The Atlanta Falcons have one the league’s best deep ball throwers in the great Matt Ryan, which is very ironic considering most that aren’t Falcons fans consider him to have a noodle for an arm. Yes, also some Falcons fans.
Ryan does not possess the strongest arm, but that doesn’t prevent him from being one of the most accurate deep passers in the NFL currently. He accomplishes that through smart timing, making the most of the arm he does have, and of course having a fast and explosive receiving tandem in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. The hope is that his arm holds up this year, the addition of Hayden Hurst gives him another option deep down the field, and the Falcons take more shots along the way.
With OC Dirk Koetter at the helm, this offense could go vertical often if his history is any indicator. The Falcons threw the ball over 65% of the time in 2019, which resulted in my favorite QB getting hit more often that I liked. You can’t deny that Koetter and company tried to achieve a strong deep passing game in 2019, even if players like Devonta Freeman, Russell Gage, and Austin Hooper tended not to be the recipients of those attempts. Ryan’s air yards per completion were 8th in the NFL, per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, while his intended air yards were 17th. New personnel may help improve those numbers further.
However, there are plenty of factors to consider, and the offensive line is one of them. There’s no doubt Koetter will have that explosive/vertical element to his offense. I’d like to say the play of the offensive line will dictate how often Koetter will attempt to go vertical, but last season, that had really no bearing on how much he dropped Ryan back on pass plays. An improved line will give Ryan just a bit more time to work with, which can make a world of difference.
Right now, there’s nothing that indicates to me that Koetter won’t attempt to push the ball down the field often in 2020. However, the hope is that he will field a more balanced offense than he did last season, be more methodical moving down the field when needed, and move Ryan outside of the pocket more to give those more vertical route concepts a bit more time to develop when the situation calls for it. I trust Matt Ryan and his receivers to get the job done, so this will come down to Koetter.