Lauding Ryan

   How rare is it to see a rookie quarterback performing as well as local hero Matt Ryan, who has the Falcons 4-2 coming into Sunday's date at the Linc? "It's pretty rare," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said Thursday. "You look at the preseason games, you go through the season -- every game, he's improved ... Not taking sacks, throwing the ball away, doing a good job with that, hitting big plays when he has to. He's really improved."

   "He's playing like a veteran right now. You'd like to have had this guy the first game of the year. He was a lot different quarterback than he is now."

   Johnson said even Peyton Manning, whom he faced when Johnson was with Seattle, wasn't as strong a performer as a rookie as Ryan -- but he added that the Falcons' dominant running game has been a big factor there, keeping Ryan in manageable situations.

  "They do a great job with their running game. If they can get ahead of you, they're going to pound the ball," Johnson said.

   Johnson also humorously lamented his defense's problems covering opposing tight ends, who have caught 39 passes for 503 yards in six games against the Birds. "Tight ends need to send a limo for us," he said.