Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (4) scrambles during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Desmond Ridder says he’s ready for the limelight. The rookie quarterback that was drafted in the third round from the University of Cincinnati is set to make his first NFL start this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Heading into the game, Ridder has the confidence of everyone at the facility, beginning with Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith.

“This is a good test for him,” Smith said. “You’re going on the road against a divisional opponent, a veteran defense that’s really fundamentally sound. Been together for a while, most of the core. Know who they are.”

Ridder will face off against a Saints defense that has given up 325.8 yards per game. In that number, the New Orleans defense has given up an average of 125 rushing yards and 22.8 points per game. Wide receiver Drake London says Ridder has been feeling pretty good throughout the week.

“Oh yeah, that’s my boy,” London said during Wednesday’s press conference. “Like you guys are saying, I came in here with him, built a relationship with him and just been grinding ever since and to see him finally get his shot is really really cool to see, just to see that smile again.”

London led the Falcons with 6 receptions for career-high 95 yards in Week 13. Had 5 catches for 74 yards in the Week 1 meeting. Additionally, London can become the third. rookie WR with 50+ catches in a season since 2000. 

Arthur Smith has a few benchmarks for Ridder, such as command of the offense, how he spits out the plays, can he make checks at the line, and above all else, can he handle the stress that will be ever present inside the Caesar’s Superdome Sunday afternoon.

“You want to see him operate,” Smith said. “See how he handles the pressure, stress, situational football, line of scrimmage, in between series. There’s a lot of things. Obviously, we need to go down there and get the win, but as you’re evaluating him short-term and really seeing long-term is how he’s handling a lot of that stuff. Operationally will be paramount, especially starting that game.”

Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs the ball back on a kickoff against the Chicago Bears during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Atlanta. Patterson scored a touchdown on the play. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Matchups

The Falcons defense has improved their play as the season progressed. Linebacker Mykal Walker has his first-career 100+ tackle season (101) in 2022. He is aiming for his seventh game in a row with 8+ tackles. In the first matchup against the Saints, Walker had 2 tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble. 

The Falcons defense must account for Saints running back Alvin Kamara. The Norcross High School and University of Tennessee product has 51 receptions, his 5th-career 50+ catch season. Kamara has 983 scrimmage yards (550 rush, 433 rec.) and needs 17 scrimmage yards for his sixth-straight 1,000-yard season since entering NFL in 2017. Additionally, Saints rookie wide receiver Chris Olave will likely be matched up against Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell. This season, Olave leads all rookie receivers with 887 receiving yards. He is en route to a 1,000 yard season, becoming third Saints’ rookie receiver to reach that milestone after Marques Colston and Michael Thomas.

Rookie running back Tyler Allgier has 50+ rush yards in four of his last five games and is aiming for his fourth in a row with 50+ rush yards. The rookie from Brigham Young has 604 rushing yards in this season and can surpass Jerious Norwood (633 rush yards in 2006) for 2nd-most by a Falcons rookie. 

Injury Report

Saints safety J.T. Gray (hamstring), tight end Juwan Johnson (ankle), defensive end Cameron Jordan (foot), cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen), tight end Adam Trautman (ankle), and defensive end Payton Turner (ankle) each did not practice Thursday and their statuses are uncertain for Sunday. Conversely, Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (non-injury related) and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge did not practice Thursday. 

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...