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Bair Mail: On Deion Jones, Qadree Ollison cut, Damien Williams, Marcus Mariota and more

We also provide a Practice Squad 101 seminar and talk about Keith Smith in this Friday mailbag

The Falcons have made tons of news this week, including the 53-man roster cutdown, adding two waiver claims up front and putting five players on injured reserve.

There's a lot of talent unavailable to start the season, including linebacker Deion Jones, cornerback Isaiah Oliver and defensive lineman Marlon Davidson. That has led to some questions about defense, the Falcons running back situation and, as always, Marcus Mariota's a hot topic of conversation.


Let's dive into those topics and more in this Friday mailbag:

Ben McDermott from Oxford, England, U.K.

If you were GM, would you trade or keep Deion Jones? I am not sure which I would prefer.

Bair: Well, Ben, they're keeping Deion Jones for the foreseeable future now, with him being moved to injured reserve on Thursday. He has reportedly been dealing with a shoulder issue that required surgery and forced him to miss the offseason program and most of training camp.

He'll be out at least four games before he can return, and he'd probably have to start playing (and playing well) to generate a trade market. Cutting Jones doesn't help the Falcons salary-cap situation in the same way that a trade would. And, to your point, they could keep him and play him if he were to earn a starting job or a reserve role after he gets healthy. While 2022 wasn't one of his best, he's still a super-talented player who can be a valued asset by the Falcons or another team.

If I were a GM and he was healthy, I would try to work a trade to help the team's overall salary-cap situation. Rashaan Evans and Mykal Walker are quality starters, and the Falcons have plenty of depth. Any draft capital is helpful as the Falcons try to fortify their roster in the short and long term. I'd take that, even if I have to pay some of Jones' salary.

Karl Jones from Buford, Ga.

I'm disappointed with the Ollison cut. I feel like this could have been a great year for him as a backup. I haven't seen much about the performance of Damien Williams during camp, but he was always considered a lock over Ollison and Huntley. Was it his experience that gave him the upper hand or did he just look better?

Bair: Qadree Ollison was in a tough position, the odd man out in a competitive running back room. Despite having his best preseason, while showing improved burst and short-area quickness, his rushing style was a bit too similar to fifth-round NFL Draft pick Tyler Allgeier, which made him expendable.

Regarding Damien Williams, his experience and style made him a lock. You didn't see him much in the preseason because the team wanted to make sure one of their primary runners didn't take a ton of hits this summer. He's a versatile talent who can run between the tackles and be an asset as a receiver out of the backfield, providing options and unpredictability when he's in the game.

JC Daniel from Savannah, Ga.

We are lucky to have our two quarterbacks, and I also think Mariota is motivated and extremely talented. Why are people quick to say he is the bridge QB?

Bair: I think Marcus Mariota is often labelled a bridge quarterback because of his starting experience, recent status as a backup and his contract. He's here on a two-year deal that can be escaped in 2023, so the Falcons can move on if Desmond Ridder takes command of the starting gig.

I would push back against that notion, however. He's only 28. There's plenty of NFL football left in him, especially at that position. He's also an amazing athlete, someone who could be impactful if he can put it all together and re-establish himself as an NFL starter.

The Falcons have some good options in Mariota and Ridder, and Mariota has a real chance to take firm control of the starting gig in 2022 and beyond if he lives up to vast potential.

We take a look at the top snaps from the final day of 2022 AT&T Training Camp practice in Flowery Branch on Thursday, September 1.

David Hicks from Marshalltown, Iowa

With the practice squad assignments being made, can you tell us what the practice squad role is for the team? I presume players are "called up" to the starting team if needed, similar to minor league baseball? How often can they be "called up" during the year? Are they part of regular team functions?

Bair: This is good question, David, that I'm sure a lot of people have. Let's go over a little practice squad 101. Those signed to the 16-player practice squad generally run the scout team, the offense and defense that runs the scheme of the next week's opponent, an effort done by the practice squad and some members of the reserve units. Some players even mimic star skill players on the other team.

A practice-squad player can be elevated to the 53-man roster three times and revert back to the practice squad after that game. If a team wants to elevate him again, they'll have to sign him to the active roster.

All practice squad players go to home games, but only some go on the road. Up to six players can be veterans, adding more flexibility to those positions. Most slots, however, are used on young, developing players who progress outside the spotlight. That takes some pressure off, if they're not quite ready for game action.

Scott Mossbrooks from Flowery Branch, Ga.

Love your mail bag and first-time writer. My question is why do the Falcons carry a FB and not use a TE as a FB instead? As much as Coach Smith likes TEs, you would think he could create differs looks doing that.

Bair: I think it's more of a Keith Smith thing. He's a core special teams player and someone who is good as a lead blocker and pass protector. I'm sure Smith could use a tight end as an H-back and has certainly done so before, but Smith gives the Falcons valuable experience there and on special teams.

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