Revamped Falcons’ offense is a work in progress

Falcons quarterbacks Desmond Ridder, left, and Marcus Mariota are shown at the Falcons training facility Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons quarterbacks Desmond Ridder, left, and Marcus Mariota are shown at the Falcons training facility Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – How the Falcons attempt to play offense in the post-Matt Ryan era will undergo a seismic shift in the 2022 season.

After trading Ryan to the Colts, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota and drafted Desmond Ridder, two mobile quarterbacks. It’s a clear move away from Ryan, who played for 14 seasons as a classic drop-back quarterback.

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Offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, a former NFL quarterback who starred at Louisville, believes the foundation was laid last season with the implementation of coach Arthur Smith’s system.

“You’ve built a system that has the ability to highlight different things, depending on what the traits of the quarterback are,” Ragone said Thursday. “So, if it’s a 14-year quarterback or if it’s a rookie quarterback, you hope to have a system that’s going to allow you to say we are going to highlight these parts of this section more than others.”

The Falcons are working out their plans for Mariota and/or Ridder.

“There are no limitations on the quarterbacks and what we are going to ask them to do,” Ragone said. “We’re going to try to grow with them and evolve with what we think makes the most sense.”

Mariota and Ridder will have some input.

“We’ll get the feedback from them and more importantly, when you watch the film, seeing where they are most comfortable,” Ragone said. “Obviously, that’s what we’ll do.”

The Falcons used their OTAs to experiment with the offensive attack. That will continue during the mandatory minicamp, which is set for Tuesday through Thursday.

“I think what is important in this OTA process is getting a feel for what we do well,” Mariota said. “What we like and want we don’t like. We are kind of doing everything.”

One of the issues early in Mariota’s career in Tennessee was how much shotgun formation to use. He played that style in college and was successful. He’s been seen under center and in the shotgun during the open OTAs.

“We get to go out here and do a bunch of stuff,” Mariota said. “I don’t think there is something specific we are working on. We are just trying to get a feel for what the scheme can fit and where it’s going to allow our guys to go out there and play well.”

When Ryan had a passing pocket that he could step up into, the Falcons generally went to the playoffs. Ryan was sacked at least 40 times over the past four seasons.

There’s a school of thought that a mobile quarterback should help the Falcons’ offensive line and eliminate some of the sacks.

“I haven’t thought of it that way,” Ragone said. “To me, when you play quarterback, there are certain things you are responsible for, one of them in understanding the timing with which a ball needs to be thrown. Also, understanding that you have to put yourself in the best play possible.”

If Mariota and Ridder are under duress, perhaps they could scramble into a positive play. There definitely will be some run-pass-option (RPOs) and possibly some designed runs for the quarterback.

“Or to tuck it and run or throw a ball away,” Ragone said. “Obviously, the negative plays, the sacks, the interceptions, we’re trying to avoid those and limit those. But to me, regardless of if he runs a 4.4 or doesn’t, I don’t subscribe to if that helps certain positions or not.”

The Falcons will lean on their rushing attack to set things up.

“Regardless of who’s playing quarterback or at what level, it helps when you’re efficient in (the run game),” Ragone said. “I think (over) the course of our offseason and from what we did last year realizing there were really good things on film and some things we need to clean up.”

The Falcons didn’t overhaul the offensive line this offseason.

“You can just feel it out there, guys are playing with more confidence,” Ragone said. “They know what we are asking. Second-year, again, I think (their) confidence has grown at each position, but more importantly for the offensive line.”

With so many wide receivers and tight ends, the Falcons are monitoring Mariota and Ridder’s offseason throws while backup quarterback Feleipe Franks is spending time working with the tight ends.

“When you look at it in terms of the quarterbacks for live periods of practice, there is not a taxing amount of periods where the ball is being thrown,” Ragone said. “We’ll be (mindful) as we watch the quarterbacks over the offseason and training camp. It’s obviously one of the things we’ll monitor.”

The Falcons drafted wide receiver Drake London, who’s listed at 6-foot-5 to go with tight end Kyle Pitts (6-6) and wide receiver/running back Cordarrelle Patterson (6-2).

“The overall average height has definitely changed (among receivers) a little bit,” Falcons wide receiver coach T.J. Yates said. “But we got a healthy mix of smaller guys, too. We have some big guys and guys who are real physical. There’s a lot of versatility in the room.”

The Falcons plan to be physical on offense.

“We’ll play inside the (yard-line) numbers,” Yates said. “Going inside the numbers, especially in this day in age, where the game is now, going over the middle you’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be physical.

“You need guys with good ball skills. Guys who can catch and run. A lot of things that we look for in players size and physicality is one of those things that helps them.”

The receivers also will be required to help with the blocking in the run game.

“It’s huge, and especially the way the game that Arthur has brought to us is obviously a heavy-run, a heavy play-pass game,” Yates said. “The more that those guys can sell the blocking game and running game and how those match up, the better that we can be. That physicality doesn’t just come in the passing game, it comes in the run game as well.”

Mariota, who as with Smith in Tennessee from 2015-19, believe their reunion can be fruitful. After watching from a backup role the past two seasons with the Raiders, has given Mariota a new perspective.

“Those experiences have allowed me to just come out here and use those as tools,” Mariota said. “To be around Art, where he’s had a similar situation, where he’s learned. He’s been a head coach for just a year. Take those experiences where we’ve both learned. That has really allow us to come out here and play better, play -- quote unquote -- free.”

-Staff writer Gabriel Burns contributed to this article.

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons quarterbacks Marcus Mariota, left, and Desmond Ridder are shown during OTAs at the Falcons training facility Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Falcons quarterbacks Marcus Mariota, left, and Desmond Ridder are shown during OTAs at the Falcons training facility Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons quarterbacks Marcus Mariota, left, and Desmond Ridder are shown during OTAs at the Falcons training facility Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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