It’s time for Falcons to turn Matt Ryan loose with offense

Expect the Falcons to take the clamps off of quarterback Matt Ryan a little this season.

Expect the Falcons to take the clamps off of quarterback Matt Ryan a little this season.

FLOWERY BRANCH — The oldish-looking coach who has been accused of putting his quarterback in leg shackles and handcuffs insists that his reputation is undeserved.

“Everybody may have this vision that coach Smith is a 50-plus-year-old, gray-haired conservative guy,” Mike Smith said Tuesday. “But that’s not the case. By nature, I am not a conservative person. We are going to be aggressive and we are going to be physical.”

With Smith as their head coach and Matt Ryan as their quarterback, the Falcons have gone 33-15, easily the best three-year run in franchise history. So criticism obviously is in short supply. But with two quick playoff exits and Ryan fizzling in both postseason games — four interceptions, two fumbles, two turnovers returned for touchdowns – shortcomings tend to get magnified by the populace.

Some of the postseason problems obviously fall on Ryan. But general manager Thomas Dimitroff recognized that his team needed another weapon on offense, leading to draft day pyrotechnics and the selection of Julio Jones. Now the team needs to make another change — this one more philosophical.

The Falcons go as Ryan goes, and the only way we’re going to know just how far they can go is if they put more in the hands of their quarterback and open up the offense. With Roddy White on one side, Jones on the other, Tony Gonzalez in the middle, the addition of running back Jacquizz Rodgers and the expected improvement of receiver Harry Douglas, the Falcons have the potential to be as explosive as any offense in the NFL.

Ryan is not one to complain. Fact is, there hasn’t been much to complain about. But we’ve seen before what can happen when the Falcons have turned Ryan loose. Wins at New Orleans and Green Bay in 2008, and over Cincinnati and Baltimore last season come to mind.

Notwithstanding Smith’s contention that he is not conservative, there’s a sense in Flowery Branch that offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey resides to Smith’s left.

Ryan said with the addition of Jones, “It probably changes what we do a little bit. You change to the personnel you have.”

When asked if there have been times when he has wanted the offense to be more aggressive, Ryan said, “You can’t be frustrated as a player. There was no dissension or anything like that. I think everyone was on board. Winning 13 games [last season] the way we did it is not an easy thing to do. But I think this year things probably will be a little bit different.”

White already has seen a difference in training camp, saying: “We have to throw the ball down field, and in the first five practices we’ve done that a lot — more go routes, more posts, a lot more things down the field to get guys open.”

Ryan realizes it’s on him to make it work.

Last year’s playoff loss to Green Bay stuck with him through the offseason. He had two key first-half interceptions against the Packers by Tramon Williams: one from the Green Bay 26 when he attempted to hit Michael Jenkins in the end zone (the score was tied 14-14) and the other, a crusher, when he misfired on a sideline pass to White just before halftime, and Williams picked it off and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown (make it 28-14).

“That’s the one that keep you up at night,” Ryan said. “When you’re in that position, especially before the half, it’s such a critical time in the game and you can’t make mistakes.”

Some of Ryan’s critics think the Falcons have protected him, that he doesn’t have the arm strength to operate a more wide-open offense. But that ignores evidence to the contrary. Playoff turnovers have been about mistakes, not arm strength. Smith certainly believes in him.

“I’m not going to give away state secrets,” he said. “But when you draft a player with [Jones'] skill set, it creates a different dynamic on your football team. That’s something we’ve embraced.”

It should be a show worth watching.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

212 comments Add your comment

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:28 pm

Yeah Cheffy’s first!

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:30 pm

Julio will either prove or disprove his arm strength.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:31 pm

Trifecta time!

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:32 pm

Jeff, just call me on the phone, we’ll talk.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:34 pm

he’s got a big winde up.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:35 pm

Jeff, FGS, send me an IPad.

Rikus

August 2nd, 2011
5:35 pm

Damn straight. Let the dogs loose!!! (2nd)

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:36 pm

Not saying he’s got a KK arm at all.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:38 pm

Rikus has joined the convo..EXCELLENT!

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:41 pm

And the COUNT doesn’t even know I exist. FOR SHAME!

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
5:42 pm

I’m batting 8th tonight.

Rikus

August 2nd, 2011
5:45 pm

Chef, what you cooking tonight? I’m getting hungry…

Seen (Sean Payton) This (cross picket lines and play as a scab) B4

August 2nd, 2011
5:45 pm

If anyone had told me three years ago that we’d have 33 wins over the next 3 seasons, I would have called them crazy. The two playoff losses have obscured what an amazing job this regime has done to rebuild the team. As we approach years 4 and 5, though, expectations are justifiably high and we need to win and go deep in the playoffs. It won’t be easy–the NFC is now the premier conference–but it can be done. GEAUX PAINKILLERS!

