FLOWERY BRANCH — As he prepares for his fifth season as starting quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan is grateful for all the rest he can get.
The Falcons’ coaching staff films each pass Ryan throws in practice before and during the season to give the team an exact number of the wear and tear on his right arm.
It’s an approach Atlanta started in 2008 when general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith were hired and Ryan was drafted with the NFL’s third overall pick.
Ryan has missed just two games in his career, and none since Week 14 of the 2009 season.
“I feel great,” Ryan said Monday. “My body feels really, really good, but we’re just trying to stay on top of it.”
Ryan had a “day off” earlier this month, still throwing passes in light drills, but leaving the bulk of the first-team offense work to backups Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson and rookie Dominique Davis.
Every little bit of rest helps Ryan, who passed for a franchise single-season high 4,177 yards last season. His arm was far more affected, however, by the 24 sacks and 84 hits he absorbed from opponents.
“Smitty was kind enough to give me a day to rest (10 days ago), which was good and it helps out,” Ryan said. “We put it on a date after a day off so it was back-to-back days where I got two days of rest. Just kind of monitoring it.”
As is the custom with most NFL teams’ starting quarterback, Ryan is unlikely to play past the first quarter of Atlanta’s second preseason game on Thursday when the Falcons (13th in the AP Pro32 rankings) host Cincinnati.
In last week’s home loss to Baltimore, Ryan completed 9 of 13 passes for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His night ended after Jacquizz Rodgers ran for a short touchdown that gave the Falcons a 14-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
“It was a great start, and that’s all it was because it was one quarter, but I thought he was very efficient,” Smith said. “I think it’s something you’ve seen as a trend throughout training camp. I thought in our work (in practice early last week) against the (Tennessee) Titans he was very efficient and going to the right place for the most part. You saw the same thing on Thursday night in that first quarter. He thought he moved the ball around well.”
Julio Jones and Roddy White caught all of Ryan’s completions against Baltimore, and the only other receiver he targeted was rookie Drew Davis on a deep incompletion early in the first.
Jones put on an acrobatic show, catching six passes for 109 yards. The second-receiver beat right cornerback Cary Williams for a 7-yard touchdown catch on the left sideline of the end zone and later beat left cornerback Lardarius Webb for a 36-yard grab down the right sideline.
“Some of the reads told him to go to Julio, but I think he distributed it very well,” Smith said. “I think he’s not only getting a good chemistry with Julio, but with all of our receivers.”
Because he has continued the same positive rapport he had last year with Jones and White, Ryan is likely to incorporate No. 3 receiver Harry Douglas more this week. Douglas missed the Ravens game with a rib injury.
“One thing I like about preseason games is it gives you an opportunity to see how things shake out, because you’re not really game-planning for somebody else,” Ryan said. “You’re kind of just adjusting to things on the fly. It’s a good indicator of what guys really know. It’s encouraging to see some of the positive things and some of the negative things.”
Notes: Smith said middle linebacker Akeem Dent (concussion) will not play against the Bengals. ... WR Kerry Meier (leg) also is unlikely to dress. ... Smith hopes FB Lousaka Polite will be ready to play. Polite was signed Saturday after the Falcons placed rookie FB Bradie Ewing (right knee) on season-ending injured reserve.
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