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Falcons 'One Pressing Move': Make Mariota, Ridder Earn Starting QB Job

While Ridder is off to an impressive start, the veteran Mariota is expected to be the starter Week 1.

Did the Atlanta Falcons do enough this offseason to improve on last season's 7-10 campaign that resulted in the Falcons missing out on NFL postseason for the fourth-straight season? 

It's been a busy offseason for a team that saw a trade of their 14-year franchise quarterback, the suspension of their top receiver, the release of their top pass rusher and finding replacements for all three positions.

After the reset button, Atlanta enters into the Marcus Mariota and/or Desmond Ridder eras. The biggest question lies in the "and/or."

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.

A four-year starter for Cincinnati, rookie 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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The most pressing move for the Falcons' future is to have a quarterback competition, according to Bleacher Report

There could be an opportunity to expedite the rebuilding process if Atlanta isn't dead set on starting a veteran quarterback over a rookie. "As with any position, the best guy is going to play," head coach Arthur Smith said after the draft. "With Marcus [Mariota] being the veteran, that's the way it'll go for now."

According to ESPN's Michael Rothstein, Mariota is "far ahead" of third-round rookie Desmond Ridder heading into traning camp. However, Smith previously told reporters that Ridder is "light-years ahead of most other young quarterbacks from the neck up." An open competition should ensue between the two, with an edge going to the rookie if it's close.

Since the Falcons drafted Ridder in the third round of April's draft, there's been nothing but praise thrown his way from those inside the organization. Atlanta's fifth-round pick, running back Tyler Allgeier, dubbed Ridder "a genius" due to how quickly he mastered the playbook.

While Ridder is off to an impressive start, the veteran Mariota is expected to be the starter Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. The expectations placed on Atlanta in 2022 are low, as the team with the second-worst odds to win Super Bowl LVII. However, that will only make victories this season sweeter if they can overcome their struggles and end the playoff drought.

Mariota or Ridder have the chance to be the Falcons quarterback of the future. But the only real way to know who will take over is with an authentic competition.