June 15, 2024

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When the Falcons lifted Desmond Ridder, they might have lost Marcus Mariota

The Athletic

Flowers Branch, Georgia – hawk Head coach Arthur Smith realized he was taking a risk last week when he chose to be a starter Desmond Reader, starting quarterback. What he didn’t know at the time was that he wouldn’t have a safety net for this decision.

That’s how it went, though, when he was a veteran Marcus Mariota He left the team at least temporarily to assess what Smith described as a “chronic” knee problem. Smith said the Falcons don’t know when or if Mariota, who started the first 13 games of the season, will return to the team, and they expect the quarterback to be placed on injured reserve.

“The knee is not something that’s been a problem this season, but that’s (Mariota’s) prerogative so…”, said Smith. “Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but the guys have to make the decisions. It’s part of professional sports. You have to have contingency plans.”

Atlanta signed Logan Woodside7th round draft pick in 2018 stop TennesseeTraining team to serve as a backup linebacker. Woodside completed 1 of 3 passes for 7 yards in his own country NFL his career, making him the most experienced quarterback on the list.

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Ridder has not yet played in a regular season game, and the only other player on the Falcons roster who can reasonably play the position is Felipe Frankswho was 0-for-1 passing with 1 interception last year before being moved to tight end in the offseason.

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Smith informed Mariota of the decision to make a quarterback change Thursday morning. The Falcons learned Friday that Mariota intends to step away from the team. This is the second time Mariota has been benched while playing Smith. The first came in 2019 when Mariota was the starting quarterback at Tennessee and Smith was the Giants’ offensive coordinator.

“These (talks) are never easy,” said Smith. “You’re trying to be honest, whether they agree or not, those are the conversations you have to have.”


Falcons coach Arthur Smith, left, had a difficult conversation with quarterback Marcus Mariota last week, and Mariota subsequently walked away from the team. (Aaron M. Sprecher / Associated Press)

The Falcons signed Mariota to a two-year, $18.75 million deal in the offseason. If it was cut after the season, they would save $12 million worth of salary cap and would only have to account for $2.5 million in dead money to cap it.

Smith said the decision to raise the Ridder was “performance-based”. Mariota was 184-for-300 passing for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. His 88.2 passer rating ranks 21st in the league and his EPA per game (. 66) ranks 20th among quarterbacks.

The Falcons (5-8) have lost four of their last five matches.

“We’ve talked about trying to get over the hump on some of these close games and where we’re trying to push the offense,” Smith said. “We feel it’s the best decision where (Ryder) is and where the team is. I wouldn’t have made that decision if I didn’t think it was in the best interest of this team, not just in the short term but in the long term as well.”

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Ridder, who had been passing 34-for-56 for 431 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason, has made enough progress in the past month that the Falcons believe the offense “can be fully functional” with him in the game, Smith said.

“We’d have to adapt if he had to play early in the season,” said Smith. “I feel really good about where he is now. If I thought we had to tie him up, it wouldn’t be the best move and it wouldn’t be fair for this team.”

Hawks run backwards Caleb Huntley He said he was surprised when he learned of the news via social media on Thursday. Huntley’s and Ridder’s lockers are side by side at the team’s training facility, and Huntley said he believes Ridder is ready for the challenge.

“He’s a great guy, funny, I feel like he can lead the rally,” said Huntley. “I knew his time would come sooner or later. I think he was ready for that.”

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Huntley said Reeder looked sharp during Monday’s Tour of Atlanta.

“He always looked good in training,” said Huntley. “He makes the throws he needs to, and he’s always confident, so I know he’ll be ready.”

Monday was the team’s first official practice since their December 4 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Goodbye to the Falcons last week. Smith made the decision to switch quarterbacks last week, but the team didn’t announce the decision until Monday.

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running back Tyler limewho goes to dinner with Ridder and his fellow rookies Drake London And the John Fitzpatrick The night before every game, he spent part of his week off getting passes from his friend to help build on-court chemistry, he said.

The veterans on the team will be taking plenty of time with Ridder this week as the Falcons prepare for a showdown saints (4-9) Sunday in New Orleans, wide receiver Damier Bird He said.

“Just go out and work with him, get our timing, get his confidence in us, get our confidence in him, and kind of get into that routine with him,” Bird said. “I am here for whatever our coaches feel is necessary to help us win these next few games so we can get into the playoffs.”

Atlanta is one game behind the division leader Tampa Bay. Smith said the Falcons’ top priority is maximizing potential this season, but the coach at least acknowledged the fact that Ridder’s valuation now could have future benefits for the team.

“There is a risk any time you make a move, but you have to be willing to take that if you want to break through,” said Smith. “We’ve played a lot of close games, made a lot of progress, but our goal is to get over that hump. If it’s good for us in the long run, it’s really good for us.”

(Top photo by Marcus Mariota, left, and Desmond Reader: Justin Kasterlin/Getty Images)