Desmond Ridder isn't exactly a Marcus Mariota clone.
When the Atlanta Falcons' rookie quarterback (third round, No. 74 pick overall) makes his NFL debut on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints in the Caesars Superdome, New Orleans (4-9) won't have nearly as much on file for Ridder as it did for Mariota in the season opener.
But there's enough there, at least, to give the Saints a guide against the Falcons (5-8), who made the quarterback change this week, with Mariota going to injured reserve due to knee surgery. Ridder played in three preseason games, completing 34 of 56 passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, and had eight carries for 58 yards.
"The thing about him is, luckily, he's pretty similar to the guy that we played before," said Saints linebacker Pete Werner, who returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday after missing the previous four games with an ankle injury and surgery.
"There's obviously things that you can pick from the preseason game, but he's a very good quarterback, very talented. I think that as long as we stay to what we're being coached, stay true to that, I think the quarterback's influence will be very similar to how we prepped for them the first time.
"He's a smart player. He's accurate with the ball. He can make plays out of nothing. He's looking to scramble if that read's not open, so we've just got to be smart with our rush, our coverage, and I think it'll all take care of itself."
Werner got a small sample size in college, when Ohio State played Cincinnati during Werner's junior season. Ridder, in 48 starts at Cincinnati, completed 810 of 1,304 passes for 10,239 yards and 87 touchdowns, with 28 interceptions, and ran 501 times for 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Coach Dennis Allen said that trove of information will help Sunday, too.
"We spent a lot of time already looking at him in terms of when he was coming out in the draft process," Allen said. "So we have a pretty good idea of the type of player that he is, the capability that he has.
"We studied a lot of what he did in the preseason, he played some pretty significant snaps in the preseason. And then you've got to look at, what have they been doing offensively, schematically, that fits kind of the things that he does well. You're just kind of trying to put all the pieces to the puzzle together. I feel like we've got a pretty good idea of what they're going to try to do with him, but yet, I'm sure there'll be some adjusting as we get into the game.
"We watched all his plays from last season as we were studying the quarterbacks in the draft, and we went up to Cincinnati. We were at his workout, we had meetings with him and got a chance to sit down and visit with him and talk football and kind of find out what he knows. It was a good exposure to us. We thought highly of the prospect.
"His ability, from an athletic standpoint, to be able to move and throw on the move. I think he throws a pretty good deep ball. But really, it was his athleticism and his accuracy on the move."
In the season opener against the Falcons, a 27-26 Saints victory, New Orleans' defense began to string together stops late in the game. Atlanta finished with 201 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries, and Mariota completed 20 of 33 passes for 215 yards. But the Saints rallied from a 26-10, fourth-quarter deficit – the largest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history – to win the game.
The defense forced two punts and blocked a field goal attempt on Atlanta's final three possessions.
MAKE ROOM: If Werner is able to return to the field Sunday, it will create a good dilemma for New Orleans. In his absence, Kaden Elliss has shined, with 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pass defensed in the four games.
"We've got to keep him on the field, because he's blowin," Werner said. "I like that."
"That's absolutely a good problem to have," Allen said. "Pete was starting before he got hurt, and playing at a high level. And then Kaden filled in for him and I feel like he played at a high level. Both of those guys deserve to play, and then obviously Demario (Davis) is Demario. So it's a good problem to have."