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Should Desmond Ridder be starting over Marcus Mariota for Falcons?

Atlanta is among the teams with a developing QB controversy during the preseason.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder (4) of the Atlanta Falcons prepares to catch the snap during an NFL preseason football game between the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Friday, August 12, 2022. Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons are entering a new era at quarterback. Matt Ryan played for the franchise for the first 14 years of his career but was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in the 2022 offseason. Atlanta decided to go in a new direction and brought in veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota on a two-year, $18.75 million deal. To add to the depth chart, they drafted Cincinnati QB Demond Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Falcons are in a weird place. They are coming off a 7-10 season, and their No. 1 wide receiver, Calvin Ridley, has been suspended for the upcoming season for gambling on Falcons games while away from the team. The 2023 quarterback class is expected to be loaded with talent, so Atlanta could even be moving on from current quarterbacks sooner rather than later. Before we get to next year, the Falcons have to decide who to name their starting quarterback for this season.

Case for Marcus Mariota

Mariota was drafted with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. He showed flashes while in Tennessee but couldn’t ever seem to consistently perform well enough for the team to win. Mariota also has struggled with injuries and hasn’t logged a full season yet to this point in his career due to injury or being a backup. When his time for the Titans ended, he signed a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders to be their backup behind Derek Carr.

Mariota never got consistent work in Las Vegas, but when he was subbed into games, he showed off his escapability from the pocket and hit receivers with impressive passes. He made the case for himself that he deserved one more shot at being a starting quarterback and was signed by the Falcons ahead of this season. Through two games in the preseason, Mariota is 8-12 for 168 yards and a touchdown, with three rushes for an additional 23 yards and a touchdown. He hasn’t done anything to immediately lose the job, but the performance of the rookie doesn’t guarantee him a year-long starting gig.

Case for Desmond Ridder

Ridder played four years for the Cincinnati Bearcats while in college. You may have heard of the smaller program because Ridder led them to become the first Group of Five team to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff last season. He played in 50 games for Cincinnati, throwing for 10,239 yards and 87 touchdowns while rushing for 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Ridder had been mocked in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft but ended up falling to the third round. Through two preseason games, he is 20-35 for 246 yards and two touchdowns with six rushes for 59 yards. Sure, he still is adjusting to the speed of the NFL game but has made plays that analysts have said are veteran throws and has shown great timing.


This quarterback battle resembles the current quarterback battle for the Pittsburgh Steelers a little eerily. Both Mariota and Mitchell Trubisky are former No. 2 overall picks, they both are replacing a 14+ year veteran that spent their whole career to that point with the team and had a rookie drafted to compete with them for the starting job. Kenny Pickett was a first-round pick, which is why people are saying he should be starting. Pickett is also 24 years old and played in 52 games in college, so analysts say he doesn’t need to sit for a year and learn from Trubisky. Well, Ridder played in 50 games in college and is coming off a season where he led his team to a 13-1 record and a No. 4 seed in the CFP.

The Falcons and Steelers meet up in Week 13 of the 2022 season. Could we see a Ridder vs. Pickett matchup by then?

Mariota was brought in as the starting quarterback and hasn’t done anything in the preseason yet to lose that job. Ridder has looked great, especially for a quarterback that fell to the third round, and has certainly increased his chances of seeing the field his rookie season.

Mariota will likely be the starting quarterback, but if I’m the Falcons, I’m giving Ridder the reigns early in the season to see what you have in him. If Ridder does well, the Falcons found their franchise quarterback cheaply. If he doesn't, it is expected that CJ Stroud from Ohio State, Bryce Young from Alabama and Will Levis from Kentucky will headline next year’s draft class.