The Las Vegas Raiders have been fortunate over the last couple of seasons to have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL in Marcus Mariota. The team didn’t use him much as Derek Carr is as durable as any quarterback in the league but they did figure out some packages to play him in. He also put together an impressive performance in relief of Carr during a 2020 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Raiders narrowly lost that game 30-27 after Mariota scored two total touchdowns and threw for 226 yards.
It was a small sample size but that performance clearly impressed teams around the league. Mariota has decided that he won’t be returning to Las Vegas to be Carr’s backup. The Atlanta Falcons announced that they’ve signed the quarterback to a two-year deal.
This news comes shortly after the Falcons officially traded longtime quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. The team was involved in a possible trade for Deshaun Watson before he chose to go to the Cleveland Browns. It appears the team is now entering a rebuild over the next couple of years.
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Will Mariota Start in Atlanta?
The move to Atlanta makes a lot of sense for Mariota. It’s unlikely that there are 32 better quarterbacks in the NFL right now so he deserves a chance to start. Plus, he’ll be reuniting with his former offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans in Arthur Smith, who is the head coach.
Mariota’s biggest issue over the last several years has been staying healthy. Even as the Raiders’ backup, he had multiple stints on the Injured Reserve. When he was healthy, he proved that he can still be a dynamic playmaker. He’s got great speed and knows how to make plays with his feet. It remains to be seen just how good he is throwing the ball as the Raiders didn’t give him many chances. He didn’t even play in preseason games during his stint in Las Vegas. Unless the Falcons draft an impressive rookie quarterback, Mariota has a strong chance to start for the team.
Will Raiders Miss Mariota?
With Mariota now gone, the Raiders’ backup quarterback situation isn’t as strong as it once was. The team recently announced the signing of Garrett Gilbert, who has played a total of eight games in the NFL. He’s been around the league for a long time but the Raiders wouldn’t feel too good about him going into a game if something happened to Carr.
Fortunately, Carr is typically able to stay healthy throughout the season. That said, the Raiders would be wise to find another backup quarterback with a little more playing experience. Mariota also brought a different dynamic as the Raiders used him in certain packages. Losing him takes away that threat on offense. Perhaps head coach Josh McDaniels will want to bring in another athletic quarterback like Cam Newton so that the Raiders could have the same dynamic as last season.