Falcons: Expectations should be tempered for Desmond Ridder

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Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder is set to make his NFL debut this Sunday against Atlanta’s biggest rival, the Saints, in New Orleans. Much has been made about the drama surrounding the benching of Marcus Mariota and the phantom injury resulting in an IR stint, but it shouldn’t take away from this moment for Ridder and Falcons fans.

“I’m prepared for this,” Ridder said, via the team’s website. “This is what they’ve been preparing me for. They didn’t want to baby me. . . . It means going about the game plan how a 12-year vet, an eight-year vet, whatever it may be, would. Not putting on a wristband — making me memorize every single play call, all the ins and outs, all the checks, all the cadence, just taking it like I’ve been in the league for eight years.”

What quarterbacks coach Charles London had to say about turning to Ridder should be music to fans’ ears: “nothing to scale back in the offense.” The staff hasn’t coddled Ridder, and everyone should be excited to see the third-round pick out of Cincinnati.

Coming out of college, scouts raved about his mobility and his mind. For a prospect, Desmond Ridder was highly touted for his ability to recognize coverages and make quick decisions. Anticipation and accuracy, or lack thereof, was Marcus Mariota’s fatal flaw. His downfield ball placement killed Arthur Smith’s offense, which wants to pound the rock and throw it deep. Mariota has the highest ADOT and highest percentage of passes inaccurate of any starter; in fact, he has the fourth-highest mark of single-season uncatchable/inaccurate throw percentage from clean pockets since 2017.

Ridder can’t possibly be worst, but the offense won’t radically change. Smith will run the ball and take shot plays off of it regardless of who is at quarterback; the expected success should just increase with Ridder under center.

Fans will see the same dominant run game but with a more significant emphasis on RPOs (run-pass options), which is what Cincinnati’s offense predominantly used with Ridder. The Falcons offense will be closer to the Titans offense when Arthur Smith was coordinating a unit led by Ryan Tannehill.

However, Ridder will inevitably struggle, so expectations should be tempered. It’s no knock to him; I personally love his game. But rookie quarterbacks generally struggle and deserve time to grow. Patience is critical. Ridder has the tools to develop into a more than capable starter in this league, but the rate at which young signal callers develop deviates and is not even close to linear.

There is plenty in Desmond Ridder’s game to give Falcons fans hope. His mental makeup and athleticism provide an encouraging foundation for Arthur Smith to build upon. And this is just the beginning. The roster desperately needs upgrading, but if the personnel and system are right around Ridder, he could easily turn into a solid starter in this league.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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