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Ryan already deserves elite QB tag

by John Clayton

With Peyton Manning's height, Tom Brady's style and Drew Brees' smarts, Matt Ryan had the look of an elite quarterback the first time he stepped onto the field in Atlanta Falcons colors. A 20-10 record as a starter followed.

But young quarterbacks have growing pains, and Ryan wasn't immune. His completion percentage dropped from 61.1 percent as a rookie in 2008 to 58.3 against a harder second-year schedule. His passing yards dropped from 3,440 to 2,916, partially because of missing pieces in the offense and the two games Ryan missed because of a toe injury. His yards per attempt also fell, from 7.93 yards to 6.47.

Ryan shook off the disappointment of his nine-win 2009 by taking two weeks off after the season, then becoming even more of a student of the game. While the elite quarterbacks were slugging it out late in the playoffs, Ryan -- one of the league's more studious players -- studied the elite.

"I looked at five different teams and tried to pick up a lot of different things those teams do," said Ryan, 25, who already makes the cut on my list of elite QBs (see right). "I looked at five of the best quarterbacks in the league."

From Brees, Ryan learned the art of patience. The New Orleans Saints QB is a master at throwing accurate checkdowns. The Manning tapes educated Ryan on the Indianapolis Colts' no-huddle attack and the need to throw precisely. No quarterback is asked to throw more high-risk, high-reward passes than Philip Rivers, so Ryan learned from the San Diego Chargers QB's tapes about throwing outside the numbers to tall receivers along the sidelines.

Ryan grabbed Aaron Rodgers' video because he's amazed at the arm of the Green Bay Packers quarterback. He also studied how Rodgers excels at throwing accurate short passes underneath coverage, particularly from a three-step drop. Those tapes also reminded him of Brees, and those kinds of throws will be a theme for Ryan and the Falcons' offense this season.

With the return of receiver Harry Douglas to the slot and the second season of Tony Gonzalez at tight end, the Falcons want to improve their short passing game. Ryan ranked 14th in quarterback rating on throws of 10 yards or shorter; he completed 59.6 percent of his passes that traveled 11 to 20 yards.

The New England Patriots tapes were of particular interest to Ryan. Although many peg Ryan as a Manning clone, Ryan considers himself more of a Brady-style quarterback.

"Peyton has his feet constantly moving," Ryan said. "My feet move more like Tom. Watching Tom, he slings it."

Ryan's arm strength has impressed those who have watched his offseason workouts. Like Brady, Ryan dedicated himself to the weight room, working on strengthening the core muscles in the middle of his body and adding more leg strength. As a result, Ryan's throws are coming out of his hands crisper and with more velocity.

He is throwing the ball harder," wide receiver Roddy White said. "I've never seen a quarterback actually work that hard in the weight room. He's getting the ball out quick, and it has a little more mustard on it."

The NFL has become a league of the elite quarterbacks, creating a have and have-not situation. It's gotten to the point that the elite quarterbacks beat the non-elite QBs about 80 percent of the time, according to my calculations. Ryan is only 3-7 against elites in his two seasons. To beat an elite, you must study an elite.

"It takes time [for quarterbacks] with regards to how a defensive coordinator presents things, and it takes time to see a number of cycles before you get a feel of what defenses are doing," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "It becomes a chess match."

But don't be surprised to see Ryan sling it out against the NFC elites late in the playoffs. As he did in his rookie season, Ryan will face fewer elite QBs in 2010. Only five elite QBs are on the Falcons' schedule. And one of those elites, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, is suspended for the teams' Sept. 12 opener in Pittsburgh.

Plus, things are coming together in the Falcons' offense. White, no longer embroiled in a contract dispute, has worked with Ryan the entire offseason. Running back Michael Turner is trimmer and healthier and should be better than last season, and Douglas' return to slot receiver should make Atlanta more efficient. Also, the Falcons plan to use more no-huddle offense, which should cater to Ryan's skills.

So expect Ryan to dazzle in Year 3. Trust me, he's elite.

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So, to sum up what we have with #2 thus far in the offseason ... increased emphasis on the long passing attack and the no-huddle (where Ryan shines) ... and a healthier, stronger, third-year QB who has more experience and film study behind him, is reportedly more vocal in planning the offense, and is, in his own words, "h*ll bent on getting" further than the team has gone until now. :) :) :)

Given all that, the sole depressing thing in that article is its reminder that the season opener isn't until September 12th!

