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Falcons need to let Ryan be explosive

8/3/2011

This Jeff Schultz column really caught my eye this morning. Schultz writes that it’s time for the Atlanta Falcons to turn quarterback Matt Ryan loose.

I couldn’t agree with Schultz more, and I’ve been saying the same thing all offseason and, as best as I can recall, all of last offseason. There no longer is any reason to place any limitations on Ryan. It’s time to take the gloves off.

The kid came into the league in 2008 looking like Peyton Manning when the Falcons let him run the no-huddle offense. I thought they’d let him run it more and more the past two seasons, but that hasn’t been the case. That needs to change.

Ryan also can throw the deep ball, but the Falcons really haven’t let him do that. Instead, he spent too much time last year dumping off passes to tight end Tony Gonzalez and that wasn’t generating much after the catch.

Ryan’s got three years of experience now and, although he’s won a lot of regular-season games, he’s yet to win a playoff game. There’s a reason for that. The Falcons haven’t let him win a playoff game because they went against Arizona in his rookie season and against Green Bay last year with game plans that didn’t really give Ryan a chance to shine.

In talking with people on the coaching staff and front office this offseason, I’ve gotten the impression they realize it’s time to make some slight changes. Coordinator Mike Mularkey doesn’t have to blow up his playbook and start from scratch. He just needs to make some strategic tweaks and, more than anything, some slight philosophical changes.

He needs to let Ryan throw downfield more often and the Falcons have set the wheels in motion for that. They drafted receiver Julio Jones and sent Michael Jenkins, who couldn’t get downfield unless it was as a pass-blocker, packing. Jones should be able to be the kind of “explosive’’ player the Falcons talked about so much during the offseason. And they’ve got a proven explosive receiver in Roddy White.

Let Ryan chuck the ball downfield to those two guys. Keep Gonzalez as a safety valve, but don’t use him as a crutch. Run Michael Turner a reasonable amount because he’s good, but work rookie Jacquizz Rodgers into the lineup. He can catch passes out of the backfield and could also fit the profile of an explosive player.

Mularkey also needs to scrap the rollouts. Ryan doesn’t really like them and isn’t all that great at them. Let Ryan simply drop back and throw downfield.

If the Falcons handle this thing right, they’ll have added another explosive player. That will be Ryan and, if he’s allowed to do more, he just might be the most explosive Falcon of all.