The Falcons are entering a new era in Atlanta. The organization hasn’t started a season without Matt Ryan under center in what seems like a lifetime. The Falcons forced themselves into a corner after losing out on Deshaun Watson and had no choice but to trade Ryan. Now, they’ll begin the season with Marcus Mariota as the team’s signal caller.
Mariota has had an interesting journey in the NFL, filled with ups and downs over eight seasons. The former Heisman Trophy winner and 2nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft entered the league with the Titans and took Tennessee to the divisional round of the playoffs in his third season.
Fast forward three years, and the Oregon product appeared in one game for the Raiders during the 2020 season. Last year, Mariota was strictly used as a change-of-pace quarterback and only stepped on the field to throw off opposing defenses.
However, Mariota is set to be the Falcons’ starter, given how familiar he is with Arthur Smith’s offense. Working with Smith in Tennessee, Mariota was eventually replaced by Ryan Tannehill during his last season with the Titans.
The one fundamental difference between Ryan and Mariota is his mobility. The latter is able to create plays off-script with his legs and gets another crack as a starter in this league. Mariota is 29-32 over 61 career starts with an 89.5 passer rating.
His most recent start came in 2020 where he completed 17 of 28 passes (60.7% completion) for 226 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Mariota can still function as a starter in this league, and he’ll get his chance in Atlanta.
But make no mistake about it, Mariota, with one of the worst rosters in the league, will win 3-6 games at most. Falcons fans can expect a lot of struggles in 2023, but the worst part of it all is Mariota might be just good enough to win enough games to take the Falcons out of the running for CJ Stroud or Bryce Young. My biggest fear is failure on all fronts and still being out of reach from one of those two future franchise quarterbacks, which is where the Falcons seem to be headed.
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