As great as he is, Matt Ryan still has room for improvement in 2014

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Fact: Sticks and stones may hurt Matt Ryan's bones, but a Panther will never hurt him

Matt Ryan's 2013 wasn't particularly easy. He played behind a porous offensive line while much of his supporting cast battled injuries. It was his responsibility to lead a middling team, a difficult feat no matter who you are. But when you come just "10 yards from the Super Bowl" less than a year before, it's that much harder. I'll give him credit, he played hard, all while taking one heck of a beating.

Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo did an excellent job breaking down Ryan's 2013 season earlier this week. It's something you should all check out, if you haven't already. Based on Palazzolo's work, here's where Ryan must get better in 2014:

Improve on first down

The Falcons found themselves digging out of a hole far too often last season. That's not just Ryan's fault, but let be honest, positive yardage on first down certainly helps. Ryan's -5.8 rating on first down must improve.

Stop relying on quick, short yardage passes

It's no secret that the Falcons love to use Ryan this way. They don't let him air it out nearly as often as he could. That is partially attributable to lackluster blocking. If his blocking improves, Ryan's 4-6 yard drop backs (-4.1), 21-30 yard passes (-4.7), passes thrown between 3.1 and 3.5 seconds (-1.8), and corner route throws (-3.3) will all improve.

Learn how to pass to inline tight ends

As much as I wish it weren't true, Tony Gonzalez isn't coming back. Ryan threw only 3.1 percent of his passes to an inline tight end in 2013, and even if Levine Toilolo is a 4th option at best, he's a target Ryan will need to learn to work with.

All in all, Ryan, just like any quarterback, has his strengths and his weaknesses. Some of his "tendencies" are just that, his tendencies. They are things no amount of coaching will rectify. But to be fair, much of his struggles are sourced externally. In other words, they're the product of his supporting cast and the coaching staff. So when we say that Ryan has to improve, in many ways, we're saying the Falcons' use of him has to improve.

But what say you? Where does Ryan need to improve in 2014? Discuss!

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