Ryan, Falcons have work cut out vs. Lions
Trivia question to start off today's blog: Who was the last quarterback to start the season-opener of his rookie year against the Lions?
Answer: The immortal Terry Baker, the former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick in the 1963 draft who led the Los Angeles Rams to a 23-2 loss and never started again. Baker in fact, played just 17 NFL games the rest of his career before drifting off into the sunset.
Not that I think Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is bound for anywhere near the same fate as Baker, but I bring this up to illustrate just how rare it is for a rookie to open the season at quarterback in the NFL. Ryan, the third pick in April's draft, has a bright future ahead of him. I saw him live last year in the Champs Sports Bowl, and while he didn't have an amazing game, he made all the throws you'd want from an NFL quarterback. His former teammate at Boston College, Gosder Cherilus said Ryan is one of the fiercest competitors he's ever met.
"In '06 he broke his foot against Central Michigan, first game, played the whole season with a broken foot," Cherilus said. "He had surgery afterward, so that tells you enough about the kid. Great competitor, great kid."
Cherilus, the Lions' first-round pick at No. 17 overall, said he talked to Ryan during training camp and planned to text him this week. The two are good friends from their BC days and might get together Saturday night in Atlanta if their schedules permit.
"At the end of it, I want to say, 'Hey, Matt, great game, but we're 1-0,'" Cherilus said.
It's a little early for predictions. I'll usually save those for Saturday with the rest of my NFL picks. But I'll get this way out of the way now. The Lions will win Sunday and spoil the debuts of Ryan and Falcons coach Mike Smith. It won't be the pushover that some expect. Michael Turner is a good running back who'll give the Lions fits. But Ryan is bound to make one rookie mistake that will come back to haunt him.