Over the past five weeks, Falcons fans have had a good understanding of where Marcus Mariota is at in his career after he spent time as a starter in Tennessee, backing up Derek Carr in Las Vegas, to ultimately being announced as the starter in Atlanta.
The Falcons are currently 30th in the league in passing offense. This is partly due to the success of the run game, where Atlanta ranks third. Coaches have started to depend more on the run as it becomes more apparent they are losing faith in Mariota’s ability to accurately pass the ball at a high level.
This lack of confidence has developed over the past two weeks as Mariota has failed to pass for more than 150 yards, only completing seven passes in the week four win against Cleveland. In that particular game, he missed several passes, which caused Atlanta to run the ball ten times without passing it on a drive that ended in a touchdown. In the latest matchup for the Atlanta Falcons, they ran it six times in the final drive against the Buccaneers, only passing when necessary.
The positive to his play has been proven with his dual-threat capability allowing him to extend plays. “He got us out of (situations) where we would’ve been even further off track, he avoided some sacks, and threw the ball away, as dumb as that may sound, when you throw it away, it keeps you out of sacks and momentum-changing plays,” Head Coach Arthur Smith said.
Mariota has accumulated a less than ideal 61.2 PFF (Pro Football Focus) grade through the first quarter of the season. Fans have started to ask the question, is it time for Atlanta to consider Desmond Ridder for the starting role?
In college, Ridder led the Cincinnati Bearcats to a 44-6 career record as the starter, the third-best record for any quarterback in college football history. He took charge his senior season as he garnered 3,689 total yards, 36 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, helping the Bearcats compete against Alabama in the College Football Playoffs.
Ridder showcased his potential in the preseason in the first three games, completing 61% for 431 yards and three touchdowns. Ridder has proven that he can compete in this league, impressing coaches and fans with how well he can read defenses and make the correct pass.
The problem with Ridder is mainly the inexperience of being a rookie, throwing two ugly interceptions in the last game against the Jaguars. These issues can be adjusted in due time as the 23-year-old quarterback has plenty of time to develop into the competitor this front office has hoped for.
“I’ve got high expectations for Desmond, we’re going to be hard on Desmond, because he’s a good player and can take that kind of coaching,” Smith said after the preseason loss to the Jets. “He understands that we’re not waiting on him as a rookie; we’re trying to speed him up.”
Fans expect Ridder will get his shot in the coming weeks to show whether he is the future of the franchise, and hopefully find the same success in Atlanta as he did in Cincinnati.
The last option for the falcons is to take a quarterback in the upcoming 2023 draft. There are plenty of prospects this year including quarterbacks Bryce Young (Alabama), CJ Stroud (Ohio State) or Dorian Thompson-Robison (UCLA) just to name a few. Depending on the play of Ridder and Mariota, the Falcons might feel the need to take one of these prospects.
The Atlanta Falcons have a big decision to make regarding the quarterback position in the future and fans are hoping they land the next superstar signal caller that can catapult the Falcons into contention.