Atlanta Falcons 2015 player profile: Matt Ryan


As we move within a month of the start of the 2015 regular season, we breakdown the Atlanta Falcons’ roster, first looking at the team’s most important player, Matt Ryan.

With the No. 2 jersey, Ryan is naturally the first under the microscope, but he is the fitting player to kick it all off with. Matty Ice is ‘the man’, the leader of this team.

Put Ryan in the Green Bay Packers and he would lead the team to the playoffs. Give him the Seattle Seahawks’ roster and he could be heading to the Super Bowl.

The seven-year pro is entering the prime of his career and should be playing the best football of his career over the coming seasons.

During his time in Atlanta, Ryan has completed 2,508 of his 3,916 passing attempts (64 percent) for 28,166 yards and 181 touchdowns to 91 interceptions. His career passer rating is 91.1.

In the National Football League, there is an elite top-tier of quarterbacks featuring the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck, and then there is a group of players just below that level.

And this is where Ryan enters the picture.

There are many great quarterbacks in the NFL just below that ‘elite’ status. Ben Roethlisberger is one of them, as is Tony Romo. You could argue that Drew Brees has fallen into this category, although I would still put him in the top class for now.

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Ryan is among the best and is easily a top 10 quarterback. He often slips under the radar due to the team failing around him, ignoring his level of talent.

Put Ryan in the Green Bay Packers and he would lead the team to the playoffs. Give him the Seattle Seahawks’ roster and Ryan could be heading to the Super Bowl.

Ryan and the Falcons’ offense have been rolling in recent years, but the defense has constantly let them down. But let’s focus on Ryan’s 2015 season and what he brings to the table.

A top-tier quarterback

As mentioned, Ryan is a top-tier quarterback. I wouldn’t go as far as calling him elite, but he is among the best. He finished fifth in passing yards (4,694) last season ahead of Aaron Rodgers (4,381) and Tom Brady (4,109).

Sep 7, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) celebrates their 37-34 overtime win over the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan earned the nickname “Matty Ice” for his ability to stage fourth-quarter comeback victories, something we have seen time and again with him under center in Atlanta.

If the Falcons are down by a score this season with under two minutes to go, you can put your faith in Ryan to find a way.

Great quarterbacks can be separated from good ones by what they do in crunch time. All the best signal callers find a way to win even when their backs are firmly pressed against the wall.

Rodgers threw a game-winning touchdown with three seconds remaining in Miami last year; Brady did the same against New Orleans with just five seconds left in 2013. Ryan has made a name for late comebacks, including a game-winning drive over Carolina last season.

There are so many teams in the NFL who have strong rosters but struggle due to poor play at the quarterback position. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are loaded on defense and have good pieces on offense to succeed, but lack a top quarterback.

The Chicago Bears have boasted dominant defenses and explosive wide receiver and running back combinations in recent years, but have constantly been let down by Jay Cutler.

Atlanta boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League, and this reason alone gives the Falcons hope of a playoff berth in 2015.

As tough as they come

When you have ‘the man’, the biggest concern throughout the season is his health. Just like the Packers can’t afford to lose Rodgers and the Broncos are dependant on Peyton Manning, the Falcons live and die by Ryan.

If he’s out, it’s over.

Fortunately for the Falcons, Ryan has proven himself to be durable and as tough as they come under center. Despite constant bombardment due to poor protection from his offensive line, Ryan has only missed two games of a possible 112.

He may take sacks in 2015, but he won’t be sidelined easily.

Ready to lead the team to the playoffs

Entering the prime of his career, Ryan is in as good a position as ever to lead the Falcons back to the playoffs. He needs the defense to hold their end of the bargain, though.

If the defense can improve enough, the Falcons have a chance. It doesn’t need to replicate the Seahawks’ unit, but it needs to at least be competitive. 

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Ryan has the ability to lead the offense to the postseason, although he has his critics in January. He has a 1-4 record in the playoffs, with his only win coming over the Seattle Seahawks in 2012.

His stats are hardly disappointing though. Ryan has completed 124 of his 187 passes (66.3 percent) for 1,230 yards and nine touchdowns to seven interceptions. Passer rating is 79.5. If the defense can hold their own, Ryan will lead the team to victory more often than not.

In Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Ryan will be looking to build on a strong 2014 season. He has plenty of firepower at the skill positions with Julio Jones, Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson and Justin Hardy at wideout and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield.

Matty Ice is one of the league’s top passers, and 2015 could be his best season yet.

Next: December will define the Falcons' season