Quarterback has been a position of stability for the Atlanta Falcons since 2008 from the top to the bottom of the depth chart. When the team released Chris Redman Tuesday and signed Luke McCown, a preseason of upheaval under center continued.
Redman arrived in Atlanta a year prior to Ryan, but has never been the team’s No. 1 quarterback. He’s been a backup to Ryan since 2008 and a solid mentor. John Parker Wilson, who the Falcons released Sunday, has been the third backup since he was signed as an undrafted rookie in 2009.
It’s been the Ryan-Redman-JPW show since 2009. Now, only Ryan remains.
Added to the mix Tuesday, as announced on the Falcons’ website, McCown can now act as Ryan’s veteran backup. But he might not be the first option after Matty Ice.
Most of these cataclysmic changes at quarterback in Atlanta are the result of undrafted rookie free agent Dominique Davis. He’s just been that good in the preseason.
In 12 games for the East Carolina Pirates last season, Davis threw for 3,225 yards and 25 touchdowns with a 67.6 percent completion percentage.
He only played two years for the Pirates, but holds six of the school’s top 15 single-game passing performances, according to the school’s athletic department, and ran roughshod through the record books, re-writing quickly as he passed through.
Atlanta signed Davis when he went undrafted in the 2012 NFL draft, likely to push Wilson for the third spot on the roster. No one expected Davis to come out of the preseason gates swinging like a contender for higher goals.
Davis, through three preseason games, is 19-of-32 for 227 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Two dropped passes in the Cincinnati game on Aug. 16 have his completion percentage at 59 percent instead of 66 percent.
More than his numbers through three games, Davis has shown amazing advances since joining the team during rookie minicamp, and has been both polished and poised in action.
Now that Davis has circumvented the Wilson obstacle—the originally-intended position battle—he can set his sights on fighting to become Ryan’s top backup, and he’ll fight McCown instead of Redman.
The Falcons made a move Tuesday to swap a veteran backup for another veteran backup. Other than age, the move looks like a step backwards.
McCown is four years younger than Redman, but the latter has seen a voluminous amount of success compared to McCown.
Compared to the number of games they’ve each played, both quarterbacks are similar in completion percentage and yards per game. Redman finds the end zone much more frequently (0.7 times per game compared to 0.45 times per game for McCown) and limits mistakes—their interception rate is almost exactly flip-flopped with 0.7 interceptions per game for McCown and 0.46 for Redman.
Does that mean youth is the only reason Atlanta made this move?
Well, Redman hasn’t performed well through three preseason games, tossing an interception without a touchdown pass and completing just 53.6 percent of his passes. McCown played in just one preseason game for the New Orleans Saints and put up similar numbers.
McCown didn’t separate himself from Redman on the stat sheet, far from it. But McCown brings with him a type of experience that Redman doesn’t have.
McCown played for new Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter in Jacksonville for three seasons. The QB knows Koetters' offensive system and all the schemes that go along with it, just like Redman knew former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey’s system.
Who will be Atlanta's main backup quarterback?
Atlanta could be banking on McCown picking up the pieces from a potential Ryan injury and running the Falcons' offense more efficiently than Redman could because of the history between McCown and Koetter. It makes sense.
But what if McCown can’t beat out Davis for the No. 2 spot on Atlanta’s depth chart?
Atlanta typically only carries two quarterbacks on its active roster, relegating a third to the practice squad. If Davis beats out McCown through the final week of the preseason, McCown is likely done in Atlanta.
That means Atlanta would have released Redman and signed McCown for McCown to spend a five-day stint with the Falcons, as the roster must be cut down to 53 by Friday.
Can you think of any reason why the Falcons would want to shake things up like this to bring in a statistically inferior backup quarterback who had just spent three months with the New Orleans Saints?