Entering last season the talk about Matt Ryan regarded the direction his career would take with incoming offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter calling the plays. After the 2012 season Ryan had with Koetter, most of the talk about Ryan in the days before Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp begins is where he stands among the league's best.
Ryan and Koetter built an offense around the multitude of weapons they had and Ryan's completion percentage took a huge step forward: from a 61.3 completion percentage in 2011 to a league-leading 68.6 percent, the 13th-best season by any NFL quarterback in league history with 300 pass attempts. Ryan joins New Orleans' Drew Brees as the only other QB to throw 600 or more passes and complete 68 percent or better.
A closer look inside when and where Ryan completed his passes shows a QB whose arc is still pointed up. Ryan's improved aspects of his game in each of his first five seasons and entering his sixth, after a stellar 2012, Ryan looks poised to turn what Falcons fans saw last year into the norm.
Ryan's gained a reputation for being great with the game on the line. His 22 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime are the most in the NFL since 2008 and the most by a QB in his first five seasons since 1966. Last season, Ryan engineered six such comebacks. Last year he completed 68 percent of his passes in the fourth quarter, second highest in the NFL. He threw six touchdowns and had a 95.1 QB rating in the final quarter as well.
On third down, the true money down in the NFL, Ryan completed 67.5 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and a 91 QB rating. The only quarterbacks that attempted more passes than Ryan's 160 were Brees (173), Matthew Stafford (200) and Tony Romo (161). The Falcons opting to throw on third down so often versus run shows the trust in Ryan to lead the offense. The Falcons ran 28 times on third down last season. On third down with two yards and four yards to go, Ryan completed 60 percent of his passes. On third down with 6 yards and 8 yards to go, he completed 58.3 percent.
Ryan dropped back on first-and-10 227 times, converting 31.7 percent. On second down he passed 224 times, completing 43 percent of them.
Now one of the most accurate passers in the league, the logical next step for Ryan is a higher completion percentage. Only four quarterbacks in league history have completed 70 percent of their passes in a single season, including Brees who did it twice. Can Ryan become the fifth quarterback to reach that mark?