Matt Ryan Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 26: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons throws the ball against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on September 26 2010 in New Orleans Louisiana. The Falcons defeated the Saints 27-24. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

No one has ever looked at Matt Ryan and said "My God, what a specimen!"

Ryan looks more like that goofy Kaiser Chiefs fan you hung out with in college than an NFL quarterback. I half-expect him to take a five step drop, spike the football and start doing the lawnmower on most of his snaps. Such is the power of his awkward, gawky Irishman from Boston College.

That said, Ryan's managed to overcome any image-related issues and become one of the NFL's best quarterbacks over his first four seasons. The only major knocks on him coming into the 2012 season were, in no particular order, his lack of playoff success, tendency to throw the ball away a little early and lack of elite arm strength.

If you believe Mike Smith, that last issue looks to be remedied.

Ryan pledged to improve his arm strength over the off-season by hitting the weigh room and working on his deep ball, so it's not a surprise that Smith is seeing some results. I think his comments regarding Ryan are, nonetheless, pretty telling.

"Matt, I think, has really progressed," Smith said. "I think you can see it physically that he’s bigger. I think his arm strength is much-improved from the first four years."

This is downright effusive for the reserved Smitty, and it tells us that Ryan's off-season work is already starting to pay off. We'll need to see him, you know, do it in an actual game situation before we can get too excited. Still, a Ryan with a stronger arm can only be a good thing for the Falcons, who are as offensively loaded as they've ever been in their 40+ year history.

This is especially vital for Julio Jones. The young stud wide receiver is a huge deep threat, and if Ryan can put a little extra juice on the ball, he'll be able to get it to Jones a couple steps ahead of your average defensive backs. Touchdowns then ensue.

What do you think? Will Ryan's newfound arm strength make a difference?

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