Football / Sports

Falcons QB Matt Ryan worked on improving his cognitive skills

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Since entering the NFL, every offseason Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has tried to find something to improve on.

After his rookie season, he did an exhaustive film study of the top quarterbacks in the league.

One offseason, he focused on weight-lifting and getting stronger.

After going 4-12 and suffering through his first losing season, Ryan completed some cognitive work on his brain through a company called CogniSens, Inc.

The firm, which uses a NeuroTracker, which uses some 3-D cognitive training technology, to increase players' awareness and focus.

"It's been pretty good," Ryan said. "It's for special awareness. It's for trying to train your vision. It's been something that I've worked really hard on this offseason."

After getting sacked 44 times, a keener vision may have save Ryan from a couple of sacks.

"You are trying to improve your peripheral vision and just being able to pick things up," Ryan said. "Basically, it's training your vision. It's like weight lifting for your eyes. You are trying to improve your muscles, you are basically trying to train your eyes to work better and more efficiently."

Ryan reports that his vision is fine at "20/10" and that he was just looking for an edge.

"Just trying to find any way that I can get better," Ryan said. "My vision is good."

The company believes that its devices can help athletes cognitively distribute attentional resources throughout the visual field to help improve mental focus, sustained concentration, response time and situational awareness.

Ryan believes that it may help him avoid or anticipate the rush better and maybe find receivers down the field.

If that helps, Ryan may be better able to spread his passes around.

He knows his vision could be a major factor as the team tries to replace tight end Tony Gonzalez, who averaged more than 80 catches over the past five seasons.

With Gonzalez retired and working out of the CBS broadcasting studio, Ryan expects the Falcons to use more three- and four-wide receiver sets with the addition of Devin Hester.

"We've got to have a combination of guys at different positions to fill in for the production that he had," Ryan said. "Certainly, schematically we have to change some of the things that we do. Some of the things that Tony was really good at, don't necessarily fit in with some of the guys that we have.

"We'll make some adjustments and have some new wrinkles to use some of our guys and play to their strengths. We just need to find production collectively."

Tight end Levine Toilolo, who caught two touchdown passes as a rookie last season, will be used as a weapon in the red zone. He's been working with the first-team offense.

"Levine has done a pretty good job," Ryan said.

Toilolo worked to improve his blocking this offseason.

The offense will center around wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.

"Obviously, it's great to have (Jones) back," Ryan said. "He's an unbelievable player. Such an incredible talent. I can't believe he's been here four years now.

"He's so much more mature and has such a better understanding of our offense. At this point, he's teaching a lot of the young guys that are here, so he's a big help for me in terms of getting some of our new guys on board and up to speed."

Jones is coming back from a broken right foot has been on a limited practice schedule.

"Watching him out there, he looks great," Ryan said. "He looks really healthy and I've been really impressed with how he's come back from the injury."

Ryan, while he's worked on his vision, hopes that with the addition of rookie right tackle Jake Matthews and the return of left tackle Sam Baker, that he can focus down the field. Also, he's hoping that center Joe Hawley and right guard Jon Asamoah will establish a firm pocket that he can step up in.

"Jake, with his size, he's strong, he's very athletic and he's smart," Ryan said. "That's a great combination. When you talk about a guy that was drafted early and is going to be a cornerstone of this organization for a long time to come, it's a great combination to have."

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