The calendar has officially turned to September. That officially means its football season. Rosters have been trimmed to 53 with game-planning and preparations for Week 1 well under way.
I have enjoyed this training camp as much as any other, but I'm ready for games that count. I'd bet you are too, especially with so much intrigue surrounding these 2023 Falcons.
As I wrote in a column earlier this week: The Falcons are undoubtedly better. But by how much? And how about in relation to the rest of the NFC South? Answers to those questions will define how far the Falcons can go this season.
Speculation season's almost over. So let's get to a few more of our questions as we continue to prep for the start of the regular season, which is coming in hot.
Krepton from Savannah, Ga.
The season is almost here and I'm pumped. I've got a few questions for y'all. Who is your under the radar breakout player for the year? Also, have you tried Bijan's mustard sauce yet? If so, should I order some? Let's go Falcons!!!!!!!
Bair: Hope all is well for you and yours Krepton, after the hurricane swept through your part of the state. Best wishes to the entire city and regions impacted by the weather. Now on to your questions.
They all revolve the same guy.
Who's my breakout player of the year? Bijan
Have I tried his mustard? Yes. There was a bunch of it around Flowery Branch right after the draft.
Should you buy some? I would. Pretty tasty.
I know you asked for under-the-radar player, but I think rookie counts either way. Robinson hasn't taken a single NFL snap. He must prove himself in the professional ranks. The dude is smooth and does somethings that are pretty special.
I'll also point you to a quote taken from our recent conversation with GM Terry Fontenot:
"The first time we met him, and I think back to when we spent time with him in Austin, Texas, you saw a rare maturity. You've seen someone who has handled everything in stride. We fully expect him to handle things (in Atlanta) the same way.
"But he has an intensity about him, too. Everybody sees the nice smile, but he can lock in and go to that dark place. He can lock in to do whatever he has to do to get the job done, whether you're talking about in the building, on the practice field, and we know it's going to carry over to the games, too. So, a rare maturity, but he can flip that switch and go to work."
That's a good combo and a good candidate to have a strong season.
If you want more of an unheralded player, I'll go with Dee Alford. He has earned the slot cornerback slot and proven at times to be a ball hawk. He also might well be the team's punt returner, so he'll have plenty of time to shine.
Bill Whitten from Killen, Ala.
Scott, like all Falcons fans I hope Desmond Ridder is the team's long-term answer at QB. Given all the offensive weapons he has and a great offensive line what do you think he will have to do this season so Atlanta's first round pick in 2024 will not be a quarterback?
Bair: That's a REALLY good question, Bill. It really made me think.
After taking some time to ponder, I don't think there's a statistical milestone out there to put a thumb's up or down. I'm not even sure there's an over-under win total. More than anything, in my mind, it's about efficiency.
He needs to keep the picks down. He needs to complete high percentage passes to his skill players in space. When the run game is cranking, he needs to connect big on a play action pass. He also needs to get the team into the right runs. And, as he has done in college, Ridder needs to perform well in the clutch.
All that, of course, comes with a caveat: generally speaking. He doesn't have to be perfect. Ridder has to be resilient, work through mistakes and keep the Falcons in contention during games and over a stretch of them.
I'm not worried about top 10 this or that or high-level stats. Does he help the Falcons regularly score more than the opposition? The answer to that question should be yes.
Jonny T from Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
Mr. Bair, Thanks for the hard work. CP has to be one of my favorites. Any chance he may switch back to a receiver role? We could use his big body to compliment London. What say you?
Bair: I'm as interested as anyone about how Cordarrelle Patterson will split his time. He has said he'd prefer going back to a 2021 mix, where he more evenly (but not nowhere close to 50-50) split time between running back and a receiver spot, with 294 running back snaps and 162 at receiver.
In 2022, per Pro Football Focus, he took 304 snaps at running back and 77 at outside or slot receiver. There will be more opportunities for him to move out wide with Tyler Allgeier having established himself and Bijan Robinson now in the mix.
Overall, though, I would bet his snap count goes down in attempt to keep him healthy and fresh. A 2:1 split, or even a 1.5:1 split between running back and receiver could help the team overall. Either way, it'll be interesting to see how things shake out.
Joe Carroll from Denver, Colo.
Scott, I LOVE that we kept Woodside & Hellams! Josh Ali too! I only wish we had room for Abernathy & Igwebuike as both guys seemed to give it 100%+. Gonna keep it short today but wanted to express my satisfaction with what we did today. Falcons are gonna surprise this year. Good things coming! Cheers, Joe
Bair: I agree that all those guys flashed in the preseason and earned a spot on the 53-man roster. You can't keep them all, though, with so many more established players on the roster. And that's a good thing. I would, however, caution against reading too much into preseason performance. The level of competition spikes big time once September hits and the guys you mentioned may not see tons of time on offense or defense.
DeMarcco Hellams will be a big help on special teams. So will Josh Ali. Logan Woodside played his was onto the roster but remains the No. 3 overall QB. Having Micah Abernathy and Godwin Igwebuike back on the practice squad will only enhance this team's depth overall, which is much higher than in years past.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here for inclusion in next week's editions of Bair Mail. We'll have two next week on Wednesday and Friday. Filling up the mailbag is the only way to make them fun.
We take a look at the players on the current 53-man roster for the 2023 Atlanta Falcons, sponsored by Veepio.