After flirting with the idea of trading multiple draft picks last year for Deshaun Watson, the Atlanta Falcons didn’t have much of a choice but to trade franchise icon Matt Ryan. A year later, they’re still searching for an identity, but they hope Desmond Ridder is up to the task.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith confirmed the plans to start Ridder this season when speaking to members of the media on Tuesday.
“The plan is to start Desmond. That’s our plan going forward right now.”Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith on Desmond Ridder’s standing with the team
Ridder, the 74th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, managed to sneak into the starting lineup as a rookie, making four starts last season. This was only after Marcus Mariota‘s season went awry after dealing with a chronic knee issue requiring surgery.
But now that Mariota has been released, since landing with the Philadelphia Eagles, the job is Ridder’s to lose. Or to lock down. It’s up to the 23-year-old former Cincinnati star to decide his fate from here.
- Desmond Ridder stats last year: 63.5% completion rate, 708 passing yards, 2 TD
Ridder getting a chance to take over the reins shouldn’t be a major surprise, as the Falcons likely want to see what last year’s third-round pick can develop into. Plus, there isn’t another obvious candidate capable of taking his place in the starting lineup.
If there’s one takeaway from Ridder’s college career, it’s that he was a consistent winner who frequently made the right play while limiting mistakes with the Bearcats. If he can replicate even a sliver of that success in the pros, surrounded by first-round talents Kyle Pitts and Drake London, he’ll have a fighting chance to stave off any competition.
The competition, by the way, is 30-year-old journeyman Taylor Heinicke, who made 24 starts for the Washington Commanders the past two seasons. He’s proven to be a high-floor backup capable of stepping into the starting lineup in a pinch. But even Heinicke realizes what he signed up for, to be the best backup he can be for Ridder and the Falcons.
While Ridder certainly has some potential to develop into a star, incredibly, not even Lamar Jackson’s potential availability seems to be causing the Falcons to flinch.
In turn, there is no controversy in Atlanta. Ridder is the team’s QB1. Barring some major development elsewhere, it’s hard to envision that changing before training camp begins.