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CINCINNATI — Desmond Ridder is garnering plenty of praise for how he's handling the early days of his NFL career but ESPN's Falcons beat writer Michael Rothstein thinks he's a longshot to start in Week One and doesn't anticipate him starting a game until late in the 2022 season.

"5%," Rothstein said when asked to give a percentage chance that Ridder starts the season as QB1. "Mariota appears to be far ahead of Ridder right now, and Atlanta brought Mariota in for a reason -- to be the starter at least in the short term because he has familiarity with what coach Arthur Smith wants in the offense. Plus, Mariota has looked sharp through OTAs. So why the 5%? There's always the chance of an injury, and it's also possible Ridder takes a big jump once training camp starts. Atlanta likes what it has seen from Ridder so far, but a Week 1 debut seems like a stretch."

Rothstein gave Ridder a 20% chance of riding the bench all season after what he's seen from Mariota thus far.

"20%," Rothstein explained. "The reality is if Mariota plays well and the Falcons are still mathematically eligible for the postseason, he will be the quarterback. Ridder's paths to playing at this point include:

  • Mariota struggles as a starter.
  • The Falcons are eliminated from playoff contention and decide they need to see what they have in Ridder.
  • Mariota gets injured.

More likely? Ridder gets some action as the season goes along, but when that comes and what that looks like will depend on both how Mariota is playing and how Ridder is progressing."

Rothstein went as far as to project that Ridder won't get his opportunity to start in the NFL until the Falcons' second matchup against the Saints.

"Week 15 at New Orleans Saints," Rothstein wrote. "The Falcons have a late bye and should know whether they are still in the playoff race at that point. If they are, Mariota would likely remain the starter. If not, it could be a good time to make the switch (unless Mariota is playing really well) because it would give Ridder an extra week to prepare and four games of play. That gives Atlanta a reasonable sample size to judge what it might need to do at QB in the 2023 season.

"If things are going poorly for Mariota, Week 11 against Chicago would be another time to watch because the Falcons would be coming off a Thursday night game in Week 10 -- again giving a rookie a little more time to prepare for a switch to starter."

The Falcons brought Mariota and his experience into the building for this exact scenario. Ridder could very well be a successful NFL quarterback, but like his development at Cincinnati, it might matriculate a bit slower than people expect. We all know what results that development path brought for UC—now we'll see if similar success can happen in Hotlanta.

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