A (slightly) stronger Matt Ryan will power the Falcons upward

He's a team leader, all right. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

He's a team leader, in more ways than one. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch – Matt Ryan changed his offseason workout regimen. Some interpreted this as the quarterback’s admission that he needs a stronger right arm. Sure enough, we watched the Falcons’ first two exhibitions for signs that Ryan was indeed throwing harder and longer. Sure enough, we thought — kind of, sort of — we saw such indications.

Which only makes Matt Ryan shake his head at the power of perception. Ryan has no idea if his right arm (or his left, for that matter) is markedly mightier, nor is he of the opinion that he was ever lacking in that area. “I kind of trained different,” he said, speaking after Monday’s practice. “I got a little heavier. I moved some weight from one place to another.”

From, say, his left hip to his right shoulder?

Said Ryan, laughing: “From fat to muscle.”

Then: “It’s a total-body thing. I just wanted to get a little bit stronger. And I feel great.”

Those in search of hand-wringing angst need not approach Matthew Thomas Ryan. He won’t apologize for his four seasons as a Falcon, and he shouldn’t. His team has won 43 of the 65 games he has started, and his career winning percentage (.662) puts him on a par with Aaron Rodgers (also .662) and ahead of Drew Brees (.599),  Eli Manning (.592) and Michael Vick (.578).

The difference being: Rodgers, Brees and Manning have won Super Bowls, and Vick led the Falcons to the NFC championship game in January 2005. Ryan is fully aware of his playoff record (0-3), but he doesn’t give the impression of someone given to night sweats at the memory of an interception he threw against the Packers. “From my perspective, [the playoff 0-for] is what it is,” he said. “It’s the nature of the league. … All I can do is do everything I can to give [the Falcons] another chance.”

There are reasons to believe the next chance will finally bear fruit. At 27, Ryan is a fully blooded professional. The offense around him has been tailored to him. Of even greater significance is the arrival of coordinator Dirk Koetter, who apparently sees in Ryan not a rookie fresh out of Boston College, but an NFL quarterback capable of doing all the things NFL quarterbacks must do.

Speaking of Ryan during June minicamp, Koetter said: “He has everything you want and more.” If two exhibitions are any measure (and exhibitions aren’t always a measure of much), the new coordinator plans to unleash Matty Ice. In those two practice games Ryan has thrown 34 passes, completing 27 for 329 yards and two touchdowns.

The whispers inside the building at 4400 Falcon Parkway is that a team that often seemed plodding under Mike Mularkey will plod no more, that Koetter’s intent is to throw first and get around to running the ball later. Asked if such a transformation is indeed in the works, Ryan lapses into the Ryan version of radio silence, meaning he politely dodges the question.

“It’s perception,” he said. “We had certain games last year when we passed to set up the run. Games dictate how things go.”

Also: “I think we played pretty fast last year. I respectfully suggest that we did do well in our tempo packages [meaning no-huddle looks].”

About Mularkey: “I was very fortunate to play for Mike. He helped me a ton those four years.” That said, Ryan conceded that working with Koetter offers “the benefit of a new set of eyes,” which is kind of the point.

Ryan on the new coordinator: “There has definitely been some constructive criticism. I’m not going to go into details, but we spent a lot of time together over the offseason. He’d ask me what am I comfortable doing, and he’d watch a lot of film and give me his assessment … Sometimes he’ll tell me that I do something very well, and other times he’ll say, ‘You might be giving yourself too much credit there.’”

It’s no understatement to suggest that this is a key year for the Falcons and their quarterback. Both have done well these past four seasons, but both feel the need to do more and to do it soon. But if Ryan indeed propels this team to postseason glory, it won’t be because he spent the winter turning into Charles Atlas.

He reports his current weight at 220 pounds. What was he last season? “Two-fifteen,” he said, and then he laughed again.

His point being: There’s no magic formula that will conjure up a Super Bowl run. There’s only hard work. The good news is that Matt Ryan has always been a hard worker. He’ll get there soon.

By Mark Bradley

118 comments Add your comment

Vick's Spicy Ribs

August 22nd, 2012
2:13 pm

Matty Slush

August 22nd, 2012
2:16 pm

Until Matty Slush proves he can win a post-season game I will continue to ignore his regular season accomplishments.

GATechRunsThisState

August 22nd, 2012
2:16 pm

Mark Bradley

August 22nd, 2012
2:17 pm

Kudos to Vick’s Spicy Ribs.

