Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) watches during team practice in Flowery Branch on Thursday, May 30, 2019. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Matt Ryan’s problem: How to get better when you’re already one of the best

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a problem this offseason. He’s figuring out how to get better, even though he’s already one of the best in the NFL. 

Ryan, the third overall pick in the 2008 draft, is entering his 12th season and ranked near the top of the NFL in almost every passing category. With 40 days left until training-camp practices begin, coach Dan Quinn said his team’s unquestioned leader has to find a way to continue improving.  

And Ryan said he’s doing exactly that.  

“I probably feel better than I've ever felt,” Ryan said. “I've figured out what works best for me at this point in my life. I feel like I'm in a really good place.” 

Despite the Falcons’ mediocre 7-9 record, Ryan played one of the better seasons of his career in 2018. He threw for 4,924 yards and 35 touchdowns, ranking third in both categories. He also was efficient, ranking fourth in the league in quarterback rating (108.1) and completions (422). Ryan said he strategically plans every offseason to improve in certain areas. This year, it’s about maintaining strength and flexibility, and he’s enlisted the help of old friends to do that.  

For the fourth consecutive year, Ryan will work with 3DQB, a motion performance firm based in California. Organized by Tom House, a former major league pitcher, including with the Braves, and Adam Dedeaux, a one-time Dodgers farmhand, 3DQB takes a microlevel approach at arm mechanics, nutrition and conditioning to help quarterbacks deliver the ball. Other clients include Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Jared Goff.  

In 2015, Ryan threw 16 interceptions and lost five fumbles. In 2016, his first season after he started to work with Dedeaux and House, Ryan torched the NFL with 4,944 passing yards and 38 touchdowns during the Falcons’ Super Bowl run, winning league MVP in the process. Ryan said he’s seen several times this year and plans to see them again before training camp.  

“They help a bunch in terms of the way that I've trained my body for throwing the football,” Ryan said. “I'm able to throw it as much as I want and able to practice more than I ever have been able to practice. I think that's helped me play at a high level.” 

Quinn said he’s seen Ryan take more of a leadership role over the past three seasons. Ryan, 34, said he’s in the process of organizing his yearly players-only camp, a time for Falcons to practice together without coaches present. Dates aren’t set up yet, and Ryan didn’t mention a location. Previously, he held them in California and south Florida. 

“Dan runs a very fast-paced practice,” Ryan said. “We move from one thing to the next really quickly. You don't always have that opportunity to take time in between reps and talk through everything the way that you want to on the field. When you get those opportunities, when it's just us, we have more time to be able to do that, which I think is beneficial.  

“I think it's also good to get that time on the field, but spend time together away from the field, too. We work so much, so it’s always good to have a good time together, too, away from the building.” 

Quinn said he doesn’t tell the players how to structure that camp, saying it’s good for them to do it on their own because “that’s how leaders are developed.” As for Ryan, Quinn said he’s pleased with his offseason and how’s he’s attacked solving the problem of getting better.  

“I think for any player, what's the hardest thing is when you're already working at a really good level to take it to the next one,” Quinn said. “I really admire how he captures that and makes sure he can go to a new spot. He doesn't back off that one bit. 

“The readiness he brings out to the practice field, the standard that he sets for him as teammates is really strong.”

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