In the final game before the bye week, Ridder played in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Cardinals, leading the team on a touchdown drive after Heinicke exited the game with a hamstring injury. Smith said he thought Ridder’s play in the game was a good ‘reset’ for the second-year player who started the first eight games of the season.
“What you saw with Des was very encouraging,” Smith said. “That’s tough for anybody. As a young player in his career, he had success. It wasn’t like he went out there and it was over. But we needed to get to terms on control and some other things going on.”
Ridder had a league-high 12 turnovers in his first eight starts. He was intercepted three times in the 24-16 home loss to the Commanders Oct. 15 and had three fumbles in the 16-13 win at Tampa Bay Oct. 22.
Ridder’s upcoming start will be his ninth this season and the 13th overall since being selected by the team in the third round of the 2022 draft. The team was 2-2 in his four starts as a rookie, and in the offseason Smith declared him as the starter for the 2023 season.
Ridder’s stats this season:
-65.4 percent passing (161-of-246)
-1,740 passing yards
-Six touchdown passes, six interceptions
-150 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns.
A fifth rushing touchdown (in the win over Tampa Bay) eventually became another turnover as the ball was knocked out of his hand as he crossed the goal line. Ridder discussed his inability to take care of the football after his benching, saying ‘at the end of the day, that’s ball security, going back to when you are 4 and 5 years old ....hang onto the ball.’
Ridder regains control of an offense that ranks in the top half of the NFL in total yards (335.4 yards per game) and rushing (130.4). The offense ranks among the lower half in passing (204.9) and scoring (18.9).
Ridder’s mission now that he’s back in the starting lineup? Find a way to jump-start a passing attack that has lethal potential on the receiving end with Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith, all of whom have at least 35 catches this season.
Rookie running back Bijan Robinson is also a receiving threat (29 receptions) and has combined with Tyler Allgeier to give the team more than 1,000 yards on the ground. The team has scored at least 23 points in their last three games, but has yet to score 30 in a game this season.
Another mission? Guide a team over the next seven games (beginning with the home matchup against NFC South rival New Orleans) that’s still within reach of the playoffs despite a 4-6 record and a three-game losing streak.
”If you take out half of those turnovers or whatever it is, those negative plays and there is a lot of good,” Ridder said. “I put a lot of good stuff on film. Been able to move the ball. Been able to get in the end zone. Now, it’s being able to eliminate those negative plays.”
The Bow Tie Chronicles