Atlanta Falcons’ 90-man roster analysis: Quarterbacks

Editor’s note: This is the eighth of an eight-part position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster. The rookies reported Tuesday for training camp. The veterans report July 25.

The Falcons hope that Desmond Ridder’s “swaggy” style translates to playing quarterback at an elite level in the NFL.

After starting four games last season, the former Cincinnati star has won over the locker room after being named the starter.

“Rid is cool,” linebacker Bud Dupree said. “He’s been throwing the ball. He talks (stuff) though, but that’s what we need. Everybody wants a quarterback like that. He’s young. He swaggy. I got nothing but big hopes for him. I believe he’s going to go out there and just show the world what he’s about.”

Exactly what type of “stuff” does he talk?

“Y’all will here it in camp when we start talking back and forth to each other,” Dupree said.

Ridder, who was drafted in third round (74th overall) in 2022, will be backed up by Taylor Heinicke and Logan Woodside, as the Falcons have only three quarterbacks on the 90-man roster.

Ridder went 2-2 as a starter last season and showed steady improvement. He lost to the Saints and Ravens on the road and defeated a meek Cardinals team and the Bucs, who pulled their starters early, including Tom Brady.

However one assesses those starts, Ridder believes they were invaluable to his development.

“(They were) 100% crucial,” Ridder said. “The only thing is, is repetitions. Those were obviously live-game reps. The more live-game reps you can take, the better and more comfortable you’re going to feel. Having those four games for me, obviously, and then coming in for the offseason was crucial for me.”

Ridder didn’t play a snap over the first 13 games last season. He was Marcus Mariota’s backup.

“It would be completely different if I hadn’t played one single snap last year,” Ridder. “Then obviously coming into this year and then being named the starter. Having those four games under (my belt) for me, just to get the feel, the speed, and how it is, was crucial for me.”

Ridder will have the benefit on a strong rushing attack, which finished third in the league last season. The Falcons’ success likely will turn on the improvement of the passing attack.

Ridder developed a connection with wide receiver Drake London, but has not played with tight end Kyle Pitts, who was recovering from knee surgery over the offseason.

The Falcons signed Mack Hollins and Scotty Miller in free agency.

“All those guys are great,” Ridder said. “They put in the work every single day. They go out and get better.”

Rookie running back Bijan Robinson, who played in the slot some at Texas and was moved around a lot over the offseason by the Falcons, also could be a factor in an improved passing attack.

“He’s versatile,” Ridder said. “That’s why he was picked where he was picked (eighth overall). He’s a guy that can play multiple positions. He obviously has shown what he can do that.”

The Falcons don’t want to place too much on Robinson’s plate.

“For us, it’s about making sure that he understands all of the small details and everything he’s supposed to (do), everywhere he supposed to be,” Ridder said. “He’s going to be a great (addition) for us.”

Ridder had a strong offseason during conditioning, OTAs and minicamp.

“He’s made daily improvements,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We’ve thrown a lot, and there’s certain things that we’ll continue to harp on, and we’ll continue to evolve. We’ll never stay the same, continue to improve and in certain areas may have to play a little bit differently.”

Smith said the Falcons won’t compromise their core values, but the schematics will be adapted to fit Ridder.

“Certainly, this (was) a passing camp, it’s non-contact,” Smith said of OTAs. “Things could change when you get more into real football, but very pleased with the progress he’s made day in and day out.”

Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews believes Ridder will be fine.

“Even last year as a rookie, you could tell that he’s a natural leader,” Matthews said. “He’s not afraid to get in there and let his voice be heard. He does a good job.

“I think being in the huddle and how a quarterback calls plays and presents himself is really important. He has always come in with a ton of confidence.”

Matthews believes Ridder grew from the four starts last season.

“He’s improved and then coming back after this break, it’s like he didn’t skip a beat,” Matthews said. “He’s just continuously improving. I’m very optimistic about Desmond and what he’s doing. His (offensive) line is rallying behind him.”

