The all-important yards after the catch can be accumulated in many different ways, but in recent seasons the Falcons haven't used one of those methods to rack up yards that effectively.
According to ESPN's Pat Yasinskas, last season Atlanta's Matt Ryan ranked near the bottom of active quarterbacks with 20 attempted screen passes, completing 16 for 68 yards. With players on the roster like Julio Jones, Roddy White and running back Jacquizz Rodgers, the Falcons have the weapons to be more effective with screen passes.
The screen pass can be a potent play, especially in the modern NFL where rushing the passer with an aggressive approach is widely accepted as the norm. The space created by pass rushers combined with the next two levels of the defense defending the intermediate and deep parts of the field leaves defenses susceptible to screens because of the lack of defenders behind the pass rushers to stop the short gains.
Players like Jones, White and Rodgers can turn those short gains into bigger gains with their ability to run with the ball in the open field and make defenders miss.
With new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter at the helm, the Falcons figure to incorporate more of the screen game than they have in seasons past.
Behind the power of ESPN Stats & Information, Yasinskas writes that Koetter, acting as the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville last season, called 45 screen plays and his rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed 36 of them for 190 yards. Those numbers qualified Jacksonville for a 19th ranking in the league on completions using screens.
In Atlanta Koetter has the advantage of working with a talented quarterback entering his fifth season in Ryan and numerous playmakers, a luxury he didn't have in Jacksonville, where he served as coordinator since 2007.
With David Garrard as the starter for the Jaguars in 2010, they completed 37 of 42 screens for 316 yards, further demonstrating Koetter's ability to incorporate a successful screen game in his offense.
Unlike the screen game in 2011, the Falcons no-huddle offense was used routinely and delivered significant results. When Koetter was introduced as Atlanta's new OC he said he intended to continue to use the no huddle, however the percentages were yet to be determined. Based on the success Ryan and Atlanta have had using that style of offense, it could be a safe assumption that it will be used as frequently as it was last season or more.
Combining Ryan's smarts and awareness at the QB position with the Falcons' playmakers, a no-huddle offense and a high-percentage screen game, Atlanta's offense could be well on their way to ensuring the talent level on the field meets production in the form of a high-scoring offense posting numbers on the scoreboard not seen in Atlanta since the days of the 1998 Atlanta Falcons.