The Falcons will have a new look coming out of their Week 14 bye.
Marcus Mariota will no longer be their starting quarterback. Instead, third-round rookie Desmond Ridder will helm Atlanta’s offense.
Ridder played his college ball at Cincinnati and was the second quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft behind only Steelers first-round pick Kenny Pickett. He battled with Mariota for the starting job before the season but was beaten by the veteran.
Now, Ridder will be granted a chance to stake his claim to the starting job for the final four games of the 2022 season. If he fares well, the Falcons may consider him a long-term option at the position. If not, the Falcons could be in the quarterback market once again in 2023.
But the move to Ridder wasn’t just about giving him a chance to play. After all, the Falcons are still in the thick of the NFC South race despite their 5-8 record.
So, why are the Falcons moving on from Mariota to Ridder? The reasoning is simple.
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Why did the Falcons bench Marcus Mariota?
Arthur Smith explained that the Falcons are making a switch from Mariota to Desmond Ridder because the veteran passer hasn’t performed well in recent weeks.
“It’s a performance-based decision,” Smith told reporters at his post-bye week news conference. “I talked last time about trying to get over the hump [in] some of these close games where we try to push the offense. We feel like this is the best decision [with] where he’s at, where the team’s at as we prepare to go out to New Orleans.”
Indeed, Mariota has struggled at times during the 2022 NFL season. His overall accuracy has been particularly problematic, as his completion percentage of 61.3 percent ranks fourth-worst among 33 qualified quarterbacks this season.
In fact, Mariota ranks average to below average in most passing categories this season, as you can see below.
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Of course, Mariota adds some value as a scrambler. That has boosted Atlanta’s run-heavy offense a bit at times this year.
Still, his lacking efficiency through the air was enough to make the Falcons turn to Ridder as they look to compete for the NFC South title as the season closes.
Additionally, Mariota’s move to the bench will allow him to take care of an injury with which he has been dealing.
“He’s got a chronic knee that he wants to get evaluated,” Smith explained. “But that had nothing to do with this decision.”
Smith explained that Mariota is expected to be placed on IR as a result of his knee problem. That will knock the veteran out for at least four games, which would line up with the end of the regular season.
That will further shake up Atlanta’s quarterback depth chart, as they will now have a new backup in tow behind Ridder.
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Falcons QB depth chart
The Falcons will be two-deep at quarterback once Mariota is placed on IR. Here’s a look at how their depth chart shakes out:
Ridder, a third-round rookie out of Cincinnati, has not yet played an NFL snap, but he will be Atlanta’s new starter beginning in Week 14 against the Saints. Ridder completed 34 of 56 passes (60.7 percent) for 431 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Falcons in the preseason.
The Falcons didn’t have a third quarterback in their organization behind Ridder and Mariota until they signed Woodside on Saturday, Dec. 10. Woodside is a fifth-year quarterback who spent most of his NFL career with the Titans. He was largely a practice-squad player for them and has completed just 1 of 3 career passes for 7 yards.
Woodside is familiar with Smith from their time together in Tennessee. He will be well-versed in Smith’s offense, so that should allow him to be an effective backup to Ridder, should he be needed.
Mariota probably would have backed up Ridder if not for his knee injury.