JEM

August 2nd, 2011
5:47 pm

yeah come on

Rev Jim Hicks

August 2nd, 2011
5:51 pm

Ryan has pretty good arm strength. He’s no Bartkowski in arm strength but can air it out when he has to. If Harry Douglas can be the player he was in ‘08 it will be very interesting with both White and Julio in the arsenal.

Bob Rathbun

August 2nd, 2011
5:57 pm

WOOOOOOOOH, Cant wait baby!!

DJ Sniper

August 2nd, 2011
5:57 pm

Can we please put this issue to bed? The issue being Matt Ryan’s arm strength. I’ll be the first to admit that his arm may not be a cannon like Aaron Rogers or Mike Vick, but Ryan has plenty of arm strength to get the ball downfield. I’ve seen him unload some deep balls during his first 3 years. Some have been on target, while some haven’t, but there’s no question that he can do it.

If Mike Mularkey truly does open things up, then our offense will be something to behold in 2011!

Larry

August 2nd, 2011
6:02 pm

This team will only go as far as Ryan takes them.

Don’t believe it? Just plug in Redman or Parker and see the difference!

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
6:09 pm

Rikus: May not be appatizing but hopefully, Smoked Nats.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
6:10 pm

Larry: A JPW refference, how refreshing!

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
6:12 pm

BTW, I’m standing in for Jeff on this blog. Fire away!

Runner-

August 2nd, 2011
6:12 pm

WOO WOO number 19 in da house

ohhhhYEAH

August 2nd, 2011
6:13 pm

I just hope Ryan keeps doin what he’s been doin. He will be fine. He has all the talent in the world that one needs to operate an offense in this league successfully

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
6:19 pm

WOO WOO: KUDO”s ( yeah, I’ll steal)!

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
6:22 pm

RANDY(the late) SAVAGE: I’m with you Ryan, let the game come to you.

rms

August 2nd, 2011
6:26 pm

hopefully our offensive line holds up. Gotta have a stout offensive line to be able to throw deep routes!!

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 2nd, 2011
6:28 pm

Jeff, hope you’re enjoying dinner.

Back in 2 and 2. ( Get it?)

A HIT....

August 2nd, 2011
6:31 pm

Slow of foot, Low pocket presence, Average arm…aka Matty meltdown….yawn

Fire Mike M.(Offensive coordinator)!

Previous Blog,
“A HIT….

August 2nd, 2011
5:02 pm

“Eagles sign former Dolphins RB Brown to 1-year deal
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Tuesday, August 02, 2011, 4:37pm
byline-frank.jpg
By Reuben Frank
CSNPhilly.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa — The Eagles on Monday found the veteran tailback they’ve been looking for, agreeing to a one-year contract with former Miami Dolphin Ronnie Brown.

Brown, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2006, had 4,815 rushing yards, 36 rushing touchdowns and a 4.3 average in six seasons with the Dolphins, who made him the second pick in the 2005 draft out of Auburn.

Brown is also an outstanding receiver, with 184 receptions for 1,491 yards. He’s had 30 or more catches in five of his six seasons.

Last year, Brown averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per carry with five touchdowns. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2008, when he rushed for 916 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 33 passes for 254 yards. Brown has also thrown two touchdown passes.

(More coming…)” The rich get richer!!! Are you kiddin me? Another Pro-bowler? Dream Team!

Eagles 45, Falcons 18! Sun night Sept. 18th @ 8:20pm on NBC!Vick 2012 MVP!”

Kirk

August 2nd, 2011
6:47 pm

If you are an eagles fan, go blow your crap on an eagles blog. Go Falcons!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

August 2nd, 2011
6:57 pm

Ryan certainly has the armstrength. I think the Falcons love the fact that Turner can grind the ball out successfully and have failed to fully utilize Ryan as a direct result. The GB lose exposed that to a degree as the Falcons lacked that comeback big play air threat. Ryan is progessing perfectly in the lines of NFL great QB’s. Just go through the history of QB’s and it is a pattern. Ryan will be fine this year, he is the least of my concerns.

Puma

August 2nd, 2011
7:06 pm

Agreed Lowcountry – I think there has always been an effort to control the ball and clock to protect the fragile defense which has always been questionable. Hopefully our new DE will make a difference.

Dawg Tired

August 2nd, 2011
7:07 pm

Jim "Cannonball" Butler

August 2nd, 2011
7:11 pm

`
Ryan is not a Loose Cannon. Yes, Ryan will be fine this year.

