EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Don't assess Desmond Ridder's preseason performance based on a box score. It won't tell you the full story of how the rookie quarterback played in the opener in Detroit or Monday's 24-16 loss to the host New York Jets.
He was 10-of-22 passing against the Lions for 103 yards, two touchdown and an 89.8 passer rating. Not great, right? Not exactly.
He had four drops in that game, and coaches told him to throw another pass away. He also went out at won it at the end with a game-winning strike to Jared Bernhardt, on fourth down with one minute, 37 seconds remaining, in a true do-or-die situation.
Ridder was 10-for-13 passing against the Jets for 143 yards and a 112.0 passer rating. Those numbers look better, right? Well, yes and no.
The good: Ridder's completion percentage was way higher, he was delivering the ball on time and in-stride, in addition to making some big-time throws. The less positive: He took the Falcons into the red zone twice and couldn't cross the goal line. That included a drive that went down to the 1-yard line twice, only to go backwards thanks to some ill-timed penalties and issues running the offense.
Head coach Arthur Smith wasn't happy with his rookie quarterback --, his entire offense, really --after that missed opportunity.
"A lot of lessons learned, and I've got high expectations from Desmond," Smith said. "We are going to be hard on Desmond, because he's a good player and he can take that kind of coaching. He understands, we're not waiting on him as a rookie. Trying to speed him up, so he made some good throws, some things he's got to clean up, especially in the operation."
Ridder is candid enough to identify the good and bad from these preseason learning experiences, promising to continue to grow from them. That's what he's set on doing and agrees with Smith that the operation wasn't as smooth as it should be or as it may seem on the outside.
"On the field it looks like we're operating well, but I have a couple things to clean up myself, in regards to getting the plays called and the whole operation and executing," Ridder said. "We kind of hurt ourselves there in the second quarter. We were getting good drives but coming back and having self-inflicted penalties. That starts with me and then goes to everyone else. I think we'll learned from it and get better for next week."
Ridder and the Falcons have another important week to work on things, with two joint practices against Jaguars followed by a Saturday game against them.
In addition to being better running the offense, Ridder said that staying even keel through setbacks is vital.
"Staying calm even with everything going on, all the penalties and bigger plays both positive and negative, just staying neutral and under control is important," Ridder said. "…You're going to have setbacks and negative plays that happen, but the most important play is the next play. Being able to go on to the next play is key."
Ridder certainly did that, following penalties with good passes on several occasions. He was taking yards in decent chunks. He made some good decisions and seemed to find a good rhythm throwing the ball.
Smith often says he wants to see how a young player especially reacts to failure, how they make adjustments and whether they keep on swinging. Ridder definitely does that, even when things aren't perfect.
"The way to put it, the word would be that in-game adversity, which he definitely overcame, that he hit, to get back on track," Smith said. "There were some other things, procedure wise, that he's got to clean up. He knows that and he will."
So, let's refer back to our headline here. What have we learned about Desmond Ridder over two preseason games? Or, more accurately, over the summer?
That he's a gamer. His 44-6 college record will attest to that. So will his game-winning touchdown pass to Bernhardt in Detroit. He often finds a way, both in practice and games and never stops fighting
Ridder played just three series on Monday night – he played three quarters in Detroit -- and moved the ball well. He found receivers in stride. As he and Smith pointed out, running the offense needs to be cleaner than it was in the game.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets in the second preseason game of 2022.
Overall, Ridder has made real and steady progress working with the Falcons coaching staff. He has been praised for his knowledge of the game and the system. He's getting tons of work compared to others in his position and is benefitting greatly from all the reps acquired because the Falcons essentially run with two quarterbacks.
Does that mean he's challenging Marcus Mariota for a starting spot in Week 1? Not really. Mariota has been the QB1 all spring and summer. And he deserves that title now and to start the regular season.
The No. 74 overall pick will continue to work and develop and build on a solid start to his career, likely outside the spotlight once the regular season starts. And, as Smith said earlier, he'll continue to coach Ridder hard because he knows the Cincinnati can handle it. There will be no "he's a rookie" excuses. The expectations should remain high for player and coach.
While significant progress has been made, there's significant work left to be done.
"I want to continue to stack days and good plays, continuing to get better," Ridder said. "I want to come prepared and ready to work hard every single day and improve as a player."