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Bair Mail: Dean Pees' impact, possible breakout stars and a long-term vision at quarterback


Appreciate all the sweet tea suggestions. Was going to power through a couple over the weekend but ended up getting pulled in a different direction. But I've got a Bojangles a few minutes from the house and Mary Mac's Tea Room is on the agenda.

Thanks to Ray King from Asheville, N.C. for those suggestions and many more for the others that came through the mailbag. I'm gonna hit them up, and even make the recipe Michael Hoffer from Maryville, Tenn., sent my way.

And don't worry. Atlanta is home now. I'll come around on this sweet tea thing.

But I guarantee that's not what you want to talk about right now. It's game week. Couldn't be more excited. I'm sure you all feel the same way.


We're talking nothing but Falcons football all week in our Bair Mail installments. While today's a general Bair Mail, let's focus on defense for Wednesday and offense on Friday. Submit your defensive questions to the mailbag right here, right…now.

Well, after you read Monday's edition, anyway:

Joe Carroll from Newport Beach, Calif

I am getting fired up for 2021 and Coach Smith's plan but after years of a suspect defense, I wonder how we stack up against the Bucs & Saints with the talent we have now? I'm not a patient man, despite my 45 years of fandom for our Falcons, but I'd like to know how Coach Pees is going to rally this D? Who are the breakout stars are gonna be?

Bair: You are on a bit of a roll, Joe. Lots of good questions from you lately. They get answers. Appreciate the correspondence.

I've written previously that Dean Pees was the Falcons biggest defensive acquisition this offseason and I stand by it. Coaches like the way he coaches, which is a compliment of the highest order. How will the Falcons defense compare others in the NFC South? That matters less than whether they allow fewer points than the offense they support.

Pees can get the most out of the players available to him and could get more out of these guys than others have. If you haven't figured, I have great respect for him and his system. Want breakout stars? I think A.J. Terrell's set for a monster year, but that's independent of scheme. I think Pees will get Dante Fowler going again, make the most of Mykal Walker and will kickstart Marlon Davidson. Here's a bold prediction you didn't ask for: Jaylinn Hawkins will make a profound impact by season's end. How's that for calling my shot?

Chris Meck from Boca Raton, Fla.

Since we do have Matt Ryan this year and no one on the roster has yet to prove any threat to take his job, what do you think our best plan of action would be to reach full potential in 2023? I personally do not think there is a Day 1 rookie QB out of this class coming out this year.

I also don't think we will be worse than the teams that are expected to get the Nos. 1-5 picks. Which currently would leave us having Matt start next year and hoping a breakout rookie lands with us in the 2022 draft. That being said, what do you believe should be our direction in getting the next guy?

Bair: I believe the Falcons will draft one in time. I also think they aren't going to stretch for one, a luxury having Ryan affords. He's under contract a while, getting paid a hefty sum. I'm of the opinion he'll perform to his high standard and warrant another year.

The Falcons will work to develop players under Ryan – Josh Rosen’s just 24, and I think it's possible they add another signal caller – and make a big call that will define the Terry Fontenot/Arthur Smith era more than any other move.

They have a couple years to do it, and can keep building the team around the quarterback until a new one comes in. When that player joins the fray, he'll be given a great chance to succeed.

Don Wallace from Temple, Ga.

What chances are there the Falcons actually trade for another quality offensive lineman?

Bair: Pretty slim, in my opinion. The reason why? Draft assets are too valuable when you're trying to stack quality classes, and the Falcons don't have the spare cap space to splurge or take on a big salary. Those two things make a trade unrealistic. They don't have many open spaces save left guard, and they just drafted two interior linemen. Josh Andrews is hurt but shouldn't be out too long. I'd bet they cover with guys they have, including new waiver claim Colby Gossett, until then.

Jimmy Bridges from North Augusta, S.C.

Do you think the Falcons are keeping 3 quarterbacks with the intention of using Feleipe Franks as a Swiss Army knife, aka, wildcat option etc. like New Orleans has done with Taysom Hill in the past?

Bair: Never say never, but I just don't see it. I don't think Feleipe Franks has Hill's skill set, despite the scrambling we saw from Franks this summer. He's no greyhound, that's for sure. Not sure he can run a route or even step in to do the wildcat. I'll admit I was surprised when the Falcons kept three quarterbacks – depth seemed too important in other places -- and I'm still not completely convinced these three quarterbacks will be around for a longer term. Matt Ryan is the unquestioned leader of this team and far and away its best signal caller. Can't imagine the Falcons taking him off the field for any reason, even for a play.

Call for questions

As I requested above, let's focus on the Falcons defense for Wednesday's mailbag. Submit your questions about that crew to the mailbag, right here.

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