Falcons move to QB Desmond Ridder ‘based on performance’

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons have officially made a move to quarterback, naming the rookie Desmond Cavalier the starter for the rest of the season, replacing the veteran Marcus Mariota.

“It was a performance-based decision,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said Monday. “Obviously where our circumstances are, we talked last time about trying to get over the hump in some of these close games and where we’re trying to push the offense.

“We think it’s the best decision where he is, where the team is, as we prepare to go down to New Orleans.”

The Falcons signed the quarterback Logan Woodside out of Tennessee’s practice squad — he knows Smith and his offense — to provide depth behind Ridder because Mariota isn’t at the team facility as he’s having a chronic knee problem checked out.

Also, run back Damien Williams has been released, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Williams, who is on injured reserve with a rib injury sustained in Week 1, would be “100% healthy and well rested,” the source told Schefter.

Smith said he doesn’t know if or when Mariota will return to the facility. He said the knee issue had nothing to do with the decision to go to Ridder and he expects Mariota to be on injured reserve eventually.

Smith repeatedly stressed that the Falcons felt close offensively but “have to get over this bump.” That, combined with the growth the team has seen at Ridder over the past month, helped push this decision to run the full game plan.

Smith said Ridder’s growth has been more mental than physical in terms of understanding the nuance of the playbook, play calls and what it is to be an NFL quarterback, even though he hasn’t taken an NFL photo yet.

“That’s definitely what you want to see as a rookie,” Smith said. “Some guys are hitting the walls and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes of what you need to prepare to be a quarterback and to be a reserve quarterback. “It’s a huge job. So there are a lot of things that have been taken into account and we have seen a lot of improvements, which gives you a lot more confidence.”

On Sunday, Ridder will throw his first NFL pass against the Falcons’ biggest rival, the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta has lost four of its last five games, but is one game behind the NFC South at 5-8. The Falcons have scored more than 20 points in just one of the last five games.

After learning he had won the job, Ridder remained on the team’s premises during the Falcons’ bye week and pitched with players, including the running back. Tyler Allgeierwho stayed in town during the break to start building more chemistry.

“He worked really hard to learn the playbook and all that,” Allgeier said Monday. “He feels really comfortable, so I’m just excited for him to get his chance.”

Ridder, who was selected by the Falcons in the third round of this year’s draft, is expected to speak with the media later this week. Last month, in a chat with ESPN about his progress, Ridder said Mariota’s advice to constantly recite play calls was something that really stuck with him.

“He’s always talking about the constant, uninterrupted repetition of games,” Ridder said. “Whether it’s in your car ride, whether it’s before, every little moment you have is being able to memorize and understand the game plan. That’s one thing he’s helped me with. “

Smith said they might have had to change the game plan had Ridder taken over earlier in the year, but I think he’s in a better position now.

“You always look at it. Last month or so we had a lot of tight games and one of those things that we have to see evolve in the passing game as we go through this season,” Smith said. . “I like the progress we’ve made in the running game. I think it’s something that we think can benefit us, not just in the short term but in the long term.

“That’s what you assess.”

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