- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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Such won't be the case going into Sunday's season opener against the New Orleans Saints, with Julio Jones and Roddy White healthy and Harry Douglas back off a great season. Sprinkle in elusive newcomer Devin Hester, and Ryan has even more explosiveness to work with.
It should allow Ryan to set the offensive tempo.
"When you have veteran guys out there that have been in this game for a long time, I think it allows you to be more multiple than when you have young guys out there," Ryan said Wednesday. "So having those guys back on the field is big for us. It gives us our full complement of what we want to do offensively. It allows us to go as fast or as slow as we want to go."
Although the no-huddle and fast pace might work to the Falcons' advantage against many opponents, extended scoring drives might be more logical to keep dynamic quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints off the field. The Falcons were able to accomplish such during the last meeting between the teams, as Ryan attempted 39 passes while the running backs combined for 20 rushing attempts. The Falcons won the time of possession battle, 33:46 to 26:14, although they lost the game, 17-13.
"Certainly when you go against a good offense and a great quarterback like Drew Brees, time of possession can factor into success," Ryan said. "Hopefully we'll be able to get out there, get the run game established, and that really will set things up for us."
The one component Ryan will miss this season, of course, is tight end Tony Gonzalez, who retired.
"Obviously, you'd love to have Tony," Ryan said. "And we're going to miss him because of the production that he brought to the table. But in order to replace that, I think schematically, we have to be a little bit different, because we don't have Tony's skill set on one individual in our offense. But we can use different guys to make up for that. And Devin, obviously being a new guy, I think he'll be part of that mix of finding different ways to recreate the production that Tony provided for us for the last five seasons."