FLOWERY BRANCH — Matt Ryan, who was sacked 42 times in 2018, likes the progress he's seen from the Atlanta Falcons' overhauled offensive line throughout offseason workouts.
First in voluntary workouts, then this week when mandatory minicamp began, the new pieces have impressed the franchise's premier quarterback.
“It's been a steady improvement since we started and it's continued the last two days — particularly for our young guys, whether it be (first-round draft picks) Chris (Lindstrom) or Kaleb (McGary),” Ryan said Wednesday after the second of three days of minicamp. “Those guys, every time they step onto the field, even if it's the practice field, they're going to get a look they haven't seen before or a play we haven't run against a certain look.
“Those reps that they get, they can store in their memory bank and use that as we come back in a couple of weeks. These days are invaluable for them. I just see their communication getting better and better as we move forward.”
Lindstrom is a fellow Boston College product and Ryan heard plenty of good stuff about Atlanta's top 2019 draft pick.
“You know, I love having some guys from BC here, for sure,” Ryan said. “He was a great player there — but the bond is about here and now. We're just excited to have him as a part of what we're doing.”
At 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, Lindstrom's athleticism stands out.
“This time of the year, you don't get to see all of what they can do in terms of the physical nature of it, in terms of contact, but to watch him move, to watch how comfortable he is in his sets, where his hands are, those are all the things that give you a chance to play well,” Ryan said. “He does all those little things really well.”
Ryan passed for almost 5,000 yards with 35 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last year while being under heavy pressure. It was the eighth straight season Ryan surpassed the 4,000-yard mark.
The 34-year-old admits staying in peak form doesn't get easier, but he's dialed in his training over the years for maximum results.
“As you get further into your career, you've got to adapt and you've got to change the way you do it, but I probably feel better than I've ever felt,” Ryan said. “Because I've figured out what works best for me at this point of my life. I feel like I'm in a really good spot in terms of my training, eating sleeping — all those things that help you recover as quickly as possible.”
His leadership has been crucial to the Falcons' success and that also has been a process. Quinn said Ryan was always good at developing relationships with the offense, but noted a shift after the 2015 campaign to go beyond his side of the ball.
“For any player, the hardest thing is when you're already working at a really good level, how do you take it to the next one?” Quinn said. “I really admire how he captured that. The readiness he brings out to the practice field, the standard that he sets for him and his teammates, it's really strong.”
Ryan organizes some player-only workouts for the gap between this week's practices and training camp next month.
“You have more time to work specifically one-on-one with certain players,” Ryan said. “When we're out here at practice, it's very structured. Dan runs a fast-paced practice. We move really quickly from one thing to the next so you don't always have that opportunity to take time between reps and talk through everything.
“When you get those opportunities, when it's just us, we have more time to do that, which is beneficial. But it's also good to spend that time away from the field. We work so much, it's good to have a good time away from the building.”
Quinn steers clear of any involvement.
“That's how leaders develop,” he said. “They've got to do that one their own.”
Training camp begins July 22 with one of eight days open to the public. Seven of those days will be in Flowery Branch — July 22-25 and 27-29. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends. The other practice available to fans is at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 4 in conjunction with a military appreciation event.
The preseason begins Aug. 1 against the Denver Broncos at the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. The Falcons first home preseason game is Aug. 15 against the New York Jets.