Falcons’ Desmond Ridder ready to address his skeptics

FLOWERY BRANCH — The focal point for how the Falcons will perform in 2023 centers around quarterback Desmond Ridder.

Some people have low expectations. Others pick the Falcons to make the playoffs. Some project that Ridder will lose his job to backup Taylor Heinicke.

“That’s messed up,” Falcons wide receiver Drake London said. “That’s a little sad.”

The Falcons are set to host the Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the season opener for both teams.

Ridder took over after 13 games last season. He started the final four contests and went 2-2. Over the offseason he was named the starter, and owner Arthur Blank expressed hope that Ridder will become the franchise’s quarterback of the future.

The Falcons, who have seen Ridder up close, believes he’s ready to step into the role, which was filled by former NFL MVP Matt Ryan for 14 years before he was traded to the Colts.

Last season, Marcus Mariota was the place-holder until Ridder was ready to play.

“I see it every day,” London said. “I see his leadership. I see his work ethic, and I see who he is as a person on and off the field.”

London projects that Ridder is going to win over the skeptics.

“That’s all going to come into light once he starts playing,” London said. “He only had four games last year. People didn’t really see all of Des in his entirety.”

The Falcons have surrounded the quarterback position with London, tight end Kyle Pitts and running back Bijan Robinson, who was drafted No. 8 overall this year.

“You’ve got to live in this world of constantly thinking, give these guys the opportunity to go make those catches rather than I have to be perfect on it,” ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky said. “The more he can kind of get to that mindset, there is a much better chance of being explosive down the field.”

London believes Ridder is ready for that task.

“Now, they get to see him and see what he does,” London said. “I think he’ll shut a lot of people up and silence those doubters for sure.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Starting quarterback Desmond Ridder looks ahead to the season opener Sept. 10 against the Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Ridder said he’s ready to roll.

“I’m good,” Ridder said. “I’m excited … to just get out there Sunday at 1 o’clock to get down and go.”

Ridder played only 17 snaps in one game of the exhibition season. By contrast, the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs played quarterback Patrick Mahomes for 26 snaps in two games.

The Falcons believe their training-camp practices and the two joint practices with the Miami Dolphins have them and Ridder prepared to enter the regular season.

“Coach tries to make everything as hard as he possibly can on us so that when it comes to the game, it comes by a little smoother or we’ve seen this look before,” Ridder said.

The Falcons offense is coming together, Ridder and London, insist.

“It’s been looking great,” Ridder said. “We’ve got a couple of new things in that we’ll go in there and work out. As far as my relationship with all of the receivers and tight ends and anyone (who) can possibly get the ball, it’s great. We are continuing to build not only this week, but throughout the entire season.”

London said, “I think it looks like something special. I think it looks amazing. I think it looks really, really great. I think (coach Arthur Smith) has done a great job of putting pieces together. Getting them right.”

Ridder, who was selected in the third round (74th overall) of the 2022 draft, posted a 44-5 record as a starter at Cincinnati. He has 810 completions on 1,304 attempts (62.1%).

He feels that he’s more comfortable than he was entering his first start last season against the Saints on the road.

“A lot of less anxiety,” Ridder said. “For me, it’s about being prepared.”

The Falcons had the third-ranked rushing attack last season. Their area for improving is in the passing game, which ranked 31st in the league.

“First, obviously, communicating the play,” Ridder said. “Getting in and out of the huddle. Then executing it at the line of scrimmage. Whatever that may be, a dummy cadence, a shift, a motion or whatever that may be. Make sure that we are all lined up and on the same page.”

Ridder basically doesn’t want the Falcons to beat themselves.

“At the end of the (day), like most every team would say, it’s not going to be the team on the other side of the field that’s going to beat you,” Ridder said. “It most likely going to be yourself that you get beat by. So, if we are able to clean up those pre-snap mistakes … then you have a higher success rate.”

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Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) look to pass during the first half in a preseason exhibition game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Friday, August 18, 2023, in Atlanta.
Miguel Martinez/miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

\Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) gets directions from Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone before the team face the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason exhibition game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Friday, August 18, 2023, in Atlanta.
Miguel Martinezmiguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez