Smith and Ryan have been spending the offseason getting to know each other on a personal level. In fact, the two speak daily, so by the time Week 1 rolls around, they are in sync as a coach and player.
“It’s the every-day relationship building of a play-caller and a quarterback,” Smith via the team’s official website. “That’s my philosophy. There have been a lot of people doing it a lot of different ways, but I personally like he and I having a dialogue. It’s my job as a coach to push him. It’s also my job to listen. And Matt wants to be coached. That’s what I love about the guy. He’s going into Year 14 and wants to be coached. Usually, the great players want to be coached.”
Ryan and Co. had a disappointing 2020 season, but under their highly-touted new conductor, 2021 already looks promising.
“I certainly don’t have all the answers and Matt doesn’t think he has all the answers,” Smith said. “It’s great dialogue. Sometimes I’ll make a smart-ass comment to him sometimes, depending on how you want to push him. Sometimes we have an open dialogue depending on what he’s talking about. It’s fun. It’s fun to work with him.”
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Smith Sees Ryan Working in His System
Smith is known league-wide for the turnaround of quarterback Ryan Tannehill at Tennessee in his last two seasons as offensive coordinator. However, the difference with Tannehill is that he is very dynamic between running and throwing and that’s not quite Ryan’s style.
“We’re going to adapt to the strength of the player and we’ll break out some speed option with Matt…he certainly did it in high school”, Smith said on the Rich Eisen Show when he was first hired. But, there’s a lot of things, and being serious, taking this job it’s not like we’re bringing Derrick Henry with us either. You gotta adapt to who ya got.”
High school was a long time ago. Ryan will turn 36 prior to the start of the season and isn’t the young guy on the run he used to be. But, it’s notable that Ryan did rush for his longest (13-yards) touchdown in two years in the middle of the 2020 season––so, there is some hope.
Ryan’s scrambling ability is certainly a weakness but his passing game is another story as he is the fastest QB to reach 40,000 passing yards. That is something Smith can work with, especially with Ryan’s weapon-filled offense.
What Ryan’s Offense Will Look Like Without Julio Jones
For the first time in 10 years, Ryan’s offense won’t feature Julio Jones. It will, however, star wideouts Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, along with tight end duo Kyle Pitts and Hayden Hurst. Atlanta’s backfield will also feature an upgrade in running back Mike Davis.
A lot of pressure will be on Ridley to fill Jones’s shows as Ryan’s No. 1 option, while Pitts will also carry a hefty workload as he is expected to make an impact during his first year.
We already caught a glimpse of what the Falcons can do without Jones last season and it looked promising. With Jones sidelined in seven games, a dusty offensive line and run game, Atlanta finished last year ranked 13th in passing efficiency and 21st in offensive efficiency.
With the edition of some new weapons, a fresh coaching staff, and an MVP QB, the Falcons are bound to get off to a better than 0 and 5 start this year, even without Jones.
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