(Over the offseason, we’ll take a look at each of the position groups. Today, we look at the quarterbacks.)
FLOWERY BRANCH —Matt Ryan is determined to have a bounce-back season.
Ryan has spent a great deal of his time this offseason trying to master the footwork in the outside zone scheme. He believes that he can fix a lot of the things that led to his interceptions last season.
Also, having a veteran center Alex Mack should help immensely with the ball handling.
Ryan sat down with Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz to watch some film of his play from last season. The story helped to explain how the offense struggled after the 6-1 start last season.
The Falcons have three quarterbacks behind Ryan in Matt Schaub, Sean Renfree and Matt Simms.
Schaub was signed in the offseason. The former Falcon played and flourished in the offense while with the Houston Texans from 2007 to 2013.
Ryan believes having Schaub will help the offense.
Schaub had one of his best seasons as a pro under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan while with the Houston Texans in 2009.
“It’s great to have Matt Schaub back,” Ryan said. “His experience, a guy who’s been here in Atlanta before, it’s fun to be a part of that. He’s a guy who can really help me.”
Schaub will have to beat out Sean Renfree and Matt Simms to be the No. 2 quarterback. The Falcons could elect to carry three signal-callers and have Schaub as kind of a player-coach.
Ryan had an experienced backup in Chris Redman from 2008-11.
In 2012, the Falcons carried three quarterbacks, with Luke McCown and Dominique Davis behind Ryan. In 2013, Davis held the backup spot. In 2014, the Falcons released Davis after trading for T.J. Yates. Last season, Renfree beat out Yates, and there was the Rex Grossman training-camp experiment.
Schaub, 34, who was selected by the Falcons in the third round (90th overall) of the 2004 draft, has played in 141 games and made 92 starts. The former Virginia star has posted a 47-45 record as a starter.
After playing seven seasons with the Texans, he played a season in Oakland and last season with Baltimore, where he was 1-1 over two starts.
“He’s been in the fire and will be able to see some things from a different perspective and be able to help me prepare during the week,” Ryan said. “I’m really excited about Matt being here.”
Schaub believes he can be an asset.
“I’m excited to be back,” Schaub said. “I’m excited to be back in this city and this town. … I’m looking forward to contributing and helping out wherever I can.”
Shanahan was Schaub’s quarterback coach in 2007. He was his offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009 before leaving for Washington. Schaub had a mega-season under Shanahan in 2009, when he led the league with 396 completions, 583 attempts, 4,770 yards passing and 298.1 yards passing per game. He also tossed 29 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions and went to his first Pro Bowl. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in 2013.
“My prior relationship with Kyle and my knowledge of how he operates and functions in this offense (should help),” Schaub said. “I just hope that I can help Matt out and help the young guys come along because we are a young team.”
Renfree was the backup the past three seasons. He played in two games last season and was 3 of 7 for 11 yards and had one interception.
Simms, after spending last season on the practice squad, is fighting for a roster spot.
He did enough for the Falcons to re-sign him over the offseason in January.
The Falcons like Simms’ arm strength and his ability to make plays on the move.
Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur believes Simms is in a prime position to compete for a roster spot.
“This is his first real chance at our system and he has to make the most of every opportunity that he gets on the field,” LaFleur said. “It’s going to be a competitive situation and they all are going to get opportunities in the (exhibition) season to show what they can do.”
2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 12 Sean Renfree, 1 Matt Simms
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