The 2022 regular season has come and gone for the Atlanta Falcons. This past season was something interesting for sure, as we saw a season where Matt Ryan wasn’t at quarterback for the first time since the 2007 season. To start the season, we saw Marcus Mariota at the helm whilst knowing that eventually we would see the Falcons’ 2022 third-round selection quarterback Desmond Ridder.
After the Falcons dropped to 5-8, entered a bye week and had their playoff chances dwindle to nonexistent, the team decided to bring the rookie off the sidelines and see what he could potentially bring to the franchise heading into the future.
On Thursday, Ridder spoke with The Falcoholic in an exclusive interview discussing the 2022 season, and his plan heading into 2023.
Over the final four games, Ridder and company were able to go .500, winning the last two regular-season games against the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ridder performed well on balance, throwing 115 times for 73 completions, 708 yards and two touchdowns.
“I felt like I grew in many places, both mentally and physically,” Ridder told me. “Obviously, mentally the first 14 weeks sitting and learning behind Marcus [Mariota] and learning what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. But then physically, learning that I can play at the speed of the game. I can be out there with the best-of-the-best and go out there and grow each week.”
Growing up, Ridder had an interest in football cards and has partnered with Panini America, who is hosting several NFL rookies as they finish signing their most in-demand rookie trading cards.
“We’ve been working together ever since pre-draft and into my NFL career,” Ridder said. “It’s been great. My stepdad used to collect cards growing up and had all of these players I looked at. So, it’s pretty cool not only to see myself on there but to also see my family’s last name on the card as well.”
Head coach Arthur Smith is trying to build a culture of winning in Atlanta, and Ridder is hopefully the quarterback to propel them back into competing for championship.
“Coach Smith is a guy that’s going to give it to you straight. He’s a guy that wants the best for every single person that’s in that room, coaches, players, and staff,” Ridder said. “He wants to have a winning culture and be successful at the end of the day. You see that in his energy and the way he goes about his daily business. He’s a great coach to play for and like I said, he’s going to give it to you how it is.”
Being drafted and joining a team completely full of players you likely haven’t played with before allows for the opportunity to make new friends and build new relationships. Ridder spoke about some of his the players he’s gotten to know well over the last year.
“All my teammates are my favorite,” Ridder said. “But some of the closer guys are guys like Drake London, Tyler Allgeier, John FitzPatrick, Kyle Pitts and I get along with all the older guys like Jake Matthews, Marcus Mariota – but I get along with everyone.”
Although not everyone else in the league is done with the 2022 season, the Falcons have turned their attention to next season. In limited action, Ridder looked like he could be a significant part of this squad. Although it remains to be seen what the future holds, he’s focused on only getting better in 2023.
“Just to get better. Every single season I want to improve,” Ridder said. “Whether it’s OTA, practice – it doesn’t matter what it is, I just want to get 1% better every day.”
At the University of Cincinnati, Ridder was a four-year starter where he was a two-time, first-team All-AAC selection and had a very impressive record of 42-6. In his final season, he helped the Bearcats become the first non-Power 5 team to claim a spot in the College Football Playoff. College ball is a bit different than playing in the NFL, and Ridder touched on the difference to him.
“The mental aspect of it,” Ridder said. “Taking each week as it is. Just the mental capacity it takes to be an NFL quarterback. I think that’s where the biggest difference is.”
We have no idea whether Ridder will be the team’s starter in 2023, but if he is, it will likely have much to do with his ability to improve and master the mental side of quarterbacking. In my opinion, he showed enough in limited action that it’s worth a longer look beyond a four-game stint without Kyle Pitts, so we can only look forward and see what happens for the young quarterback.