When you look at the individual stats of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman from 2015, they look pretty decent. Yeah, Ryan had too many turnovers and too few touchdowns, but Atlanta's total passing yards put them sixth in the league overall. Julio Jones very nearly broke an NFL record for receptions and finished with 1,871 yards, and Freeman became a household name and solidified a Pro Bowl nod with his early season performance.
But we all saw this offense sputter and fade away in the red zone, and sometimes up and down the entire field. They were, at times, unwatchable. What do they need to do to improve in 2016?
If you ask Ryan and Jones, the answer is simple: They must communicate.
Jones said that was absolutely the team's biggest issue last season.
"We're going out here and we're executing properly and we're executing the right things. But if the quarterback's off and we're off ... we've got to go out there and make it come to life," Jones said after OTAs Tuesday. "That's what we just have to do a better job of. We just had another little meeting here after practice. Quarterbacks, receivers, everybody, we've just got to do a better job of communicating."
Ryan feels like the team has already made strides in the right direction.
"You iron out some of the kinks as you go through a new system, and you figure out how people fit in it, and also what's worked well for us," Ryan said. "Within the NFL, teams are constantly changing and personnel is constantly changing. You have to be able to adapt. I think we've done a really good job with that."
There were other issues for this offense last season. Center play, and interior line play as a whole, were quite poor. Mike Person looked mostly unprepared to run the offense and bear the responsibility for calling protections. The addition of Alex Mack will help.
And just having another full offseason to acclimate to Kyle Shanahan's offense, and Shanahan himself, should help.
Learning a new offense and shifting to an entirely different blocking philosophy is no small task. Ryan looked downright uncomfortable at times last season. Having a more consistent interior line, a veteran center who has the benefit of having played in this scheme and just more experience for the offense across the board should yield benefits.
"I think we're very different than we were last year," Ryan said. "I think we understand who we are better than we did at this point last year. There was a lot of feeling out that goes on when a new staff comes in. You have new players, all those kind of things ... you're trying to find out what fits, what fits wells. And I think we're way ahead of that this year, and I think it's been really good this offseason."