Why the Matt Ryan trade makes the Colts an AFC contender

As weird as the 2022 NFL offseason was, I don’t think anyone saw the Atlanta Falcons trade Matt Ryan before another quarterback was brought in. It looked like the inevitable conclusion to Atlanta’s misguided lawsuit against Deshaun Watson, and while that a potential deal would have secured Ryan’s exit, Monday’s trade that sent the winningest quarterback in history from the Falcons to the Colts took everyone by surprise.

We knew the quarterback reshuffle in the NFL was going to be shocking, but this one was one hell of a twist — and it could be enough to push Indianapolis into the AFC top flight.

Let’s face it, it’s been a weird few years for Indy at quarterback. The franchise has still not recovered from the shock retirement of Andrew Luck in 2019 and found itself in limbo. The Colts tried to get back to the playoffs with Philip Rivers, and to their credit, it worked, but when Rivers retired, the team was at a crossroads: tear it all down and rebuild, or keep trying to find answers?

Why Carson Wentz Didn’t Work

We now know that this last attempt failed. Carson Wentz was a perfectly serviceable quarterback in 2021, but “useful” won’t push a team deep into the playoffs unless they have amazing defense and other x-factors like the 49ers. Wentz presented solid numbers, but the devil was in the details. He was slightly above average in his accuracy, didn’t stretch the field, and while he didn’t get intercepted much, he made a ton of ill-advised throws that wouldn’t prolong drives like the team needed it.

Wentz is said to attempt a “bad pass” on nearly 19% of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Reference’s advanced passer metrics – and that’s despite averaging 2.5 seconds to throw the ball. By comparison, Joe Burrow only had 10.4% of his pitches labeled as a “bad pass,” while getting 2.2 seconds time to pitch on average.

It might seem like a small difference, but it was much more pronounced considering how Indianapolis liked to direct their offense. A rarity in the NFL, the Colts are truly a throwback-style offense — which seems newsworthy considering being “old school” in that sense only dates back 15 years. They are a team that likes to run the ball, start the game action and cut time. More than a third of Wentz’s passing yards in 2021 are from play-action passes, and that really should be where a QB can eat — especially with a fullback like Jonathan Taylor to fake the transfer. Instead, Wentz averaged 8.6 yards per attempt on those throws. Not terrible, but not good enough.

The Colts were acutely aware that Wentz was not the guy. At least not the guy who could take them on a deep playoff run. It was a bad deal that took away the Colts’ first-round pick this season in an unusually deep draft, but at least they got it. some return, exchanging it with the commanders in Washington. For a moment, it looked like the rebuilding would begin now, a slow march toward desolation before a new quarterback could be found.

Why Matt Ryan is different

Okay so no one is confusing Ryan in 2022 with Russell Wilson when it comes to promise and hype but he fits so deeply into the Colts offense it feels like it was meant to be .

In 2020 with Todd Gurley as a feature, Ryan averaged 9.8 yards per attempt in game action. Obviously, Taylor is a lot more intimidating to defenses, so that number should increase with the new QB at the helm . Ryan has also pushed the ball further throughout his career and is much more cautious with football. Even last season he only attempted a ‘bad pass’ on 14.5% of attempts, and that was when he needed to force throws to try and generate an offense.

While Ryan isn’t a gun-toting quarterback who can take over a game at this point in his career, he’s still better than anyone else left in the market. There’s also a fair argument to be made that Ryan is better right now than Rivers was when he joined the Colts in 2020, and that bodes extremely well considering Indianapolis has gone 11-5 this season. and lost just three runs to the Bills in the Wild. Card trick.

Either way, Ryan is the right QB at the right time, and ended up in the right place. As painful as it was to leave Atlanta, it was the nice and fair thing to put him on a fringe team in the playoffs rather than lose one of his final seasons in the NFC South slump only to lose to Tom Brady. .

Now, Indianapolis must be considered one of the favorites to win their division. Outside of Tennessee, which has been solid but unspectacular with Ryan Tannehill at center, there’s really no challenge in the AFC South. The window is now open.

Ryan is the ideal person, but things are far from perfect in attack

There’s no identity crisis in Indianapolis, but that doesn’t mean they can afford to overlook the need for another wide receiver. Michael Pittman Jr. is a No. 1 stud who will make big numbers with Ryan, but there’s still a long way to go.

With $16 million in cap space remaining, Indy has room to sign at least one more top-flight receiver. The most obvious answer that just makes too much sense is Julio Jones. Jones is at a point where he will likely sign a “prove” deal, just to show he can transition into a veteran role. After a disastrous season in Tennessee, he’s been dying to show the NFL he still has some talent, and there’s no better way than to reunite him with Ryan.

Outside of Jones, there are still strong talents in the market. Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t decided on his team yet, and the Rams seem to have moved on by signing Allen Robinson. OBJ could be a very good choice in Indy. There’s also Jarvis Landry, who is also looking to prove himself – and to a lesser extent Will Fuller.

Any of these players would partner well with Pittman Jr. and vary the offense enough, that with Taylor as the center point of offense, there could be deep success.

What’s the limit for these Colts?

I’m really bullish on this trade. Indianapolis was already a very good team that we slept too much on in 2021 because everyone knew Wentz was not going to take them far. Now, with Ryan at the helm, I think Indianapolis has serious potential to make some noise.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. The Bengals have made great strides in free agency after their breakout season, the Chargers have also improved markedly, the Chiefs and Bills will remain strengths – and the AFC’s wild card is now Denver, which is all-in with Russell Wilson.

Still, I find it hard not to see the Colts in this company, if the team can get more weapons. Frank Reich has been a good coach, the team has great chemistry and I think sleeping on Indy is a big mistake. If the Colts pull off a major run this year, I wouldn’t be surprised, and it’s amazing that a trade can do that.

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