The Falcons enter final preparations Wednesday for a crucial NFC South matchup in Carolina and on a short week. This Thursday night affair may be influenced by weather, with heavy rain currently in the forecast.
How the Falcons handle a Thursday night contest, the pressure of an essential contest and, quite possibly, unfriendly elements will go a long way in determining the outcome.
There's a ton factoring into all that. We dive into the state of the Falcons pass rush, the performance of young running backs Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley. We also discuss the upcoming schedule and whether the Falcons will go looking for defensive help in this Wednesday Bair Mail.
Mike S from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I feel like after a hot start the sack total isn't really moving much, what do we need to do to start getting to QBs with those game changing sacks?? Maybe I'm missing something and the total is actually good but it feels like the last few QBs we faced were way too comfortable.
Bair: Hey Mike!! Great to hear from you, my friend. You're right that sack pace has slowed. The Falcons didn't have a sack versus the Chargers and but one versus Carolina. Creating pressure is more than sacks, because pressures can cause throwaways or errant throws that lead to picks or failed attempts to work the ball downfield, and the Falcons have done that at times.
That said, I agree with your points that sacks are true game changers that can ruin a drive. The Falcons are looking for more of those plays via blitzes and a more standard pass rush.
Grady Jarrett creates havoc, even when double teamed. Ta'Quon Graham has been good in those situations, even without a sack to his credit. Arnold Ebiketie has one but is often close, with eight quarterback hits to his credit. A few fixes here and there and he'll start getting home.
An inconsistent pressure makes it harder to cover, especially if the pocket's completely clean. That's where the Falcons get into trouble. Is the answer more blitzes, which expose you on the back end? Not so sure about that, especially against top quarterbacks.
The Falcons can get home and have at times. If they get more, especially off the edge, that would help the whole operation. They're working with young edge rushers -- Lorenzo Carter's the old man in the group – who will develop best by doing. It's best to keep throwing them out there, developing them and honing their skill. That will help develop a better overall pass rush in the long run.
Kirby Killian from Monroe, Conn.
Hey man, I was wondering what your opinion is on Allgeier and Huntley? I like what both backs bring to the table and they both seem to be showing up in big ways. Do you think we have the ground attack on lock for the foreseeable future?
Bair: I have been impressed by both young players, Kirby. Tyler Allgeier has been making progress throughout the season and, on Sunday against the Chargers, I thought his best runs looked like some from his BYU highlight reel. He was decisive hitting the hole, slashed around some tacklers and was ready to get physical when the time was right.
My favorite stat about Caleb Huntley, taken from football analyst Warren Sharp, is that Huntley has the lowest percentage of runs of 1 yard or less. Not every run will be efficient, but Huntley's tough to take down and can at least get you a couple. There's real value in that, especially in short-yardage situations.
Both guys have been productive and earned roles even now that Cordarrelle Patterson is back and active again. The Falcons have a solid rushing crew, plus Marcus Mariota, who can turn on the afterburners. This attack is in a good space, and there should be confidence in all three guys in the present and future. Don't forget that Cordarrelle Patterson's under contract another year, so the whole group could return. That's a positive for a team trying to build a steadily productive offense with a run-first mentality.
Nate Kim from San Jose, Calif.
We are going into an easy stretch of the schedule, but the last 3 games are tough and it is very possible that we could end the season with a 3 game losing streak. We need to make the most of these games. Do you think we can go on like a four-game win streak from now with like the panthers, bears, commanders, and the Steelers coming up?
Bair: Even while reading your question, Nate, I can hear Tori McElhaney's voice in my head, reminding me (as she always does) that there's no such thing as an "easy" stretch of the schedule. Even opponents down on their luck can surge in a particular week thanks to a matchup or scheduling quirk (coming off a bye) or an injury situation. You also can't assume a good team can't be beat.
Assigning Ws and Ls to the schedule now is as impossible as it was when the schedule was first released. We just don't know. We do know the Falcons need to get hot to be in position for an NFC South title and enter a vital Thursday night matchup against Carolina. If they can get a win in Charlotte, they'll be back to .500 and in no worse than a tie for first place, with the prospect of getting some injured players back in the lineup.
As Dean Pees often says when asked about an opponents, and I'm paraphrasing here, is that it's a little about them and a lot about us. The Falcons have to improve in certain areas, namely passing offense and pass defense (both rush and coverage) to stay competitive and win a bunch of these upcoming games. The Falcons are trying to peak down the stretch, and this is the time to do so.
Jason Howell from Boca Raton, Fla.
After seeing Grady get doubled every snap, do you think the Falcons should sign Suh to help out on the D-line?
Bair: I get asked about Ndamukong Suh fairly often as someone who could help out on the interior defensive line. I'm sure it he could, but I think the Falcons are committed to players they're developing as draft picks or through churning the bottom third of the roster. I have a hard time seeing, with the roster in its current state and both long-term and short-term goals in mind, that signing a veteran who hasn't played this year. Also, it takes two sides to form a pact. Would Suh want to make a move right now?
In general, though, I believe they'll continue searching for contributors in their way, guys who can help in small ways and eventually bigger ones over a longer term. In my opinion, the Falcons shouldn't look for rentals.
I do think the biggest additions to their lineup will come through renewed help. Getting A.J. Terrell back (in time) will be a huge shot in the arm for the secondary and could change how the Falcons are attacked. After missing him a few games already, adding him to the mix should be a big benefit to the entire team.
Take a look as the team puts in the work in Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the Carolina Panthers, presented by Gatorade.