The Atlanta Falcons' plans for the future currently include rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder under center. He provided plenty of reason for hope in his first preseason game.
The third-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft finished his first game in a Falcons uniform with a scrambling, game-winning 21-yard touchdown pass to undrafted rookie Jared Bernhardt. The score put the Falcons up 27-23 with 90 seconds remaining, a lead that held after the Detroit Lions' final drive stalled out at midfield.
Escaping a collapsing pocket on 4th-and-9, Ridder barely got off the 50/50 ball to Bernhardt in the end zone.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 13, 2022
Ridder finished the game 10-of-22 with 103 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air, plus 59 rushing yards on six attempts on the ground. He led the Falcons in both passing yards and rushing yards.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 12, 2022
Among the top quarterback prospects in this year's draft, Ridder fell to the Falcons in the third round at 74th overall. He was stellar in his senior season at Cincinnati, when he led the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff, a first among Group of 5 teams.
Ridder won conference player of the year honors with 3,334 passing yards, a 64.9 percent completion percentage, 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He represents the Falcons' first attempt at finding a long-term answer in their post-Matt Ryan era, though Marcus Mariota has already been named the team's starter for the season.
A fourth-quarter touchdown in preseason is hardly indicative of real value, but it's the Falcons aren't going to want to see their young quarterback making big plays against inferior competition.
Bernhardt hauling in that pass also highlights one of the most intriguing undrafted free agents in the league, as 24-year-old won the Tewaaraton Award as the best player in college lacrosse at Maryland last year. After exhausting his lacrosse eligibility, he switched to football and transferred to Ferris State, where he led the Bulldogs to a Division II National Championship as a quarterback.