Because of the exciting flurry of NFL offseason trades, which are almost making the league’s general managers seem like fantasy football players, we are going to see some sights that just don’t seem real next season.
Russell Wilson in a Broncos uniform? Davante Adams in Silver and Black? Is this Madden Franchise Mode?
Nothing may look more unusual, though, than Matt Ryan not playing quarterback for the Falcons. Yes, in recent years, the Colts have constantly been cycling through quarterbacks, and another new starter was to be expected after the Carson Wentz project failed miserably.
But Matt Ryan in royal blue and white? Nahhh. Come on.
Matt Ryan: Is He Just The Next Philip Rivers In Indianapolis?
Believe It, Ryan Is Now The Colts QB
Yes, really, it’s true. After 14 seasons as the face of the Falcons franchise, the Ryan era is over in Atlanta. The last time Ryan was not the starting QB for the Falcons, Tobey Maguire was still Spider-Man.
Once we finish rubbing our eyes or cleaning our eyeglasses to make sure we are seeing things correctly, then the question becomes, can Ryan lead the Colts on their deepest playoff run since Andrew Luck took them to the AFC Championship Game eight years ago? Will they at least hang another AFC Finalist banner at Lucas Oil Stadium? What are the odds of winning a Super Bowl?
The first reaction is that this situation smells a lot like the 2020 Colts, who brought in 38-year-old Philip Rivers and lost in the AFC Wild Card round. It seemed very strange to see him in a Colts uniform, too. Rivers was a signature player for the Chargers for 16 seasons.
In the final year of his career, Rivers passed for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions with Indianapolis. Those are slightly better numbers than Ryan, who will soon be 37 years old, posted in 2021. He finished with 3,968 yards, 20 TD passes, and 12 interceptions.
Ryan has seen his passing TD totals decline over the past four seasons, from 35 to 20. The yardage totals have fallen from 4.924 to under 4,000 yards during that span. After the Falcons missed out on Deshaun Watson, they still moved on from Ryan. But considering the state of their team, it may have been the respectful thing to do, giving Ryan maybe another chance or two to shine in the postseason somewhere else.
The Decline of The Falcons Around Matt Ryan
The Colts, at least temporarily, have filled their quarterback hole with a guy who may no longer be regarded as one of the top passers in the league. But he can still be a very good fit for a team that is well-equipped to contend at some other spots on the roster. When you look at the sorry state of the Atlanta offense around Ryan in his final season in Atlanta, and a bit beyond, is it possible that comparisons to Rivers may not quite be on par?
Over the last two seasons, we witnessed the final, injury-riddled campaign of Julio Jones, followed by a trade to Tennessee that robbed Ryan of his most trusted partner of all time. Then we saw Calvin Ridley walk away from the team after just five games in 2021.
Once again, Ryan was not supported by a quality running game, either. The Falcons haven’t been able to find consistency at RB since Devonta Freeman was in his prime. Atlanta has ranked 27th or lower in rushing in each of the last four seasons, and the Falcons were 31st in 2021. Only the Texans ranked lower.
Kyle Pitts was a 1,000-yard receiver as a rookie, but outside of him, the team’s top pass-catchers were Russell Gage and Cordarrelle Patterson, who transformed into a running back and had 548 receiving yards. The offensive line was an issue, of course, as Ryan was sacked 40 times. Pro Football Focus ranked the Atlanta offensive line 27th in the league, noting that the team rated 29th in pass-blocking efficiency.
Matt Ryan Needs More Help From The Colts
The Colts’ offensive line was a concern in Indianapolis last year, as injuries contributed to the unit actually ranking below the Falcons in pass-blocking efficiency. Also, the team has already lost Eric Fisher and Mark Glowinski this offseason. But Ryan does have the support of the NFL’s leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor, in an offense that is significantly centered on the ground game.
Michael Pittman Jr. is a promising target for Ryan, but the Colts need to address the depth at WR around him. There is still time in the offseason to consider upgrading or filling in the areas of need, and the Colts do have eight picks in the 2022 draft, although no first-rounders. We may not see any more major headline moves from the Colts, but acquiring Ryan is not the only step that must be taken in trying to better the team for 2022.
The Colts have been focused on improving the pass rush on the other side of the ball, but the biggest concerns at this time appear to be on the offense. Ryan could also use a dependable tight end, something that has been lacking in Indy in recent seasons.
Ryan could conceivably still perform well and post better numbers than Rivers did in his one year with the Colts. He may no longer play at an MVP level, but he can still manage a game very well and utilize quality weapons that he has with solid protection around him and the help of a strong running game.
But if Ryan wants to take the Colts further than Rivers did, it will all depend on how the team’s decision-makers fix some of the remaining issues around him in the weeks ahead. Better pass protection and more playmakers are needed to help get the most of what Ryan still has left at this point.
Featured Image: USA Today