From begin to end, the Atlanta Falcons have had an eventful offseason on the quarterback place.
For a second, now-Cleveland Browns sign caller Deshaun Watson appeared poised to be on his technique to Atlanta, however when the Browns got here in late with an plain provide, it appeared as if the Falcons must patch issues up with 14-year franchise staple Matt Ryan.
Atlanta put that thought to mattress, buying and selling Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts just a few quick days after Watson was traded to Cleveland. With Ryan not within the image and the NFL Draft not offering many quick options, Falcons common supervisor Terry Fontenot signed veteran free agent Marcus Mariota, who has an in depth historical past with coach Arthur Smith.
With Fontenot refusing to succeed in within the draft, Atlanta capitalized on the entire quarterbacks however Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett falling, choosing Desmond Ridder, the third-winningest quarterback in school soccer historical past, within the third spherical.
Mariota and Ridder had been added to a room holding solely 2021 undrafted free agent Feleipe Franks, who’s spent a lot of the offseason program bouncing round between quarterback and tight finish.
The Falcons had been seemingly set at quarterback as coaching camp neared however have added a big plot twist with stories popping out that the staff might pursue San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
With heaps to type via, listed here are three quarterbacks to observe throughout camp and all through the preseason.
Mariota, 28, has had fairly the rollercoaster of an NFL profession. Coming into the league as a Heisman Trophy winner and the 2015 draft’s No. 2 total choice, he was a day one starter within the league.
After trudging via accidents and spurts of inconsistent play with the Tennessee Titans, Mariota was benched in 2019, his fifth season within the league. He is spent the final two seasons as Derek Carr’s backup in Las Vegas.
In Atlanta, Mariota will get to reunite with Smith, who was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator within the fateful 2019 season. Whereas issues did not work out too properly final time for Mariota, he is off to a powerful begin with the Falcons, as Smith dubbed him (and Ridder) among the many staff’s most spectacular gamers at OTAs.
The largest query Mariota should reply in camp is whether or not he is progressed since his time in Tennessee. Previous to his benching, Mariota was by no means given an opportunity to sit down again and be taught within the NFL, apart from when he was out because of harm. The Raiders supplied him with that chance, and he is now been given a uncommon (amongst quarterbacks) second probability to show he is a starting-caliber sign caller.
Mariota hasn’t been confirmed because the Falcons’ beginning quarterback, however he does maintain a big benefit getting into the preseason. Whereas Ridder is anticipated to play in some unspecified time in the future, Mariota’s purpose will likely be taking part in so properly that Atlanta cannot take him off the sphere. Nonetheless underneath 30, Mariota ought to enter the marketing campaign with a mindset of taking maintain of the job for the foreseeable future, a regular he should play to all through camp.
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Within the pre-draft course of, ESPN reported that Ridder knowledgeable groups he had a plan to beat out a veteran starter in coaching camp. Now, it is time to put speak into motion, with veterans reporting July 26.
Although Ridder, who turns 23 earlier than the beginning of the season, has but to place pads on as an expert, he is nonetheless impressed Smith in a significant method. On Ridder, Smith stated that he is, “gentle years forward of most younger quarterbacks from the neck up.”
Because the Falcons drafted Ridder within the third spherical of April’s draft, there’s been nothing however reward thrown his method from these contained in the group. Atlanta’s fifth-round choose, working again Tyler Allgeier, dubbed Ridder “a genius” because of how shortly he mastered the playbook. Falcons assistant director of school scouting Dwaune Jones stated the franchise “fell in love” with Ridder as an individual.
When Ridder hits the sphere for his opening observe at camp, all eyes will likely be on him, with the Falcons needing nothing greater than for him to be the staff’s long-term answer at quarterback. Atlanta’s protection is anticipated to enhance from a season in the past, with the secondary and cross rush particularly having intriguing items.
Additional, other than tight finish Kyle Pitts, receiver Olamide Zaccheaus and working again Cordarrelle Patterson, all of Ridder’s targets will likely be experiencing their first coaching camp in Atlanta, as properly. It is a new staff in a brand new surroundings with new chemistry, making the problem all of the harder for each Ridder and Mariota.
However, he’ll enter his first season within the NFL with an opportunity to show he belongs on the sphere, and that the remainder of the league made a mistake letting him fall, as he expressed on draft evening.
One of many vibrant spots of an in any other case gloomy 2021 preseason, Franks was considered as an intriguing venture for Smith after going undrafted out of Arkansas. He threw only one cross in his rookie season, an interception towards the Patriots, however appeared in 9 video games as a particular teamer with occasional snaps at tight finish and wildcat quarterback.
With Mariota and Ridder within the fold, Franks’ rookie marketing campaign seems to have been an indication of issues to return. In line with Smith, who’s additionally the offensive play caller, Franks is adapting to a “hybrid” position between quarterback and tight finish.
“Feleipe continues to be working in that (quarterback assembly) room. He is a invaluable soccer participant for us. He’ll take some reps at quarterback,” Smith stated. “Put Feleipe in that hybrid class.”
Offensive coordinator Dave Ragone doubled down on Smith’s assertion, saying that Franks is “working extra at tight finish than at quarterback.” Ragone additionally talked about that it is potential this does not stay the identical transferring ahead, making Franks’ state of affairs an fascinating one to observe.
The 6-6, 234-pound Franks has an enormous body with good athleticism, however now enters 12 months two with extra questions than solutions. Nonetheless, along with his bodily instruments, the upside is value growing. Coaching camp will reveal heaps as to the place Atlanta sees Franks’ long-term future, be it throwing or catching the soccer.
If the reply leans extra in direction of the latter, anticipate the Falcons so as to add a 3rd quarterback. Whether or not or not Garoppolo is that man stays to be seen, however the Falcons nearly actually will not enter the preseason with simply two quarterbacks on the roster.
The quarterback place is essentially the most hotly talked about spot in all of soccer. With the Falcons having what many view as a “bridge” choice in Mariota, a non-premium-draft choose in Ridder, and a possible TE convert in Franks, the room guarantees to offer intrigue, for higher or for worse.