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I'm a Ryan fan, and moreover, an avid Falcons fan but I'm not certain that he's truly an 'elite' quarterback at this point in his career. He went through typical sophomore ups and downs. This year will be a huge test for him. If he puts this team in the playoffs, wins a post-season game and makes good decisions then I will have to reconsider. At this point, he seems to be doing and saying all of the right things but 'elite' status will have to be earned on the field in the biggest games and biggest situations!

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I love that he strives to get better. He watches himself, he watches the defenses and then he watches those QBs he wants to be as good as (or better than) to learn more.

The statement about having a style more like Brady than Manning is very telling. He is not only studying the elite QB's in the league - but he's applying what fits him and his natural style so that he can improve.

This kid is smart - and he will get better. Scary thought!

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great read......

Matt was probably overhyped in rookie year(even though he was dayum good!)

Matt is probably undersold in his 3rd year due to high expectations that were not met in year 2

In year #3, I really look for it all to come together for Matt providing the offensive line can solidify its pass protection - which was poor last year.

Matt needed to get stronger and needed his arm/legs to get stronger, I'm encouraged by this article on that subject.

Matt has enough talent and the desire and the heart of a champion. On top of that he is likable and has tremendous leadership skills. Falcons should win at least one SuperBowl with him at the helm along w/ Dimitroff/Smith/Blank.

Edited by g-dawg
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Thanks for the laugh john Clayton, i sure did enjoy that article. :D :D

Matt ryan an "elite" qb! :D is that why it took snelling to have a career day for the falcons to beat my 3-13 bucs, because Matt ryan is an elite" qb? Jus some food for thought.

Still not even in my top 7 qb in the NFC, let alone the NFl. Perhaps next season falcon fans, it'll be okay. :P

btw go rays

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Thanks for the laugh john Clayton, i sure did enjoy that article. :D :D

Matt ryan an "elite" qb! :D is that why it took snelling to have a career day for the falcons to beat my 3-13 bucs, because Matt ryan is an elite" qb? Jus some food for thought.

Still not even in my top 7 qb in the NFC, let alone the NFl. Perhaps next season falcon fans, it'll be okay. :P

btw go rays

Hey Bucman...you dropped this...

player%2Bhaters%2Bball.jpg

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What happened Clayton?

Matt Ryan elite? laugh.giflaugh.gif

Drew Brees is elite, Peyton Manning is elite, Tom Brady is elite, Brett Favre is elite, Aaron Rodgers is elite, Tony Romo is elite. Ryan isn't on the level of any of those guys.

Ryan is in the average/slightly above average group of guys like Kyle Orton, Joe Flacco, Vince Young, David Garrard, and Jason Campbell. The thing seperating Ryan from most of those guys is the P word...and we all know how that goes.

Could Ryan be elite someday? Sure, of course. Is he now? No, not even close.

Edited by nolafan33
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I'm a Ryan fan, and moreover, an avid Falcons fan but I'm not certain that he's truly an 'elite' quarterback at this point in his career.

Agreed - but depends how you define elite

Clayton's list is below. I have bolded the actual elite. But Ryan deserves to be in the company of QBs like Palmer, Manning E and Flacco, so if they are elite he is too.

Tom Brady, New England

Joe Flacco, Baltimore

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati

Philip Rivers, San Diego

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

Matt Schaub, Houston

Drew Brees, New Orleans

Brett Favre, Minnesota

Donovan McNabb, Washington

Eli Manning, New York Giants

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

Tony Romo, Dallas

Matt Ryan, Atlanta

Edited by FalcoChicquera
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Thanks for posting. Great Read. Ryan gives credit where credit is due. That is a sign of a champion. Not being satisfied and a hunger for improvement. That is a sign of a champion.

I cant wait for this upcoming season! To all you haters keep hating because deeeeep down you know its true!

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Agreed - but depends how you define elite

Clayton's list is below. I have bolded the actual elite. But Ryan deserves to be in the company of QBs like Palmer, Manning E and Flacco, so if they are elite he is too.

Tom Brady, New England

Joe Flacco, Baltimore

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati

Philip Rivers, San Diego

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

Matt Schaub, Houston

Drew Brees, New Orleans

Brett Favre, Minnesota

Donovan McNabb, Washington

Eli Manning, New York Giants

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

Tony Romo, Dallas

Matt Ryan, Atlanta

Schauby led the league in passing yards last year, whether or not that was due to Andre Johnson, he should still be in the elite category.

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What happened?

Saint's fan a Loser?

Oh wait, they always have been!

EDIT: I know I know, your snappy comeback is going to be SB44. So I'll save you the trouble.

Im a loser because I look at Ryan realistically?

Do you have any other ground breaking knowledge you can bless us with? rolleyes.gif

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