Can Matt Ryan Improve Now Under OC Kyle Shanahan?


Matt Ryan enters his 8th NFL season as the Atlanta Falcons franchise QB.  He has taken his team to the playoffs four times in seven seasons and has earned three Pro Bowl selections.  Ryan has surpassed Steve Bartkowski as the Falcons franchise leader in most statistical passing categories, all before his 30th birthday.  It’s not hard to argue that Matt Ryan is an elite NFL passer.  But can he still find ways to improve now under new Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan this season?

-= Related: Kyle Shanahan Wants A Balanced Offense In Atlanta =-

Shanahan comes to Atlanta via a brief, one-tenure in Cleveland.  Kyle is the son of two-time Super Bowl HC with the Denver Broncos Mike Shanahan.  Though Kyle is a former wide receiver, much of his success in his previous seven seasons as an offensive coordinator have come from his zone blocking running scheme.  Just about any decent tailback can rush for 1,000 yards in a Shanahan offense.

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  • Kyle has never had a passer like Matt Ryan.  Sure, Matt Schaub had his best seasons in the NFL with the Houston Texans when Shanahan was calling the plays and Robert Griffin, III had a terrific rookie season with the Washington Redskins in 2012.  But Matt Ryan is by far and away the most consistent passer Kyle Shanahan will have ever worked with as an NFL coordinator.

    Ryan thrived in Dirk Koetter’s pass heavy aerial attack these last few seasons.  Only Peyton Manning seemed to have a greater and more consistent command of the hurry-up offense.  Even under intense duress due to a porous offensive line the last few years, Ryan has thrown for over 4,500 yards and 26 touchdowns in the previous four seasons.

    In theory, Matt Ryan will not pass as often under Shanahan as he had to under Koetter.  Even having to attempt over 600 passes in each season under Koetter, Ryan still had his three highest completion percentages as a professional, all over 65%.  So limiting Ryan’s pass attempts won’t make him a better passer statistically.  I don’t think throwing the ball only 550 times is going to make Ryan a 70% passer as he’s nearly there anyway.

    But I do think that with the help of an improved running game, Ryan would be able to execute believable play-action fakes in Shanahan’s offense.  Nobody was buying it in Koetter’s lack there of running game.  So perhaps Ryan can improve on his deep ball accuracy with the help of actually getting linebackers to bite on a play action.  I’m not saying that Ryan will sell a play-action fake like Tony Romo or develop as lethal of a deep ball as Joe Flacco, but Ryan could see improvement in both of those facets of his game.

    Matt Ryan could also benefit from using his under-appreciated athleticism to run bootlegs on third downs and in red zone situations.  Ryan played three varsity sports in high school (football, baseball, and basketball) so he is more of an athlete that he gets credit for.  I think running an occasional bootleg to extend plays could help create more throwing lanes for Ryan.  Edge players would have to now account for his newfound mobility.  I see it as a way to get the tight ends more involved in the passing game this year with quick dump passes on a bootleg from Ryan.

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    It’s these little things that Matt Ryan can improve on in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.  Though his overall passing numbers might digress from where they have been the last three seasons, I think Ryan will be okay with what Shanahan wants to do: have a balanced offensive attack.  When the Falcons can run the football to open up the pass, not the other way around, the team usually has a great chance of making the playoffs.

    It will be interesting to see how Ryan and Shanahan work together in Atlanta this season.  But so far, they both seem like they are on the same page.  Both men want to win as many games as they can for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 with a balanced offensive attack.

    Next: Could TE Be a Strength for The Falcons?

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