Former opponent likens Desmond Ridder to Pro Bowl QB Ryan Tannehill

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The Falcons are expecting a playoff berth in 2023. After investing over $250 million in the roster this offseason, there’s no excuse not to end a five-year postseason drought amid the worst division in football.

The defense is the most improved facet of the club, given the additions of Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell, David Onyemata and others. The offense returns most of its starters while adding Bijan Robinson, Jonnu Smith, and Matthew Bergeron.

It’s the best team of Arthur Smith’s tenure in what is the first season with legitimate expectations. The biggest question mark surrounds the quarterback position. Can Desmond Ridder do enough to lead Atlanta to an NFC South title?

From inside Flowery Branch, it’s been nothing but praise for the third-round pick. His teammates and coaches consistently point out his leadership, confidence, and other intangibles. Coach speak will only get you so far, though.

One former opponent believes he can become a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback. From The Athletic’s positional rankings, a defensive coach that faced Ridder last year said he can be what Ryan Tannehill was to the Titans.

“In that system, I think he can be what (Ryan) Tannehill was to the Titans,” a defensive coach who faced Ridder said. “There is a lot more to learn about him, but I think I saw enough there where he can be a good system quarterback. He is going to get some weapons back.”

Under Arthur Smith, Tannehill had his best seasons, including a Pro Bowl bid in 2019. Across two seasons in Tennessee with Smith, the veteran signal caller totaled 6,561 yards on 67.3% passing, including 55 touchdowns to only 13 interceptions.

However, Tannehill consistently came up short in the postseason. Once defenses sold out to stop Derrick Henry, the Titans quarterback wasn’t able to get the job done. Eventually, Desmond Ridder will have to make a big-time throw or lead a game-winning drive. Only time will tell if he’s capable, but if he turns into a Pro Bowl quarterback like Tannehill, that would be a success for the Falcons after taking him in the third round.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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