Ryan arguably had his worst NFL season last year, his first in Shanahan’s offense. He threw 16 interceptions and posted the second-lowest quarterback rating (61.79) of his career.
Those who remember the 2-7 finish to last season are eager to see if Ryan has made progress in Shanahan’s system.
“Matt didn’t get a lot of opportunities in the game,” Shanahan said. “I know that we would have loved for him to get more opportunities, a few longer drives, but it didn’t work out that way.”
Shanahan says has seen signs of progress.
“In practice, he’s doing great,” Shanahan said. “Everyone has some good days and some bad days, but I think overall, week to week, Matt has done better each week and I think that will continue into Week One.”
While the Falcons are still clearly working through some issues on offense, Shanahan believes that he and Ryan are on the same page.
“It’s not about re-inventing the wheel or changing who you are,” Shanahan said. “It’s about having more time together. I think it’s been pretty similar, but when you’ve been together for a year instead of a couple of months, everybody gets used to stuff.
“You’ve been through the heat of a battle. You know the adjustments. You know what direction that we are going. It’s been real fun to work with the guy for a second year.”
Back-up quarterback Matt Schaub, who played for Shanahan in Houston, come on last Thursday and excelled against the Redskins, completing 10-of-15 passes for 179 yards. Behind Ryan and Schaub, the battle for the No. 3 position continues between Sean Renfree and Matt Simms.
“Renfree got a lot more action, especially more passing plays and stuff,” Shanahan said. “When Simms got in there, we were more trying to run out the clock. He did a good job on a couple of the opportunities that he had.”
The winner must be stunning enough to warrant the team carrying three quarterbacks this season.
“I thought Sean played real well with the opportunities that he had,” Shanahan said. “Simms probably should get a little bit more than Renfree this week, but we’ll see how it pans out. We plan to get them both opportunities before these four games are over.”
Shanahan is familiar with FirstEnergy Stadium. He was with the Browns for one season, but got out of his contract to join the Falcons.
“I’m glad we are going now instead of the end of the year,” Shanahan said. “It gets very cold there. They have some great fans, great people out there.”