Under the old regime, the Falcons never tried to upgrade their backup quarterback spot. That seemed silly until Matt Schaub tossed 460 yards on the Seattle Seahawks in 2019. Despite some limitations, Schaub was able to keep the Falcons in games. Things worked for as long as Schaub stayed in the NFL. The Falcons had no plan for the future. There was a plan for right-then.
The new regime was forced into adding some new names after Schaub’s retirement. Terry Fontenot, for better or worse, quickly got rid of Kurt Benkert. The new faces are former Alabama passer AJ McCarron and undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks. Now on the wrong side of 30, McCarron has a scant 1173 career passing yards to his name across 17 games at an underwhelming 6.7 yards per throw. Scouting reports indicate Franks, a former Florida quarterback who later transferred to Arkansas, has the physical traits and intriguing foot speed but needs some serious development.
Neither player looks ready to be Matt Ryan’s unquestioned backup. That is certain after the two combined for 52 passing yards and 1 interception on 7 completions to go with 21 attempts. Neither passer worked with the starters and fans need to remember the new offense is still being installed. The timing and rhythm the line and pass catchers and backs need to be effective is still not there.
With that said, McCarron was not clearly the better, more-polished quarterback you may expect from a veteran. On the wrong side of 30, McCarron is who he is. He is not the sort of player who can replace Ryan and keep the Falcons in the game. He does not even look to be a bridge quarterback that could helm a conservative, run-first offense. He may not even be Chris Weinke. He had one interception and should have had another. That would be tough to swallow in the regular season, especially considering McCarron is not trying to push the ball down the field.
It was only one game. However, we do have seven years of McCarron performances to know his dreadful performance is not an outlier. He’s bad and has such limited upside that you may as well roll the dice on someone else.
That someone else is Franks.
Neither player had a passing performance to bank on, but Franks was the team’s leading rusher. The third-string quarterback provided the only offensive highlight from the game.
Running itself won’t land Franks the backup job. Franks did show some aggressiveness down the field, he has an above-average arm, but he will need to have much better ball placement and accuracy if the Falcons are to be expected to give him the reins if Ryan goes down.
At this rate, McCarron is far from assured to secure the backup spot. Franks should be pressuring McCarron his roster spot. However, if neither player can improve as a passer, they may be competing for a practice squad spot while the Falcons comb over the quarterbacks available after roster cutdowns.