Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked nine times in the regular season finale, a fitting end to a year that saw him under duress while throwing passes too often.
Ryan was sacked 44 times this year, a career high, and ESPN Stats and Information passes along that he was pressured on 204 dropbacks this season. That was the most in the league, as were Ryan’s 702 total dropbacks, and it left wide receiver Roddy White worried about the quarterback’s long-term health if the Falcons don’t make some serious improvements.
“Next year, that’s got to be something that we improve: We’ve got to keep our quarterback clean because he’s not going to make it,” White said, via ESPN.com. “You keep taking hits and hits and you’re not going to make it. We’re going to have to find ways to get him protected, keep him upright so he can do what he do and that’s make throws and win football games.”
The man charged with finding personnel to improve the protection felt less worried about Ryan’s health this season. Citing Ryan’s “uncanny ability to escape and get out of the way in his own way within the pocket,” General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said he didn’t think about limiting Ryan’s exposure in the final weeks of the season in order to avoid an injury.
Despite that, there’s no disputing White’s belief that Ryan has to get hit less often next season. Upgrading the line should also help the team establish a more consistently effective running game, something that would also take some of the heat off of the quarterback come 2014 and help the Falcons climb back up the standings after a disappointing season.