It’s time to get the skinny on the Falcons franchise player and quarterback, Matt Ryan.
Pros: Has good size and a quick trigger which makes him a natural pocket passer. Has a good arm with good zip and capable of making every throw. Has nice mobility and does a good job when he’s working outside the pocket as a passer on rollouts and bootlegs. Has good accuracy and knows how to put the ball in a position where receiver can best make the play. Shows good smarts and awareness and does a nice job anticipating throws and reads. Is a natural leader that thrives in competitive situations which is why he does some of his best work late in games as well as in the no-huddle offense. Also doesn’t get easily rattled against the blitz. Understands accountability which only drives his competitive nature and desire to improve.
Cons: Situational awareness needs to be more consistent and has room to improve. Will at times give up on a play too early, showing a lack of trust in his supporting cast. But at other times will show too much trust when he forces passes into double and triple coverage. Doesn’t have a howitzer-sized arm, meaning he won’t be able to throw the ball on a frozen rope 40 yards downfield off his back leg across his body. That means he needs to rely on a consistent footwork and mechanics in the pocket more than other top quarterbacks. Which means that pressure can be a bit more effective against him than others if he’s not allowed to step into his throws. Needs to improve touch and accuracy on deep throws, as well as a willingness to challenge downfield.
2010 Outlook: Ryan will be entering his third season in the Mike Mularkey-run offensive system. And that third year is often cited as the critical one where things start to click for most young quarterbacks that wind up having long, productive NFL careers.
Almost all the areas where Ryan is weakest in, are also areas that should improve with added experience. The ability to throw the deep ball is less about arm strength, and more about touch and accuracy which tend to improve over time. His situational awareness and decision making should also improve as he continues to see more and more of what opposing defenses and coordinators throw at him. One of the key reasons for Peyton Manning’s success is that over time, defenses find it difficult to throw anything at him that he hasn’t already seen before. Which gives him a leg up, allowing him to attack a defense exactly where it hurts them. And while Ryan isn’t going to have that same level of awareness at this early a stage of his career, he does show the tools and instincts that he can get there eventually down the road.
And as Ryan shows this improved awareness, it should allow his rapport with his receivers to get stronger and better. He’ll be better at anticipating throws and reads, giving receivers an extra split second to adjust to the ball. It also means that the pass protection also should improve because they will be better with their adjustments. Frankly, any improvement from Ryan is infectious to the rest of the offense because it makes it run like a smoother, well-oiled machine.
A full off-season of working with Tony Gonzalez, coupled with the re-introduction of Harry Douglas into the offense means that he should be better able to take advantage of his weapons this year.
In Summary… The Falcons put a lot more on Ryan’s shoulders last season to make the offense go. In 2008, the Falcons ran the ball 55% of the time. In 2009, that number dropped down to 43%. In 2010, they would probably like to split the difference giving the offense more balance and taking more off Ryan’s plate. Entering his third season, Ryan is still a young quarterback that is prone to making mistakes. A more balanced attack with a healthier running game should limit the number of mistakes and allow him to make more plays, taking his game to the next level.