FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was very candid when he joined The Morning Show with John Fricke and Hugh Douglas on Thursday from the Falcons’ training facility. Not only did Ryan agree that the red zone was a huge problem last season, but the ninth-year passer offered suggestions on a fix.
Expect the Falcons to get more aggressive on offense as they approach the red zone.
“Where we have to be better is in that fringe area, said Ryan from the 92-9 The Game set at training camp. Where you have shots from maybe the 25-[yard line] to the 15, where you have some more space. We’ve got to score touchdowns from there. We’ve got to create explosive plays and score touchdowns from there.”
Atlanta ranked 18th in the league last season after scoring touchdowns on 54.7 percent of the team’s trips inside the 20-yard line. That figure was down from 61.4 percent from 2014, when the Falcons ranked fourth in the NFL.
The Falcons had little trouble moving the football in between the 20s — Atlanta’s offense ranked seventh in the NFL with 5,990 yards from scrimmage — but stalled in the red zone.
Ryan called the end line in the back of the end zone “the best defensive player on the field.” With the end line a definitive stop for the defense, safeties are able to move up into the box, making it tougher to run the football. Spacing also gets much tighter in the passing game in the red zone because teams only rush two players at time and drop nine in to coverage.
In those nine-players-in-coverage situations, Ryan said maneuvering a football into four guys deeper in coverage and five guys underneath gets increasingly difficult.
“When we get it inside the 5-[yard line],” Ryan continued about changes that must be made in Atlanta’s 2016 red-zone offense, “we have to have the mindset that there’s no way you can stop us. We’ve got to be tough up front and run the ball right down people’s throat and score touchdowns.”