Seattle Falcons Fan

August 2nd, 2011
7:23 pm

Mark my words…… Its only a matter of time before Vick gets hurt…….. He is nothing without his legs! I’m more scared of GB and the Saints than the Eagles…

P-Man

August 2nd, 2011
7:25 pm

Going to be a great year. Go Falcons!

Drunk Frat Boy

August 2nd, 2011
7:29 pm

I’m Drunk Frat Boy and I approve of this message.

SeenThisB4

August 2nd, 2011
7:30 pm

The falcan’ts are rapidly becoming the FALCANS. I never thought I would be saying this, but my Saints are falling further and further down the food chain. I am truly concerned that we may not win a single game this year. This Falcon’s teams has made all the right moves so far this offseason. Please don’t run the scores up. GEAUX SAINTS

Trey

August 2nd, 2011
7:35 pm

Jeff why don’t you just shut up. You don’t have a clue about sports. You think the braves can catch philly. Then they lose 2 in a row and it’s about to be 3 and to crap teams. And you think the falcons should turn lose a qb who has shown very little in regards to game management? Yeah that last game sure was a doozy. Knock it off and stick to number crunching and stop the prognosticating.

Seattle Falcons Fan

August 2nd, 2011
7:36 pm

Why is everyone down on Grimes (not his wife)? Snelling is doing the same thing and Daul took off….

Trey's Mom

August 2nd, 2011
7:39 pm

Trey, I told you to turn off the computer and clean your room. Careful or it’s off to military school for you young man!

SeenThisB4

August 2nd, 2011
7:40 pm

@Trey- Please tell me what prognosticating is. Is that the same thing as when you need to go to the bathroom but can’t. GEAUX SAINTS

DrJ

August 2nd, 2011
7:43 pm

Enjoyed reading a well-written football article, in contrast to the other ajc blog about housewives!
And it looks like you proofread before publishing….

Joe Tess Fish House

August 2nd, 2011
7:47 pm

Mat Ryan throughs 2 many INTS as it is no way should they turn him loose.

Stevie B

August 2nd, 2011
7:51 pm

Second that DrJ. I am disappointed in DOL. Certainly there was something else to report. I would have rather read “Falcons Changed Fertilizer Blend: Now Grass is Greener!”

jerry

August 2nd, 2011
8:04 pm

With Jones and Rodgers, there is now potential to get a lot of yards after the catch, which has been sorely lacking. It may not be necessary to turn Ryan into the Mad Bomber.

Gatorman

August 2nd, 2011
8:17 pm

I disagree with the analogy completely. Gunslinger mentality is great for highlights, but seldom wins championships. However, the offense needs to get out the dink and dunk play calling from Mularkey. Some say, look at their last three year records, best in the history of the franchise. The problem with that is a wild card team won the superbowl, but coming back to Atlanta (after losing earlier) and totally dominated the team (all of it). The playoffs are a second season, and teams need to adapt/change habits they got into during the regular season and give the opposition nothing to study and stop. Green Bay did that to Atlanta and the Falcons never changed up the offense or the defense.

Najeh Davenpoop

August 2nd, 2011
8:18 pm

“Some of Ryan’s critics think the Falcons have protected him, that he doesn’t have the arm strength to operate a more wide-open offense. But that ignores evidence to the contrary. Playoff turnovers have been about mistakes, not arm strength. ”

The first pick he threw against Green Bay was ENTIRELY about arm strength. For a quarterback with elite arm strength, that’s an easy touchdown. No reason that ball had to float in the air for so long and allow the corner to catch up to it in the end zone.

To be clear, plenty of quarterbacks have had long and successful careers with average arm strength, and Matt Ryan may be the next in line. It’s also not out of the question that he might be able to increase his arm strength as his career progresses, although I can’t think of any examples of players who have done this before. But there is plenty of evidence to show that his arm strength right now is far from elite. There’s a reason the offense hasn’t “opened up” to this point in his career.

Nathan D

August 2nd, 2011
8:21 pm

i agree with jones and rodgers we should be great on offense now the defense to be better assumingy edwards get some sacks is that jerry and spoon need be impact players and robinson with his contract should really be better he only had one INT lasat year. Grimes needs to stop being a butt and join the falcons in camp.

TROTTINGHOME

August 2nd, 2011
8:48 pm

Didn’t you say that last year shultz

denverfalcon

August 2nd, 2011
8:53 pm

Seattle Falcon, The reason people are down on Grimes and not Snelling and Dahl is that Grimes is still under contract. He’s a restricted FA and has been tendered so therefore has one year left on his deal. Snelling and Dahl were unrestricted and could walk. Yes, Grimes can’t practice until Thursday, but he could attend meetings if only he were to sign his tender. He should be smart enough to understand that the Falcons are trying to get the unrestricted guys signed first and would most likely reup him during the season.