According to ESPN, there's a still a gap between the third-rounder and veteran Marcus Mariota in terms of talent. Mariota, who signed a two-year deal with the Falcons this offseason, already has familiarity with the offensive personnel ran by coach Arthur Smith.
Prior to joining the Las Vegas Raiders, Mariota worked with Smith in Tennessee as the Titans' starter. He is expected to be the starter Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints.
Mariota looked capable of running the show as the short-term replacement for Matt Ryan following OTAs. He looked sharp in the huddle, relying heavily on completion raiting and efficiency to move the ball downfield during seven-on-seven drills and team reps.
This isn't to say Ridder can't make the necessary jumps to fight his way into a competition, but Mariota is setting the tone. A four-year starter for Cincinnati, Ridder leaves the world of college football with a 44-6 record, trailing only Kellen Moore (50) and Colt McCoy (44) for most wins in FBS history.
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“Guys kind of gravitate to him,” quarterbacks coach Charles London said of the rookie. “He’s a natural leader, and leadership is hard. It’s hard to judge somebody’s leadership. People can tell you he’s a leader, but most guys that are really great leaders, they lead by their own style, their own way.”
There are questions to the future of Mariota leading the offense long-term after his stint in Tennessee. During the 2019 season, the former No. 2 pick struggled with consistency, thus forcing Mike Vrabel to turn to former Miami Dolphins' starter Ryan Tannehill. Tennessee would go 7-3 under Tannehill, make the postseason and eventually face the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship.
Should Mariota play will, he will keep the starting job. Should he struggle, but the Falcons look to remain competitive enough to fight for a postseason berth, perhaps Smith turns to Ridder.
Ridder will likely see action at some point during the season, but the Falcons will likely turn to Mariota early. While Ridder could be the future, Atlanta is looking at the present. Mariota gives the franchise its best chance to win entering training camp.
Of course, all that could change by Sept. 11.