Think back to the last legitimately intriguing Falcons backup quarterback we’ve seen in the Matt Ryan era. That wasn’t D.J. Shockley, who had been here for a couple of seasons already before Ryan showed up. It wasn’t John Parker Wilson, a man who Mike Smith and company loved for his grit and smarts but not his horse and buggy-powered arm.
It might have been Sean Renfree, the seventh round pick back in 2013 who never lived up to his billing thanks to injuries and scuffling preseason performances. Maybe it was Dominique Davis, the undrafted free agent with the live arm who briefly intrigued before moving on to the CFL.
Then again, maybe it was none of those guys. Maybe it’s just Kurt Benkert.
The hype machine
Given that Ryan has chiefly been backed up by veterans over the years, young quarterbacks are always a novelty. That’s especially true for Benkert because of his excellent timing, given that he’s showing up in the final year of Matt Schaub’s deal, and could position himself to back up Ryan in 2019 if all goes well.
And Benkert’s debut, while uneven, showed off the solid decision-making and strong arm that had people talking about him when he first signed with the Falcons. As Matt Winkeljohn wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Matt Ryan and Dan Quinn had some nice things to say about the rookie:
“Kurt has done a great job,” Ryan said. “. . . It was a good way for us to start the half with an explosive play to get us going. We’ve seen a lot of that from him through all of camp and really throughout the offseason. He’s a talented guy. He works extremely hard.”
“I keep seeing the arrow going up,” head coach Dan Quinn said of Benkert. “I’ve always liked that he has a good deep ball, and that was something he had at UVa. He does a good job of taking care of the ball; that was one of the things coming in that I think he’s worked on.”
The Falcons are unlikely to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, but Benkert is going to make his case by virtue of his talent and summer success. The Falcons know full well what Matt Schaub can give them—he’s a great locker room guy and strong offensive mind, but he was limited as a quarterback three years ago—and Garrett Grayson has never proven he’s capable of pushing for a #2 job as his years advance. Benkert spent his college days throwing some wildly inaccurate passes, but he also rarely threw picks, could absolutely rocket the ball, and can move well in the pocket. He’s potentially the most talented backup the Falcons have had in the past decade.
That’s a big claim, but it’s mostly because the Falcons have never had or needed anyone special behind Ryan, one of the league’s most durable quarterbacks. Time will tell if Benkert can turn into Atlanta’s #2 QB, but I’m rooting for him, and from the sound of it, so is Dan Quinn.