The Falcons' collection of offensive talent during the 2012 season was frankly incredible.
Michael Turner was the NFC's reigning leader in rushing yards; Tony Gonzalez had already cemented his Hall of Fame career; Roddy White had been a top-10 receiver in each of the previous two seasons and Julio Jones was preparing to put together the first 1,000-yard season of his career. It was as impressive a group of weapons as any in the league.
Ahead of the 2020 season, Matt Ryan believes his current supporting cast of characters might rival the group he had that season, when they came just a handful of yards shy of reaching the Super Bowl.
"We had a pretty good unit in 2012 with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez – those guys were all pretty good," Ryan told Chris Long on the Green Light Podcast. "I've got to imagine that this is right up there with them.
"You're talking about Julio in his prime, Calvin Ridley going into Year 3 coming into his own. You've got Todd Gurley, who is hungry who wants to prove it this year. Hayden Hurst, another guy, first-round draft pick who just ended up in a spot where, the way they were running the football, it was no fault of his own [that he didn't have the stats]."
Jones has finished first or second in receiving yards among all NFL receivers since the 2015 season – he finished third in 2014, by the way – and Ridley looks poised to join him among the league's elite receivers in his third year. Gurley is just one season removed from being one of the most dangerous running backs in the league, and Hurst is a player many believe can have a breakout year as a starter in Atlanta's offense.
It might be a bit of a stretch to fully compare the 2020 unit to the 2012 unit, but nobody has more authority to do so than Ryan. In 2012, the Falcons were No. 8 in total offense and No. 7 in scoring offense, averaging 26.2 points per game. They were much more effective through the air (No. 6 in passing yards per game) than they were running the ball (No. 29 in rushing yards per game).
Those rankings aren't too far off from where Atlanta finished last season. The Falcons were better in total offense (No. 5) and as a passing offense (No. 3), but they were a worse scoring offense (No. 15) and slightly less productive running the ball (No. 30).
By adding Gurley and Hurst to this offense, the Falcons are hoping to become a more balanced unit while still maintaining their big-play ability. If Ryan is correct in his evaluation, they may have found the correct formula.
"It's got to be right up there, I think so," Ryan said of the Falcons' weapons. "I've been lucky, I've had some great guys that I've played with."