The Atlanta Falcons have made the decision to start rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder over veteran Marcus Mariota, per Ian Rapoport. The Falcons made this decision during their bye week, allowing Ridder time to get acclimated with the first-team offense. His first start will be against division rivals, the New Orleans Saints.
The Atlanta Falcons Have an Outside Shot To Win the NFC South
This decision comes after the Falcons, who were 4-4 at the beginning of November, lost four of their last five games. The Falcons could still win a weak NFC South but would need to keep pace with the Buccaneers before winning a matchup against them in Week 18.
Ridder was originally projected as a first-round pick by a number of draft analysts but fell to the third round. He’ll have to make his debut without the Falcons’ top weapon in Kyle Pitts but could demonstrate early on what his talent brings to the offense, especially in conjunction with rookie first-round pick Drake London.
Desmond Ridder Has a Lot To Work On
The Pro Football Network draft team noted that Ridder was well-known for his leadership capabilities at Cincinnati and that he showcased a strong arm and a willingness to use it downfield. His athletic profile is a positive, and though he won’t likely be used in the running game as much as Mariota was, he’ll be an asset as a scrambler.
His weaknesses as a passer – specifically accuracy and anticipation – will be tested, but the Falcons will be able to get a look at how his development has gone before needing to make a bigger decision during the offseason.
If this can spark a change in the Atlanta offense, this could be big for the franchise. Despite having an offensive head coach and a generally well-designed scheme, the Falcons only rank 15th in points per drive and finish 11.6 percent of their drives with a turnover – 11th-most in the NFL.
Mariota ranked 23rd in our quarterback power rankings and 20th in expected points per play. Ridder would have to demonstrate his ability to be at least an average quarterback to be a meaningful upgrade this year.
It won’t solve all of their problems, but this late in the season, that is unlikely to be the expectation. The Falcons might have been better off making this decision sooner if they truly expected to compete in the NFC South. Instead, they’re making decisions that should benefit them more in 2023 than in 2022.