There are a lot of narratives surrounding this Atlanta Falcons offense, many of them at least partially accurate, and a lot of them set in stone. One that isn't accurate: Matt Ryan can't throw the deep ball.
In his latest piece, Vaughn McClure talks to Roddy White about getting the deep ball more involved in the team's repertoire, which is a worthy goal. The Falcons' 72 pass attempts that have traveled more than 15 yards in the air are right in the middle of the pack for the league at 15th overall, and with Julio Jones, that number really ought to be higher. What's interesting, though, is what Ryan's done on those deep balls.
Going into Sunday’s matchup with Tampa Bay, Ryan ranks 15th in the NFL with 72 pass attempts 15 or more air yards down the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He has completed 40 of those passes, the fourth most behind Arizona’s Carson Palmer (57), Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles (54), and Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston (48). Bortles leads the league with 125 such attempts down the field followed by Palmer (106), Winston (101), New York’s Ryan Fitzpatrick (100), and New Orleans’ Drew Brees (89).
Ryan has definitely had a couple of very long throws that have looked weak, so I'm not arguing that he can throw darts 60 yards downfield, but the idea that he can't take any shots downfield appears extremely overblown. What Roddy's arguing, given the team's success rate on those longer throws, is that the offense should be attempting more of them, and aside from potentially being scared off by those very long bombs falling short, there appears to be no reason not to try.
Of course, as Charles McDonald noted earlier today, a lack of weapons, occasionally shaky protection, and Ryan's own miscues paired with a strong ground game make the case for keeping things a little closer to the line of scrimmage, but a guy like Julio Jones is wasted if you're not willing to target him when he's flying downfield. Hopefully, the Falcons will take heed of Roddy's wise words and start airing it out a bit more against the Buccaneers.