Given the Falcons were losing some close games that with solid QB play would likely have been wins, there were quite a few Falcons fans really clamoring for rookie Desmond Ridder to get the nod over Marcus Mariota. However, Coach Arthur Smith mentioned that as long as the Falcons were in the thick of the playoff hunt, Mariota would be the guy. Given the state of the NFC South division, the Falcons are still technically in it.
However, it was my thinking that if Smith were to make any changes at the QB position, it would be more advantageous for the team if it was done during the bye, so Ridder could get as much time with the starters as possible. Well, that time as come, and there is absolutely some excitement in the fanbase that Ridder can give what Mariota simply couldn’t. The burning question now is this: How does Ridder and this Falcons offense match up against the Saints defense in the Caesars Superdome?
In the trenches
I hate to admit this, but I’ve always been a fan of how this Saints defensive line has been constructed. This group is big and disruptive with length. Led by Cameron Jordan and David Onyemata, this group has depth, can get after the quarterback, and can absolutely take over a game. Jordan is listed on the injury report as a limited participant, but there’s no reason to think he won’t play, as I’m sure he wants a crack at Desmond Ridder.
This Falcons offensive line has been a pleasant surprise to me this season. There have been multiple injuries at left guard, yet no matter who the Falcons trot out there, there’s some respectable play at the position. So much credit has to be given to Coach Dwayne Ledford for how he’s coached this group up, as they’re playing as a unit and the chemistry is evident. Good news for the Falcons is that incumbent starter Elijah Wilkinson is back at practice, making the starting offensive line healthy for the game against the Saints. However, even with Wilkinson, the OL will have to have a good game to keep this Saints front in check.
The Skill Positions
While the strength of the Saints defense is certainly along their defensive line, the back end of the unit also has some playmakers. Demario Davis is one of the best off ball linebacker in the league, and Tyrann Matthieu is an instinctive player on the back end with good ball skills. If the Saints do have a weakness, it would be in the cornerback room. Still, the Saints are 10th overall in the NFL in passing yards allowed, so the talent is certainly there for head coach Dennis Allen’s group.
While the loss of Kyle Pitts is a big one for the Falcons, they still have quite a bit of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Rookie Tyler Allgeier has really settled in and is the leading rusher on the team, Cordarralle Patterson is as explosive and dangerous as he’s ever been, and Drake London is also coming to his own as the team’s X wide receiver. Given what Allgeier and Caleb Huntley give Coach Arthur Smith in the backfield, we’ll likely see Patterson lined up all over the field against the Saints, especially after he had success through the air last year. I still feel confident that this group can really do some damage when put in the position to do so.
This game has so many arcs to it, and it’s bound to be exciting for the fanbase. Not only does rookie Desmond Ridder get his first NFL start, but he gets it against the Falcons’ most hated rivals on their turf. That is quite a bit of pressure for him to start his career. However, the coaching staff believes in him, and honestly, I think he’ll be just fine.
One of the positives I had for Desmond Ridder coming out of Cincinnati is that no moment was ever too big for him. Ridder exhibits poise, maturity and leadership. All those qualities are what you want from your signal caller. While there are those of you that feel as if the passing game just got better, I don’t deviate from what this offense does best if I’m Arthur Smith. Run the ball relentlessly as Ridder gets used to the speed of game, and call initial pass plays with easy reads for Ridder to get him comfortable and into a rhythm.
While it remains to be seen that Ridder taking over the starting quarterback duties changes the dynamic of the offense, the prospect of that being the case is certainly intriguing.