Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder competing to replace Matt Ryan

FLOWERY BRANCH — The race to replace Matt Ryan started to get serious on the first day of training camp for the Falcons.

Over the offseason, the Falcons acquired Marcus Mariota in free agency and drafted Desmond Ridder in the third round.

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Falcons

“Basically, their assignment over the summer was to remember all of the installs we made in the spring and to keep studying the information,” Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London said Wednesday. “Both of them did a great job of staying on top of the information and coming back over this past weekend.”

Mariota and Ridder reported early for camp and ready to compete.

“I told them we can’t go backward,” London said. “They came back ready to go. They digested the information.”

Over the offseason, the Falcons worked on getting both quarterbacks comfortable. Now it’s time to see if they can translate what they learned in the classroom to the field.

“Now, we’re to the point, execute the play,” London said. “Here’s your progression. Here’s your read. Here’s how the play is supposed to work, now let’s go out there and execute it to the best of our ability. We’re at that point.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith is installing the offense, and eventually there will be a lot of volume. Mariota, who’s trying to revive his once-promising career, has been down this road before. For Ridder, this will be new.

“We expect them to know what we are installing,” Smith said. “We have different ways that we can go about it. The things that we put in, that’s their job as professionals, especially at that quarterback spot, they need to know it. Both of them are doing a good job.”

The tempo will escalate throughout camp, which will include joint practices with the Jets and Jaguars and three exhibition games.

“We’re going to increase reps every day,” Smith said. “As you script it out and plan out the practices, you hope they have a better handle on the command of the huddle, operating, really just doing their bottom-line job description of being a quarterback. Complete the football. Can you run the huddle? Get us into the right checks. So, you’re evaluating all of that stuff every snap.”

Mariota thought the first day of camp went well.

“It was great,” he said. “I thought offensively we were efficient. I thought it was great to just come out here and compete. Guys were flying around. It’s just fun to play ball again.”

Mariota believes the Falcons can build on what they accomplished over the offseason.

“I thought guys (came) out here, and there wasn’t a lot of mental errors,” Mariota said. “Guys were comfortable with what they’re doing. We’re confident in it. And a lot of guys played fast.”

Mariota said he’s well rested after the five-week layoff.

“I went back to Oregon, saw some family and just really hung out,” Mariota said. “For me, I really looked at these five weeks as an opportunity just to get ready physically and mentally. So, training and doing things getting ready to go. So, all in all, it was a great time for me to get away. And I feel great. I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”

Mariota was a backup for the past two seasons with the Raiders. He started his career with the Titans after he was selected second overall in the 2015 draft. He went 29-32 as a starter before getting benched six games in to the 2019 season.

A Heisman Trophy winner, Mariota does have a playoff victory to his credit. After trying to sign Deshaun Watson and then trading Ryan, the Falcons had an opening.

Mariota knows he has a chance to resurrect his career.

“For me, it’s a great opportunity just to kind of prove not only to myself, but to those who have believed in me,” Mariota said. “So, I’m excited. You know, the last couple of years was a great reset. I learned a lot from Derek (Carr). I learned a lot from being there. But I feel ready to go. And again, I’m excited for this opportunity. I would do whatever I can to help this team out.”

Mariota is looking forward to working with Smith again, who was with the Titans during his entire tenure.

“I feel very comfortable and being around Art for all that time in Tennessee, I think that’s where it comes from,” Mariota said. “But I think he’s done a great job of collaborating and creating new things. For us, as an offense, it’s exciting.”

Mariota is developing some chemistry with tight end Kyle Pitts.

“He’s an easy guy to throw to,” Mariota said. “You know how rangy he is and his physical attributes. So, for us as quarterbacks, he makes it easy. He’s such a great athlete. We just have to find ways to get him the ball.”

Ridder led Cincinnati to a 44-5 record over his stellar career. The two quarterbacks are rooming together in camp.

“All we want to do is make each other better,” Ridder said. “At the end of the day, we all know it’s a competition. We want it to be a healthy competition.”

Ridder felt the first day of training camp went well.

“I was able to execute,” Ridder said. “I was able to articulate the plays and get in and out of the huddle on time.”

The Bow Tie Chronicles

About the Author

Editors' Picks