ATLANTA (AP) — The quarterback carousel continues for the Arizona Cardinals, who now turn to David Blough as their fourth option of the season.
While for the Atlanta Falcons, 23-year-old Desmond Ridder is trying to show he deserves to be considered the long-term starter.
Blough, who moved into a starting role after Colt McCoy was ruled out due to concussion symptoms, and Ridder, the rookie making a late-season audition, are expected to start at quarterback when the Cardinals visit the Falcons on Sunday in a matchup of teams eliminated from playoff contention. Blough will be the Cardinals' fourth starting QB in four weeks.
Blough gets his opportunity one week after the Cardinals lost to Tampa Bay 19-16 in overtime in quarterback Trace McSorley's first start. McCoy, McSorley and now Blough have combined to fill in following Kyler Murray's season-ending knee injury on Dec. 12.
Blough started five games for the Detroit Lions in 2019, losing all five.
Murray's injury was another low point for Arizona (4-11).
Ridder will make his third start for Atlanta (5-10), which has lost four straight and six of seven. Ridder, the third-round pick from Cincinnati, is playing to show he can be considered the next season's starter following the benching of veteran Marcus Mariota. Mariota opted for season-ending knee surgery after losing his starting job, leaving his status with the team uncertain at best for 2023.
Ridder has provided mixed results, impressing coach Arthur Smith at times with his poise while not throwing a touchdown pass or an interception in two starts. But Ridder hasn't sparked the offense, which continues to lack a consistent passing threat while relying on the running of rookie Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson.
“I think we’re growing each and every week,” Ridder said. We wanted to get up and over these humps and find our way on an uphill climb. Obviously, we haven’t done that, but you see at practice that guys are showing up every single day ready to work. Guys want to come compete every single day. That’s something to be grateful for.”
A strong showing by Ridder in the last two games, including his first home start against Arizona, could impact offseason decisions by the Falcons. Smith insists his focus remains on winning this week instead of planning for next season.
"This is an important game for us, we need to play well, and we need to go win,” Smith said. "We need to finish this out right, we need to win and then we need to go into the offseason, and we’ll have areas to address there but this week is the most important thing for us professionally and for every guy in that locker room.”
This will be the first game for Watt since the defensive end announced plans to retire at the end of the season.
The 33-year-old Watt is a three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year and five-time All-Pro. All of those honors came during his first 10 seasons with the Houston Texans.
He has played the last two years in Arizona and turned back the clock in recent weeks. He had three sacks against the Broncos on Dec. 18 and two tackles for a loss against the Bucs on Christmas.
“I’d much rather go out playing good football, knowing that I could still play,” Watt said.
Avery Williams, who was a cornerback when he was a fifth-round draft pick from Boise State in 2021, has impressed the Falcons with his versatility after switching to running back this season. Williams had three carries for 16 yards and two receptions for 14 yards last week and also has returned punts and kickoffs.
Williams also has remained prepared to fill in on defense if needed, presenting the potential he could be used as a three-way player in a game.
“He’s been a big part of our team and his role continues to expand,” Smith said. “He’s a fun player to work with and coach. I still think it’s pretty impressive that a guy can do that”
It’s no secret the Cardinals are in a bit of disarray at the moment.
They’re suffering through a disappointing 4-11 season, general manager Steve Keim is on medical leave and Murray, their franchise quarterback, is out for the season with torn ligaments in his knee.
The only real storyline is if fourth-year coach Kliff Kingsbury will get to return for a fifth. He’s got a 28-35-1 record during his tenure in Arizona.
Kingsbury has remained stoic despite the tough season, saying he’s not worried about his job security.
“We just talked about sticking together,” Kingsbury said, adding he was “proud of the effort" against Tampa Bay.
Ridder is still waiting on his first TD pass and planning on how he'll celebrate.
“I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about that for two weeks,” Ridder said. "Trust me, I’ve been thinking.”
Ridder has completed 35 of 59 passes for 315 yards with no interceptions.
AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Glendale, Arizona contributed to this report.
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