The Falcons have finally assembled a competent roster for the first time since Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith took over. The new regime wasn’t given much to work with when they were initially hired, forced to undo all the wrongdoings left behind by Thomas Dimitroff and company.
The fact that the Falcons were able to even win seven games in each of the last two seasons with their abysmal roster is somewhat impressive. There were no expectations, but all of that has changed going into this season.
Atlanta spent gobs of money in free agency, upgrading their defense at all three levels. On paper, this looks to be one of the better defenses the Falcons have had over the last two decades. They also brought in another offensive weapon in Bijan Robinson with the 8th overall draft pick, creating one of the most unique and versatile skill position groups in the NFL. Combine that with an offensive line that is returning four starters and the addition of second-round pick Matthew Bergeron; Desmond Ridder has no excuse not to succeed.
That is the primary question surrounding this Falcons team: can Desmond Ridder be a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL? Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot seem to think so, but Pro Football Focus isn’t sold. They recently ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks, and Ridder just missed out on finishing dead last, ringing in at #31.
31. DESMOND RIDDER, ATLANTA FALCONS
There was little we saw from Ridder last season to suggest he will approach even average play at the position. Marcus Mariota played his way to the bench with his performances, and Ridder was simply the young quarterback in line for reps. He posted a 68.5% adjusted completion rate and had two turnover-worthy plays to three big-time throws. He also recorded just 136 dropbacks, so it would be a stretch to draw any concrete conclusions.
Nothing Ridder showed last season during his four-game mini-audition should have Falcons giddy for what they are going to see on Sundays in 2023. He made few outstanding plays, and despite not turning the ball over, there were several plays that could have been considered turnover worthy. Based purely on that, with no improvement, Ridder will undoubtedly be one of the worst quarterbacks in football this upcoming season.
With that being said, I’m much more bullish on Ridder’s potential in the Falcons offense. He has elite intangibles, didn’t make too many rookie mistakes, and even had some clutch drives at the end of games. In an offense like Atlanta’s that wants to run the ball more than any team in the league, Ridder isn’t going to be asked to do anything out of his comfort zone very often. He should be able to do what Arthur Smith is going to ask of him, but if the Falcons ever want to be legitimate contenders, Ridder must prove that he can make some big-time plays in the fourth quarter. That will be the biggest key to Atlanta making the playoffs this season.
Photo: Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire
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