Will Desmond Ridder start for Falcons over Marcus Mariota? Assessing rookie’s chances to play and start in 2022

The Atlanta Falcons will have another quarterback starting in 2022 for the first time since 2008. After Matt Ryan was traded to the Colts after Deshaun Watson’s failed pursuit, Marcus Mariota will take center stage in his second season as coach for Arthur Smith with the Falcons.

However, rookie Desmond Ridder is waiting in the wings. Ridder, who enjoyed a playoff season with the Cincinnati Bearcats last year, was drafted 74th overall by the Falcons with their third-round pick. The quarterback rushed for over 10,000 yards and over 2,000 more in his collegiate career and was the second QB in this year’s draft behind Kenny Pickett, the first pick.

Ridder’s message was clear even before the draft: I want to win early and I want to win often. On April 27, he wrote a letter to NFL GMs in the Players Tribune selling himself. On the phone with Terry Fontenot when the Falcons drafted him, he didn’t pull any punches, saying “It shouldn’t have taken this long.”

But the question for the Falcons now is: What does Ridder need to see the field this year?

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Can Desmond Ridder start for the Falcons in 2022?

Ridder Start is of course a possibility.

The Falcons’ situation this year is dire. They have no talent on their roster, and they’re in a place where they’re no different from last season’s Texans.

Tyrod Taylor was the presumptive starter for Houston last year, much like Mariota this year — a temporary QB who comes in to hold off the team while they frankly prepare for the 2023 season, third-round pick Davis Mills became a regular for the Texans pushed and actually played relatively well, all things considered.

However, the Falcons and their fans appear to have accepted their fate

for this season. They have the second-longest Super Bowl ratings in the NFL, ahead only of the Texans, according to Sports Interaction. And Ridder isn’t the quarterback Falcons fans want to see, especially if Atlanta is going to try for a higher draft pick in 2023.

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What does it take for Desmond Ridder to start for the Falcons?

Mariota would have to be either unduly obnoxious or injured for Ridder to start next season.

Expectations are low for Atlanta next year, but the hope is that Mariota can at least stem the tide for her. He signed a two-year deal with the Falcons, and part of that deal was due to Smith’s familiarity with him. He played with Smith in Tennessee, which means he won’t be entirely new to the system.

Mariota played pretty well substituting for Derek Carr against the Chargers in 2020, the last time he saw significant playing time. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 226 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a loss to the Chargers. If he plays at that level this season, he won’t win the Falcons many games, but he won’t actively lose them either.

While this may all sound sobering to Falcons fans, this is Fontenot’s second season with the team and it’s about laying a foundation. It’s important to keep in mind that Ridder is behind “break in an emergency” glass this season, especially since Feleipe Franks is the only other quarterback on the depth chart.

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What were Desmond Ridder’s stats over the past year?

Ridder played all four years of his collegiate career in Cincinnati, culminating in a playoff berth for the Bearcats in 2021. They were the first non-Power Five team to make the college football playoffs.

For his part, Ridder has been improving year after year in Cincinnati, posting career highs in yards, touchdowns and passer rating in 2021.

Statistics 2021

251/387 64.9% 3,334 30 8th 110 355 3.2 6

Part of what made Ridder so good and comfortable at Cincinnati was the whole of the team around him. The Bearcats’ defense generated a lot of hype last season, and it’s no coincidence that the Jets’ cornerback Ahmad Gardner ended up fourth overall. Luke Fickell’s offensive philosophy also revolves around good offensive line play, so Atlanta might be wary of putting Ridder behind the hodgepodge they’ve built this year.

All in all, Ridder clearly wants his chance. He’s passionate. But the Falcons just aren’t a team looking to shock the world this year. They’re biding their time and, to be honest, they’ll probably make an early pick next year to find a long-term option at quarterback. That’s nothing compared to Ridder, who improved dramatically in Cincinnati and clearly has a lot of drive. It’s just the situation he was put in.

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