This year will be no different, as the team traded for former Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates last month to fill that role. Yates seemingly should be an upgrade over Dominique Davis, who previously held the mantle of the team’s No. 2 quarterback before his untimely release.
Unlike Davis, Yates has legit NFL starting experience, having started six games during his rookie season in 2011.
Upon his release, Davis indicated that the Falcons planned to keep only one backup on the roster behind Ryan, and that their decision to acquire Yates essentially made the decision who that would be before any real competition took place.
But that doesn’t mean Yates is by any means a lock to make the roster. As the team saw in the summer of 2012, there was a similar situation where Chris Redman should have had the backup spot all wrapped up. However, Redman struggled and allowed a bright-eyed, then undrafted rookie with the name of Davis to oust him from the roster.
This summer, young players like Sean Renfree and Jeff Mathews hope to repeat that history.
Renfree, a former seventh-round pick last offseason, missed his rookie season with a shoulder injury. One of the biggest knocks on Renfree coming out of Duke was questions about his durability. He’s suffered three major injuries to his throwing arm over the past year and frankly is coming off a rookie preseason where his play was far less than exemplary.
Mathews may possess the strongest arm of the bunch, given him a decided advantage as far as the “eyeball test” goes. He’s transitioning from an offense at Cornell where played a lot of shotgun that interfered with the development of ideal pocket mechanics and footwork. He’ll have to show that he can adjust.
History may be on Mathews’ side when it comes to impressing in his first summer. The Falcons have had several notable undrafted rookie quarterbacks that showed promise early in their careers: Doug Johnson, John Parker Wilson and Davis immediately come to mind. But in the case of all three, they did not show development as time went along. Mathews hopes to buck that trend, but he’ll first need to start strong and play well this summer.
But it will be a tall order for either he or Renfree to unseat Yates as Ryan’s backup. Instead, Renfree and Mathews may be competing for a chance to land on the team’s practice squad as the third quarterback.