Mariota’s 2022 season will end with him going 184/300 (61.3%) with 2,219 passing yards, 15 TDs, and nine interceptions. He also ran 85 times for 438 yards and four touchdowns.
Desmond Ridder Named Atlanta Falcons Starting QB
Media pundits and football fans alike were expecting this move after another underwhelming performance from Marcus Mariota, which was to be expected. When Mariota was brought in back in late March, he was not to be the answer to the quarterback position. He was employed to keep the seat warm for whomever might be the answer. Poor play from the rest of the NFC South division has kept Atlanta in playoff contention, despite talent deficiencies throughout the roster. Which kept Marcus Mariota as the starter to keep continuity within the offense.
With the bye week adding extra time for familiarity with the starting role and the Falcons needing a spark going into the more difficult part of their schedule, Arthur Smith decided to input the upstart rookie Desmond Ridder. Can he run this offense just as effectively, if not more, than Mariota? What are his limitations in an NFL setting? What are his strengths?
Falcons fans have been mulling over these questions since being drafted with the 74th pick this year. There will soon be answers to these burning questions, starting with his first start against Atlanta’s fiercest rival: The New Orleans Saints. How will the four-year starter and two-time AAC Player of the Year handle the pressure of one of the most hostile environments for an Atlanta Falcons quarterback? Especially against one of the more highly-touted defenses in the league?
There are so many questions that can be asked about Desmond Ridder. And there are so few answers up to this point — that is a fact. But it is a start to answering the important question: Who is the franchise quarterback of this team?
What This Means For 2022
This move by the Falcons’ brass is a look towards the future of this team, way beyond the finish of this 2022 season. But there is a conversation to be had about what the move to make Desmond Ridder the starting QB of the Atlanta Falcons means for the rest of the 2022 season.
We will start the conversation with this: Temper your expectations for Desmond Ridder.
If you go into these last four games expecting anything other than the typical rookie quarterback struggles, you will be disappointed. There will be flashes of good play, stretches of confusing decisions, and the inevitable “What are you looking at?” throws that come with playing a rookie quarterback. Especially when you look at the teams he will be playing against.
The Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all have top-15 defenses in terms of defensive DVOA. They are top-12 in defensive passing DVOA, mainly due to their ability to get to and rattle quarterbacks. Baltimore and New Orleans have the seventh and 13th best pass rushes in terms of sacks per dropback. Tampa showed in the first matchup that they had no troubles getting to the passer, with five sacks on Mariota.
He may get a break from a struggling Arizona Cardinals defense that is giving up the second-most points-per-game this season. But even then, there may be struggles, as it will only be his third game starting in the NFL.
This transition is going to have its bumps and bruises. The NFL is a faster game, a more physical game than Ridder would have experienced in the AAC. But I do believe that starting him now is giving him the best opportunity that he will ever have to succeed.