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Desmond Ridder’s making the right first impression for Falcons

The rookie quarterback will be fighting for a job, but he won’t need to fight for respect from this team.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons OTA Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The debate in the fanbase when it comes to Desmond Ridder concerns when he’ll start and how good he’ll be when he does, as it feels inevitable that he’ll be under center for the first snap of several games during the 2022 season. We’re months—years, really—away from knowing the answer to that second question, but we do get the sense that Ridder is hitting the ground running in Atlanta, even so.

That’s important. Ridder’s going to be filling some big shoes when he does become the starter, as Atlanta last turned the keys over to a rookie in 2008 and watched him go on to be the most successful quarterback in franchise history. Bringing in a quarterback you selected in the third round and asking him to be your next franchise guy, especially on an unfinished team, requires quite a bit of faith. That’s at least part of the reason some fans are already looking ahead to the possibility of this team taking a top quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft. But the Falcons didn’t pick Ridder on a lark, a “hey what the hell” dice roll on a third round pick, and while it’s extremely early it appears the rookie is living up to what the team hoped he would be.

In an excellent profile from writer Tori McElhaney, we don’t just hear Ridder talking about the chip on his shoulder or how he hopes to lead. We hear from teammates, coaches, and those in the front office heavily involved in getting him to Atlanta about those qualities, and it paints a picture of someone who isn’t going to fall short owing to effort or intangibles.

Start with Dwaune Jones, the Falcons’ assistant director of college scouting, who McElhaney reports has been “keeping an eye” on the quarterback over the past two years. As we all suspected, the huge pro day contingent in Cincinnati was there primarily for Ridder, and the time and energy they invested led them to draft him.

“We fell in love with the kid,” Jones said. “It was a guy where we walked away (from him) impressed.”

After rookie minicamp, he’s drawing praise from his teammates and his quarterbacks coach, as well.

John FitzPatrick called Ridder a leader. Tyler Allgeier said the quarterback is a genius in the playbook. Drake London said he’s someone players gravitate towards, someone guys want to be around, someone he wants to be around. Charles London said what Ridder did during rookie minicamp was noteworthy.

“He came in here during rookie camp, and it’s hard, he’s got players who are undrafted free agents and street free agents who have never been together before,” London said. “I thought he did a really good job of rallying the group and getting everybody going in the right direction.”

None of this guarantees Desmond Ridder’s success in Atlanta—plenty of quarterbacks have walked into the building for an NFL franchise and looked the part early on, and third round quarterbacks don’t often pan out in the league—but it’s a good sign for Ridder that he’s already commanding so much respect in the building. He’ll get his shot to be the starter for the Atlanta Falcons sooner than later, and while the Falcons technically only invested a second day selection in Ridder, it seems like they’re invested in making him their next franchise quarterback as well.