Every time a reporter has asked Kyle Shanahan what Matt Ryan needs to do to improve, he's offered the same response: keep learning.
Atlanta's offensive coordinator has installed a system that, while effective early on, is still a work in progress. The receivers are still learning an array of route combinations. The O-line is still meshing as a unit and gaining comfort in the outside zone scheme. NFL leading rusher Devonta Freeman is still growing, too, as is Tevin Coleman.
And Ryan is still figuring out the intricate details of his new playbook. Mentally, he's set; the eight-year veteran has worked with three OCs in his pro career and is one of game's more cerebral athletes. At present it's about making sure the information he's absorbed translates to on-field success.
"I think it's just being comfortable with different concepts and being asked to do some different things than we've done in the past," he said. "I feel like I'm getting better with it; I feel like the productivity's there, just a few little things off. I think that's it. I feel like it's about getting comfortable with the few little things we've been off on. To me, it's pretty close. And I feel like, when we get to practice, if we need to work on those things, we're going to get them right."
One change Atlanta's QB is getting used to is the frequency with which he's asked to roll out of the pocket. Mike Mularkey relied on Ryan's mobility early in the signal-caller's career, and it wasn't an issue then. Ryan doesn't believe it'll be an issue moving forward, either, as long as he gets enough reps to adapt.
Additionally, because of Shanahan's tactics and an improved running game, Ryan has utilized more play-action than he has in the past. Right now only two NFL quarterbacks have fired more PA throws than him; however, Ryan's completion percentage is slightly lower when faking a handoff than dropping straight back.
If these two areas improve (Ryan, Shanahan and Dan Quinn are all confident they will), turnovers should dwindle, and the Falcons' should once again boast one of football's most imposing offenses.
"It's never as far off as you think it is," Ryan explained. "I think there are some good plays out there, and I think we've made some good plays. It's just been a few plays here and there that we'd like to clean up. That's kind of where my mindset is at.
"Do I think my best football is in front of me? Absolutely."