The NFL has become a quarterback-driven league and next season the Atlanta Falcons will follow suit with a greater emphasis on vertical passing. For quarterback Matt Ryan that means hitting the gym early, and often.
"I've been working hard on that and getting with (director of athletic performance) Jeff Fish now that we're back to make sure that I'm ready to go," Ryan told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "(I'm) ready to be strong in December and January. I want to be able to play my best football at that time. That's one of the things I've tried to figure out and analyze myself; how do I get myself to be playing my very best, when your very best is needed. I'm still working on getting there."
Falcons coach Mike Smith, who has emphasized a run-first mentality in Atlanta, will now be leaning on former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's knowledge and understanding of the vertical passing game after the team brought Koetter to run the offense.
Ryan has more than enough targets to throw the ball to between wide receivers in Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Not to mention his running back Michael Turner who rushed for 11 touchdowns and 1,340 yards as well as catching 17 passes for 168 yards.
"It's weight training, getting in there and training with weights," Ryan said. "It's learning to condition myself in the way that we play football and in a way that is productive to how we are playing football."
Ryan threw a franchise-record 4,177 yards last season for 29 touchdowns. He's passed for more than 3,000 yards in three of his four seasons in the league -- in 2009 he only threw for 2,916 yards, but missed two games because of a turf toe injury.
"It's making a bigger commitment to it and taking care of your body in a better way than I have in the past," Ryan said. "That is something that is important to me."