A lot has changed since Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan came into the league. Gas is cheaper (fun fact: the average price of gas in 2008 was $3.39/gallon). And now we have straws made out of awesome stuff like cardboard and avocado pits! But imagine experiencing these past eleven seasons through Ryan’s eyes. Imagine how the game has changed for him.
Asked how defenses have evolved since he was drafted, Ryan had some interesting things to say earlier today. (Our own Jeanna Thomas was on hand.) The first thing Matt talked about was size. “The size of defensive players, oddly enough, has gotten smaller, and there’s been a greater emphasis on speed,” he said. “When I came into the league, you had 265 pound middle linebackers, and currently you just don’t see that.” Ryan then referenced Deion Jones, whose playing weight is considerably less than 265 pounds and, as Ryan put it, “can fly around and make plays.”
Ryan’s sustained success over his 10+ year career is even more impressive when you think about what he’s done through this lens. Granted, the whole league evolved, but Ryan certainly didn’t let it get out ahead of him. Maybe he’s a realist, or maybe he just sees the writing on the wall. “It’s kinda the new age of the NFL. Not quite as big and bulky, but faster and more athletic. You see that from the combination positions ... and because of that, you’re seeing different schemes.”
The bottom line is that Ryan’s longevity isn’t an accident. This is yet another trick in his bag of tricks. He’s acutely aware of what teams are trying to do with their defenses, both schematically and in terms of the personnel they draft and develop.