While the buzz around Atlanta lately has been about why the Falcons haven't won a game in the playoffs, people are forgetting to focus on why they will be winning one this year. Matt Ryan is going to have a breakout year to make that happen.
A couple things to look at when evaluating Ryan are how he is one of the hardest workers in the business, the competition faced when the Falcons were in the playoffs and his regular season abilities combined with his potential under a better play-caller—himself.
In the offseason, the Falcons signal caller has been working out trying to bulk up for a deeper run in to the playoffs. D. Orlando Ledbetter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Ryan as saying:
“Every year, I try and pick a couple of things that I’d like to do better. One of the things this year is getting in a little-bit better shape and better condition going into the season.”
Ryan working as hard as he is in the offseason will only mean good things. With the dynamic combination at receiver that is Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas, fans can only expect to see an explosive offense coming out of the Falcons this season.
Oh, and that Tony Gonzalez guy is pretty good too. Add in the new offensive adjustments that Dirk Koetter will be implementing as offensive coordinator, and Ryan's work ethic will only help. Ryan is known as a gym rat, the kind of guy who spends hours in the gym both at home and at work.
Ryan is also one of those guys that comes in early, stays late and gets his teammates to join him in doing so because he understands that it's the only way to truly get better in today's NFL. Then again, he's a hard worker with excellent weapons, but why hasn't he won a playoff game yet?
As Pete Prisco noticed, the Falcons have played the eventual NFC champion during their last three trips to the playoffs. The Falcons have also played the last two Super Bowl champions in the first round in the playoffs in each of the past two years.
"I don't think about it too much," Ryan said this week when I asked him about the playoff failures. "My focus is to try to become a better player, doing the things I need to do. It's not about winning playoff games. It's about winning championships."
And for Ryan to win those championships, the Falcons have needed to make a change for two years now: offensive coordinator. While Mike Mularkey is a great developer of quarterbacks, his biggest issue is play-calling once his quarterbacks are finally ready.
Mularkey has moved on to Jacksonville to be the head coach and de facto offensive coordinator, and to take his place, Koetter took over the Atlanta offensive coordinator spot. Koetter's offense isn't too much different than Mularkey's, but it does include a lot more screens and vertical passes.
Koetter still likes a pounding running game and a lot of the same intermediate and short routes that Ryan has been able to perfect throwing during his short time in the NFL. But another thing to note is that the play-calling is completely different.
Not only will Koetter be the main play-caller, but as NFL.com's Greg Rosenthal notes, the Falcons will be using a lot more no-huddle offense. The no-huddle was one of the strengths of the Falcons in the 2011 season.
Ryan was at his best calling his own plays and catching the defense off guard, and the combination of more no-huddle, a new coordinator and his work ethic should give the Falcons a much better offense in 2012 and lead Ryan to the best season of his career, again.