The Atlanta Falcons have officially changed quarterbacks.
Third-round rookie Desmond Ridder will replace Marcus Mariota as the starting quarterback for the Falcons’ Week 15 game against the New Orleans Saints, head coach Arthur Smith announced Monday. Smith called the decision “performance-based”, but also added that Mariota was likely heading to injured reserve with a knee injury.
Mariota, who joined the Falcons this offseason after Atlanta traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, has had its ups and downs in 2022. His passing yards, passing touchdowns and competitive percentage are all rank in the bottom half of the league, while his nine interceptions are tied for seventh.
After 13 games, however, it makes sense for the Falcons to turn to their rookie flagger after Mariota led Atlanta to a 5-8 record. Though still out of playoff contention, the Falcons likely need to win at least their two remaining division games to keep pace with the 6-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, oddly enough, the 508 Carolina Panthers. .
As Charles McDonald of Yahoo Sports wrote in his weekly Four Verts column last week, the Falcons needed to explore what they had in Ridder before the end of the season, rather than get away with veteran Mariota. Ridder also had a strong pre-season. He completed 60.1% of his passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns in three games, although he also threw two interceptions. Ridder was also prolific in college, passing for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns in the University of Cincinnati’s 13–1 season that ended in the college football playoff semifinals.
Ridder may not save the Falcons’ season, but the pitch at least gives Atlanta a glimpse of its potential as the organization evaluates the roster ahead of the 2023 offseason.
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