JudgeDredd

August 22nd, 2012
2:19 pm

LOL, tech runs NOTHING and likes it!

p.s. – you’re third – just like tech’s place in college football in this state.

dc74

August 22nd, 2012
2:22 pm

What a surprise…Bradley singing Ryan’s praises…again

ConyersDawg

August 22nd, 2012
2:22 pm

Great article Mark, looking for some big things this season (and post-season) from Matty Ice. Sounds like Matt’s been hitting P90X with Tony Horton. Glad to hear it.

Also laughing at the pathetic comment left by the techie and subsequently getting body-slammed by the Judge!

coachx

August 22nd, 2012
2:24 pm

Looking foward to seeing the changes in this offense:

1. Kotter’s new philosophy with more deep passes and screen passes to Rodgers, Julio, and White.
2. Less Turner early in the year so he can be better late in the season.
3. Juio in year 2 will be a beast.
4. White is still is a beast.
5. Gonzo is still a beast.
6. Mike Nolan is solid as the come.

The only worry for me is the offensive line. Can Baker stay healthy with Sivtek out for the year at LT ? Do we have a RG ? Reynolds was stature last season and Johnson can’t even impress coaches enough to get on the field. If our 2nd round pick can’t beat out Reynolds at RG then we are in trouble. One of these highly touted interior lineman have to step up.

The loss of the FB doesn’t bother me. I’d rather see more single back formations and more Pro Form 2 RB formations with Snelling and Rodgers on passing downs.

El Snipero

August 22nd, 2012
2:25 pm

Win a postseason game, Matty Ice. Then watch the haters say that Vick won more than one. LOL….fanatics…they won’t change their mind OR the subject.

coachx

August 22nd, 2012
2:25 pm

Funny stuff Judge.

Goldenrod

August 22nd, 2012
2:26 pm

Well – you jawja fans shop at Wal-Mart-and you know that!!!

Wake me up when the Buzzards score more than 2 points in a playoff game.

THWG

Atlanta Olympics 2020

August 22nd, 2012
2:27 pm

Superbowl or BUST!

Dirty Bird

August 22nd, 2012
2:35 pm

I see this Falcons’ team finishing 7-9 with the following results:

Wins:
@KC
Carolina
@Washington
Oakland
Arizona
@Carolina
Tampa Bay

Losses:
Denver
@San Diego
@Philly
Dallas
@New Orleans
@Tampa Bay
New Orleans
@NY Giants
@Detroit

Jimmy

August 22nd, 2012
2:38 pm

Until he can run for a 1st down on 3rd and 3, he will never be a fist tier quarterback (unless he changes his name to Peyton Manning). That’s just the nature of today’s NFL.

Come On Man!

August 22nd, 2012
2:38 pm

Dirty Bird – have you SEEN Tony Romo play? No WAY we lose that game with Dome Field advantage.

Looking at the schedule you posted I see us more like a 10-6 team after shocking either Denver or the Giants. Also Philly could be a win if the Vicktim continues to be injured.

Paddy

August 22nd, 2012
2:41 pm

Goldenrod……….doubt anyone on these AJC blogs will bother trying to wake you up for anything You seem to have a bad attitude and best left alone, so as not to bother the adults.

stevie zero

August 22nd, 2012
2:42 pm

dirty bird– there are lots of decaffienated brands out there that are just as tasty as the real thing

Dakota

August 22nd, 2012
2:46 pm

I’ve seen Goldenrod before, mainly trolling the UGA boards since tech can’t compete with Big Brother on the gridiron. Seems to be airing some of his (or her) hostilities here on the Falcons’ vent now. Typical techie.

Pie Hole

August 22nd, 2012
2:49 pm

There’s one reason Gonzo came back this season – to win a Super Bowl championship.

Call me crazy, but I think Sam Baker bounces back in a BIG way and protects Matty Ice enough to surge the Falcons into the playoffs with a 13-3 record and marches to go on and win the big dance!

Kristian Bush

August 22nd, 2012
2:54 pm

Dirk Koetter, is gonna make all things right! Falcons all the way!

Matty Ryan for NFL MVP!!!

Roymus

August 22nd, 2012
3:02 pm

Stevie…nice “Real Genius” reference. Took me a minute to come up with that.

Regarding Matt Ryan: My sense is that he is taking the criticism seriously and trying to do his best, but after watching his series so far in the preseason, I don’t see any real substantial improvement. He looks fine in set plays…quick passes, the old dink and dunk that he’s famous for…but if the play breaks down he’s still tentative and unable to extend the play. Going downfield will always be a challenge, but I’d be fine if he could just learn to think on his feet and create something out of nothing…it will always be my primary criticism of him, and is the one thing to me that is holding him back from elite status. Early in his career, Ryan used to receive kudos for throwing the ball away or taking a slide instead of a sack…but he’s a veteran now, every now and then he’s supposed to make something happen instead of playing it safe.

