Falcons name Marcus Mariota starts quarterback after first day of training camp

After a day of training camp, the Atlanta Falcons settled on the team’s new quarterback. The job will go to Marcus Mariota, a former second seed who is entering his first season in the franchise.

With Mariota as the rookie, rookie Desmond Ryder, the 74th overall pick in the Draft of the Year, will serve as Atlanta’s reserve quarterback.

“Obviously, we have a plan for each of them. Marcus is the start,” Falcons coach Charles London said via The Athletic. “This is how we go about this thing.”

Two years after backing up Derek Carr in Las Vegas, Mariota was signed by the Falcons shortly after the team traded longtime starter Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. The move brings Mariota together with Falcons coach Arthur Smith, who previously worked with Mariota during their time with the Titans. Soon after joining the Falcons, Mariota said the opportunity to work against Smith was a big factor in his decision to sign with Atlanta.

“Loyalty is very important to me,” Mariota said Rob DeMello from KHON2 News. “It’s something we all live with here in Hawaii. Art was someone who’s been in my corner for a long time. And I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”

“I’m excited about this opportunity. I’m excited to be a part of this organization and I’m looking forward to just getting out there.”

The 28-year-old quarterback was an instant starter for the Titans, who made him the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. His career started well enough, throwing four touchdowns in his first regular season game, a big win over pirate. Despite injuries, enduring 38 sacks in 12 games and scoring 3-9 as a rookie, Mariota’s junior season was largely successful, throwing 19 touchdowns (along with two touchdown runs) for 10 interceptions.

Mariota’s growth was evident before the rookie and season two. In 15 games, he threw 26 touchdowns for nine interceptions while taking 15 fewer sacks than he did as a starter. He also set an 8-7 record as the Titans start.

Things started to take a turn after that. Mariota won his first playoff in 2017, but he’s also thrown more interceptions this season than touchdown passes. He had another up and down season in 2018 and was replaced by Ryan Tanehill six games in the 2019 season.

Mariota signed that offseason with the Raiders while accepting a backup position behind Carr, throwing just 30 touchdowns in two seasons in Las Vegas. He played exceptionally well in relief for injured Carr during a three-point loss to the Chargers late in the 2020 campaign.

“It was a great reset,” Mariota said of his time in Las Vegas. “Obviously being on the court and playing is what I want to do. But I’ve needed that in my career. Unfortunately, with everything that’s happened in Tennessee, I’ve been hit a little bit mentally and physically. To reset, to be part of a great midfield In Vegas, it kind of got me into this moment. I’m excited, I’m ready, I feel good, and I’m looking forward to getting out there in Atlanta.”

Mariota was the previous year’s second-placed pick to sign with a new team during the season. Mitchell Trubesky, who earned the Pro Bowl nod as a member of the Bears, is hoping to revive his career in Pittsburgh after spending the 2021 season as backup for Josh Allen at Buffalo. Mariota is hoping to make the most of his new opportunity in Atlanta, as the Falcons exit a 7-10 campaign during Smith’s first season as coach.

“They’ll get 110%. Everything I do, I try to do to the best of my ability,” Mariota said. “I am honored and honored to have this opportunity. I will do whatever it takes to help my team-mates to be at their best. We are just striving for victories.”

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