The regular season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its second season under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
Week 4 begins a tough stretch for the Washington Football Team when it comes to facing the upper echelon of active quarterbacks in the NFL. Four of its next six opponents -- the Falcons, Chiefs, Packers and Buccaneers -- have quarterbacks who have been to eight Super Bowls over the past decade and won six of them.
But before Washington can go against the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, it must first take on Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Given his acumen and ability, the team is aware of how the four-time Pro Bowler and former MVP can still pick defenses apart.
"This is a savvy guy that's been doing it a long time and had a lot of success," said head coach Ron Rivera. "He's got a good arm. He still makes all the throws. He's a little older, but with that comes wisdom and experience."
Rivera is intimately familiar with what Ryan has been able to do over the course of his 14-year career, given his experience in the NFC South. His Carolina Panthers were 7-13 against Ryan, and while the Panthers did have a dominant three-year stretch with consecutive division titles, Ryan was still one of the best quarterbacks in the league with four playoff berths and a pair division titles in his own right during Rivera's tenure.
And on top of that, he's thrown for at least 4,000 yard in every season since 2011.
"At the end of the day, the thing that you've got to do is be disciplined against him," Rivera said of Ryan in 2019. "He's going to go hard play-action, and he does a good job with play-action. He'll throw the ball downfield. He has got a good arm. He still makes good decisions. He's got a good touch."
The Washington Football Team went on the road for this first team this season to play the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Judging by the numbers he has put up in three weeks under head coach Arthur Smith's system, Ryan is still proficient under center. He's not as mobile as other quarterbacks Washington has faced, such as Daniel Jones and Josh Allen, but he does have his own challenges. While he's only thrown for 707 yards, his completion rate (70.9%) is eighth, which is ahead of Mahomes and Brady.
"He's seen a lot of coverages, seen a lot of DBs," Kamren Curl said. "His veteran ways give him an advantage. If we can get to him, he can't move around."
Curl's point is well-taken. Part of why Allen gave Washington so many problems despite its consistent pressure was that he evaded defenders with ease and kept plays alive. That isn't expected to happen nearly as often against Ryan, and since Buffalo was only the third game that Washington's defense was held without a sack, the unit is due.
"If we can get to him and stay sticky in the coverage, we should be good," Curl said.
It should be a good chance to bounce back from its blowout loss to the Bills in Week 3. The Falcons' passing offense is 25th, and Ryan has already been sacked seven times. Still, Ryan is one of only two quarterbacks with five or more passing scores while under pressure since 2018, so the secondary will need to contain the likes of Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts to give the defensive line enough time to work.
"I think it's an opportunity for us to take a step," Rivera said. "This is going to be a very competitive game. Both teams are in the same situation. So I expect it to be a hard-played game."