The Falcons ran vanilla offensive sets in their preseason opener against the Lions, but a new facet of the offense was on full display in a post-Matt Ryan era.
Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder combined for 82 rushing yards on nine carries in Friday’s win over Detroit. These weren’t designed runs by any means, but Falcons fans can expect Arthur Smith to utilize his mobile quarterbacks in that fashion. Instead, many of these runs came on designed rollouts, which Smith didn’t really have the ability to do with Matt Ryan.
‘We had plays that – we’ll continue to evolve there, but it’s preseason, we’re not going to show our hand in a lot of other stuff,” Smith said in his postgame press conference. “But, when you have athletic quarterbacks and you’re able to move the pocket, they’re going to be able to extend plays.”
The Falcons’ use of their quarterbacks’ mobility is another dynamic element Smith will have at his disposal. Considering how poor Atlanta’s offensive line is at protecting the passer, the ability to play off-script will be vital for any success in 2022. And we saw what that could look like on multiple instances.
#Falcons 8th overall pick, WR Drake London, with a 24-yard gain.pic.twitter.com/cmB1l3rOKM
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 12, 2022
The first clip is the quintessential Arthur Smith play — play action boot to get Mariota in space where he has the ability to tuck it and run if the crosser, Drake London, doesn’t come open. Mariota connects with the Falcons’ No. 8 overall pick for a gain of 24 yards in what should become a staple of the Falcons’ offense. It was a designed rollout, but the second clip is another facet of the offense the Falcons didn’t have with Matt Ryan. As the play breaks down, Desmond Ridder buys time and finds Jared Bernardt for the go-ahead touchdown, showcasing the traits that prompted the Falcons to draft him.
Mariota looked fast in his return as a starter in this league, and if there’s one thing Falcons fans can take away from the exhibition game, it is that the former No. 2 overall pick wants to win. He put his body on the line multiple times, including on his six-yard touchdown run. Obviously, the coaching staff would prefer Mariota not take as many hits as he did, but it’s fantastic to see this wrinkle in Atlanta for the first time since Michael Vick. No disrespect to Matt Ryan, but Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder are just in another league of athleticism.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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