FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Desmond Ridder works hard at the mental side of his game, often using innovative techniques to help him master scheme.
The former Cincinnati quarterback and Falcons third-round pick has discussed a few of them in recent meetings with the press, including poker chips to help understand formations and pre-snap adjustments.
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He talked Tuesday about getting Falcons play calls down by saying them into his voice recorder as he would in a huddle, then playing them back to hear how they sound in headphones, as if he were listening with the speakers in his helmet.
Getting a new scheme down is no easy task, with so much to learn and then apply. Even with extremely hard work, it still takes time.
No one's handing out progress reports on a process emphasized in the offseason program and continued in camp, but head coach Arthur Smith gave Ridder some praise regarding how he's doing mentally. What has impressed him about Ridder since he arrived?
"Behind the scenes, the things that he has done, as a rookie, really from the neck up," Smith said in a Wednesday press conference. "How he's operating, when we're doing the rookie walk-throughs, when we do these installations and on the field, and his command. Then you're betting on some of the physical things you see at times to catch up. He's light years ahead of most young quarterbacks, in terms of playing from the neck up. I will give him that compliment."
That's not necessarily a surprise considering what Smith and the Falcons learned about the accomplished quarterback during the pre-NFL Draft process.
"There's a lot that goes into the scouting of a player, from the area scout to the national scout telling us how people talk about him," Smith said. "There's our experience and the ability to meet with the player and what we took away from that and on film. We were excited about him. That's why we took him."
Ridder expected that part of his offseason program to be difficult. He might've surprised himself with how well he has picked things up.
"The overall knowledge of the offense – I'm not going to lie, I thought I would come in struggle a little bit," Ridder said. "We're almost all the way through all of our installs and putting in all those checks, and I have a good grasp of it. That surprised me, honestly. I'm not saying wouldn't have picked it up, but I thought it might've taken a bit longer, a couple of extra days. I've been able to pick up on it pretty smoothly."
Ridder realized that last week, as the offseason program started wrapping up.
"It was just the flow of it, the way my sentences are coming out in the huddle to the command I have at the line of scrimmage, just seeing the defense and seeing the offense," Ridder said. "Everything just came to me."