Welcome, everyone, to the final pre-regular-season mailbag. It's Friday now, meaning we're t-minus two days away from playing the New Orleans Saints. Yesssss!!! Let's freaking go.
- Inside restorative period that prepared Marcus Mariota for Falcons opportunity
- Falcons injury report: Updating Drake London, Darren Hall status after Thursday's practice
- Bair Mail: On Dee Alford, Marcus Mariota's second chance and center shakeout
- Falcons release first depth chart of 2022 regular season
And let's get right to your questions and my answers, where I almost, nearly, sort-of, but not quite cave on giving a win total.
There's lots to look forward to in this Bair Mail, including a review of Desmond Ridder's preseason, whether the 2023 quarterback is currently on the roster – which could change draft focus – IR candidates to return and what a successful season looks like.
David James from Shaver Lake, Calif.
It was fun seeing both Desmond Ridder and Marcus Mariota play during the preseason, and I understand that Mariota is and has been QB1 for a long time. But I'm curious what you thought of Desmond Ridder's preseason and training camp? I saw a lot of good things from him.
Bair: I did, too, David. I thought he learned a great deal over the summer and was constantly improving mentally and physically. That's all you can ask for from a rookie quarterback. It's also unfair to assume a third-round pick should start right away, especially when Mariota was playing well.
It's clear Ridder has a strong arm, is decisive – I like that part – and can work outside the pocket. Those are all good things. He'll continue to develop, with the hope he can be a productive player for a long, long time. We'll see if he's able to, but the potential's certainly there.
Bill Witten from Killen, Ga.
Tori, if you were a betting woman who will be the Falcons starting quarterback opening game of next season? I'd love for it to be Mariota with Desmond Ridder a close second so that the Falcons could select a non-quarterback with their round 1 draft choice. What are the odds of that happening?
Bair: You've got Scott this time, Bill. And, yeah. I understand your disappointment. Tori's definitely cooler than me. (Hi, Tori!!!!) And she knows it's true. Though, to be honest, I ultimately think we'd comes to the same conclusions regarding your question.
I'm going to take what might be considered longer odds and say it's Marcus Mariota. If he can stay healthy – we all know that's a big if – the veteran can be a dynamic player. Just wrote a long piece on him and watched some highlights – when he's on, he's ON. He can run and let it rip and lead a team. And don't forget he's only 28. There's a long time left on a career at quarterback.
If he takes early command, he could easily play all 17. I do think the Falcons hope either Mariota or Desmond Ridder take command here so they don't have to dip back into the quarterback. So many talk about the Falcons taking either C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young. What if quarterback was set and your choices were Will Anderson or Jalen Carter?
Take a look as the team puts in the work at Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the Saints.
Omari Wideman from Parker, Colo.
Do you think they will incorporate a plan to bring the guys on IR back into the mold or potentially look at other options? I'm curious as players like Deion Jones and a couple of others being on IR won't be able to return until after 4 weeks if I'm correct.
Bair: I think there's an excellent chance some players currently on injured reserve return this season. Slot cornerback Isaiah Oliver has the best chance, considering his adeptness at the position and the fact he was making steady progress in the summer. Some time away should help him get back to 100 percent. Deion Jones is a real talent, but he's a variable. It depends on his shoulder's readiness for football. It's unknown how far out Marlon Davidson is in his recovery timetable, but he could be a down-the-road option and help the defensive line out.
Michael S from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Hi there Scott! I am well aware of your allergy to cold takes so I won't ask for a prediction BUT in terms of wins and losses what do you think a "successful" season looks like? I'd say 7 wins and beating both New Orleans and Tampa once at least.
Bair: You'll think this is a cop out – maybe it is. Ha! – but I don't think a successful season is associated with a win total. I was posed that question by Aaron Freeman on his Locked On Falcons podcast, and I talked a lot about progress in a few areas. Are you getting better in the red zone? Oh third down? In the fourth quarter? You can answer yes three straight times, you're headed in the right direction. You're also winning more games than expected. So maybe it does correlate, but I think this team could be better and headed the right way and win less than seven. We'll have to see on all that.