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Falcons’ passing game looks to be in regular-season form

When a new staff takes over an organization, it is natural for the team to be patient while the players learn the new system and adapt to their new coaching staff. That doesn’t appear to be the case, at least not offensively, for the Atlanta Falcons in their preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.

Led by quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ offense took the ball at their own 9-yard line after a penalty on the opening kickoff and drove 91 yards on 10 plays. The drive ended after Ryan connected with wide receiver Julio Jones for a 13-yard touchdown. The drive took a crisp four minutes and 50 seconds.

While many eyes were looking to see how Tennessee rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota would perform, and while the rookie did okay (7-of-8 for 94 yards with one interception and one fumble), it was the veteran Ryan who showed how it’s done.

In his only series of the game, Ryan threw six passes and was a perfect 6-for-6. He started the game with a 6-yard completion to Jones. On the next play, Ryan faked a handoff and fired a strike down the middle to Jones for a 26-yard gain. After two short runs, Ryan hit fullback Patrick DiMarco for a 12-yard gain. The next play Ryan hit Jones for a 16-yard gain and following a one-yard run, Ryan hit Jones for the 13-yard touchdown. In all, Ryan was a perfect in six passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.

“We talked about wanting to come out and start fast, execute and get in and out of the huddle really fast and change personnel groupings,” Ryan said in an article on AtlantaFalcons.com. “I thought we did a great job with that. We still have a long way to go, but it was a really good start for us.”

Even with new coordinator Kyle Shanahan taking over as offensive coordinator, it should not be much of a surprise the offense was effective run by Ryan. Entering his eighth season, Ryan has thrown for more than 4,000 yards the last four years. The Falcons were fifth in the league in passing in 2014 and eighth in total offense.

Led by Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons' passing game already appears to be in mid-season form.

Led by Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons’ passing game already appears to be in mid-season form.

It also helps when you have a receiver such as Jones, who in 15 games in 2014, caught 104 passes for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns coming off an injury-filled 2013 season. Jones was rated as the 13th-best player in the NFL for 2015.

“He’s a beast, I am lucky to call him a teammate,” Ryan said. “But Julio did a great job. Obviously he is one of the best players in the league and he showed that again tonight.”

As defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, Dan Quinn had to try to devise a plan to stop Ryan and the Falcons’ offense in 2013. Now, he doesn’t have to worry.

“We had a conversation this week about how he is really feeling the rhythm of it,” Quinn said of Ryan following the game. “For him to come out, and attack right off and go into Julio Jones, and a couple of other big catches, he felt comfortable, but he was able to play fast. That’s really what we are looking for, where there’s not that thinking or hesitation. He had none of that tonight, so I think that’s great for him to be able to feel comfortable.”

While that’s great for the Falcons’ offense, that will likely make a lot more defensive coordinators uncomfortable.

Notes: The Falcons signed running back Evan Royster, cornerback Travis Howard and linebacker Terrell Manning on Sunday. The team also released offensive lineman DeMarcus Love….Atlanta’s next preseason game is Friday on the road against the New York Jets.


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