For the first time in 2023, the Falcons will have a different quarterback under center at the start of the game.
During the club’s Week 8 contest in Nashville, Desmond Ridder was evaluated for a concussion after a less-than-stellar first half performance. In his place, Taylor Heinicke got the nod in the second half even though Ridder was cleared.
Ridder’s offensive production consisted of three points and a costly fumble. Meanwhile, Heinicke led the Falcons to 20 points, and four of six drives ending with a core. It wasn’t hard to see the difference between the third-round pick and the veteran.
Arthur Smith, teammates, and fans all saw the same thing. Atlanta’s head coach had no choice but to name Heinicke the starter, even if he had to say it was a short-term decision. The truth is the Falcons are essentially waving the white flag on Ridder being the long-term answer.
The Vikings would have to come out of Atlanta with an improbable win in fifth-round pick Jarren Hall’s NFL debut, AND Heinicke would have to look like a potato for the Falcons to turn back to Ridder. So, what can Falcons fans expect from their new signal caller?
In short, the Falcons probably expect Heinicke to perform in a similar capacity as they did with Ridder. He needs to keep the offense on track, limit negative plays, and distribute the ball to his playmakers.
Falcons fans can expect Heinicke to get the ball out quicker, which is something that Ridder struggled to do consistently. In turn, that should mitigate some of the sacks, but Heinicke’s ability to evade defenders will also help in that area. Heinicke is more experienced and a faster processor, so the offense should run more smoothly.
However, fans shouldn’t expect the turnover-worthy plays to be completely eliminated. Heinicke was a gunslinger and nothing changed in one offseason. With the Commanders, he never had this breadth of talent, and his play should reflect that, but to pretend he isn’t going to put the ball in harm’s way is naive.
He’s going to turn the ball over at times, but the hope is Taylor Heinicke has fewer of those mistakes and converts Atlanta’s redzone opportunities into points, preferably touchdowns.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire