The success of Matt Ryan during his rookie campaign has brought us to the inevitable discussion of the “sophomore slump.”
I have read that defenses have film on Ryan so they will be more prepared, and that it will be difficult for Ryan to perform with raised expectations.
I have read about the Falcons' brutal schedule that features games against all AFC East and NFC East teams.
I have heard all of the arguments for a disappointing season from Ryan in 2009, but I am here to tell you that it just will not happen.
Barring injury, Matt Ryan will produce a monster season in 2009 and possibly lead the Falcons into Super Bowl contention, depending on the performance of the Falcons young defense.
Here are five reasons why Matt Ryan will absolutely avoid the dreaded “sophomore slump.”
I realize this comment reeks of a terrible cliché, but there is no better way to say it. Some quarterbacks thrive because of their physical tools, and other quarterbacks thrive because they do the work in the film room.
Matt Ryan is the kind of quarterback who will always do the work to be prepared on game day, and that is the kind of quarterback who will play consistently and improve from season to season.
On Matt’s first passing play in the NFL, he stepped to the line and identified the Lions defense as a soft three deep zone. Ryan calmly dropped back and fired a strike downfield to Michael Jenkins, who split the corner and the safety on a skinny post for a 62-yard touchdown.
Rookies do not make that pass, but Ryan was able to because he did his homework.
Hard work never slumps.
Michael Turner is the kind of running back that can consistently keep the chains moving, opening up opportunities for the play action pass. If teams are focused on stopping the Falcons passing game, Turner is going grind it out until the defense puts eight in a box.
When that happens, those defenses are going to get their feelings hurt.
Power running never slumps.
The Falcons have amassed a devastating array of weapons for Matt Ryan. Roddy White has developed into a legitimate No. 1 receiver, finishing in the top seven in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons.
Michael Jenkins is the kind of big physical receiver that can abuse smaller cornerbacks.
Harry Douglas is a rising star in the slot, and has shown the ability to take over a game, as he did against the Carolina Panthers in 2008.
Jerious Norwood provides an option out of the backfield that can turn a simple dump off into six points from any point on the field.
Tony Gonzales is simply the greatest tight end to ever put on a football uniform.
Overwhelming talent never slumps.
The Falcons offensive line was thought to be extremely suspect entering the 2008 season.
The left side entered the season with 14 NFL games of experience and the right side of the line consisted of two undrafted and unproven players.
Many thought Ryan would get killed if he started behind that line, but the Falcons set a franchise record by allowing only 17 sacks.
I do not want to take credit from the line, because they played well, but a big reason for the performance is Matt Ryan’s propensity for getting rid of the ball quickly.
It is a quality that most of the great quarterbacks have in common.
Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, John Elway, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady are all quarterbacks that exhibit this quality.
Marino, Elway, and Favre depended mostly on their physical skills and instinct, while Manning and Brady depend more on pre-snap reads to get the ball out of their hands quickly.
The result is the same, and Ryan proved himself to be the kind of passer that quickly gets the ball to his playmakers in 2008.
Quick decision making never slumps.
It is complete fiction. Think about the quarterbacks that have put together solid or great rookie seasons.
Dan Marino – went to the Super Bowl in his second season.
Ben Roethlesberger – went to the Super Bowl in his second season.
Peyton Manning – went 13-3 and had a QB rating of 90.7 in his second season.
Johnny Unitas – won MVP award in his second year.
Bob Griese – made Pro Bowl in second year.
All of the guys listed above are either in the Hall of Fame or they have won a Super Bowl, or both.
I’d like to give you a lot more examples of guys who had really good rookie seasons at quarterback, but the truth is it just does not happen that often, because it takes a special player to step in as a rookie at quarterback in the NFL and perform at a high level.
Matt Ryan is a special player.
Special does not slump.