Falcons’ Drake London could benefit from QB switch to Desmond Ridder

Wide receiver Drake London could be the major beneficiary of the Falcons’ move to quarterback Desmond Ridder. (Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Wide receiver Drake London could be the major beneficiary of the Falcons’ move to quarterback Desmond Ridder. (Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Wide receiver Drake London could be the major beneficiary of the Falcons’ move to quarterback Desmond Ridder.

London, who was taken with the eighth overall pick and the first wide receiver taken in the 2022 NFL draft, has bonded with Ridder since they were selected by the Falcons earlier this year. Ridder was taken with the 74th overall pick in the third round.

Ridder and London will get a chance to help lift the Falcons (5-8) when they face the Saints (4-9) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

“Only time will tell,” London said. “Oh, yeah, that’s my boy. I came in here with him. Built a relationship with him. Just been grinding ever since. To see him finally get a shot, it’s just really, really cool to see. Just to see that smile again.”

London was taken ahead of Garrett Wilson, who went to the Jets with the 10th pick. Chris Olave went to the Saints with the 11th pick, and Jameson Williams went to the Lions with the 12th pick.

London has 47 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns.

Wilson has 63 catches for 868 yards and four touchdowns. Olave has 60 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns. Williams, who was coming off knee surgery, has played in two games but already has a 41-yard touchdown reception.

The Packers’ Christian Watson, who was taken in the second round (34th overall), has 25 catches for 401 yards and seven touchdowns. The Steelers’ George Pickens, who was taken in the second round from Georgia (52nd overall), has 40 catches for 590 yards and two touchdowns.

The switch from veteran starter Marcus Mariota to Ridder was done in part to improve the league’s 31st-ranked passing attack.

London showed some signs of frustration on the sideline in the Falcons’ last game against the Steelers before the bye week.

“I’m a competitor at the end of the day,” London said. “I’m trying to win games. When we’re down, I don’t think anybody is going to have a smile on their face at the end of the day. It wasn’t just personal stuff. It was just the whole game in general. We’re trying to win, and we weren’t doing that during that time.”

The Falcons are pleased with London’s production.

“He’s done a great job so far,” Falcons wide receivers coach T.J. Yates said. “You know, he’s exactly the guy that we thought he was, what we wanted and what we were looking for in a receiver that plays our style of football.”

The Falcons like London’s physical style of play, his route running, his ability to run after the catch and his blocking in the run game.

“He’s taking it head-on and really done a great job in the blocking game,” Yates said. “Just like any rookie, he’s developing every single week. Getting better at little things.”

London has started all 13 games and continues to improve.

“We try to pick out one, two, three things a week and really focus on it, whether if it’s something in the release or something in the route, whatever it is,” Yates said. “He’s stepped in and he’s done a great job for us. He’s been available.”

London has been targeted 81 times and has a 58% catch percentage, which can be attributed in part to Mariota’s inaccuracy.

“Obviously, the way the game goes, the ball doesn’t always (come) your way,” Yates said. “But he’s run some really good routes. He’s getting open, and when he does get his opportunities out there, he’s taken advantage of them.”

The statistics of the other receivers taken in the draft, notwithstanding, the Falcons are pleased with London.

“The one thing that he has never said one thing to me or anybody about is his stats,” Yates said. “The kid loves football. He loves playing football. Loves being out there. Not once has he complained about targets or catches or yards or stats. That’s not the kind of guy that he is. He just wants his team to win, and he’s doing everything he can to achieve that. So, he’s been great so far. I don’t see, you know, he’s not the type of guy that will look into that kind of stuff.”

If Ridder is going to ignite the passing attack, he’s likely going to lean on London.

“Drake’s my guy,” Ridder said. “I mean, yeah, but I’m comfortable with the other 10 guys that are out there with me. Just because I’m closer with Drake because we came in together and we’re boys, that doesn’t mean that I’m not boys with each and every of the (offensive) linemen or OZ (Olamide Zaccheaus) or (KhaDarel Hodge) or any other guy that’s out there.”

London believes that Ridder will perform well.

“I think he’s adjusting just fine,” London said. “He’s been a vocal leader already. He’s been like that since Marcus was here, too. I think he’s just fully immersed himself into the role, and he’s loving it.”

Ridder got the receivers together after he was named the starter for workouts at the team’s facility over the bye week. They worked on the Falcons’ route tree.

“It helps a ton,” London said. “Those are just timing throws that nobody can cover. No matter if a guy is face guarding you or not.”

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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 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17

Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24

Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13

Dec. 4 Steelers 19, Falcons 16


Dec. 18 at New Orleans, 1 p.m.

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

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

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD