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How 'natural-born leader' Desmond Ridder is using offseason program to help Falcons level up

Falcons teammates confident in Ridder's ability to lead team in all aspects

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Desmond Ridder freely admits to feeling a bit overwhelmed this time a year ago.

That was, well, expected.

Ridder hadn't been a Falcon long, with a rookie minicamp and a few offseason program sessions to his credit. Now he's the starting quarterback, leading a team with an improved defensive talent base, a top-tier offensive line, tons of dangerous skill players and the heightened expectations that come with all that.


"This time last year, my head was spinning," Ridder said after Wednesday's OTA session, which was open to the press. "Obviously having a year under my belt and a whole offseason, things have become a lot more comfortable. Now we're trying to work the intricate details of it, the ins and outs, and knowing the exact reasons why everything is going on."

Tyler Allgeier remembers those early days well, when he, Ridder and Drake London were rooming together during rookie minicamp. That trio spent time after work in the Falcons dormitories, going over plays using poker chips. That suggestion came from Ridder's private coach, and helped the quarterback process the new information being given to him.

Ridder's work ethic hasn't waned since then, learning and processing and practically applying the Falcons scheme until his has become second nature. He did so outside the spotlight early on, working as Marcus Mariota's understudy until he got promoted near last season's end.

That experience, plus this spring's work, has Ridder in a drastically different place. He's ready to lead this team.

"He already had the confidence last year," Allgeier said. "Now he has a year under him after learning from Marcus [Mariota] – he's just a natural-born leader. Him coming in last year, being with him the apartments last year [during rookie minicamp] and then seeing him now, that's a big step. He always had the confidence. We're all confident playing behind him."

Ridder is confident in his ability to lead this group. Captaincy has always been a strong suit, in both high school and college. Ridder has been known as a gamer, someone comfortable in a prominent both in practice and on game day.

A big part of that echoes a term head coach Arthur Smith regularly uses: authentic leadership. He's not someone playing a part and takes pride in that.

"I'm doing what comes natural to me. Nothing's forced," Ridder said. "However it comes out for me is how it comes out. Sometimes it's loud, sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's real quiet off to the side. Sometimes I'm out there talking to the defense. I'm just being who I am."

London says London has taken command in that area, with signs regularly showing up during the offseason program.

"If something goes wrong, he's the first person to speak up," London said. "That's what you want on your team."

This portion of the year is about forming bonds, chemistry on the field and off. Leadership is about that, too, not just speaking up. Ridder and some of his receivers met during the offseason, away from the facility, to enhance timing, ball placement preference and passing-game efficiency.

It's also about refining mechanics. Ridder gained confidence over last season's starts, learning he can play this game at this level. Now it's about improving as a thrower and decision maker who stays within himself and the offense.

He isn't trying to fix every issue in one day, choosing instead to focus on progress through getting the little things right. Such was the case on Wednesday afternoon.

"Stay balanced in my shoulders, not have too much weight on my back foot and stay balanced in my feet and my base," Ridder said. "Tomorrow it could be something new. Like with everyone here, it's about getting better every single day."

Take a look at the 2023 Atlanta Falcons in action during OTA practice.

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