Welcome, everybody, to a Wednesday mailbag that comes to you with a certain slant. I got a ton of questions about the Falcons pass rush, so many that I talked about it twice.
- Question of the Week: What lingering questions do you have after Falcons wrap OTAs?
- How to crack the Cordarrelle Patterson code
- Bair Mail: On Marcus Mariota impact, Marlon Davidson and Terry Fontenot retaining homegrown players
- Finding the Falcons rookie class: Drake London, Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen; Desmond Ridder; DeAngelo Malone, Tyler Allgeier, Justin Shaffer, John FitzPatrick
It's definitely a source of intrigue heading into camp, with the team drafting two edge rushers and essentially hitting reset on the position group. It will be fascinating to see what respected position coach Ted Monachino can do with this group. We address all that and more in this edition of Bair Mail:
Victor Cenales from Poole, Ga.
Hello, Mr. Bair, I know Arnold Ebiketie was a 2nd round pick, but I think he has a real chance of being defensive rookie of the year, he has a really great first step, and bend off the edge, what's your take on the young man?
Bair: I feel like there's so much to learn about Arnold Ebiketie, someone who has yet to take a professional snap. We have ZERO idea how he'll do at the professional level. He has to go prove himself. I also think rookie of the year expectations fall on the highest of picks, likely the three edge rushers taken in the top six, not the guy taken at No. 38.
I do have high hopes for Penn State product Arnold Ebiketie, a supremely talented athlete with great upside considering his relative inexperience playing football. He burst onto the scene during his one season at Penn State, leaving many to think he'd end up a first-round pick. He nearly was, and the Falcons thought so much of him they moved up to secure his services. In terms of production, we have no idea how his skill set will play at the NFL level, in his rookie year. We do know he'll have a great opportunity to make an instant impact, quite possibly as a three-down player.
I'm not putting sack totals on him, but I believe he'll be a productive player right away. How productive? Considering he plays a position that requires pads for proper evaluation, we don't even have an inkling from the offseason program. We'll have to wait and see what he does.
Niklas Behrendy from Ulm, Germany
Hey Scott, I am a huge Falcons fan from Germany and often read the mailbag. I am often thinking about the falcons´ biggest problem... the pass rush. So, I have a few questions... So, what do you think our pass rush could look like in the upcoming season? Who will play the most snaps as an edge rusher? And who is in your opinion most likely to lead the team in sacks? And what are your thoughts about the latest D-Line additions (Ebiketie, Carter...)?
Bair: Thanks for the submission, Niklas!! Always love hearing from Falcons fans abroad. I'm glad you asked this one, because it ties in well with the question above. I do think the Falcons pass rush will be better than 2021. Honestly, it can't get a lot worse after recording just 18 sacks.
I think the Falcons we smart to go younger at the position after veterans didn't give them much the year prior. There was a hard reset there, with just Ade Ogundeji returning to join draft picks Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone and free-agent addition Lorenzo Carter.
The rotation will get worked out in camp, but I think we could see a lot of Carter and Ebiketie. Malone might be impactful in the sub package. Ogundeji is a wild card, someone who could compete for a starting role in the base defense.
In terms of leading the team in sacks, I'm going with Lorenzo Carter. I have high hopes for him in 2022, especially working in a scheme that fits his skill set. He's on a prove-it deal, working back home in the ATL.
The veterans and rookies were out on the field during Minicamps this week putting in some extra work and interacting with fans before the summer break.
Chase Paper from Rochester, NY
I know Marcus Mariota has talent but i firmly believe we've seen his ceiling. knowing exactly what we have in MM even at his best scares me because while he can win some games i don't see him as the guy who could light the league up and put a team on his shoulders. knowing that would it be such a bad idea to just hand the keys to Desmond and let him start using that personality to win the team over and build chemistry as the true leader? it's a win-win because we see what we have in Ridder, and if it doesn't look like the real thing we can make a play in next year's draft for a top QB. it's just scary imagining MM playing just good enough to hinder ridders growth and stop us from making a play on QB when next year is loaded.
Bair: I follow your logic here, Chase, but I don't necessarily agree with it. I understand our sample size on Marcus Mariota is NOT small. He has 61 starts in 74 games. You generally know what you have in a player after that amount of time, but I don't think that's the case here. Mariota is a freak athlete who got hurt a ton and changed play callers on a regular basis in Tennessee. He's entering an opportunity in great health, a motivated mindset and working with a familiar offensive mind. I freely admit I could be proven wrong, but my gut says we'll see the very best of him.
I also think that simply handing the keys to Desmond Ridder won't be a thing on this team. Head coach Arthur Smith prizes competition. You have to back that up at the game's most important position or all that talk rings hollow. The quarterback who earns it in training camp will start.
I also understand the need to see what you have in Ridder before entering the 2023 draft. He'll have to earn that right, however, and show well in practice before getting a start. That said, if you're in position to take what you believe is an elite passing talent, you take him no matter who is on your roster.
I'm of the belief that Mariota will start the season as the starter and show well. I also don't think that impedes Ridder's progress. He was a third-round pick. Quarterbacks taken in that round generally need time to develop. We might only see his true potential after some seasoning outside the spotlight.
Larry White from Peachtree City, Ga.
I have held season tickets since 82, and every year i look for a reason to believe in the Falcons. The current mantra for me...lets play big boy football...hope the other teams are unprepared for what that means..........Is this a potentially, illusion, or a reality?
Bair: Hey Larry!! I'm relatively new to the area, so I had to look up where you live. By doing so I found out that Peachtree City is a golf-cart city. Is that a thing?? That sounds awesome. Gotta check that out. Now on to your question about playing big-boy football.
I removed some of what you wrote about the size of the Falcons receiver corps. That will help the Falcons use size as an advantage. When I think big-boy football, I think about a strong, steady, powerful running game that can get required yards even when the whole world knows the Falcons are going to run. That means the offensive line can dictate terms. I don't think group has proven it can do that yet.
I know Arthur Smith wants to play that brand of football. He certainly has the personnel to do that in the passing game. Working things out in the run game will push this attack further in that direction.
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