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As season approaches, Ryan is deep thinker

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Atlanta Falcons 5:39 p.m. Sunday, September 4, 2011

As season approaches, Ryan is deep thinker

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FLOWERY BRANCH -- During his Falcons career, quarterback Matt Ryan’s film-room attendance has been well known.

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That’s where he finds solace in self-critiques and comes up with various improvement plans, and where he finds what works league-wide and incorporates into the Falcons offense.

This offseason, however, Ryan stepped outside the film room out of necessity. During the 132-day lockout, Ryan was the main organizer of the players-led practices at Buford High and taught the playbook to rookie wide receiver Julio Jones, working hands on.

With no coaches around, Ryan helped lay out plans for what the offense would look like this season.

Ryan found some positive things the unit could carry forward from a 13-3 season, where the Falcons won the NFC South and finished ranked fifth in scoring (25.6 points per game) and 16th in total offense (341.1 yards) in the league.

“We were really good in third-down situations last year and we were pretty good in first- and second-down situations; we gave ourselves a lot of third-and-makeables,” Ryan said.

Yet Ryan was honest about his and the unit's shortcomings.

“One of the areas, and it’s been talked about a lot, is a focus for me, [and that's] throwing the ball down the field and working with the guys throwing the ball down the field,” Ryan said.

The Falcons often marched down the field last season, running time off the clock. Yet when they got into a shootout with Green Bay in the playoffs' divisional round, they couldn’t keep up.

Throwing the long ball hopefully will allow the offense to score quicker.

“For me, I felt like I needed to be more accurate in those situations, giving those guys a chance [to make a play],” Ryan said.

Not all of the work on the deep passing game was on display at Buford High, Ryan said. There were private, one-on-one sessions in which he tried to get the timing down with his receivers on deep routes.

One of the key plays in the Green Bay game occurred when Michael Jenkins was open on a deep ball, slipped when it showed up late and watched as the pass was intercepted by Tramon Williams.

Had Ryan and the since-departed Jenkins connected on that play, the Falcons would have taken a 21-14 lead and a different Super Bowl champ might have emerged.

“There were some situations where I wanted to work on some things and kind of just work with one guy, kind of every day," Ryan said of the offseason workouts.

Outside of the film room, Ryan knew it would be important to get Jones acclimated. Jones received his playbook when the lockout was temporarily lifted.

For Jones, while he recognized some concepts, the playbook might as well have been written in hieroglyphics. Ryan, with the help of John Parker Wilson, who played a season with Jones at Alabama, served as translators. The study plan was ambitious.

“We wanted to teach him the offense as a whole, not just one position,” Ryan said. “I think that’s the best way that these guys can learn it, is to learn the system. You need to know what each specific player is doing. I think that has helped him.”

Ryan knew if Jones were able to learn the entire attack, he wouldn’t have to come off the field when the Falcons went to their no-huddle attack.

“He ends up playing a lot of different positions,” Ryan said.

In the team’s four-receiver formations, Jones could end up, depending on the play call, at any one of the spots.

“If you are just learning one position, it’s going to put you behind,” Ryan said. “Him, having a better feel and better understanding of what our system is like, has helped him.”

By adding Jones to running back Michael Turner, fullback Ovie Mughelli, wide receiver Roddy White, tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Harry Douglas, the Falcons have a deeper offensive arsenal.

With Jones, White compared the Falcons to the old St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense that featured hall of famer Marshall Faulk, quarterback Kurt Warner and receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl from 1999 to 2001.

“That’s good that Roddy has high expectations,” Ryan said. “In all honesty, I think all of us have the right mindset. All of us just want to win. When you have a collection of guys like that on your offense and on your football team, it makes it fun to be a part of.”

It will be impossible to keep everybody happy, but Ryan doesn’t believe there will be problems.

“All of these guys know that they have great individual talent,” Ryan said. “Roddy has it. Tony has it. Harry has it. Julio has it. Michael Turner has it. All of us are kind of willing to put that to the side and do whatever it takes to be successful."

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Good read.

I like that Ryan know where there needs to be improvement and then goes and fixes it. That sounds dumb to say, but I'm not sure all NFL QB's do that.

I think Matt does a lot of things most NFL quarterbacks don't, either because they don't have the ability, or the motivation, or the luxury (and pressure) of a franchise built around them.

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