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'Maturing together': The connection between Desmond Ridder, Drew Dalman that goes unnoticed -- Falcons Daily

Falcons Daily analyzes the continued growth of a young quarterback and his equally young center. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There's a lot to be made about the connection between Desmond Ridder and Drake London. Here you have two young playmakers who came into the league together and have been close knit ever since.

You see their connection in the jabs they toss each other's way in press conferences (in a loving, brotherly way, of course). You also see it on the field. Out of London's 699 receiving yards in 2022, 261 of those have come in the last three games. Ridder has been the one throwing to him in two of those last three games. In those two games, Ridder has targeted London about 35 percent of the time.


This story isn't about London and Ridder, though. That's been discussed ad nauseam already. This story is about the underrated and undervalued relationship between a young quarterback (Ridder) and his equally young center (Drew Dalman). Because of the nature of Matt Ryan and Alex Mack's careers in Atlanta, this is the first time the Falcons have seen two first-year starters at the quarterback and center position in a very long time.

Atlanta Falcons center Alex Mack #51 and quarterback Matt Ryan #2 at work against the Carolina Panthers on October 11. (Photo by Kyle Hess/Atlanta Falcons)

In the first two starts of Ridder's career, the Falcons have not committed a single pre-snap procedural penalty on offense. That's a testament to the offense as a whole, yes, but don't forget Ridder and Dalman's role in that feat, too. The Falcons have a lot to improve upon in offensive production, but pre-snap cleanliness is not necessarily one of them.

Falcons offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford said last week that because Ridder and Dalman are both in the early days of their careers, they both really do "depend a lot on each other."

They have an understanding of each other, Ledford said, although that may not be one that is often verbalized in the heat of a live play on game day. It happens when no one, but maybe Ledford, is watching.

"It's always a little bit different the way they communicate, but there has to be a great understanding between the two of them and that takes reps together," Ledford said. "That takes working together and you see Des and Drew constantly talking. You see them at practice, always. They're together a lot. You see them working out the things they need to work out. May it be the communication aspect of seeing a certain pressure that we need to try to pick up or a cadence or the snap or whatever it might be, but you see those guys working through that a lot."

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder #4 and offensive lineman Drew Dalman #67 during practice in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Thursday, December 29, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

According to offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, this isn't something that is new for Ridder or Dalman. It goes all the way back to OTAs in June, and training camp in August.

Why? Because if you recall, the Falcons rotated centers daily throughout that time. There wasn't a competition on this team that was as heated as that of the center position during the preseason. One day it would be Dalman running as the center with the first team. The next day it would be Matt Hennessy, who was the Falcons starting center in 2021.

The Falcons coaching staff didn't make a final decision as to who would be their starting center until the week before the first week of the regular season.

By that point, Ridder and Dalman had run countless reps together. That foundation is a benefit to them now. Ragone said there is an obvious comfort level with the two because of that work together.

That comfort, communication and connection has only grown as Ridder has moved into the starting role at quarterback. As a duo, the recent live reps together have been invaluable to their individual development as well as their development as a tandem.

"New things come up every week that you might not have seen before as a pair that we have to be ready for. We try as hard as we can to figure that out, and kind of put a list together of what those were and rep them at practice during the weeks," Ridder said. "I feel like we've done a good job of gelling and being on the same page."

Even in a short time, Ledford said you can visibly see Ridder and Dalman growing together, and that's what you want to see from two young players at two positions that touch the ball on every single offensive snap.

"It's kind of them maturing together," Ledford concluded. "You see it happening each week."

The guys put in the work in Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

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