What might change with the Falcons switching to Desmond Ridder?

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The Desmond Ridder era in Atlanta has officially begun. The Falcons are turning away from Marcus Mariota and towards the rookie third-round pick. Ridder will have these four games as a mini audition to be the franchise’s long-term solution at quarterback, so what can fans expect?

First and foremost, Arthur Smith’s offense isn’t going to become an air raid scheme suddenly. Smith wants to run the ball and take shot plays off of it regardless of who is at quarterback. Ridder won’t be throwing it all over the yard, like Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow; in fact, it will be an incredibly similar offensive system with slight changes that accentuate Ridder’s skillset more so than Mariota’s.

My guess is you’ll see the same dominant run games with a more significant emphasis on RPOs (run-pass options), which is what Cincinnati’s offense predominantly used with Ridder. Mariota had more zone reads called because his biggest asset was his legs. And while Ridder is certainly a mobile quarterback, Mariota is a far superior runner. Still, the rookie’s arm is more talented, despite being a raw player at this point.

The Falcons offense will be closer to the Titans offense when Arthur Smith was coordinating a unit led by Ryan Tannehill. It will still be a run-heavy offense with built in play action boots, but there will be fewer zone reads. However, Ridder’s ability to connect on deep passes should become evident right away.

Mariota’s fatal flaw was his inconsistent accuracy, specifically his lack of success in connecting on deep throws. His downfield ball placement was killing this offense, which wanted to pound the rock and throw it deep. Mariota has the highest ADOT and highest percentage of passes inaccurate of any starter; in fact, he has the fourth-highest mark of single-season uncatchable/inaccurate throw percentage from clean pockets since 2017.

Ridder will ultimately struggle, but his production at Cincinnati on deep balls suggests he should be better than Mariota. The Falcons aren’t expecting Ridder to come in and win four straight games to finish 9-8 with a playoff berth. It is an audition.

If the rookie looks competent, there’s an excellent chance he’s considered the favorite to start in 2023. If he looks completely helpless, expect the Falcons to address the position once again this offseason. Who knows what the team’s expectations are for Desmond Ridder, but it’s the most exciting time for the Falcons in quite a while.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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