Falcons QB Marcus Mariota: Comeback Player of the Year candidate?

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The Atlanta Falcons signed free-agent quarterback Marcus Mariota just a few hours after they traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. This all happened on the heels of Atlanta’s failed attempt to trade for then-Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

So while Mariota is getting a fresh start with a team in need of a quarterback, he’s also facing the pressure of replacing a former league MVP. Not to mention, Mariota has rookie Desmond Ridder breathing down his neck. Ridder was considered a steal in the third round of the draft.

Mariota, the former second overall pick and Heisman Trophy award winner, sat behind Derek Carr in Las Vegas last season working on his craft and waiting for a chance to start again.

That chance just so happened to come in Atlanta where he reunites with Arthur Smith, the man who originally benched Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Despite the way things ended in Tennessee, their familiarity with one another could make the transition away from Matt Ryan a little bit smoother than most analysts are anticipating.

“Yes, you just watch his play and body language,” Arthur Smith said in mid-June when speaking on Mariota. “Especially when you’ve been around a guy for a long time and there’s certain mannerisms. He does feel comfortable and that’s good especially this time of year as we crank it up and get into the preseason and more competitive practices. Hopefully, that stays the same.”

Smith even continued by saying how, with time, players can improve just as coaches can also improve. This is in response to the aforementioned benching for Ryan Tannehill while with the Titans.

NFL Network’s Good Morning football crew named the Falcons quarterback as a possible candidate for the league’s Comeback Player of the Year award. Their logic for doing so had was based on how creative the Falcons can be in 2022 with Mariota’s mobility along and an improved group of pass-catchers.

Atlanta even played undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks at times last season to give the offense a different look when things got stagnant. To win this award, though, Mariota will have to lead the team to a successful season, which would shock many of the experts who have pegged the Falcons as one of the worst teams in the league.

The other likely candidates for Comeback Player of the Year include Derrick Henry, Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin.

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