The Falcons have a playoff-caliber roster and sit at 2-1 with wins over a division rival and the Packers, who many expect to be in the playoff conversation. But last week was a reality check against the Detroit Lions. The Falcons still have a lot to improve upon if they want to compete with the top teams in the league.
Desmond Ridder has flashed at times, but his performance against the Lions was discouraging to say the least. It’s far too early to be calling for him to be benched, but there could come a point where the Falcons decide he is not the guy to lead this team forward. Many are hoping the team seeks a trade or signs a free agent like Matt Ryan to eventually replace Ridder, but the reality is the Falcons have one of the best backups in the league, and they shouldn’t be afraid to use him if Ridder fails to improve.
An undrafted free agent signing of the Vikings in 2015, Heinicke has continued to play the game with an underdog mentality, and he showed promise in his three seasons with the Commanders (25 starts). Even though he’s undersized — 6-foot-1, 210 pounds — and has borderline average physical traits, he has a fearless playing style as an unorthodox playmaker who isn’t afraid to take risks when forced into action.
Heinicke recorded a 7-8 record in 2021 and a 5-3-1 mark in 2022. He threw for 5,278 passing yards, 32 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions while completing 64% of his throws during those two years. And his 1.6% completion percentage above expectation last season ranked 10th in the league, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
If, for whatever reason, the Falcons turn to Heinicke, he’ll be more than capable of providing a spark for Atlanta. Now, I seriously doubt the club will turn away from Desmond Ridder unless something catastrophic happens. They’ve backed him at every waking moment, and one game isn’t going to change that. Still, if an injury arises, Heinicke is a more than capable backup.
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