#2 Matt Ryan

We start our look at the Falcons players with one of the most important names on the roster - quarterback Matt Ryan.

Matt Ryan will start his eighth season as Atlanta’s quarterback in 2015. He’s been very successful, but he’s still fallen short of the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl. But with a new coaching staff and a new offense, will Ryan get the Falcons back to knocking on the door of a championship?

Ryan was more effective when he had a solid running game behind him, and in the last two seasons the Falcons have just not had a dangerous running back. Michael Turner represented a solid running back for Ryan’s first five seasons of his NFL career, but Steven Jackson was a disaster as his replacement.

The Falcons hope they have rectified that problem with the selection of Tevin Coleman in the NFL draft. Coleman will join second-year running back Devonta Freeman to hopefully compliment Ryan in the backfield.

Ryan will again have top targets Julio Jones and Roddy White available, and last season Devin Hester proved to be a solid third option. With Tony Gonzalez gone, the production from tight end decreased in 2014. But the Falcons have added Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki to battle for playing time with incumbent Levine Toilolo.

Of course, one of the problems for Ryan has been his offensive line. The last two years the Falcons line of scrimmage has been a revolving door due to injuries. The team has added veterans Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus this offseason, which should stabilize Ryan’s main protectors.

The team is going to a zone blocking scheme, which will be a change for Ryan and his line. But new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is a firm believer in this style to best protect the quarterback.

Ryan is the highest paid player on the team and, as the quarterback, the most important player on the team. Atlanta’s struggles the last two years have not really been due to Ryan, but instead issues on defense. The Falcons have taken drastic steps to fix those issues this offseason.

But so much remains up to Ryan. He will be under the spotlight with his first new head coach of his career. Dan Quinn is a defensive coach, but the new head Falcons coach knows Ryan’s important to the franchise. Ryan will need to flourish in the new system to elevate his game, particularly with a tremendous group of receivers at his disposal.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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