I felt pretty strongly that we would see Desmond Ridder this season, but the question was always when. The answer, after 13 games on the Marcus Mariota roller coaster with all its thrilling highs and infuriating lows, appears to be Week 15.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Atlanta Falcons will announce Ridder as their starter for Sunday’s tilt against the Saints. The rookie will get an opportunity to make one hell of a first impression in a charged matchup against Atlanta’s biggest rival. Ridder will get four games to show he has what it takes to keep the starting job in 2023, a pivotal year for a franchise set up with the cap space and draft capital to drastically improve.
Ridder, a third round selection out of Cincinnati in this past April’s draft, was one of just a handful of players in the top 100 selections who had yet to play in a regular season game, and everyone else was parked by injury. Atlanta raved about his talent and makeup when they drafted him, but Ridder swiftly lost a nominal competition to Marcus Mariota in the early summer and only played in preseason, where he threw three touchdowns, two interceptions, and mixed some shaky throws with impressive poise.
Now he’ll get his chance to run the offense, albeit without Kyle Pitts. The Falcons will be looking to see how he looks as a passer, what his command of the offense is like, how well he moves (and, as he’ll have to at least a few times, runs), and what kind of rapport he has with his receiving options, most notably fellow rookie Drake London. Ridder’s not going to be perfect and he is going to make mistakes, but the hope is that whatever he’s shown in practice in conjunction with what he shows in games is enough to convince the Falcons that they can build around him.
Mariota’s season, meanwhile, draws to a close after 13 games, assuming Ridder is healthy and does not implode. The veteran quarterback made the most of his stint as a starter and may well get looks from other teams in 2023 if he’s not back as a reserve and/or competition for Ridder, compiling just over 2,000 passing yards and 15 touchdowns while adding another four scores on the ground. His lack of consistency as a passer and turnovers hurt the offense, especially lately, but in the early going in particular his efficiency and ability to extend plays helped the Falcons win and made them fun.
Again, the hope is that Ridder will show flashes of the ability to be the team’s franchise quarterback—I say flashes because expecting him to come in and transform this passing game is likely asking too much—while piloting the offense capably down the stretch. We’ll see whether that happens starting this Sunday against the Saints, and we tip our cap to Mariota for his work at the helm of the passing game the first 13 weeks.