From 2008-2021, the question of who would lead the Falcons in passing would have been an enormous waste of time, even by the standards of fans killing hours arguing in the offseason. Matt Ryan was in Atlanta, he was the starting quarterback, he was going to lead the team. End of story.
If all goes well, we won’t be offering this prompt in 2023 and well beyond, because it’ll be beyond obvious Desmond Ridder is the starting quarterback and will be leading the Falcons in every single consequential passing statistic. If this year is a tire fire, there’s always the chance that Atlanta’s investing a draft pick in a franchise option instead, but either way you’d expect them to be set with a potential long-term option by the time next September rolls around.
In 2022, though? It’s actually an open question.
Your two choices, barring a major curveball, are Marcus Mariota and Ridder. Mariota is the early favorite for the starting job to kick off the season, and he averaged about 210 yards and a touchdown per game at the helm in Tennessee. Mariota hasn’t been a full-time starter since midway through the 2019 season, but he was a capable enough option and Arthur Smith seems confident he’ll be capable in Atlanta, as well.
Ridder, meanwhile, is hoping to steal the job away from Mariota to begin the year, putting forth his best foot after Smith praised his preparation early on. If the rookie doesn’t win the job this summer, my working assumption is that he’ll find his way into the lineup for a Falcons team that would have to surprise to be in playoff contention down the stretch, but it would seem likely to come after the brutal seven game stretch to open the season. The only way he doesn’t earn starts will be if the Falcons are unexpectedly thriving and pushing for a playoff spot under a resurgent Mariota, a fun thought that doesn’t seem particularly likely here in June 2022.
Assuming a split starting quarterback job this year, it becomes a question of how much run you think Ridder gets and how good he’ll look once he gets into the lineup. It’s worth remembering that Mariota’s prior stint with Smith in Tennessee saw him play solidly minus eye-popping numbers—he threw just two interceptions against seven touchdowns in six starts—and that both Mariota and Smith clearly believe he’s grown as a player since 2019. There’s a long way to go before the competition can be considered settled, but the early talk from the team around Mariota makes it clear Ridder has considerable ground to make up.
So who leads the team in passing this year, or more specifically, yards and touchdowns? I’m going to say Ridder, with the expectation that he pulls more starts than Mariota and thus will have a better shot at leading the team in yards and touchdowns. I’m a believer that Ridder will be ready when he gets in the lineup and the offense will gel a bit as the season wears on and they weather that brutal early stretch, so if Ridder gets into the lineup eight or so weeks in, he ought to be productive enough to outpace the veteran. gets into the lineup
Who’s your pick?