Matt Ryan has been a popular topic around the NFL among not only Falcons fans, but writers around the league. Everyone seems to say the same thing: Ryan needs to lead the Falcons to a playoff win ASAP.
I couldn’t agree more, but at some point it is just piling on. Maybe it is because I am so close to the situation writing daily about the Falcons, and thinking about the Falcons whenever I’m not writing, but I am wearied by constantly hearing Ryan hasn’t done enough, etc. We could go on and on about why it hasn’t happened for him yet. I could counter all negative pundits with why he will be successful very soon. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about here.
ESPN.com’s writer Ashley Fox wrote a piece on Ryan a couple days ago. She followed the same format that Falcons writers covered months ago, and national writers are just now publishing: Ryan has been good in the regular season, unsuccessful in the playoffs, and has been working his butt off in this offseason to improve his game. Fox writes some of the same things D. Orlando Ledbetter and others have reported: Ryan has been bulking up in order to drive the ball down the field more effectively, he has been increasingly studying film, and he has been working with his teammates with renewed vigor.
The piece of information that is new to Falcons fans is that Matt Ryan has found a new person in whom to bounce ideas off, take criticism from, and improve his game. That person is new Atlanta cornerback Asante Samuel.
If there is a DB (defensive back) who could tell Ryan a thing or two, it would be Samuel. In three career games against a Ryan-led Falcons team, he has the same number of interceptions, and several more pass deflections. The big running joke at the beginning of OTAs when Samuel picked off Ryan was that he was simply continuing to do what he has done against Ryan for years–pick him off.
Samuel is a smart player. He is a good athlete, and has good ball-skills, but those attributes are not what makes him truly special. It is his ability to diagnose the play, to then use his natural ability to make plays that makes his special. The same way Ryan spends hours watching film of defenses and seeing how best to attack those defenses, Samuel is watching film of quarterbacks and receivers and how best to create big plays as a DB.
Apparently Samuel has been passing along key information that can potentially help Ryan become harder to defend. I have no idea exactly what those things are, but they could be anything from eye-manipulation of the defensive backs, to releasing the ball faster. I don’t know. What I do know is that every little bit helps. Ryan is a very good QB, but there is certainly room for improvement. Any little key or slight change that Ryan can make in his game that will allow him to complete more passes and ultimately win more ballgames, I will welcome with open arms. Obviously Samuel is not only bolstering our defensive secondary, he is also making our offense smarter, and therefore more difficult to defend.