Ryan to start right away, but at what cost?
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — With Michael Vick out of the picture, the Atlanta Falcons wasted little time anointing Matt Ryan as the new face of the franchise.
They drafted the quarterback third overall, lavished him with a $72 million contract and decided three preseason games was enough to make him the starter.
Will they regret that decision down the road?
The Falcons are certainly putting themselves at some risk by going with a rookie at such a high-profile position, especially when he'll be playing behind an offensive line that could be one of the leakier units in the league.
Protecting Ryan's blind side at the critical left tackle position is another rookie, Sam Baker. Lining up next to Baker is second-year guard Justin Blalock. On the right side, Atlanta could start not one, but two linemen who weren't even drafted out of college, Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo.
But the Falcons' new coach, Mike Smith, has no qualms about going with Ryan right from the start.
"There's no hesitancy at all," Smith said Wednesday. "We told the players from day one that it was an open competition for every position on the field. Matt won the job. It would be an injustice not to play the best players and give our team the best opportunity to win."
He can only hope that Ryan doesn't