FLOWERY BRANCH — For Matt Ryan, it's all about the footwork.
The third-year quarterback is excited the Atlanta Falcons will finally play a preseason game with Kansas City visiting the Georgia Dome, which kicks off tonight.
Positive results could depend largely on how well Ryan moves inside and outside the pocket. A turf toe injury last season limited his mobility and affected his passing mechanics.
"I wasn't running around a ton at the end of the year with the toe," Ryan said. "I think any time you have a foot injury, you have to go back to basics and really make sure that you are really on top of your footwork. You have to make sure that your feet are in the right spots."
Ryan was knocked out of a Week 12 win over Tampa Bay early in the game and didn't return until Week 15 at the New York Jets.
His first game back was difficult. Nike made him a special shoe to help with mobility, but Ryan finished the game with a career-low 47.1 completion percentage.
Though it hardly helped that the running game averaged just 3.1 yards per carry, Ryan never felt comfortable on his drops. When it mattered most, he completed a fourth-and-goal winning touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez, but Ryan lacked precision on his throws.
Ryan's accuracy impressed Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio during Atlanta's two practices this week with the Jaguars. Quarterbacks were off-limits to contact, but Ryan still threw correctly to his spots without having to think too much about his feet.
Against Kansas City, defensive pressure won't be imagined.
The Chiefs' front-three tandem of Glenn Dorsey, Ron Edwards and Tyson Jackson wants a strong start after their defense finished 31st against the run in 2009.
Ryan will use his limited number of snaps to attain some of the goals he set before camp began.
"I'm working to improve my throwing routes that go from right to left a little bit better than I did last year, really with my footwork, " he said. "And decision-making — I think it's about making good decisions on first and second down. Being better on first and second down."
With starting receiver Michael Jenkins sidelined the next three to five weeks with a shoulder injury, Ryan has a chance to look more often for Brian Finneran, rookie Kerry Meier and Eric Weems. He already knows what Pro Bowl wide receiver Roddy White can do, but Harry Douglas, who missed last season with a knee injury, will not play.
Ryan likely will try to complete at least one pass to Gonzalez, the 10-time Pro Bowl tight end who spent his first 12 years with the Chiefs. Gonzalez is excited to face his former team for the first time since his trade to Atlanta last year.
"Any time you step on the field, you've got to bring it," Gonzalez said. "I know they're not going to slow down for me just because I want to sit back and enjoy myself because I'm playing my old team. I've got to go out there and try to get better and try to help this team get better."
Chiefs coach Todd Haley hasn't said how many snaps quarterback Matt Cassel or Kansas City's other marquee players will get.
Rookies Eric Berry and Dexter McCluster, a receiver selected in the second round, will likely play into the second quarter.
Kansas City coaches are still trying to pick a starter at running back between Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles.
Falcons coach Mike Smith said Thursday that rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the 19th overall pick, will start in place of injured Mike Peterson.