The Atlanta Falcons are making a temporary change in their starting quarterback position. Head coach Arthur Smith announced that Taylor Heinicke will step in as the starting quarterback for the Falcons in Week 9 against the Minnesota Vikings, with Desmond Ridder serving as the backup.
Smith explained his decision, saying, “For this week only, given recent developments over the past 72 hours and our assessment of what’s best for this week’s matchup against Minnesota, Taylor will take the reins as our starting quarterback.”
Heinicke, who was initially signed as a backup for Ridder during the offseason, is poised to make his first start for the Falcons. This alteration in the starting lineup carries significance, as it designates Heinicke as the fourth starting quarterback during Smith’s tenure as the head coach of the Falcons.
Even though Ridder had a turnover problem and the team was only 28th in the league in points scored, Smith had been hesitant to make this move. Heinicke did see play, though, in the second half of the previous game against the Tennessee Titans. After being evaluated for a concussion, Ridder was initially cleared to return, but he did not rejoin the team. Smith was clear in saying that Ridder’s absence had nothing to do with his performance. The choice to start a quarterback was deferred until Wednesday due to this unforeseen event.
It’s interesting that Smith started Heinicke today because he was hesitant to start Ridder over Marcus Mariota, who struggled in his first season as the starting quarterback the previous year.
Even though they are leading the NFC South, the 4-4 Falcons have been struggling offensively—something that is uncommon for a top-seeded team to do when they trade quarterbacks midway through the season. Ridder hasn’t played well lately, averaging 212.6 yards per game with six touchdowns and six interceptions. Considering that he hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Week 6, this performance is a far cry from the promise he displayed at the conclusion of his debut campaign in 2022.
On the other hand, Heinicke has experience filling in at quarterback for the Washington Commanders in previous seasons, and he did a good job when called upon to do so.
Nevertheless, his inconsistent play has prevented him from becoming a consistent starter at quarterback. Heinicke has started 34 games in his six seasons in the NFL, posting a 12-12-1 starting record. His stellar numbers are a 5,920 yard completion percentage of 63.7%, 35 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions.
Heinicke’s Falcons debut will come against the Minnesota Vikings, who are also switching quarterbacks after Kirk Cousins’ season-ending injury. With a 4-4 record, both teams are poised for an exciting game. It is likely that Heinicke will take on a young Jaren Hall in a matchup that wasn’t anticipated at the beginning of the season.