The Falcons wrapped up their second and final practice of mandatory minicamp on Wednesday, which ended with a competition between offensive and defensive linemen fielding punts. Arthur Smith noted he’d be taking the team to Top Golf on Thursday, so if you find yourself with nothing to do, go wait at your local Top Golf. You might just see the entire Falcons team.
The most important note of the Falcons’ press conferences had to be a comment from Smith on rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was drafted in the third round and is expected to compete with veteran free agent signing Marcus Mariota for the starting job. If you’re unfamiliar with Arthur Smith, he’s very much Bill Belichick-esque in that he rarely tosses around compliments. So, when he praised Ridder on Wednesday, it caught my attention.
“He’s light years ahead of most other young quarterbacks from the neck up,” Smith said of Ridder. “I will give him that compliment.”
Despite Mariota being expected to be the incumbent starter, Ridder is immediately making a case to be the team’s signal caller. He’s proving to be a quick learner, picking up the offense much faster than anticipated, which most rookie quarterbacks struggle with considerably.
“Honestly, I’m not going to lie, I thought I was going to come in and struggle a little bit,” Ridder said. “We’re almost all the way through all our installs and putting in all those checks. I’ve got a good grasp of it. That kind of surprised me, honestly, you know? I’m not going to say I wouldn’t have picked it up, but I thought it would take me just a little bit longer, an extra couple of days. But I’ve been able to pick up on it pretty smoothly.”
Not only is he grasping the playbook almost immediately, but he’s also finding his confidence as a leader.
“Just the flow of it, the way it’s coming out of my sentences in the huddle to the command that I have at the line of scrimmage to just seeing the defense and also seeing the offense. Everything just came to me.”
And Smith is noticing.
“He’s very intelligent,” Smith said before adding “Clearly he’s got to continue to improve … but behind the scenes there are things he has done that have impressed me as a rookie. How he’s operating, his walk-throughs and duties and installations and on the field and his command” as ways the rookie has impressed.
Generally speaking, the most challenging part about being a quarterback in the NFL is the leadership and mental processing, both of which have come naturally for Ridder. It should really encourage Falcons fans that the Cincinnati product isn’t experiencing the normal growing pains associated with being a rookie signal caller in the NFL.