DJ Sniper

August 22nd, 2012
3:03 pm

Kinda hard to build a dynasty when you can’t even stay in 2 preseason games.

jay

August 22nd, 2012
3:04 pm

DJ Sniper

August 22nd, 2012
3:13 pm

Roymus, I have to slightly disagree with part of what you said. In the first 2 preseason games, I’ve seen Ryan get flushed out of the pocket, go on the run, and then fire the ball downfield. In the past, he would throw it away more often than I would like. So far, he looks pretty comfortable in Koetter’s system. Of course, you know teams aren’t gonna show everything in the preseason, so I wanna wait till the regular season to see everything that they’re gonna unleash.

Stiffneck

August 22nd, 2012
3:17 pm

Matt Ryan – good QB, not a great QB. Sad thing is, if he goes down this year with any serious injury there is NOT even an average QB to replace him.

Roymus

August 22nd, 2012
3:21 pm

DJ, I hope you’re right. As far as I’m concerned, Matt still has a lot to prove this season…and in the playoffs, obviously.

Jim Mora Sr

August 22nd, 2012
3:23 pm

Playoffs! If we do make it, Ryan will choke again. I really believed in Matt the first couple of years. However, he plays scared in big games. He is afraid to throw deep, and loves the dump pass for 5 yards when you need 10 for the first down. Also loves the WR screen where the WR has to fake out 2 or 3 defenders and run 10 yardsw for the first down. Tim Tebow has more playoff wins that Ryan. Even if Tebow doesn’t play this season, he’ll still have more than Ryan after this year.

HateBaseballButHateBravesEvenMore

August 22nd, 2012
3:23 pm

Keep tellin yourself that.

Jay

August 22nd, 2012
3:24 pm

Matt Ryan = Chad Pennington 2.0

nowwhat

August 22nd, 2012
3:37 pm

when will da falcons win again!!!

KC

August 22nd, 2012
3:44 pm

Sam Baker’s bounce back year = x-factor

GTT

August 22nd, 2012
4:00 pm

Why would beating Denver be an upset? Manning? Pffft. Whatever. Falcons were better before he got there and are better now.

Nativebird

August 22nd, 2012
4:22 pm

Guy throws for more yards and completions in a season than any Falcon QB in history and all these idiots are consumed with hating Ryan. This guy is a winner and will win mutliple superbowls before its done. The question is whether he will do it for Atlanta or not. If I’m Ryan? I’ve got my agent rejecting EVERY Atlanta offer till free agency, or until these cheap SOBs put a superbowl calibur o-line in front of me. Dimitroff and Smith are turning out to be this teams biggest achilles heal.

JK

August 22nd, 2012
4:26 pm

Let’s not forget. Two of the three teams that beat Matty and the Falcons in the playoffs won the Super Bowl. The other team went to the Super Bowl but lost. We have not exactly been getting easy draws.

Jt

August 22nd, 2012
4:30 pm

Mark- I will take any day a qb who is both physically talented and damn smart. And I will gladly settle for slightly above average physical skills if you give me above average smart. And Ryan fits that description. You start listing the top QB’s in the league and most fit that description. He is about to hit his prime.

Get Some New Unis

August 22nd, 2012
4:30 pm

With a “new” philosophy they need to get rid of those ugly uniforms …

GTMITGT

August 22nd, 2012
4:35 pm

Strength sounds great, but it’s not strength that you need, but arm velocity. Just like in golf, where you can’t weight lift your way from a 100 mph to a 125 mph driver velocity, you can’t get that on the football field, either. And, if you’re skeptical, see if you can weight lift your way from a 20″ vertical to a 40″ vertical.

Point being, Ryan may be a little sharper, but when I’m pulling for the Dirty Birds again in Philly this season, his passes will sound just like they did 2 years ago. No steam, no whistle.

Stick a fork in em

August 22nd, 2012
4:36 pm

DEFENSE will be their undoing. Too many weapons on O for Matty not to flourish this year!

Tom(Independent Viet Vet,USAF)

August 22nd, 2012
4:39 pm

When you say “slightly stronger” Matt Ryan, you do not mean stronger like Tim Tebow, do you?

Esquire

August 22nd, 2012
4:39 pm

No doubt gaining 5 lbs doing a strengthening program tells us he was working at getting better. So many variables go into a successful playoff run to the Big Dance. The Giants last year were 9-7, essentially not kicking in full gear until the playoffs. Matt Ryan can’t do it all by himself but just like last year we have the pieces to the puzzle if we can make them fit (and stay healthy). Ryan going 0-3, 1-4, 2-5 in the playoffs still doesn’t get you to the SB but sure would enjoy a run……..!!

