1. Gaining Comfort: Now that most members of Atlanta's offense have spent a year learning Kyle Shanahan's scheme, there's a greater sense of comfort on the field and in the meeting rooms. Ryan noticed this last month during his passing camp in Miami, where guys on both sides of the ball were able to work on timing, a variety of plays and off-field relationships.
"I'm excited that (Shanahan) is back," Ryan said. "I'm glad to be in Year 2 of this system. I think we've learned a lot in Year 1—a lot about each other, a lot about the guys we have in our locker room, a lot about what we can be and a lot about what we don't need to be. And I think all those things are going to serve us really well. I'm looking forward to winning a lot of games with Kyle here as our offensive coordinator, and I think a lot of guys in our locker room feel that way."
2. Understanding the Importance of Consistency: After taking time to reflect on 2015, Ryan and Jones agreed that the offense's biggest issues last year were consistency, turnovers and execution in the red zone. Improving on those fronts will be top priorities throughout the spring and summer.
"I think last year we led the league in red zone turnovers, so that's one of the things I know we don't want to do moving forward," Ryan said. "I think we've got the right guys in place to be a really efficient, really good red zone team. And that's something we're going to work very hard on this offseason."
3. Dealing with Change: For the first time since 2004, Atlanta is preparing to enter a season without Roddy White. While players undoubtedly miss the three-time Pro Bowler, they also understand that change is inevitable in this league.
"That's the one consistent thing in the NFL: that year-to-year, there's going to be change," Ryan said. "So I think that's what makes it so exciting this time of year, because each team I've played on is very unique and different. We've got a different group this year. There are a lot of new faces, a lot of fresh faces, a lot of young faces. And I think there's a lot of talent in that locker room."
4. New Locker Room Setup: The Falcons have renovated their locker room at Flowery Branch, and along with adding new furniture, the team has shuffled around where everyone is set up. Old and young players have been mixed together, and Alex Mack, who has a lot of experience working with new quarterbacks, has been seated next to Ryan. Jones, now a veteran with a lot of wisdom to pass on, has been placed in a corner next to Devonta Freeman.
"He talks a lot," Jones said about Freeman with a laugh. "But it's good. He asks a lot of questions—as he should, he's still a young guy. … (Roddy) was across from me, so I could kind of tune him out, but Free is literally (right next to me), so I have to take it."
5. Discussing Longevity: As the dangers of football become more evident, more and more NFL players are starting to retire early—including Calvin Johnson, one of the best wide receivers of all-time. Jones understands the risks that come with his job and believes he'll know when the time is right to hang up his cleats.
"I don't fault anyone who steps away from the game," he said. "I'm going to keep going. … I have a high tolerance for pain. If I feel like I can't go, I can't go. Other people have told me I can't go and I know I (could) still go. So when I can't go, it's time."
6. Trufant Taking on More Responsibilities: Desmond Trufant is entering his fourth year in the NFL, and with William Moore no longer in Atlanta, the Pro Bowl cornerback will be expected to take on an influential role in the secondary. Trufant knows a lot of the younger players will be looking to him for advice and has embraced the idea of being a leader.
"I'm not the biggest vocal guy, I'm not a rah-rah type guy—I'm more of a lead by example type of guy," he said. "I talk to the younger guys all the time; I let any new guys we get (know) they can come to me and ask me anything about the defense, or whatever, or about life. I always offer that to the new people that come in. I own that role, because that's my responsibility. I know guys look up to me so I have to be on my game."