Ridder leaned on London in the pass game during his four-game stint.

“If something goes wrong, he’s the first one to speak up,” London said. “He’s just a leader that you want on your team.”

Ridder was lightly recruited out of Louisville. He went on the play at Cincinnati and helped carry the football program to the College Football Playoff. He was 44-6 as a starting quarterback for the Bearcats.

“He was obviously very successful in college,” Smith said.

With a strong running game, play-action passes may help Ridder.

“There’s a lot of great schemes and some things translate, and some things don’t,” Smith said. “There’s some things with some players that it’s how comfortable are they and what kind of play-action. If it gets marked as play-action, how many times do they really – is it hard play-action when they turn their back and flip their head around?

“Some guys haven’t done that, but they get to this, or you may ask them to do that, and they are very good spatial players.”

The Falcons like Ridder’s intangibles and ability to anticipate issues a defense may present.

“Every player has been a little bit different that I’ve worked with,” Smith said. “I’ve been very comfortable with Des. I think he’s got that. There’s a lot of things that we may ask him to anticipate or wait a tick and not everybody can do that, but he can.

“He’s shown that so far. That gives us a lot of hope and every system is a little bit different, too. So, I’m pleased with that and with him in that regard.”

Falcons’ 90-man roster analysis:

Part 1: Running backs

Part 2: Offensive line

Part 3: Wide receivers/tight ends

Part 4: Defensive line

Part 5: Linebackers

Part 6: Secondary

Part 7: Special teams

Part 8: Quarterbacks

The AJC’s projected depth chart


QB – Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside

RB – Tyler Allgeier, Bijan Robinson, Cordarrelle Patterson, *Caleb Huntley, Carlos Washington Jr.

FB – Keith Smith, Clint Ratkovich

WR – Drake London, KhaDarel Hodge, Frank Darby, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Chris Blair

TE – *Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, Parker Hesse, Feleipe Franks, *John FitzPatrick, Tucker Fisk

LT – Jake Matthews, Barry Wesley

LG – Matt Hennessy, Kyle Hinton, Matthew Bergeron, *Jalen Mayfield, *Justin Shaffer

C – Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil, Jonotthan Harrison, Jovaughn Gwyn

RG – Chris Lindstrom, Jovaughn Gwyn

RT – Kaleb McGary, Tyler Vrabel, Joshua Miles, Ethan Greenidge

WR – Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, Slade Bolden, Josh Ali, Keilahn Harris, Xavier Malone


OLB – Lorenzo Carter, Bud Dupree, DeAngelo Malone

DE – Grady Jarrett, Timothy Horne, LeCale London

NT – Eddie Goldman, *Ta’Quon Graham, Carlos Davis

DE – David Onyemata, Joe Gaziano, Ikenna Enechukwu, Albert Huggins

OLB – Calais Campbell, Ade Ogundeji, Arnold Ebiketie, Zach Harrison

ILB – Kaden Elliss, Dorian Etheridge, Tae Davis, Andre Smith Jr.

ILB – Troy Andersen, Mykal Walker, Nate Landman, Mike Jones Jr.

CB – A.J. Terrell, Mike Hughes, Clark Phillips III, Breon Borders, Natrone Brooks

FS – Jessie Bates III, Jaylinn Hawkins, Micah Abernathy, Lukas Denis

SS – Richie Grant, DeMarcco Hellams, Clifford Chattman

CB – Jeff Okudah, Cornell Armstrong, Tre Flowers, Dee Alford, Darren Hall

NB – Mike Hughes, Clark Phillips III, Dee Alford


K – Younghoe Koo, Matthew Trickett

P/H – Bradley Pinion

LS – Liam McCullough

PR – Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, Penny Hart and Josh Ali.

KOR – Cordarrelle Patterson. Carlos Washington Jr.

Note: Players who ended the season on injured reserve have an asterisk.

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