Ragone, a former NFL quarterback and longtime assistant, is charged with the further development of Desmond Ridder, who’s set to enter his second season in the league as the franchise’s starting quarterback.
“I don’t know who that coach is,” Ragone quipped after being asked about London moving on. “Whoever that is. ... I have to redo everything. I’m starting from scratch. I can’t believe what he told him.”
He was just joking.
“No, coach (London) was awesome,” Ragone said. “Charles was all about the foundation. Building that for him (through) fundamentals and being in his ear. So, I will try to be myself, but a continuation of the things we built on last year.”
Ridder was the No. 2 quarterback behind Marcus Mariota for 13 games last season. He started the final four games after the bye week and was 2-2 as a starter.
“Obviously, Desmond and I are building a relationship,” Ragone said. “When I’m in that quarterback (meeting) room, no different from when I walk down to the receiver room or the (offensive) lineman room, it’s all part of the process.”
So far, things are going along well. Ragone did spend a lot of time with London as he worked with Ridder last season, so they are not starting from ground zero.
“Making sure we’re on the same page,” Ragone said. “Understand what he’s seeing and then our intent and the why of the plays that we run.”
Ragone believes Ridder has been more comfortable this offseason.
“It’s Year 2, so last year, just like the rookies that are coming in this year, the classes that they have, he had,” Ragone said. “Learning and being around new coaches for the first time. Now, it’s your second year in the system. There are certain expectations that with the offseason he has and coming into OTAs, there is a certain bar that we want for all of our players to be able to continue to push. For him, it’s no different from what we ask the left tackle and right guard to do, come in and do your job.”
The Falcons finished last season ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards per game. They must improve the passing attack. Ridder completed 63.5% of his passes, but the Falcons averaged only 158.8 yards passing per game, which ranked 31st in the league.
“That’s part of it, yes. He played last year with the ability to try to be out there and be a starter for four games,” Ragone said. “We put him in some environments that we talked about on the road against some really good defenses. We wanted to see how he handled that. Now, it’s the offseason.”
But Ridder now is the declared starter.
“He’s coming in the offseason in a different role than he was last season,” Ragone said. “All of these are new learning experiences. The more new experiences we can provide any of our players, including the quarterback, before (the season opener), when we can test the guys, the better off we’ll be for the season. But it’s our job as coaches to make sure that we put those guys in certain situations and continue to test them.”
So, the Falcons are working on situations with Ridder.
“If everything is easy and everything is great, the first time they face adversity is going to be Week 1,” Ragone said. “Then as coaches we are not doing our job. It’s our job to continue to push these players, regardless if it’s the starting quarterback or if it’s the third-string quarterback. That doesn’t matter. Everybody is tested the same.”
But the Falcons know they must improve the passing attack.
“In (2021), I always like how things evolved,” Ragone said. “We ran the ball, however you want to look at it, and we passed the ball a certain way.”
The Falcons have revamped the wide receiver group this offseason in part by adding free agents Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller and Penny Hart.
“Now, we have a new set of players,” Ragone said. “You have a new identity. Every year, you’re evolving. So last year, the run game did a great job, and I would argue in that run game it takes all 11. Sure, some guys get more credit than others. That’s just how it plays out. In reality it took 11 guys for that run game to work. Just like it will this year.
“In the pass game, it’s different. It takes all 11 in the pass game. For us, it’s just continuing to evolve with the players that have, the trust and the timing. It’s about putting the work in.”
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC
The Falcons are not overhauling their scheme.
“There is no magic, ‘hey, let’s run these cool concepts,’” Ragone said. “It’s how many times you rep those concepts so that the players have trust so when they go out there, then know exactly where they are supposed to be when the ball comes out at the right time. That only happens if you’re actually putting the work, and that’s what we are trying to do now.”
Also, Ridder didn’t have the benefit of tight end Kyle Pitts last season. Pitts is still recovering from knee surgery and has not been present at the two open OTAs this offseason.
“For Kyle, it’s not his fault,” Ragone said. “The injuries occurred and things of that nature. The most important thing for all players is to put the work in. If you’re not able to put the work in because of injury, then you just get yourself right physically and mentally.
You want to be hitting on all cylinders when Week 1 starts. There’s a build-up process. There is a way to go about that in the training room or on the field.”
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.