Of any player on the Falcons roster, none has been under more scrutiny than Matt Ryan. His struggles during the year prompted heated debates amongst fans, with some outright questioning if the Falcons should look elsewhere in 2016. Our roster review for 2015 starts with Ryan. Let's take a look at his production in 2015, his contract and the outlook for the next season.
A down year
On the year, Ryan's numbers don't look that bad. He finished the year completing 66.3% of his passes for 4,591 yards and 21 TDs. The 16 INTs were his second highest total, though (17 in 2013 was first) and his passer rating of 89.0 was his lowest since his sophomore season rating of 80.9. Most notable, though, were the nature of the interceptions. Ryan was tied for 2nd in the league with 4 INTs in the red zone (Eli Manning 5, Aaron Rodgers 4). Additionally, several of Ryan's interceptions came at the end of games when the team was in position to begin a game winning drive - with the Saints and Bucs games as two prime examples. Even advanced analytics site Pro Football Focus noticed the drop-off with Ryan, though they still had him ranked as the 9th best QB in the league for 2015.
More than anything, it was the fact that Ryan "looked" uncomfortable in the new offense for large stretches of the season. Ryan himself said the offense was overwhelming at times, with Roddy and Julio intimating similar thoughts.
With all of that said, Ryan did have some good moments too. His second game against Carolina was one of his best and he generally looked much better in the offense in the tail end of the season. While he still missed some passes here and there, his accuracy looked to be solid still. The finish to the season gave some hope that we'll see improvements next year.
If we're putting a grade on the season, then it would be hard to give our QB anything higher than a C-. Here's hoping he turns it around in 2016.
For those wondering if the Falcons will look to replace Ryan or bring in some competition, the reality is his contract all but assures he will be our starting QB for at least the 2016 season. He's scheduled to earn 15.75 Million in guaranteed base salary and his cap figure for the season will be $23.75M. While cutting him would "save" 5.35 million in cap space, it would hit the team with 18.4 million in dead money.
That said, the Falcons have around 18M in cap space for 2016 - more than enough to resign key players and rookies without factoring in any cuts. Anyone expecting the Falcons to "move on" from Matt Ryan will likely not get their wish in 2016.
As we look forward to 2016, what can we expect out of our QB - understanding that there's little chance the team moves to replace him? As mentioned earlier, there were indications that Ryan was getting more comfortable in the offense as the season started to wind down. He looked far better against Jacksonville and Carolina, and though the New Orleans game ended poorly, he mostly had a good game there as well. Ryan has already indicated that he intends on getting various players together during the off-season to really get a firm grip on the offense, and with a full off-season to do so, there's no reason to think he'll go into 2016 overwhelmed.
If the Falcons can add another top receiving threat - Roddy White will turn 35 during the season - it should take some pressure off of Julio. Justin Hardy will have a full off-season to get acclimated to the NFL, while guys like Tamme will be more comfortable in the new system as well. These are all very reasonable things to expect, and they will all contribute to Ryan having a better 2016 season. Even though 2015 was rough in some patches, there are some very good reasons to believe Ryan can and will improve in the coming year.
What are your thoughts on Ryan?