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The Falcons hear the doubt and wish to set fire to it

From Desmond Ridder to Cordarrelle Patterson to many others in the Falcons organization, this is a team keen to dispel disrespect by proving something on the playing field.

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Desmond Ridder is well aware what so many fans and analysts—and Dolphins cornerbacks—think of him, to the extent that they think of him at all. Doubt swirls around the quarterback position in Atlanta, and Ridder would have to be off the grid entirely not to hear it.

Cordarrelle Patterson hears it, too, and he can’t be alone among these Falcons. For all the buzz about the Falcons being an improved team and a squad to watch, the skeptics are in no small supply thanks to the past five years and the Ridder doubt in particular. What Patterson and Ridder share is a desire to set fire to those dismissive attitudes, with Patterson noting that there’s only one way to do it: Win and impress.

Ridder, for his part, sounds a similar note while making it clear that he’ll be motivated to prove critics to be foolish about his potential and play in particular.

The Falcons have the right attitude about it, in all cases. When Arthur Smith came to Atlanta, he was defiant and borderline angry over low expectations for the team, an attitude that would come back to bite him a bit. Two years of losing seasons and limitations appear to have changed his tune a little bit, and players have a realistic view as well: This is a work in progress after five straight losing seasons, and while the hype is building, anyone who is down on this squad has plenty of history to pull from.

But I think SportsTalkATL has it right: This team is built to dispel those doubts, and it won’t require heroics from Ridder to get there. Those who have paid attention to the Falcons know that the talent disparity between the team that went 7-10 a year ago and the one lining up on Sunday this year is pretty vast.

Jessie Bates is a massive upgrade over summer interception king Jaylinn Hawkins, Jeff Okudah should be a significant upgrade over the post-Casey Hayward landscape, Kaden Elliss a potential upgrade over Rashaan Evans, and the defensive line is drastically different than the group relying on undrafted free agents and last-second signings the past two years. On the offensive side of things, adding Bijan Robinson, Mack Hollins, and Jonnu Smith to a healthy Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Tyler Allgeier should make Ridder’s path to solid play an easy one, and Ridder’s upside exists even if it’s rarely discussed. This looks like a good football team in a bad division, so the ability to put doubt to rest should be well within Atlanta’s grasp.

It has been a long time since the Falcons were not the object of some scorn and considerable skepticism, and as Patterson said, the past two years the Falcons didn’t win as many games as perhaps many expected. The only thing for the young quarterback and his long-suffering veteran teammates can do about that is put top dog play on the field and burn the underdog label in the process.