Falcons Undecided On Week 16 Starting QB

The Falcons’ decision to give the starting role back to Desmond Ridder after their bye week was intended to put the team’s quarterback questions to rest for the rest of the season. In the wake of yesterday’s loss, however, that may not be the case.

Ridder was benched in place of Taylor Heinicke after struggling to make the Year 2 jump many young passers experience. The former has received the confidence of Atlanta’s staff, however, and he was reinstalled as the No. 1 for Week 12 and beyond. Ridder underwhelmed in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, and a late red zone interception set up Carolina’s game-winning field goal.

That continued a concerning trend in the turnover department for Ridder, who has thrown at least one interception in nine games this season and each of his last four. The 2022 third-rounder has also fumbled 11 times, adding to the argument Atlanta should seek out a replacement this offseason. For the time being, another evaluation will take place at the position, head coach Arthur Smith said on Monday.

Smith answered no when asked if third-stringer Logan Woodside was under consideration to get the start in Week 16, and he confirmed the same is true of an outside addition. Just like earlier in the year, therefore, the current decision will come down to Ridder or Heinicke as Atlanta looks to remain in contention for an NFC playoff berth. The latter has put up underwhelming numbers when on the field in his debut Falcons season (55.4% completion percentage, 498 passing yards, three touchdowns, one interception).

A hamstring injury ended Heinicke’s run as starter, but he is healthy now. The former Commanders starter has more experience than Ridder, and the team could opt to give him the starter’s role down the stretch in a bid to reduce turnovers while competing for the NFC South title. The Falcons sit at 6-8, one game behind both the Buccaneers and Saints. They are also in the mix for a wild-card spot, but improvement on offense will likely be needed to reach the postseason.

Heinicke is on the books through 2024 after he signed an incentive-laden deal this past offseason. Ridder’s rookie contract, meanwhile, runs one year longer. With commitments to both passers beyond this season, Atlanta’s plans for the immediate future will be worth watching closely.

View Comments (8)