Falcons developing quarterback Desmond Ridder at their pace

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

FLOWERY BRANCH — In this year’s NFL draft, nine quarterbacks were selected. The Falcons took Desmond Ridder in the third round with the 74th overall pick, the second quarterback taken.

But as we approach the halfway point of the 17-game season, Ridder has not played a down.

“I’m handling it well as far as the backup role,” Ridder said. “I’m just waiting on my number to be called. I’m preparing every single day as if I’m the starter. Then you go out there on Sunday and then pray, injury-wise, that nothing happens to Marcus (Mariota).”

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The Falcons believe that Mariota gives them the best chance to win and are not going to rush Ridder onto the field until he’s ready.

“Whatever happens and my time comes, I’m able to go in there and perform the way that I do every single day,” Ridder said.

Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, was a third-round pick (88th overall) like Ridder, but in 2003 by the Houston Texans.

When Ragone got the opportunity to play, he was unprepared and washed out of the league after two starts.

“It was more about what I didn’t do,” Ragone said. “The mental part of it, I took for granted. I went out there and ran the scout team. I just said, OK, ‘I’m not going to play this week.’ I’m just going to go ahead, throw it around and get better physically. I’m going to get better fundamentally, and then, what happened my rookie year is that I was forced to play.”

Ragone went on to earn NFL Europe’s offensive player-of-the-year award with the Berlin Thunder. After he was cut by Houston, he spent time with the Bengals, Rams and Panthers, but he never played in another NFL game.

After dabbling in radio in Louisville, Ragone got into coaching in 2011 and decided that he would share his story with the quarterbacks he was working with.

“I was going to stress upon any backup quarterback, regardless of age, the importance of preparation because that failed me,” said Ragone, who was a three-time Conference USA player of the year. “You always learn either from your experiences, or your environment. I felt that I failed in that regard.”

Ragone has shared with Ridder his thoughts on why he didn’t make it in the NFL.

“He spent his time in the league, and he learned his positives and his negatives,” Ridder said. “Obviously, all you want to try to do for the younger guys is to help them have the most successful career that they can have. When he tells us those things of what got him out of the league, he does it so that we don’t have to experience those things. It helps us a lot.”

Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London works with Ridder daily.

“We’ve got a really fun quarterback (meeting) room with Marcus and Desmond,” London said. “I enjoy working with those guys every day.”

In addition to running the scout team, Ridder puts in some additional work after most practices.

“We are trying to get some reps with him,” London said. “But he’s doing well. He’s developing. I think he’s doing a great job supporting Marcus.”

New England’s Bailey Zappe and Miami’s Skylar Thompson have played the most among the rookies.

The Steelers turned to Kenny Pickett, who was the first quarterback selected, with the 20th pick, and the only quarterback taken in the first round.

Malik Willis is set to start of Tennessee on Sunday.

Panthers quarterback Matt Corral was lost for the season to injury.

Here’s a look at how the nine drafted quarterbacks are doing this season.

Kenny Pickett, Steelers (first round, 20th overall)

The Steelers opened the season with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, but after four games they turned to Pickett.

He is 1-2 as a starter, while completing 87 of 127 passes for 771 yards, with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has a passer rating of 66.7.

Pickett played at the University of Pittsburgh and was thought to be the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft.

He has played 218 offensive snaps (78%) for the Steelers.

Desmond Ridder, Falcons (third round, 74th)

He has not played a snap. He continues to run the scout team and stays after practice to get in some extra work.

Malik Willis, Titans (third round, 86th)

A high school standout at Westlake and Roswell, Willis played 17 snaps in a blowout against Buffalo. He’s start to start on Sunday for the Titans.

Willis is 1-of-4 passing for 6 yards and had four rushes for 16 yards. He has played 20 offensive snaps for the Titans, who are grooming him to replace Ryan Tannehill.

Willis is up for an expanded role after Tannehill suffered an ankle injury in their last outing against the Colts. Willis played three snaps in that game.

Willis also lined up at wide receiver twice against the Colts, and the Titans tried to get him the ball on a end-around, but Tannehill lost the ball.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel is open to having a package for Willis.

Matt Corral, Panthers (third round, 94th)

He was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a Lisfranc foot injury on Aug. 22. A former Mississippi signal-caller, Corral sustained the injury in an exhibition game against New England.

Bailey Zappe, Patriots (fourth round, 137th)

He went 2-0 as a starter with Mac Jones injured. He came off the bench against the Bears on Monday and led two touchdown drives before fizzling out.

He has completed 65 of 92 passes (70.7%) for 781 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

He set FBS records for single-season passing yards (5,967) and TDs (62) in 2021. Started his career at Houston Baptist before transferring to Western Kentucky.

Sam Howell, Commanders (fifth round, 144th)

Like Ridder, he hasn’t played yet, but was the backup last week behind Taylor Heinicke.

With Carson Wentz out after finger surgery, Howell is a play away from reaching the field.

Howell was the first player taken in the fifth round after a stellar career at North Carolina.

Chris Oladokun, Steelers (seventh round, 241st)

The former South Dakota State standout is on the Chiefs’ practice squad.

Skylar Thompson, Dolphins (seventh round 247th)

A former Kansas State standout, Thompson was pressed into service when Tua Tagovailoa was out with his concussion issues.

Thompson came on in relief against the Jets on Oct. 9 and started against the Vikings on Oct. 16.

He has completed 26 of 46 passes (56.5%) for 255 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He has a passer rating of 63.2.

Brock Purdy, 49ers (seventh round, 262nd)

He has played in two blowouts and has completed four of nine passes for 66 yards.

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.

Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.


Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD