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Falcons' tight end Austin Hooper's 'couple of thousand' reps with quarterback Matt Ryan this offseason paying dividends

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – After seven games, one could argue that if the Falcons were to give out midseason awards, Austin Hooper would be the most improved player on the Falcons' roster.

Following the 2017 season, Hooper was committed to improving his game in every way he could.

That would mean more time working on his craft and a big part of that was more work with his quarterback, Matt Ryan.

Hooper reached out to Ryan early on in the offseason asking for him to send an outline of what his offseason workout planned looked like.

When Ryan reached the point in his regimen where he started throwing again, Hooper would be there. Even if that meant he would have to stay in Atlanta. 

"He really changed his schedule to make it work with mine and I appreciate that with him," Ryan said. I think the work that we put in the offseason, I'm a believer that that stuff pays off and I think he's done an excellent job for us beginning this year."

Timing is everything between a quarterback and a pass-catching tight end like Hooper.

And Hooper knew he and Ryan could strengthen their connection even more so.

Hooper has improved every year he's been in the league and he's on pace to have his best season to date.

In 2016, he caught 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. In 2017, he caught 49 passes for 526 yards and three touchdowns and through seven games this season, he's already caught 33 passes for 321 and two touchdowns.

If he keeps playing at the level he has through the first half of the season, he's projected to finish the season with 80 receptions for 726 yards. 

He's making big plays at critical times for his offense, especially in the red zone. 

Hooper has been targeted six times in the red zone with four receptions, including two touchdowns

That production stems from countless hours together on the fields this spring.

"We did probably a couple of thousand reps in the offseason," Hooper said. "After awhile it becomes playing catch," Hooper said. "I'm wide-open on certain routes concepts that beat a certain coverage. It's clearly just like playing catch. It's a lot of fun."

As the Falcons look to build off their back-to-back wins, the offense's success will be key moving forward and there's no doubt Hooper will be a big part of that.

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