Coming from Chicago and after watching the Mitchell Trubisky quarterback situation play out, it’s no surprise that new Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London is a staunch supporter of veteran quarterback Matt Ryan.
“Obviously, we spent a lot of time watching this past season,” London said Monday. “Being in Chicago last year, we had an upfront view of our game when we played here in Atlanta.”
The Falcons blew a 26-10 lead and were defeated 30-26 by the Bears on Sept. 27 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Trubisky, who was taken No. 2 overall in the 2017, was pulled by the Bears and veteran quarterback Nick Foles torched the Falcons secondary for 20 consecutive points.
The new regime reviewed the debacle that was 2020, and Ryan passed with flying colors.
“We studied every drop-back pass, every play-action pass, everything that Matt did this past year,” said London, a former Dunwoody High standout who later played at Duke. “We thought as a staff that he was still performing at a high level. He could still do everything that was needed to do to run this this offense. I look forward to working with him. He has a very unique skill-set.”
Ryan, who will turn 36 on Monday, owns all of the Falcons’ passing marks. He’s set to enter his 14th season in the NFL.
“He’s been doing it in this league for a long time at a high level,” London said. “We expect that to continue this year.”
The Falcons heavily studied the quarterbacks for the 2021 NFL draft, but elected to bypass on taking a quarterback for the future. Former Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields and former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones were on the board when the Falcons tabbed tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick.
Fields, who started his career at Georgia and played at Harrison High, and Jones were the next quarterbacks taken in the draft.
“Matt does a great job of distributing the ball,” London said. “The ball is going to find the guy who’s open. You have to understand in this offense, you may be a primary target and the defense takes it away and the ball goes over here. They have to really understand they are going to help each other get open in this offense.”
While under siege, Ryan somehow managed to pass for 272.7 yards per game, which ranked fifth in the league. He was sacked 42 times, hit 71 times and hurried 55 times.
The Falcons averaged 24.8 points (16th) and stalled regularly in the red zone as they scored touchdowns at a 53.45 percent (ranked 26th) red-zone clip.
Protecting Ryan and finding a rushing attack will be key to an offensive revival.
“I’ve really enjoyed being with him and being with him on these (virtual calls), and it’s been really good football talk, back and forth,” London said. “I see things from a different perspective than they way he sees it. ... I think that’s been really, really key for me to understand how he thinks and how he ticks.”
Ryan has been to four Pro Bowls, made one All-Pro team and been named the league’s MVP. However, he’s 18-30 since signing his six-year, $150 million contract extension, and the Falcons have not been to the playoffs.
London is getting to know Ryan, and the new regime is installing the outside-zone system that Ryan ran under former coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
London has worked hard to try to understand how Ryan operates.
“On this certain route with this certain coverage, this is why he’s throwing this or this is why his footwork is this way,” London said. “We’ve had a lot of good discussions, back-and-forth, about his playing career. What he does, what he thinks he’s good at and what he wants to work at. He’s been very good about, I’m not quite as good at this part, let’s focus on getting better here or let’s add this to the package.”
London, Ryan and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone are striving for compatibility.
One of the sticking points with Ryan and Shanahan was running the bootlegs off the wide-zone runs. Ryan didn’t want to turn his back to the defense.
When Shanahan left, so did the bootlegs. The Falcons started tossing the ball for the outside runs.
The bootlegs could be coming back.
“We’ve talked about everything that Matt has done over his career,” London said. “He’s been in a lot of different systems. He’s seen things a lot of different ways.”
Falcons coach Arthur Smith used the bootlegs off of fakes to Derrick Henry to help Ryan Tannehill become the league’s top passer in 2020 with the Titans.
“I think Matt is really good at it,” London said. “I think he’s got a lot of confidence in that scheme. I think he’s got a lot of confidence in the play-pass and the movements that could potentially be in this offense, as we kind of get out there as a group, hopefully in phase two and phase three and actually get out there and do some football, we’ll kind tailor this thing towards to strength of our football team.”
The bottom line will be if they can agree if the bootleg plays will help the Falcons win games.
“If it’s something that we don’t feel fits, obviously we’ll move on to something else,” London said. “But I think that may be something that fits in our plan, and it’s something we’ll start with in our OTAs and minicamps.”
The Falcons also signed veteran quarterback AJ McCarron to backup Ryan and Feleipe Franks as an undrafted rookie free agent after the draft.
“A.J. is going on year No. 7,” London said. “He’s been in the league for awhile. He didn’t have a lot of starts in the league, but he’s been in a lot of systems. He’s seen a lot.”
McCarron is working on learning the new terminology.
Franks started at Florida and ended his career as a graduate transfer at Arkansas.
“Feleipe has a really unique skill set,” London said. “He has a big arm. He’s a really athletic guy. He had traits that as an offensive staff we were excited about and we wanted to work with them. We were thrilled to get him in the undrafted process.”
AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION NFL DRAFT SERIES
QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs
RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs
WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs
TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs
OFFENSIVE TACKLES: A ‘nasty’ bunch | Top 10 OTs
OFFENSIVE GUARDS/CENTERS: The men in the middle | Top 10 C/OGs
END RUSHERS: Pass on this draft stock | Top 10 DEs
DEFENSIVE TACKLES: One star among lackluster block | Top 10 DTs
LINEBACKERS: Deep class for position | Top 10 LBs
CORNERBACKS: Plethora of options for first two rounds | Top 10 CBs
SAFETIES: Falcons likely will add position player | Top 10 Safeties
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