The preseason is mostly a time for roster bubble hopefuls to battle it out for their spots on the 53-man roster. As a result, we tend to pay extra attention to young players looking to make a positive impact on the football field. However, the preseason also affords veterans the opportunity to train their focus and get into a rhythm for the games that matter.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta’s elite quarterback who’s heading into his 12th NFL season, is one of those veterans who looks like he hasn’t missed a beat from last season, when he threw for 4,924 passing yards and 35 touchdowns.
Ryan has appeared in two preseason games, against the New York Jets and Washington Redskins, and has looked sharp in both.
Let’s start by looking at the Jets game. By the numbers, Ryan put on a strong performance — 10-14 for 118 passing yards.
The box score numbers won’t tell you everything you need to know from that game, however. One such piece of information is the fact that Ryan faced relentless pressure throughout the evening from a Jets team which completely overwhelmed Atlanta’s offensive line with blitzes and stunts.
On just 18 drop backs, Ryan faced pressure 14 times. He was sacked three times and it would’ve been more if not for his quick release and excellent maneuvering around the pocket. Yet through all of it, Ryan still managed to pick the Jets defense apart, even while that line collapsed right in front of him.
matt ryan throws vs the jets when he was pressured, hit, or moved off his spot. keep in mind he only threw 14 passes. pic.twitter.com/lqqMRTZWCI— charles mcdonald (MAN 101 STUDENT) (@FourVerts) August 21, 2019
The accuracy in the face of constant pressure was nothing short of astounding.
You may have also noticed the dropped passes in the video. Out of Ryan’s four incompletions, three were blatant drops by his receivers.
The first drop, by Russell Gage (a play on which the wide receiver got hurt), should have been a 32-yard pass and catch. The drops by Brian Hill and Justin Hardy (which occurred on back to back plays) were far more blatant and either one should have resulted in a 7-yard touchdown score.
Ryan ended up generating most of the yards from the Gage drop anyway, with a beautiful lob pass to Ito Smith two plays later, but not having that touchdown pass to Hill or Hardy essentially cost the team four points on the drive.
Against the Redskins, Ryan was once again locked in, going 9-14 for 74 yards. The offensive line was much better this time around (there was still pressure, but not as much as the previous week). Ryan seemed poised to lead an initial strong scoring drive, but a false start penalty by Jamon Brown on fourth-and-short (when the offense was about to go for it) and a missed 39-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio killed off that hope.
The highlight of the night for number two was a beautiful 24-yard throw and catch to Justin Hardy:
Matt Ryan to @FreakMagic2 for 24 yards! pic.twitter.com/ZCp7eI80DN— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 22, 2019
Hardy did a great job of slightly redeeming himself for the drop a week earlier, but the perfect touch by Ryan is what made this play.
The next time we see Matt Ryan needs to be in Minnesota on Week 1. He’s gotten his repetitions in throughout the course of these two preseason games and has looked as good as ever, even without superstar weapon Julio Jones on the field.