been really pleased with during joint practices this week with the Miami Dolphins.
Arthur Smith said he wants to go back and watch the film of practice, but did note he’s really liked Desmond Ridder’s decision making over the last couple of days.
— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) August 9, 2023
The hope is that Ridder will eventually develop into the team’s franchise quarterback, but that’s not going to happen overnight. To start the season, expect the offense to do what it does best — run the ball and scheme up easy passes for Ridder to complete.
There aren’t going to be many scenarios where the second-year quarterback will be asked to be a hero. He will not be winning many games for the Falcons, but what could get him benched is if he starts losing them. Decision making will be priority #1, and it’s nice to see Ridder thriving in that area early on in the preseason.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire