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Matt Ryan hopes to continue to improve in 2010


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Matt Ryan hopes to continue to improve in 2010

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Matt Ryan has one last outside obligation, a photo shoot with a sponsor Monday, before he starts to pack for training camp.

Over the past few weeks, he has met with sponsors, played golf in a celebrity tournament at Lake Tahoe and slipped out of the country for a little rest and relaxation.

After the Monday photo shoot, he will turn his laser focus back on the Falcons, who report to training camp July 29 and start practice at 8:30 a.m. July 31.

After winning the NFL offensive rookie of the year award in 2008, Ryan battled through an injury-marred season in 2009, but led the Falcons to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.

Ryan is about to enter his third season in the NFL, and the Falcons' plans to return to the playoffs and make a major push toward elite status in the league revolve around his improvement.

"There are a number of areas I can improve," Ryan said. While his coaches are pleased with his development, they know there's potential for more from him.

Two areas where Ryan can improve are first-down passing and blitz-situation passing.

Last season, Ryan's worst down was first down, when teams generally expect a running play. He completed 53.5 percent of his passes on first downs, while completing 57.5 on second and 63.3 on third. Overall, his completion percentage was 58.3 percent.

He also threw more interceptions (six) on first downs. He threw five on second downs and three on third downs.

Ironically, Ryan was at his best on third downs, when teams generally have their best pass defense on the field.

His third-down quarterback rating was 88.3. He was 67.5 on first downs and 79.5 on second downs. His overall rating was 80.9, which ranked 11th in the NFC and 20th in the league.

"We have similar categories and things like that," said Bill Musgrave, assistant head coach/quarterbacks. "Matt has always been pretty darn good on third down, making plays for us both with his arm and his legs. We'll look to improve our first- and second-down passing here in 2010. It's an area where we can increase our completion percentage and keep our team on schedule."

Also, Ryan has been solid in blitz situations.

He completed 59.9 percent of his passes and had an 88.5 quarterback rating in blitz-situation passing. His quarterback rating was 15th in the league among quarterbacks who attempted at least 120 passes in blitz situations.

New Orleans' Drew Brees (112.9), Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (112.1) and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (104.6) were the top three blitz-situation passers in 2009.

"It's all relative," Musgrave said. "We think we can be better. We anticipate being better."

Ryan's receivers can help him with fewer drops and by getting more yards after the catch. Falcons receivers dropped 19 passes in 2009.

Shortly after last season ended, Ryan locked himself in the team's film room and studied some of the top passing attacks and top passers in the league.

"There are a number of different things you see," Ryan said. "The biggest thing is you see consistency from those guys. They're constantly making good decisions, going to the right spots with the football, and they're patient. I think that's something I can do a better job of."

Ryan believes he can improve his accuracy. Of his 451 attempts, he made 72 poor throws, according to the Stats Pass statistical service.

"For me it's footwork," Ryan said. "I think the biggest thing is having a clearer understanding of where to go with the football quicker. That allows you to be a little more accurate."

Musgrave and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey certainly have piled more on Ryan's plate for this season.

For example, the team's no-huddle attack has been expanded from about 12 plays to well over 30. In 2009, the Falcons went into the no-huddle offense 16 times in five different games, scoring seven touchdowns and kicking two field goals.

Mularkey appeared to like going into the no-huddle to jump-start the offense. The team was trailing 14 of the 16 times he called for a no-huddle.

The expanded playbook is a product of the comfort between Ryan and the coaches.

"He already kind of has an idea of what I'm going to say before I say it," Mularkey said. "He's got ideas now where he can start to see how we function as an offensive staff."

The veterans have noticed a certain inner calmness in Ryan.

"Matt knows what he's doing," Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White said. "There is a big difference. He's more comfortable out there. He's being a leader, and that's what we need right now."

The Falcons don't think Year 3 is some sort of magical benchmark for Ryan.

"It definitely helps being able to be around the block a couple of times," Musgrave said. "You know a little bit more of what to expect."

While learning on the fly, one of the more impressive traits of Ryan's game is that he has spread the ball around. Usually, young quarterbacks lock in on their favorite receivers.

Ryan regularly completes passes to six or seven receivers per game. He also adroitly incorporated tight end Tony Gonzalez into the passing attack without turning his back on White, the team's top target.

"Matt has good vision," Musgrave said. "He can see the whole field. He has a sense of timing and anticipation. Those are attributes that will stand the test of time and allow him to play at this level for years and years."

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Like I said a while back. Ryan's footwork is probably the biggest cause of his problems. He doesn't always set his feet when he throws, which causes him to lose power and accuracy when making the pass. Watch the plays where he throws an interception, and you'll generally see that his feet aren't set properly.

Good article though.

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At the end of last year, a lot of people were discussing how many drops our receivers had - so I went back and studied the drops. I re-evaluated Ryans numbers based on those catches being made - and no YAC from point of reception. In other words, if they just caught the ball and made no further progress from that point. It changed his numbers to:

451 Att., 282 Comp., 62.5% completion, 3219 yds, 25 TD, 14 Int, QB Rating 89.5

I didn't post it because I know that all teams have dropped passes and hindsight is just that - but since it came up in this article - I thought I'd share it.

Oh, and King Ed - while I agree that he was hurried and not getting set much of the time, one thing I have to add about his footwork is the lack of a pocket and the pressure he was under. His average release time before being hit was 2 seconds and under. I don't know but I think it would be hard to get set when you have 1.5 seconds to get rid of the ball.

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Oh, and King Ed - while I agree that he was hurried and not getting set much of the time, one thing I have to add about his footwork is the lack of a pocket and the pressure he was under. His average release time before being hit was 2 seconds and under. I don't know but I think it would be hard to get set when you have 1.5 seconds to get rid of the ball.

How did you come by those numbers? Link?

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How did you come by those numbers? Link?

I did a few threads on this this past season. If you read those threads - I actually timed the snap to the hit or release / almost hit. You can search for them if you like - it was this past season - sometime before he got hurt - OR - you can go here like I did - and pull up the play by plays and watch the video of those hit/near hits.

His average time before being hit at the time I did the post was less than 2 seconds. In some of those threads - I broke down the plays I believe.

Edit - found one:

Here is one of the threads.

Edited by Tandy
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I took a look at Ryans numbers and, removing the incomplete Tampa game, came up with some numbers that I think are realistic for him this season.

Comp. - 368

Att. - 560

Yds. - 3920

TDs - 30

INTs - 10

Comp. % - 65.71%

Rate - 96.43

I increased the numbers slightly from my original projection based around 525 attempts because the team is saying they will not be leaning on Turner as heavily this year. Otherwise, they would have looked like this:

Comp. - 345

Att. - 525

Yds. - 3675

TDs - 29

INTs - 9

Comp. % - 65.71%

Rate - 97.28

Obviously, I'm expecting great things from Ryan this season, but I'm also expecting great things from this team.

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I did a few threads on this this past season. If you read those threads - I actually timed the snap to the hit or release / almost hit. You can search for them if you like - it was this past season - sometime before he got hurt - OR - you can go here like I did - and pull up the play by plays and watch the video of those hit/near hits.

His average time before being hit at the time I did the post was less than 2 seconds. In some of those threads - I broke down the plays I believe.

Edit - found one:

Here is one of the threads.

I vaguely remember those threads from last year and earlier this off-season. I looked at your second link. You're assuming that the average time he had on plays he was sacked/hit on is also the same on plays that he did not get touched. Which of course would be a mistake.

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I vaguely remember those threads from last year and earlier this off-season. I looked at your second link. You're assuming that the average time he had on plays he was sacked/hit on is also the same on plays that he did not get touched. Which of course would be a mistake.

she did say, "average times before getting hit" though. and if you watch the tapes, you can see he was under constant pressure relatively all year long.

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At the end of last year, a lot of people were discussing how many drops our receivers had - so I went back and studied the drops. I re-evaluated Ryans numbers based on those catches being made - and no YAC from point of reception. In other words, if they just caught the ball and made no further progress from that point. It changed his numbers to:

451 Att., 282 Comp., 62.5% completion, 3219 yds, 25 TD, 14 Int, QB Rating 89.5

I didn't post it because I know that all teams have dropped passes and hindsight is just that - but since it came up in this article - I thought I'd share it.

Oh, and King Ed - while I agree that he was hurried and not getting set much of the time, one thing I have to add about his footwork is the lack of a pocket and the pressure he was under. His average release time before being hit was 2 seconds and under. I don't know but I think it would be hard to get set when you have 1.5 seconds to get rid of the ball.

might have improved his rating more than that- weren't 2 of the INTs tipped off Jenkins?

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