Desmond Ridder Not Going To Go Quietly As Marcus Mariota Vies For Falcons QB Job

At some point the Atlanta Falcons’ depth chart is going to look uneventful at quarterback not necessarily because Marcus Mariota is first-team but because, well, that’s just the way it seems it’s going to be.

Nothing else going on.

After all, Mariota signed as a free agent to be the starter. He’s got lots of experience, with 61 NFL starts. And he played for head coach Arthur Smith when both were with the Tennessee Titans, including 2019 after Smith had been promoted to offensive coordinator.

But this tidy understanding of the Falcons’ quarterback situation overlooks one thing.

Desmond Ridder.

Ridder might seem easy to look past at the moment because he’s a rookie and was a third-round pick and he’s got a lot to learn.

But Ridder isn’t overlooking himself. So on the second day of the recent Falcons rookie minicamp, the team’s No. 3 quarterback announced “I have [the playbook] down” and there’s a competition for the starting job.

Take that, uneventful quarterback situation.

Yes, Ridder wants to learn from Mariota and even backup Feleipe Franks and show “respect” in the process, he said. But he still wants the starting job.

“Marcus is a guy who’s played a lot of games in the NFL, and obviously, had a tremendous college career,” Ridder said. “You have to give respect where respect is due … but at the end of the day – and he knows this, too – it’s obviously a competition or else we wouldn’t be here.”

Nothing personal.

“At the end of the day, too, it’s not up to us to make that decision. It’s up to the coaches,” Ridder told reporters. “If we go out here, and we both put our best foot forward and we leave it out of our hands. But at the end of the day, we’re working not only to better ourselves, but to better each other and everything that we do.”

Couple of things: If Ridder throws as many touchdowns as he throws out “at the end of the days” he’s going to be fine as a rookie.

Secondly, it must not be forgotten he was the second quarterback picked in the draft. He went ahead of Malik Willis and Matt Corral and they’re all getting buzz as potential future starters in Tennessee and Carolina, respectively.

So why not Ridder in Atlanta?

But first things first. Ridder has to learn Smith’s offense so he knows what the heck to do and can begin to be something of a leader on the field.

“These guys see that I’m in the playbook 24/7,” Ridder said. “I’ve got it down pretty good. So, you know when they are coming up to me asking me questions, just being able to fire it off back at them real quick and them understanding that I’ve got a good grasp and knowledge of the offense.

“That builds trust within the offense and our relationships within each other.”

So far so good.

Running back Tyler Allgeier called Ridder “a genius” in the playbook. First round pick Drake London said Ridder’s someone players gravitate to. And tight end John FitzPatrick said he’s already struck a kinship with the quarterback although Ridder is not shy about, well, anything.

“Just vocally,” FitzPatrick said. “He is not afraid to speak his mind.”

It is, as Smith jokingly noted, good to know Ridder is not a mute.

“Being able to go out there and step into the huddle and say the play-call with confidence,” Ridder said, outlining one of his first goals. “Get to the line and make the right play-call.”

And eventually battle for the starting job in a suddenly eventful quarterback competition.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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