Falcons’ Desmond Ridder turns in ‘solid’ effort against Dolphins defense

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – With only four NFL starts under his belt, joint practices with the Dolphins this week were crucial for Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder.

After two weeks of going against the Falcons’ defense in training camp, he faced the Dolphins, who are led on defense by veteran coordinator Vic Fangio. The two teams completed their second joint practice on Wednesday and will play their exhibition season opener at 7 p.m. Friday at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Falcons’ offense played well in the red zone, but are still working on the passing attack, re-incorporating tight end Kyle Pitts and their play-action passing game.

“That was pretty solid,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “There are a lot of things to coach off, but Des has done a good job.”

Ridder managed the offense well.

“There’s a lot of camp, unless they are throwing five picks a day, a lot of it is subjective,” Smith said. “The obvious, the completed ball. There are a lot things, I think that he ... some of the techniques and things that we ask him to do ... there is so much that goes into it ... just with the (drop backs) that we ask him to do.”

Smith is also pleased with Ridders’ decision-making as he’s checked down a lot of passes.

“The decision-making on the play,” Smith said. “A lot of time they can complete a ball and make a poor decision that you can get away with in practice. But I think his decision-making has been pretty damn good. I think his techniques are certainly improving and that’s the name of the game.”

Smith has to make a decision on if Ridder will play against the Dolphins on Friday.

“We’re going to talk as a staff,” Smith said. “Our guys are going to play in the (exhibition) season, but when and how much will be determine for this game in particular over the next 24 hours. I just have to go back see. If guys are a little nicked up, go back and see.

“So, it’s not just Des. If he goes out there it will be with the first offense as well.”

If Ridder doesn’t play, Taylor Heinicke and Logan Woodside would get the quarterback action.

“The other thing, too, is we have to get an evaluation of if we’re going to use a third quarterback,” Smith said. “Our guys will play in the (exhibition) season. But to be determined about Friday night.”

Against Fangio’s 3-4 defense, the Falcons got off to a good start with three touchdowns in the redzone/seven-on-seven period on Wednesday.

“It felt great,” Ridder said. “I wanted to come out here and set the tone. Seven-on-seven isn’t real football. It’s just seven guys on air basically, but just to be able to get things started, it was great for us.”

Ridder got fired up after tossing a touchdown and going 4-for-4 during his period.

“There is always emotion,” Ridder said. “Everyone else has to see the tone being set. Sometimes, there might be good plays and you don’t feel the energy, you have to bring it yourself.”

During the 11-on-11 period, of Ridder’s first eight plays, he had a pass tipped, had a completion to Mack Hollins and scrambled before tossing an incompletion. The Falcons ran the ball on the other five snaps.

Ridder felt he handled things well.

“It’s good to be able to go up against Vic’s defense,” Ridder said. “You see a lot of similar defenses throughout our year. It’s just great to go up here and see what they do on film. Go back and watch it and know what we are going to be doing in the future.”

Ridder knows there are things to improve on.

“From our side, there were a lot of good things,” Ridder said. “A lot of bad things. One thing that we want to cancel out is pre-snap penalties. Operations. False starts. Illegal shifts or whatever it may be. Those are the things we want to cancel out and be able to get out of our game.”

Ridder wants to play in the exhibition game.

“Right now, I’m prepared to play as much as (I can) until they pull me out,” Ridder said. “So, me it’s like every single week. Going in there to win the game. So, whether if I play one snap or 100 snaps, I’m going in there to win every single play.”

Falcons tight end Jonnu Smith has been impressed with Ridder’s poise.

“Vocal leader,” Jonnu Smith said. “That is what was astounding to me. Being in Year Two a lot of quarterbacks are still kind of feeling their way. That was what I was most impressed about.

“Athletically, it’s all there. The intangibles are all there. But to me, him being a vocal leader at this stage in his career is very impressive.”

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