This is the first of a 10-part, position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons after their offseason program. Coming Tuesday: Running backs. When the Falcons report for training camp on July 26, there won’t be much drama at the quarterback position.
With a new offensive coordinator and position coach, what will Matt Ryan do for an encore to his MVP season in 2017?
The Falcons’ franchise quarterback turned 32 on May 17 and appears set to enter the prime of his career.
Ryan, who arguably had his worst and best seasons the past two seasons under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, has a new offensive coordinator in Steve Sarkisian.
“The system is pretty much the same as it was before, which is good,” Ryan said. “We have a lot of guys on our team who are back and have a lot of experience in our system and understand the rules, the scheme and the terminology really, really well. There haven’t been a whole lot of changes for us.”
Sarkisian is a former college head coach at Washington and USC who fell out of grace because of a bout with alcoholism. He came to the Falcons after a stint at Alabama as an assistant/consultant, and he’s never called a game in the NFL.
“Sark and the new coaches have probably had the biggest transition in learning our system, but they’ve done a great job,” Ryan said.
Ryan thrived under offensive coordinators Mike Mularkey and Dirk Koetter, when protected, for the first seven seasons of his career. In 2015, he had a bumpy season, with a 21-to-16 touchdowns-to-interception ratio while adjusting to Shanahan’s scheme.
With a year under his belt in Shanahan’s system, Ryan was nearly flawless in 2016 and guided the franchise to its second Super Bowl appearance since starting play in 1966.
Ryan was absolutely dynamic as he threw touchdown passes to 13 receivers.
With some pinpoint accuracy, Ryan led the league’s top-scoring offense, setting franchise records in passing yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38). He started all 16 games and completed 373 of 534 passes (69.9 completion percentage; third in the NFL), with only seven interceptions and a 117.1 passer rating.
Ryan’s 117.1 rating was the fifth-highest in a season in NFL history. He had a passer rating of 100 or better in 12 games, tying Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and former 49ers quarterback Steve Young for the most 100-plus rating games in a single season.
“This is my fourth different offensive coordinator in the NFL,” Ryan said. “So, that’s part of the deal when you play in this league. The one constant is change. I’ve been fortunate to be around here for going on 10 years.”
But how does one improve upon an MVP season?
“For me, it comes back to getting yourself in position to throw the ball most accurately,” Ryan said. “I feel like even though we did some good things last year, that’s part one. We evaluated things that can get better in terms of our footwork, getting in position to throw the ball more consistently.”
The Falcons will enter the season as favorites to win the NFC South. They’ll be trying to become the first team since the 1993 Buffalo Bills to return to the Super Bowl after losing the game.
New quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan has been impressed with Ryan.
“I was blown away with how intentional, really all of these guys,” Hamdan said. “They don’t waste time. If they are going to do something, they are going to do it the right way.
“As coaches we have a playbook and a lot of our answers come from the playbook. There are a lot of times that I think both Matts (— Ryan and Matt Schaub —) give the answers from a lot of experience.
“It’s been a unique experience for me piecing this offense together and learning this offense, but also getting the offense from their point of view as well.”
Ryan is set to be backed up by Matt Schaub. Matt Simms and Alek Torgersen are the other quarterbacks on the roster.
Here’s a look at the projected Depth Chart heading into training camp:
WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 1 Reggie Davis, 17 Marvin Hall
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf, 79 Will Freeman
LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 72 Cornelius Edison, 69 Marquis Lucas
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 Travis Averill, 62 Cam Keizur
RG [71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland], 68 Trevor Robinson
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 75 Andreas Knappe
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 85 Eric Saubert, 49 Darion Griswold
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 4 Matt Simms, 4 Alek Torgersen
FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew
DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley, 96 Martin Ifedi
DT 92 Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Taniela Tupou
DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom
SLB 59 DeVondre Campbell, 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed, Jack Lynn
LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 52 Josh Keyes
WLB 36 Kemal Ishmael, 42 Duke Riley, 56 Jermaine Grace, 55 J’Terius Jones
CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds
NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson, 27 Damontae Kazee
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 41 Quincy Mauger
S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch
S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington
K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill
PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 18 Taylor Gabriel
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher