Matt Ryan no longer plays for the Atlanta Falcons, but he’s already missed by one member of the team’s biggest rivals in the NFC South.
New Orleans Saints’ star Cameron Jordan has taken a light-hearted jab at the veteran quarterback’s departure from Atlanta earlier this offseason. The seven-time Pro-Bowl defensive end made sacking Ryan a career hallmark.
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Jordan Already Misses Ryan
Jordan, who was named an All-Pro in 2017, can afford to make light of the situation, although there must be a small part of him that’s genuinely disappointed Ryan is no longer in the division. Ryan was the favorite target of a pass-rusher who has been a consistent thorn in the side of the Falcons.
Of his 107 career sacks, Jordan logged 23 of those QB takedowns in 22 games against the Falcons, earning 14 wins in the process, according to StatMuse. It’s no wonder Jordan would be sorry to see Ryan go, and this isn’t the first time he’s made that clear.
When Ryan’s trade to Indy was announced, Jordan quickly reacted with the hope the Saints might play the Colts this year:
There’s obviously a healthy amount of respect between familiar foes, but Jordan’s humor may soon turn serious. He’ll no longer get to attack a stationary target like Ryan, who was always prepared to stand tall under fire in the pocket.
That is sure to be a thing of the past now the Falcons have filled their quarterback room with a different kind of athlete.
Jordan May Find Sacks Tougher to Come by vs. Falcons
If Ryan could best be described as generally immobile, Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder are anything but static targets. Mariota won the Heisman Trophy at Oregon as a dual-threat, read-option sensation.
Ridder, who was drafted in the third round this year, offers similar skills on the move. He amassed 2,180 yards on the ground during four years as a starter at Cincinnati, per Sports Reference.
Those chops as a runner also helped Ridder score 28 rushing touchdowns, including this one against SMU from last November:
Ridder and Mariota will compete for the starting job, but whoever wins will likely stay on the move in a new-look Falcons offense. Head coach Arthur Smith told Andy Bunker of 92.9 The Game how a moving quarterback can give the Falcons “an edge,” per Fox 5 Atlanta’s Miles Garrett:
That edge will need to show up against Jordan and the Saints, who open the season in Atlanta in Week 1, before hosting the Falcons in Week 15. Like the Falcons, the Saints are also undergoing a transition at quarterback, with Jameis Winston still trying to prove he can replace Drew Brees.
Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas give Winston a pair of quality wide receivers capable of troubling Atlanta’s secondary. Yet, the Falcons’ tougher challenge will be overcoming a tough defense led by Jordan, who had 12.5 sacks last season and went to his seventh Pro Bowl.
Both teams appear better positioned than the Carolina Panthers to pose a challenge to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the division. It’s still safe to assume the Bucs and Tom Brady will own the South, but the Saints and Falcons could play their way into a wildcard berth if things go their way.