Falcons rookie QB Ridder impresses Smith as a quick learner

Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks Desmond Ridder (4) and Marcus Mariota (1) work during their NFL minicamp football practice Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Ridder is still considered the challenger to veteran Marcus Mariota in the Falcons’ quarterback competition. Based on his strong start in mandatory minicamp and rookie camp, Ridder, the third-round draft pick from Cincinnati, could gain ground quickly when training camp opens on July 26.

Smith doesn’t toss around compliments easily, especially to rookies. It was notable when he handed Ridder praise on Wednesday.

“He’s light years ahead of most other young quarterbacks from the neck up,” Smith said of Ridder. “I will give him that compliment.”

Mariota is expected to open the season as the starter as the Falcons move on from 14 seasons with Matt Ryan playing almost every game. The Falcons signed Mariota on the same day they traded Ryan to Indianapolis and then drafted Ridder as a possible long-term option.

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