Atlanta Falcons: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Quarterback
Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback Matt Ryan is the franchise. Everyone knows that. But what they don't know is how dire the situation is at backup quarterback. The Falcons have some position groups that are exceptionally deep—like interior defensive linemen—but quarterback isn't one of them.
The current Falcons group consists of Ryan, longtime Ryan backup Dominique Davis, Duke resuscitator Sean Renfree and Cornell's Ryan-clone in Jeff Mathews. Atlanta has some raw talent, but there isn't a guy who breeds confidence should Ryan go down.
Matt Ryan, the Franchise Starter
The Atlanta Falcons are 60-34 in games that Matt Ryan has started. He has over 23,000 yards passing to go with 153 career passing touchdowns. He also averages just 12.8 interceptions every season as a professional—one of the lowest of every starting NFL quarterback.
The best thing that Ryan provides isn't on the field, though. It's off of it. He's the ideal face of a franchise. He's a fiery leader and the unquestioned field general that the Falcons had been missing since the retirement of Steve Bartkowski.
Ryan was eaten up too much last year after getting sacked 44 times and hit another 40 on top of that. Atlanta knew that was unacceptable and decided to fix the offensive line. Hopefully, this allows Ryan to play every snap this year and lead the offense properly. Because if he goes down, the situation is ugly.
Dominique Davis, the Leader for the Backup Job
The Atlanta Falcons gave Dominique Davis the first shot at being Matt Ryan's backup after the Falcons got rid of veterans Chris Redman and Luke McCown. Davis has shown very little in the preseason going against backups and even less in the limited action he saw during the 2013 lost season.
Davis has all the physical tools that say he should be good. He's 6'3", 210 pounds. He's got great mobility and isn't afraid to take off and run with the ball. The issue comes from his passing accuracy and the lack of improvement from his college days.
The East Carolina product was once Ryan's backup at Boston College before he transferred. But there's really no reason for him to win the primary backup role if Sean Renfree or Jeff Mathews shows more in the preseason. Davis is a talented player, but he'd be better as a starting CFL quarterback than an NFL backup.
Sean Renfree, the Quarterback Who Turned Duke Around
Sean Renfree made the roster in 2013 as an injured reserve player. He had issues with a shoulder injury that he suffered during his senior year of college. The Falcons were able to get some good plays out of him in the preseason, but they will need some improvement from him this preseason.
In college, the Duke product completely resuscitated a program that was floundering at the time. Unfortunately, he didn't show enough to be likely considered anything more than a solid backup in the NFL because he has potential, but nothing that jumps off the page.
He doesn't have the monster arm that Jeff Mathews has. He doesn't have the mobility that Dominique Davis has. The Falcons have a talent here, but if they don't develop him, he's going to be nothing more than third string—at best.
Jeff Mathews, the Closest Thing to Matt Ryan on the Roster, with a Stronger Arm
Matt Ryan has a good NFL arm. It's not a cannon, but it's closer to what Peyton Manning has. A mid-range-strength arm with great accuracy. However, Jeff Mathews has a trebuchet attached to his shoulder. He can launch a ball and has great zip on it in mid- and short ranges.
Mathews also has the same kind of ideal frame that Ryan possesses. As a player, the skill set Mathews has is much closer to a Drew Bledsoe or Joe Flacco than anyone else. He's an ideal-sized, strong-armed statue in the backfield.
The biggest issue he has is an inability to handle a rush. The Falcons should be able to protect him there with the improved offensive line. The other question comes from Mathews' ability to transition from the Ivy League to the NFL. He will have to jump up quickly to make it higher than the practice squad.
All stats used are from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN.com, CFBStats or NFL.com. All combine and pro-day info is courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, college football, the NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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