With Peter King on vacation until July 26, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan took time away from his off-season vacation to write today's Monday Morning Quarterback Column. Ryan, the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, has compiled a 20-10 record in two seasons as a starter, the second-best mark among NFC quarterbacks with at least 30 starts.
NFL quarterbacks spend a lot of time during the off-season dissecting every aspect of their performance. We analyze, critique, and obsess over things that went right and try to figure out the things that went wrong.
We do this in an effort for personal self improvement and for the overall improvement for our respective teams.
So it should come as no surprise that days after we finished the 2009 season by recording back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in the 44-year history of the franchise, I was back in our quarterbacks room at the Falcons complex analyzing how I played during the season. And after reviewing the tapes of our 9-7 season, I decided I would spend the early part of the off-season studying the high-scoring offenses in the NFL that had personnel similar to ours here in Atlanta.
I went to see our video guys and requested game tape of the Colts, Cowboys, Patriots, Chargers, Packers, and Saints to see what those teams were doing and whether there were things the Falcons could incorporate.
While analyzing and studying those six offenses, I closely watched the quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning from the Colts, Tony Romo from the Cowboys, Tom Brady from the Patriots, Phillip Rivers from the Chargers, Aaron Rodgers from the Packers and Drew Brees from the Saints -- to see what each guy did to make his team so effective.
I learned several things about the game and about my own game during my film work, but I was mostly impressed with the patience under fire exhibited by Manning and Brady.
Both of those guys consistently take the underneath routes when they are given to them and don't ever think about going to another route until the defense takes the underneath route away. It amazes me how precise and accurate with the football all six of those guys are, and I can tell you that this was a really beneficial exercise that I feel will make me a better player as my career progresses.
NFL tight ends are a critically important component for any team's offensive success in today's NFL. So it was great to see that NFL Network analyst Charles Davisrecently ranked my teammate Tony Gonzalez as the best TE in the game today. Obviously, I couldn't agree more.
Charles Davis' Top Five Tight Ends
1. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons2. Antonio Gates, Chargers3. Jason Witten, Cowboys4. Dallas Clark, Colts5. Vernon Davis, 49ers
The Falcons traded a second-round pick for Tony just before the 2009 draft, and I can't tell you the positive impact he has had not only on me, but our entire team. To wit: Tony is a 10-time Pro Bowler and has been named first or second-team All-Pro by The Associated Press eight times during his 14-year career, yet he still works harder than any other player on the field. He catches balls before practice, after practice and he even has someone throw to him when the offense isn't on the field during practice. He just never quits working and you can see that influence on not only our younger players but also our veterans. That's the reason he will be a first ballot member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame once he's done playing.
1. I think everyone loves lists, and recently TheSporting News put together an NFL under-25 all-pro team, which includes my teammate, defensive end Kroy Biermann. Kroy has improved steadily over the course of his first two seasons in the NFL and might be primed for a breakout season in Year 3. I see the guy every day in practice and can tell you he's got a non-stop motor and has demonstrated that he can get to the passer during critical times in games. His progress and continued development will go a long way toward helping us get back to the playoffs.
2. I think I won't pay any attention to the annoying chatter out there about the Saints fighting through a Super Bowl hangover. I've read that the Saints have had some off-season distractions and need to fill some holes on their roster. Every team in the NFL has distractions of some kind during the off-season, so I'm not buying it. I think the NFC South is the toughest division in football and there isn't a player or coach in our locker room who thinks the Saints won't be what they always are twice a year every year -- well-prepared, physical and ready to play.
3. I think I don't track all the off-season moves of most teams, but I like what the Jets have done acquiring WR Santonio Holmes, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and DE Jason Taylor. The Jets showcased the NFL's top rushing offense last season, beefed up their roster with a solid draft class and return Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis to an already tough, attacking defensive unit that plays the 3-4 defense as well as any team in the NFL.
4. I think Titans RB Chris Johnson has a good chance of eclipsing the NFL's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, provided that he and his offensive line remain injury free. He is going to get his hands on the ball a lot in the Titans offense and you combine that with his speed and elusiveness I think he has a great shot of reaching that mark. That record, by the way, was set by Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, then a member of the Los Angeles Rams, in 1984. I, however, did not see it, as I wasn't born until a few months later, May 17, 1985.
5. I think the rapid development of my teammates, linebacker Curtis Lofton and safety Thomas DeCoud, has been solid. Both of those guys have demonstrated the desire, work ethic, and commitment it takes to be special players in this league, and they are both important parts of our defensive football team. DeCoud's story, in particular, is inspiring. He started all 16 games last season after not seeing any action on defense as a rookie in 2008, earned USA Today All-Joe team honors last season after recording 113 tackles, seven pass breakups, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, two sacks, and one fumble recovery. I think it really speaks to the amount of work that DeCoud put in last year to have such a productive year after not playing on defense as a rookie.
6. I think my alma mater -- the Eagles of Boston College -- are going to surprise a lot of people this season in college football. I think the defense should be really good this year and the inspirational return of linebacker Mark Herzlich from Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, will help tremendously.
7. I think, and I realize I'm going out on a limb here, Tony Gonzalez will become the first tight end in NFL history to record 1,000 receptions. He enters 2010 with 999.
8. I think, having been a pitcher in high school and a baseball fan my entire life, it's amazing that we've already seen four no-hitters and two perfect games.
9. I think one of my favorite golf tournaments is the British Open, which begins Thursday. I'd normally root for a fellow Nike guy -- like, say, Tiger Woods, who has won The Open Championship twice at hallowed St. Andrews -- but I like the way Phil Mickelson is playing as of late at majors and I think he will walk away with the Claret Jug.
10. I think Peter King is a prince of man for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts in his work space. Thanks a million, Peter. I will see you later in the summer at camp.
More Special MMQB columns:
Eric Winston: Five ways to change NFL, plus 2010 predictionsNnamdi Asomugha: Advice for rookies on adjusting to life in NFLMaurice Jones-Drew: What separates great players from good in NFL