Can Marcus Mariota make the most of his second chance with the Falcons?

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For better or worse, Matt Ryan is gone. After shipping him off to Indianapolis for a third-round pick, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year contract. The selling point for the former second overall pick was that he had a chance of starting again, which will happen unless the Falcons draft one of the first quarterbacks off the board. The only other quarterback on the roster is Feleipe Franks, an athletic monster who had an inconsistent college career at Florida and Arkansas. Even if the Falcons do draft a quarterback early, Mariota is the front-runner for the starting job. So can he make the most of his second chance? 

The 2014 Heisman winner put up video game numbers at Oregon. In three seasons, he threw for 10,796 yards with 105 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. He was also something of a dual-threat, rushing for 2,237 yards and 29 touchdowns. Mariota led the Ducks to the inaugural College Football Playoff, where they slammed Florida State 59-20 before losing to Ohio State in the final. Following the loss, the Titans took him with the second overall selection. 

While his college career was outstanding, Mariota has been up and down as an NFL quarterback. His 1.7 career TD/INT rate is so-so, and aside from the 2017 season, he hasn’t started a playoff game. Injuries have also played a factor in his lack of success. If he had stayed healthy, who knows where he would be today, but we are about to find out what he has left in the tank.

While nobody expects Mariota to lead a shocking Falcons playoff run, with the right supporting cast, the former Titan could lead a formidable offense in Atlanta. In Tennessee, he never had much of a supporting cast outside of Derrick Henry, and their run game wasn’t nearly as potent as it is today. So, how does the scenery differ in Atlanta?

Mariota is a lot more mobile than Matt Ryan. This should slightly counteract the Falcons’ struggling offensive line, as Mariota should escape pressure more effectively than Ryan. Additionally, Atlanta has one of the best weapons on the planet in Kyle Pitts, and the versatile Cordarrelle Patterson recently signed a two-year extension. Of course, the team is lacking at receiver after Calvin Ridley’s suspension, but the draft opens up options with a fairly deep class. I’m expecting the Falcons to add a couple of receivers in late April. Combine all of that with a bright offensive mind in Arthur Smith, who Mariota is familiar with, and it could be a better than expected year for the Falcons’ offense. 

I trust Mariota to put up solid numbers in the ATL. At the very least, he will be a more than capable stopgap until the Falcons find a long-term answer at quarterback. 

Photographer: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

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