In order to do so, they signed RB Michael Turner in the offseason. They needed a workhorse to tote the rock and a workhorse is exactly what they found in Turner.
In 2008, the Falcons ran the ball so effectively that it seemed as though the only passes Ryan attempted came on play action.
A normal Atlanta drive would go something like this: Turner off left guard, Turner off right tackle, play action pass to WR Roddy White, Turner off right tackle, Turner behind center, play action pass to WR Michael Jenkins.
Somewhere in the drive, Turner would either bust a long run or Ryan would catch the defense looking in the backfield and throw one deep to White streaking down the sideline.
The only player on the Falcon's roster to catch over 20 passes and not play wide receiver was RB Jerious Norwood with 36 receptions.
That is sure to change with the acquisition of TE Tony Gonzalez from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Last season, Atlanta's three TEs caught a total of 19 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Definitely not great numbers for one TE, much less three.
Gonzalez, the future Hall of Fame TE, caught 96 passes for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Over his career, Gonzalez has averaged 76 receptions for 912 yards and six touchdowns.
His last two years have been two of his most productive years. Both years he caught more than 95 passes and 1,000 yards.
Ryan is sure to have another stellar year under center. When he drops back to pass in a three wide receiver set on third down, he will have White and Jenkins streaking down the sidelines, Gonzalez down the seam in the middle, and Norwood out in the flat.
Play action is sure to be even more deadly that before as Ryan will have four options, instead of three, to throw to down field.
Opposing defenses will have their hands full picking who to cover with linebackers and safeties. Both Norwood and Gonzalez create matchup problems and are hard to defend with just a linebacker.
The Falcons will still set up everything they run with Turner and the running game, but the new and improved aerial attack should be fun to watch in 2009.
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