Last week, the Atlanta Falcons opted to bench veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota for rookie QB Desmond Ridder against the New Orleans Saints.
It was believed that Mariota wasn’t pleased with the decision and “left” the team. However, reports confirmed that he had been playing through a chronic knee injury that required surgery so Atlanta sent him to injured reserve.
Meanwhile, Ridder had his first NFL start vs. the Saints and like most first-year quarterbacks, it didn’t go as planned. Ridder struggled in the pocket and finished the day completing 13-of-26 passes for 97 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown but he also didn’t throw an interception.
After his debut, Mariota showed Ridder a lot of support and sent some encouraging words before and after his debut.
“He told me good luck on the game before and everything, best wishes,” Ridder said Tuesday, December 20. . “And then after, ‘Just keep slinging it.’“
Ridder also made it clear that he has no hard-feelings against Mariota’s decision to essentially leave the team to tend to his injury.
“He knew it was my first start, obviously,” Ridder said on Tuesday, December 20. “Like I said at the beginning when I first got here, Marcus is like big (brother) to me, and that’s how he’s kept it.”
Ridder Is Already Learning With Mistakes
Following Sunday’s 21-18 loss, Ridder was able to take a few days and to learn from the mistakes he made.
“Obviously there was a lot to learn, and experience was the biggest thing for me,” Ridder said. “Getting out there, you know, seeing the speed of the game and the communication going, and then also the patience.”
He also figured out that he has a lot more time in the pocket than he anticipated
“Along with this great (offensive) line that I have, it gives me the time to be able to sit there and trust them and let things develop,” Ridder said. “Where I thought that, you look back on film where I would drop back in the pocket and sometimes I would start hitching up and getting antsy to get rid of the ball when in reality, I probably had a little bit more time back there to take a second and let the picture develop.”
The Falcons’ 2022 third-round pick wasn’t able to learn that being Mariota’s backup through the first 13 games.
“So, that’ll be something that I continue to work on,” Ridder said. “Just the experience of being out there was big enough of an experience and a learning experience that you can have.”
HC Arthur Smith Overall Please With Ridder’s 1st Start
When head coach Arthur Smith named Ridder as their starter, his expectations for Ridder were not unrealistic.
“I told Desmond yesterday whether he threw for 400 yards or he threw for 100 it wasn’t going to define his career,” Smith said in the post-game press conference on Sunday. “There’s a lot to learn from. The thing is that I saw him operate, procedure-wise, he had a lot of command. The next step is we have to continue to find solutions and make more plays.”
While his start was far from flawless, Ridder knew how to lead the huddle and that’s something Smith took notice to and complimented him on.
“He’s not scared of the moment,” Smith said. “He was poised. And it wasn’t perfect in a lot of ways… but I like what he’s made up of.”
Ridder’s next start will be this Christmas Eve against the 9-5 Baltimore Ravens.