“I can say, after asking around, that there are scouts who think Matt Ryan’s arm is shot,” writes Breer. “And it definitely looks like he has to work harder to get the ball where he wants it to go. That said, the Colts’ quarterback is fighting his tail off.”
Now, the fact that an aged 37 year old Matt Ryan has diminished arm strength isn’t necessarily surprising—given that while he always threw an effective deep ball as the longtime starting quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, he was never regarded as having a rocket arm to begin with entering the league, and is now firmly in the late stages of his playing career.
That being said, there’s a distinction between ‘shot’ and ‘diminished’—and one that doesn’t work well in the Colts favor here.
We’ve seen some of the NFL’s quarterback greats—including even Peyton Manning or 2020 Philip Rivers, still maintain high level—even MVP seasons, with diminished arm strength, but shot? Shot?
That’s not exactly encouraging news to hear for anyone associated with the Colts.
Ryan’s offensive line has done him no favors this season, as he’s consistently been hit, sacked, and under duress for a veteran quarterback who’s a pure pocket passer with little mobility—and thought he would be getting an upgrade from his last few seasons in Atlanta.
Instead, getting ever close to Halloween, the Colts offensive line has been a horror show.
Ryan’s played much better when he’s been properly protected:
Per PFF, Matt Pryor and Dennis Kelly combined to give up 12 pressures yesterday.— Kennan (@VeveJones007) October 24, 2022
The Colts allowed 18 total on 48 dropbacks (37.5%).
Ryan's PFF Grade Split:
Kept Clean - 73.4
Pressured - 31.6
However, some of Ryan’s throws on interceptions have been downright bonehead—and cannot always be blamed on the offensive line’s problems in pass protection. These are throws where he’s had time but simply threw into double or triple coverage—or failed to make the right coverage read.
Just poor decisions for a supposed savvy veteran quarterback, who you wouldn’t think would make them given his ample experience in the league. Not to mention, Ryan’s poor ball security when taking hits. Ryan leads the league with 11 fumbles and 9 interceptions and has been highly turnover prone for Indianapolis so far this season.
We’re entering Week 8, so at some point, it all can’t be just chalked up to the struggling offensive line, a new playbook, and new teammates. Ryan shoulders a lot of the blame.
Likewise, Ryan has largely refrained from challenging opposing defenses downfield—which has allowed defenses to force the Colts to take short completions underneath, limiting their ability to have big plays deep and sustain long scoring drives, behind an offensive line that no longer blocks well in either facet offensively. Quite frankly, it’s more plays for the unit to get soundly beat in the trenches or make mistakes. It’s also allowed defenses to better commit against the Colts ground game, which certainly isn’t nearly what it was last season.
Perhaps Ryan no longer trusting his arm strength has made him gun shy taking calculated chances deep? It’s not the best receiving corps, but big wideouts like Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce should be able to make plays downfield—if the offensive line can simply hold up, and Ryan can get it there in time.
Ryan shouldn’t be solely blamed for the Colts offensive woes by any means.
After all, it starts with the league’s highest paid offensive line that is clearly underperforming well below standards. However, it’s hard to argue that his inconsistent, turnover prone, and timid play downfield isn’t also hurting the Colts.