Following his four-game audition, Desmond Ridder has been given the reins as the Falcons’ starter, and we know it’s going to be a lengthy run to give him time to prove he’s the long-term answer.
As for expectations, I think it’s fair to say playoffs are reasonable ones. Arthur Blank said he expects more wins than either of the last two seasons under Arthur Smith, which would mean at least eight wins. However, we can read between the lines. The Falcons owner is expecting an end to the postseason drought.
The state of the roster would also suggest those are reasonable expectations. Ridder’s supporting cast is that of a playoff-caliber team.
The Falcons offensive line returns four of five starters from one of the better units last year to go along with a second-round pick in Matthew Bergeron. Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson are joined by Bijan Robinson, Jonnu Smith, and Mack Hollins. It’s a star-studded skill group that just requires Ridder to act as a point guard, distributing the ball to his playmakers.
Defensively, the Falcons are much improved from a year ago. Jessie Bates, David Onyemata, and Calais Campbell headline the offseason acquisitions. The lesser-known additions are also notable — Kaden Elliss, Bud Dupree, Lorenzo Carter, Jeff Okudah, Zach Harrison, Clark Phillips, Mike Hughes, etc.
So, what are the actual expectations for Desmond Ridder? As for the regular season, the Falcons just need the third-round pick to avoid mistakes and complete easy passes. Arthur Smith will dial up open targets; it’s on Ridder to execute, something Marcus Mariota struggled to do.
However, it’s also about improvement, even if it’s marginal. The Falcons need Ridder to continually progress as the season goes on, and the preseason is no different, regardless of the vanilla schemes, which Arthur Smith told members of the media.
Arthur Smith on what he wants to see from Desmond Ridder Friday: "We need to execute, improve, take another step, get ready, feel the pocket so he's ready to go Week 1."
Also says "between me and Zac Taylor, I don't think we're going to trick each other," just trying to improve. pic.twitter.com/zFJ09A8RCR
— Kelly Price (@thekellyprice) August 15, 2023
Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire