The Atlanta Falcons have been a competitive bunch to begin the 2023 NFL season. The Falcons are seeking to end a six-year playoff drought, and Atlanta‘s defense has stepped up in search of the postseason — the unit has been stellar against the pass and better-than-average in stopping the run. It has helped the Falcons start at 3-3, putting them firmly in contention in the tight NFC South.
What’s lagging behind is Atlanta’s offense, which is 29th in points scored despite the presence of Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and star rookie Bijan Robinson. Criticism has centered on second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder, whose inconsistency has left fans wanting more — and prompted a Falcons legend to chime in on the former Cincinnati Bearcat‘s future.
Falcons haven’t made a decision on Ridder
In an interview with The Athletic‘s Jeff Schultz, broadcaster and former Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said that Ridder likely has around six weeks to prove that he should be Atlanta‘s franchise quarterback.
“What you’re going to see in October and November will give you one full season to evaluate where he’s at. … If I put my GM cap on, I would say the next six weeks are important. Because with the Falcons, the decision (about Ridder) hasn’t been made, yet,” Ryan said.
Ridder has led an NFL-best three game-winning drives in addition to two fourth-quarter comebacks. His stellar showing against the Houston Texans — when he completed 28 of 37 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown — was the key reason why Atlanta was able to rally and win that Week 6 matchup. But Ridder — who now has 10 NFL starts under his belt — threw three interceptions against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, kneecapping the Falcons’ offense in the fourth quarter of an eventual 24-16 defeat.
Ryan, who was thrown into the proverbial fire immediately as a rookie in 2008, is sympathetic to Ridder’s situation. By the expected points added metric, Ridder has been among the 10 worst quarterbacks in the NFL this year — in part due to some conservative playcalling, but also indicative of a quarterback that is still learning on the job.
“I wish for (Ridder) that he had had more time playing last year,” Ryan said. “Everybody’s situation is different. Mine was to come in and play right away. … 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.”
Another opportunity against Tampa
Falcons coach Arthur Smith is impressed by Ridder‘s self-awareness and commitment to improving — which he’ll have another chance to do in a critical divisional matchup on Sunday.
The Falcons in Week 7 will visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are looking to bounce back from a humbling home defeat to the Detroit Lions. The winner will likely emerge as the top competitor to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South — and could even claim first place if the Saints lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night.