The Atlanta Falcons are aiming to accomplish two major goals during the 2023 season. First, make the playoffs, but second, the Falcons are trying to develop quarterback Desmond Ridder.
Last year, the latter took a back seat to the franchise’s playoff hopes. During an interview with The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, former Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan explained why that decision could still be impacting the team this season.
“I wish for him that he had had more time playing last year,” Ryan told Schultz. “Everybody’s situation is different. Mine was to come in and play right away. They felt like they could get good play out of Marcus [Mariota] for a stretch, but they didn’t.
“I would’ve loved to have seen (Ridder) earlier because every game, every situation, is so valuable. I just don’t think you can get that from the sideline. There’s going to be growing pains.”
Ridder started four games as a rookie last season, but he didn’t make his first appearance until December 18. He debuted in Week 15 after Marcus Mariota started the first 13 contests of the season.
In those 13 contests, Mariota led the Falcons to a 5-8 record.
Ridder started slowly to begin the 2023 season. He mostly avoided turnovers while completing short passes in the first two weeks to lead the Falcons to an 2-0 start. But the lack of deep passes hurt Atlanta against stiffer competition on the road (at Detroit and in London versus Jacksonville).
The past two weeks, Ridder has been more aggressive at stretching the field. He threw for a career-high 329 yards with a 75.7% completion percentage in Week 5 versus the Houston Texans.
But he posted a 59.6% completion percentage with 3 interceptions as an encore against the Washington Commanders.
Ridder had the Falcons driving for the game-tying touchdown in Washington territory twice in the fourth quarter. Both drives, though, ended with interceptions.
Every week, NFL analysts have weighed in on what the Falcons have in Ridder. But in his latest assessment, Ryan left his evaluation incomplete.
The next six games, though, could go a long way toward determining Ridder’s future in Atlanta, said Ryan.
“What you’re going to see in October and November will give you one full season to evaluate where he’s at,” Ryan told Schultz. “The areas you’re looking for growth are situational play, things like what happened at the end of the game last week when they had the third-and-2, then he threw the interception on the third-and-7 after the delay of game. The clock was running down again. Growth there would be knowing if the play gets in late that burning a timeout is OK.
“If I put my GM cap on, I would say the next six weeks are important. Because with the Falcons, the decision (on Ridder’s future) hasn’t been made, yet.”
Ridder will face one of his most difficult tests to date this Sunday when the Falcons visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then in the following three games, the Falcons will play two more road games against the Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals. A home matchup with the Minnesota Vikings will be sandwiched in between.
Ridder has yet to win a road game in his young NFL career.
After the Week 11 bye, the Falcons will host the New Orleans Saints and visit the New York Jets.
All six matchups are winnable games for Ridder and the Falcons. If Ryan is correct, it will determine not only the outcome of the Falcons season but perhaps Ridder’s career in Atlanta.