Esquire

August 22nd, 2012
4:45 pm

Get Some New Unis
August 22nd, 2012
4:30 pm

With a “new” philosophy they need to get rid of those ugly uniforms …
_______________________________________________
I don’t care what they wear, just take the NFC South and advance in the Playoffs!

Tom(Independent Viet Vet,USAF)

August 22nd, 2012
4:47 pm

Dirty Bird@2:35 – We will not lose to Denver(Peyton’s 2nd game, he will be struggling at that point), Detroit or Tampa Bay. Several others you mentioned will be toss-ups if played at the Dome! I think we are going 10-6 or 9-7, depending on injuries to key players?

Peter

August 22nd, 2012
4:58 pm

I hope he is stronger, and mentally tougher.he will need it !

1990_Champs_GT

August 22nd, 2012
4:59 pm

I feel like the Aints will continue to be karma’s b!tch, so anything short of a NFC South title and a deep run in the playoffs this year is an epic fail.

But regarding Ryan, I think he and TD are still safe if they don’t win a playoff game or even get there. Coach Smith won’t have that cushion…

Oh, and Falcons 12-4 however you would like to slice it!

Waffle House

August 22nd, 2012
5:06 pm

It’s funny how for over 40 years this team has never had back to back winning seasons matter of fact name name the quaterback that has a better record in a 4 year span. People this is a team that has been on the door matt of the NFL for years be happy that they are moving in the right direction this is not the Pittsburg Steelers this is the Atlanta Falcons just 5 years ago the quaterback was in prison the team was a mess (4-12)record. So before you get so high and mighty on you’re horse remember where you came from and be happy that you can say winning team and thank Matt Ryan, Mike Smith, Thomas Dimitroff and Arthur Blank.

Coach Years Record Notes
Norb Hecker 1966–1968 4–26–1 (.129) Fired after three games in 1968.
Norm Van Brocklin 1968–1974 39–48–3 (.433) Fired after eight games in 1974.
Marion Campbell 1974–1976 6–19 (.240) Fired after five games in 1976.
Pat Peppler 1976 3–6 (.333) Interim head coach.
Leeman Bennett 1977–1982 46–41 (.529)
Dan Henning 1983–1986 22–41–1 (.344)
Marion Campbell 1987–1989 11–36 (.234) Retired after 12 games in 1989.
Jim Hanifan 1989 0–4 (.000) Interim head coach.
Jerry Glanville 1990–1993 27–37 (.422)
June Jones 1994–1996 19–29 (.396)
Dan Reeves 1997–2003 49–59–1 (.450) Fired after 13 games in 2003.
Wade Phillips 2003 2–1 (.667) Interim head coach.
Jim Mora 2004–2006 26–22 (.542)
Bobby Petrino 2007 3–10 (.231) Resigned after 13 games to take over Arkansas Razorbacks.
Emmitt Thomas 2007 1–2 (.333) Interim head coach.
Mike Smith 2008–Present 43–23 (.652)

Whopper Dawg

August 22nd, 2012
5:07 pm

He is plenty good enough. I don’t think the success of failure will ride on Ryan, he will do his part.

It is the lines. Both of them. Can’t block, can’t pass rush.

Hard, hard to win against the better teams when that is the case.

1990_Champs_GT

August 22nd, 2012
5:08 pm

And is that 220 pounds on Ryan, or is it 220 pounds of “Twisted steel and sex appeal” like Dusty Rhodes would say?

Michael M.

August 22nd, 2012
5:11 pm

Say slightly ?……………….Go back and look at 2009,2010 and 2011 games if you can, or have access to them, as for me, I checked it out on the NFL Preseason thing………..anyway, looking at those old preseason games……………oh yeah you can see a huge difference in him so far in 2012 than back then in the way he is moving around more and hitting those receivers with fewer drops and not just stuffing the ball in Turner’s breadbasket either. He is building confidence more and more every year………………now I showed him some love…….ha !……………..now get out on the field Ryan and hit those high-valued targets Blank surrounded you with.

David

August 22nd, 2012
5:13 pm

I smell loser Saint trolls on this blog again. Loser Saint trolls, go play on loser Saint blogs, or go pound sand.

Big Ron

August 22nd, 2012
5:17 pm

Are u some of u people nuts??? 9-7 or 8-8 please i see 11 wins maybe 12 we can easily the first 8 games to me going 10-6 is kind of a disappointment every year a schedule seems tough but it will soften it does get tough at the end but i think we can pull Em out final prediction 11-5