Falcons: How long is Desmond Ridder’s leash in 2023?


The Falcons are entering a new era with Desmond Ridder under center as Atlanta searches for its next franchise quarterback. However, given the expectations this season (playoffs) and his status as a third-round pick, what kind of leash do the Falcons give Ridder?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. He’s essentially a rookie quarterback that deserves time to develop in the NFL and in Arthur Smith’s offense. Development is never linear in this league, and Falcons fans can expect up-and-down performances. With that being said, the expectation for Smith is to make the postseason or at the very least improve on the 7-10 records from his previous two seasons.

Arthur Blank broke out the checkbook this offseason, spending more than $250 million in free agent deals and contract extensions. If the owner is expecting better results, you can bet your bottom dollar the head coach is feeling that pressure.

When Ridder inevitably struggles, he’ll be given more grace than say a veteran like Marcus Mariota. Again, he’s practically a rookie quarterback so his leash should be a bit longer than his predecessor. With that being said, this roster is ready for the playoffs.

The defense has undergone dramatic improvement at all three levels. David Onyemata, Calais Campbell, Bud Dupree, and Lorenzo Carter give the club its best defensive front rotation in years. Kaden Elliss is a versatile chess piece that will soon become a household name. Jessie Bates will quarterback the defense on the backend and was the best safety on the market.

It should be a much better unit in 2023. Offensively, Desmond Ridder has no excuse not to succeed. Four starters return along the offensive line, which was a top 10 group last year. Matthew Bergeron is supposed to solidify the left guard position after the club traded up in the second round; that kind of continuity cannot be understated. It’s an incredibly important and consistent facet of successful offensive lines, but it’s the skill group that’s got everyone buzzing in Flowery Branch.

Drake LondonKyle PittsJonnu SmithTyler AllgeierCordarrelle Patterson, and the recently drafted Bijan Robinson form the best skill group Atlanta has seen since the club went to the Super Bowl more than 5 years ago.

Moreover, the offensive system isn’t going to put a ton of responsibility on Ridder’s shoulders. Arthur Smith has done well adjusting his scheme to accentuate his quarterback’s skill set. The 2021 offense with Matt Ryan looked much different than the one with Marcus Mariota last year. Expect more adjustments in 2023 with Ridder.

Though I believe he can become an average quarterback in this league, I’m not positive it will happen in 2023. So, back to the original question, how long of a leash does Ridder have?

Right now, it’s impossible to answer that question, but I expect the Cincinnati product to be the starter for the entire season. With that being said, the Falcons didn’t sign one of the best backups in the league — Taylor Heinicke — for no reason. If Desmond Ridder is incompetent, shows absolutely no growth, and the club is within reach of the postseason, I wouldn’t be shocked if Arthur Smith turned to the veteran Heinicke.

It will be worth monitoring all season long.

Photographer: Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire

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