Ryan says disappointing 2015 finish 'has no effect' on 2016
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - Matt Ryan insists his motivation for a full schedule of offseason work has nothing to do with his disappointing 2015.
Ryan's interceptions were up and his touchdown passes declined in 2015. That left the quarterback the target for new criticism as the Atlanta Falcons finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs following a 5-0 start.
Ryan, 31, began preparing for the 2016 season long before the organized team activities that continued on Tuesday. He paid for 27 teammates to attend a passing camp he organized near Miami the last week of March. The Falcons are in their third week of OTAs and will have their minicamp next week.
It's an important offseason for Ryan, who didn't have a smooth transition to new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme. Ryan's 16 interceptions were the second-most of his career and his 21 touchdown passes were his low since his 2008 rookie season.
Ryan said his commitment to the offseason work is the same no matter the record or personal statistics.
"For me, what we did last year really has no effect on what we're going to do this year," he said. "What we're doing now, what we've done the last couple of weeks in the offseason program, those are the things that can help us the rest of the year."
Ryan's production declined even as star wide receiver Julio Jones delivered the second-most catches and yards receiving in a season in NFL history.
One problem was finding more help for Jones and running back Devonta Freeman, who had a breakout season. Roddy White, who holds the franchise records for most catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches, was released after the season. The Falcons signed former Cincinnati receiver Mohamed Sanu to a five-year, $32.5 million deal.
Ryan's other top targets should include receiver Justin Hardy and tight end Jacob Tamme.
Hardy, a second-year player, had a one-hand sideline catch while falling back as a highlight to Tuesday's practice.
"That was a great catch," Jones said. "That's routine for him."
The practice ended with another highlight — tight end Levine Toilolo's touchdown catch at the back of the end zone.
Ryan said the Falcons are far ahead of this time last year, when they were still adjusting to coach Dan Quinn and Shanahan.
"I know we're a lot further along than at this point last year," he said. "There's no question about it. Being comfortable within the offense, guys being on the same page, I think we've gotten some really good work."
Ryan said players "understand who we are better than we did at this point last year. ... You try to find out what fits well and I think we're way ahead on that this year. I think it's been really good this offseason."
NOTES: Freeman participated in individual drills but was held out of team sessions due to what Quinn said was a minor strain. Quinn said Freeman could have been a full participant and is expected to return on Thursday. ... The team signed DE Nordly Capi and G Michael Huey and waived DE Josh Dawson. Capi spent the 2015 season on the Baltimore practice squad. Huey has spent time with Seattle, San Diego and Washington and played for Arizona in the Arena Football League. Dawson signed as a college free agent following this year's NFL draft.
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