Desmond Ridder’s first 10 starts on par with Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, Steve Bartkowski

Hear from Falcons coach Arthur Smith, asst. head coach/defense Jerry Gray and quarterback Desmond Ridder himself on Ridder's development as a quarterback.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder has started 10 NFL games and posted a 5-5 record.

Ridder, who’s thrown six interceptions over those games, is set to lead the Falcons (3-3) against the Buccaneers (3-2) in a battle for first place in the NFC South at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

The start to Ridder’s NFL career fits right in line with the first 10 games played by Matt Ryan (2008), Michael Vick (2001-02) and Steve Bartkowski (1975).

Ridder, who was taken in the third round (74th) overall of the 2022 draft, has thrown eight touchdown passes.

Ryan, who started as rookie, was 6-4 over his first 10 games and threw 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Vick, who started only two games as a rookie, went 5-4-1 over his first 10 games and had six touchdowns and two interceptions.

Ryan and Vick had only one 300-yard passing game, while Ridder has had two.

Bartkowski was 4-6 over his first 10 games and tossed 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had three three-interception games over his first 10 games and had only one 300-yard game.

Ryan was the third player taken overall in the 2008 draft. Vick and Bartkowski were taken first overall in their drafts.

So, while Ridder must eliminate his interceptions, the start to his career is not alarming to the Falcons, nor when put in historical perspective.

“Sure, you look around the history of this league and you go back to patterns,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked him to assess Ridder’s first 10 starts. “Obviously, (the interceptions) happened. Have to acknowledge (them). Like we talked about the other day, you don’t want to sugarcoat anything, but you have to learn from your mistakes, too.”

While five interceptions over three games seems like a lot, Bartkowski threw seven over a three-game stretch and 10 over a five-game stretch as a rookie. He went to play 11 more seasons and make two Pro Bowls.

“It hasn’t been a major pattern,” Smith said. “Look back to last year in the four starts, (Ridder) didn’t turn the ball over. Obviously, two of the last three games, they’ve happened, but it’s happened to a lot of quarterbacks.”

In Ryan’s second game, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had him seeing ghosts. He threw two interceptions and was sacked four times in the 24-9 loss Sept. 14, 2008. Ryan finished with a 29.6 passer rating for that game, but learned from the nightmarish outing.

Ryan had only one other game with a lower passer rating (21.4 in a 43-3 rout by Dallas in 2014.)

That may explain why the Falcons are focused on Ridder learning from his interceptions.

“The thing is you have to fix it,” Smith said. “It can’t become a trend because then you have an even bigger problem, but like I said, it’s like a lot of things in this league. Ninety percent can be good, but if you have 10 percent that are critical errors, and if you really look at our three losses – especially last week – that’s happened.”

Ryan is an analyst for CBS and called the Washington game Sunday. He believes Ridder will be fine.

“He’s got a plenty capable arm,” Ryan said. “He’s plenty athletic and can get outside and use his legs. He throws the ball well on the run. I think he does a lot of things that you like, and I think you just want to continue to see growth.”

Ryan was a master of the two-minute drill, winning one game in his rookie season – his sixth NFL start – with 11 seconds to go against Chicago.

“Just handling situations, too,” Ryan said. “I think sometimes playing quarterback is about problem solving out on the field.”

Ridder is not shying away from discussing the interceptions.

“From an interception standpoint, no, I don’t think that’s a mental approach,” Ridder said. “I think what changes this week from the previous weeks is just our attention to detail, how we go about getting in and out of the huddle, breaking the huddle with urgency, getting to the ball, lining up, having everyone know where they’re supposed to go and where they’re supposed to be.”

Ridder believes he can eliminate the interceptions.

“I feel like you try to learn from the mistakes that were made last week and correct them in this week,” Ridder said. “But you don’t want to dwell on those interceptions rather than figure out where we can get better at and that’s the attention to detail.”

Through the wins and losses, Ridder has tried to keep things in perspective.

“It’s neutral thinking – it’s never being too high, never being too low,” Ridder said. “Throughout that entire game there’s some ups and downs, but just staying neutral.”

Ridder has been accountable to the coaching staff and his teammates.

“You kind of just got to take a good look in the mirror,” Ridder said. “See where you went wrong. Where you could’ve done better and move on in the future.”

Ridder has the support of his teammates.

“Don’t worry about last week,” running back Bijan Robinson said would be his advice to Ridder. “Focus on the present. Focus on what have, the task at hand, and that’s the Buccaneers. Yeah, last week was tough, but you’ve got to keep on improving, keep on moving on.”

The Bucs are hoping Ridder’s play doesn’t change.

“You have to understand that the Buccaneers don’t care about how you feel or how we feel as a team,” Robinson said. “They are going to come out there and try to win. We have to come out there with that same mentality.”

Ridder must become better at reading pro defenses and not forcing the ball into coverage.

“I don’t think every throw is a good throw, if you put it like that, because there are some things that you want to turn down, throw it in the stands,” Falcons assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray said. “We’ve got a great punter. We’ve got a great kicker, use that. (He) says, ‘You know, I didn’t make a good throw. We can go to the next play.’”

Ridder is learning what throws to make and which ones to turn down.

“Everybody wants to make plays, especially at that position,” Gray said. “It’s always magnified. And if you make a mistake, it’s, ‘Oh, he makes a mistake.’ If he makes a great throw, (it’s), ‘Oh, he’s a hero.’” He’s going to learn from it, and he’s going to get better.”

The Falcons believe Ridder will make strides.

“There’s a reason we’re 3-3,” Smith said. “The good news is there’s a lot of football left. There’s a huge game for us coming up down in Tampa in a divisional game that we need to go down there and win. So, that’s where we’re at. There is progress, but we have to eliminate those critical errors in all three phases, right?

“A play here or there. It’s everybody’s taking turns. Like I said, you can cut the numbers up however you want, but ultimately, at the end of the day, when you lose a game and you make critical errors, you have to get it fixed.”

Quarterback Matt Ryan, of Boston College, waits on the sidelines during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Credit: Michael Conroy

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Credit: Michael Conroy

Quarterback Michael Vick in 2001.

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski in 1979

Credit: Billy Downs/AJC

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Credit: Billy Downs/AJC

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