According to NFL.com’s Nick Shook, using ‘Next Gen Stats’, new Indianapolis veteran starting quarterback Matt Ryan was the league’s second best deep passer of 2021:
2. Matt Ryan
Indianapolis Colts (Falcons in ‘21) · Age 37
Deep attempts: 20-of-42, 718 yards, 3:1 TD-to-INT ratio, 107.7 passer rating
PASSING SCORE (on deep attempts): 99
As we know, Ryan’s Falcons didn’t make the playoffs last season, and he was traded to the Colts in March. However, Ryan’s deep-passing stats show how he vastly outperformed expectations under difficult circumstances in 2021. Consider: Atlanta’s top receiver, Calvin Ridley, played in just five games before leaving the teams to focus on his ”mental wellbeing.” Ryan was left to lean on rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, with Russell Gage, Tajae Sharpe and Olamide Zaccheaus as his top wideouts. His offensive line was notoriously leaky. And he still tied for the top passing score on deep passes in the entire league.
While we’re only discussing deep throws here — as opposed to every type of pass attempt — it is rather easy to see why the Colts felt Ryan would be the solution to their quarterbacking problems. Those of you who believe “Matty Ice” is washed, over the hill, past his prime, etc., are flat-out wrong. The numbers prove it.
Even at 37 years of age, and with no Julio Jones (*prime) to throw to downfield anymore, the former 2016 NFL MVP continues to be effective at an advanced football age—going deep to his intended receivers.
While Ryan may have lost a little arm strength, the numbers back it up that he’s still one of the game’s best at taking calculated shots downfield. Ryan should also be aided by playing half of his regular season games indoors next season at Lucas Oil Stadium—where weather and wind become a non-factor.
With NFL First-Team All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor in his backfield, the Colts don’t need Ryan to carry their offense either—or even be its focal point. He just needs to play smart, accurate, efficient, and winning football. When opposing defenses are overzealous in stacking the box against #28, it would certainly help if he could routinely punish them by going deep for big chunk plays.
Somewhat surprising here is that former Colts starting quarterback, now turned Washington Commander Carson Wentz ranked #7 on this list, who Shook openly acknowledges benefited from a lot of loaded boxes against Taylor this past season. Wentz actually had a solid stretch where he drew a lot of defensive pass interference flags downfield, but oftentimes, it was because those deep balls were slightly underthrown—and his intended receivers had to work their way back to the football through contact. (The notorious T.Y. Hilton overthrow in the Las Vegas Raiders loss late in the season still looms large too).
The hope is that Ryan will better consistently hit his receivers running in stride downfield.
Either way, the Colts clearly upgraded as far as deep passers are concerned ahead of the 2022 campaign, as Ryan’s much anticipated arrival should mark at least a considerable improvement in that regard—as far as accuracy and consistency are concerned.