Ryan relayed those thoughts after the team concluded the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday.
"Our offensive line has done a great job," Ryan said. "I think for a lot of those guys, being Year 2 in the system helps -- just the comfort level of playing next to each other, but also knowing your calls inside and out. ... I think those guys are really on the same page. And I've been really impressed with their offseason; the way that they've worked both in the weight room, in the meeting room. But really the way that they've competed on the field has been fun to watch.
New center Alex Mack, tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder, and left guard Andy Levitre seem to be firmly in place, and Mack previously played in Kyle Shanahan's system in Cleveland. The question mark is at right guard, where Mike Person had been running with the starters up until minicamp. Rookie Wes Schweitzer saw extensive time at the position Tuesday, while veteran Tom Compton also got reps there. Person worked as the backup center.
"We worked Schweitzer in a good bit at right guard," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "We worked Compton in there some today. We've worked Person in there some. We really want to make that competition come to life at that position. For that to happen, it's going to happen in training camp. It will also happen in the preseason games where we'll rotate that around a little bit to find the best combination for us."
Veteran Chris Chester, the starting right guard last season, returned to action for the first time since offseason shoulder surgery but was limited to individual drills. Quinn was asked when Chester might receive full clearance.
"I'd say he's getting close to it now because he's cleared for on-field work," Quinn said. "It's more of a coaching decision to say, 'I want to keep working [on] your strength.' Chris, more than anybody, probably has the most experience in this system, so I want to make sure his strength is back full speed. He's chomping at the bit to get some team reps. Want him to keep working at individuals, see where his conditioning's at with the group before we put him into the team setting."
The emphasis Tuesday was moving the ball in the two-minute drill. Here are some other notes from Day 1 of minicamp:
Rookies Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell worked with the first team defense at middle and weak-side linebacker, respectively. Both saw time with the starters during organized team activities, but Jones being ahead of Paul Worrilow to begin minicamp raised some eyebrows. Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich assured Worrilow wouldn't lose his starting job without a fight, but it's hard to deny Jones' blazing speed. Said Quinn of the rookies, "For all the young players, at some point in time, they're going to be up with the first group, whether at linebacker or receiver or offensive line. We want to find out what a guy can do. ... That's an important part of the learning process. I'm pleased with their development up to this point. Along with Coach Ulbrich those rookie linebackers, they put in work."
Nose tackle Grady Jarrett was back on the field after being held out of OTAs with a knee tendonitis injury. Jarrett's quickness was evident during individual drills, although he was limited.
DeMarcus Van Dyke got plenty of work outside at cornerback against Julio Jones in 11-on-11, and it wasn't pretty. Jones beat Van Dyke down the left sideline for a long gain, then Jones scored a touchdown across the middle with Van Dyke trailing. You could see the frustration in Van Dyke's face on the sideline.
Speaking of cornerbacks, converted wide receiver C.J. Goodwin had an interception in full-team drills. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Goodwin is a guy who could get a serious look as the third cornerback behind Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. "In that transformation that we brought him from receiver to corner, the instincts and the ball skills, like you would imagine, are there," Quinn said. "He's got terrific speed. And now the next phase for him ... now is the tackling. That's the part that really that has to come to life, and we really won't know about that until we get into the preseason games. He's somebody that's caught our eye, for sure."