Ryan to start right away, but at what cost?

The Covington News - - Sports -

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

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