Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder has his eyes on the starting job

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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Falcons rookie QB Desmond Ridder shares his leadership style.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder plans to compete with veteran Marcus Mariota for the team’s open quarterback position.

The Falcons have an opening after trading Matt Ryan, who started for the past 14 seasons, to the Colts for a third-round draft pick.

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Ridder has taken charge of the rookie minicamp and has two practices under his belt. He plans to be respectful of Mariota, who’s started 61 games in the NFL.

“Marcus is a guy that’s played a lot of games in the NFL and obviously had a tremendous college career,” Ridder said. “So, you know, you have to give respect where respect is due.”

Ridder, who was the 74th player and second quarterback taken in the draft, was 44-5 as a starter for Cincinnati. He guided the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff last season.

“So just being able to come out here and learn, but just know at the end of the day, and he knows, too, that I mean, it’s obviously a competition or else we wouldn’t be here,” Ridder said. “At the end of the day, too, it’s not up to us to make that decision. It’s up to the coaches.”

Ridder plans to put his best foot forward, although the Falcons plan to open camp with Mariota as the No. 1 quarterback.

“If we go out here, and we both put our best foot forward and we leave it out of our hands,” Ridder said. “But at the end of the day we’re working not only to better ourselves, but to better each other and everything that we do.”

Before competing for the starting job, Ridder has to learn the playbook. He admitted to messing up two play calls on the first day of rookie minicamp.

He’s been using poker chips to move around to help him understand the formations and has been meeting regularly with quarterbacks coach Charles London.

During the open portion of practice Saturday, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone was working with the quarterbacks on their footwork.

“We didn’t have our best day yesterday, the first day of practice,” Ridder said. “We were able to go to the walk-through, clean up some things last night and then come out here and improve (and try to) get 1% better every single day.”

Ridder is roommates with wide receiver Drake London, tight end John FitzPatrick and running back Tyler Allgeier.

London and FitzPatrick have taken a liking to their new roomie.

“I think he and I have made a strong connection,” FitzPatrick said. “I just have a good buddy in him.”

Both have lauded Ridder’s leadership style.

“Just vocally,” FitzPatrick said. “He is not afraid to speak his mind.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith has noticed Ridder taking charge of the rookies.

“Well, I mean, (that was) one of the characteristics we liked about him,” Smith said. “If he got here ... and was mute, I’d be a little concerned. So, I guess he passed Day 1. He’s as advertised in that regard.”

Ridder described his leadership style as being vocal and trying to lead by example.

“These guys see that I’m in the playbook 24/7,” Ridder said. “I’ve got it down pretty good. So, you know when they are coming up to me asking me questions, just being able to fire it off back at them real quick and them understanding that I’ve got a good grasp and knowledge of the offense.”

Showing that he understands the playbook will build trust with his teammates.

“Being able to go out there and step into the huddle and say the play-call with confidence,” Ridder said. “Get to the line and make the right play-call.”

Ridder believes his leadership style comes naturally.

“That’s just how I’ve been throughout grade school, high school and college,” Ridder said. “We’re all young adults out here playing a children’s game and a game that we love. So, as a quarterback, that’s kind of your role.”

Ridder plans to keep trying to master the playbook. He said he also will get some work in with London in California over the offseason.

“I think we got the playbook a week and a half ago,” Ridder said. “So, I’m just really diving into it with just general information, huddle and cadence.”

Using the poker chips to simulate formations has been helpful.

“So just being able to use them, move them around,” Ridder said. “That’s what helped me really pick up the pace, information of the offense. And then having meetings with coach London every single day on Zoom, just learning the true ins and outs of it. And then obviously, coming out here and putting it from paper to the field. That makes it a lot easier to go out here and learn.”

Ridder noted that he waited his turn in high school as the freshman team and junior varsity starter before beating out a couple of seniors when he was a junior. At Cincinnati, he had to beat out a senior as a redshirt freshman.

In the NFL, he plans to be respectful while trying to earn the starting spot.

”That’s kind of just how my career has been in this football world, from high school to college,” Ridder said. “I’m excited just really to come out here and learn from guys like Marcus. Learn from guys like Feleipe (Franks). Not only from on-the-field stuff, but off the field.

“We talked about leadership, learning. Those are two great guys to learn leadership from. So, I’m really excited just to come out here and just learn from those guys.”

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Falcons quarterback and third-round draft pick Desmond Ridder (4) participates during rookie minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Practice Facility in Flowery Branch on Saturday, May 14, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Falcons quarterback and third-round draft pick Desmond Ridder (4) participates during rookie minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Practice Facility in Flowery Branch on Saturday, May 14, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

caption arrowCaption
Falcons quarterback and third-round draft pick Desmond Ridder (4) participates during rookie minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Practice Facility in Flowery Branch on Saturday, May 14, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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