Bradley’s Buzz: Will the Falcons’ Mariota pass his audition?

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

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

Bradley’s Rule: NFL exhibitions aren’t worth watching – except when special circumstances are attached. The Falcons’ open the faux part of their season in Detroit tonight. Marcus Mariota is expected to start. He hasn’t started a for-real game since Oct. 13, 2019. That makes this a special circumstance.

There’s a chance Mariota will blossom in Arthur Smith’s offense, which leans more heavily on the run than do many NFL offenses. There’s also a chance Mariota – drafted No. 2 overall behind Jameis Winston in 2015 – will remind us why a Heisman-winning quarterback has thrown 30 professional passes since 2019.

It would be a surprise if Mariota gets beaten out by Desmond Ridder in training camp. This is Mariota’s eighth professional season. For Ridder, everything is new. He wasn’t the second player drafted. He wasn’t even drafted in the second round. He represents hope, not certainty. If you’re the tanking Falcons, he’s someone to evaluate. If Ridder seems incapable of becoming a starter, there’s another draft next year.

As for Mariota: He’s on a two-year contract, which suggests the Falcons see him as no more than a place-holder – if not for Ridder, maybe for Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.

NFL teams equipped with a big-time quarterback have taken to letting the BTQB play little, if any, until the games mean something. Matt Ryan didn’t throw a preseason pass last year. We around here remember Michael Vick breaking his ankle in the third exhibition of 2003, a moment that guaranteed the 2003 Falcons were doomed. Dan Reeves was fired with three games remaining. The team was 3-10. It finished 5-11.

Mariota probably won’t play long tonight, but he has played so little recently that a period of re-acclimation is warranted. That period begins tonight.

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About the Braves’ prospects

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel has rated the Braves’ farm system as MLB’s worst. That’s because the biggest names of this once-fertile terrain – Acuna, Albies, Riley, Fried, Anderson, Wright – have, as they say, graduated. (Ian Anderson will return to Gwinnett after starting a game in Saturday’s doubleheader.) It’s also because Alex Anthopoulos shipped two first-rounders – catcher Shea Langeliers and pitcher Ryan Cusick – to Oakland in the Matt Olson trade.

Still, it’s noteworthy that pitcher Spencer Strider and center fielder Michael Harris could finish 1-2, or 2-1, in the voting for 2022 NL rookie of the year. It’s also significant that infielder Vaughn Grissom, whom the Braves took in the 11th round of the 2019 draft, homered Wednesday in his big-league debut.

As of Tuesday, the Braves had one player ranked among MLB’s top 100 prospects – Grissom at No. 98. (Langeliers is 28th.) The Braves’ big-league roster is so deep that it doesn’t require much reinforcement, but this club needed Harris to complete the outfield and Strider to fill out the routine. They needed Grissom because Ozzie Albies’ return is uncertain.

Whatever the Braves need, they somehow find. That’s the sign of a great organization.

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Still more about Deshaun Watson

The NFL is appealing the six-game suspension levied by arbitrator Sue L. Robinson. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who’ll make the final decision, has said Watson should be suspended a full season. Now comes word, via the Associated Press, that Watson is willing to accept an eight-game suspension and pay $5 million as a fine.

In other news, Watson is scheduled to start for the Browns in their first exhibition tonight. His first start in a regular-season game mightn’t come before 2023. Then again, it might.

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About the AJC’s all-time Super 11

Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame

Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame

Warning: Do not click on this if you’re short on time. You’ll be hooked for an hour, maybe two.

Many esteemed colleagues – Leo Willingham, Mandi Albright, ArLuther Lee – have gone through the archives of our annual Super 11 of high school football players. They’ve broken it down by year, by decade and over the 37-year history of the S11. I love stuff like this.

You won’t recognize every name – that’s part of the fun – but you’ll recognize many if not most. (I still recall going to Dunwoody High in 1985 to interview Billy Ray, our first SII quarterback.) Oh, and Deshaun Watson? He made our Super 11 in 2013. So did Nick Chubb. So did Raekwon McMillan. So did …