Bair Mail: Jaylinn Hawkins and Erik Harris, NFL draft needs and the NFC's No. 7 seed

We cover it all in Friday's mailbag

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The Falcons haven't played in nearly two weeks. Their next kickoff is nearly here, taking place Sunday afternoon against Miami.

Frankly, it can't get here soon enough. Fans want to see if the Falcons can improve on a solid performance against the Jets, start the season's first winning streak and get to .500.

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Head coach Arthur Smith is always looking for his team to take that next step each week, and a step or three in the right direction would provide clear signs of progress and, likely, a positive result.

You all seem excited about that game and this upcoming stretch, so much so I got the season's first playoff question. True story. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves in that regard, but we'll discuss whatever you want in this mailbag

So let's get to it in this Friday Bair Mail:

Charlie C. from Boulder, Colo.

With Jaylinn Hawkins stepping up in London and getting an interception against the jets, don't you [think] that Hawkins can start over Erik Harris against the dolphins?

Bair: I think he could, but I'm not sure he should. I've known and covered Erik Harris long enough to never, even count him out. You should do the same. They guy's a fighter who will do anything to win.

I also think he's a good player worthy of starts and someone who can make quarterbacks pay for mistakes.

That said, I agree that Jaylinn Hawkins has earned playing time received in recent weeks. He was pretty good against the Jets as well. The benefit of Hawkins is that he's versatile enough to play either safety spot and could fill in for Harris, as he did against the Jets, or Duron Harmon, as he did during in-game series before that.

There's room for all three safeties to play, and for coordinator Dean Pees to play to their strengths. I don't think it's time to supplant any starts, but it's a good problem to have Hawkins pushing things competitively and earning increased opportunities.

Corgan Schaumburg from Grand Rapids, Mich.

I've been very adamant that the Falcons have a legit chance of securing the 7th seed for the playoffs with their weak schedule. Do you see that as a possibility?

Bair: Let's go ahead and quote Jim Mora here. "Playoffs? Don't talk about…Are you kidding me? Playoffs?"

I could go on – we all know Mora did in that famous press conference – but hopefully you get my point that it's a bit early for a below-.500 team to be thinking about the postseason. They need to put some wins together and see where they're at in a month.

But, since this is a mailbag and I address what you all want to talk about, let's talk about it. Sure. What the heck. We can all agree that the division is out with Tampa Bay firmly on top. The seventh seed still seems like a stretch. While they're easy stretch continues a bit farther, there are several tough teams remaining on the slate. And the Falcons must prove they can beat even mediocre competition – they'll get that crack against Carolina next week – and prove they can survive inevitable injury issues that will crop up. Can their relative lack of depth at key spots survive being taxed? They'll have to in order to be in the playoff picture at season's end.

Del Williams from Lincoln, Neb.

I hope we draft and get another unicorn on defense! I think with Pees calling more blitzes and player knowing their assignments we can dominate!!

Bair: First playoffs and now NFL draft. You guys are all over the place today. Finding unicorns is hard work, considering they're so unique. It's hard to find a Kyle Pitts. Getting one on defense could be a real boon for the Falcons. My first though heads to the pass rush, where the Falcons need help in the worst way. That's a premium position worthy of a first-round pick.

I'm not going to break down prospects in October, but getting an intimidator along the defensive front is one way to improve fortunes in a hurry. Or a modern, do-everything safety, though that would be second tier to help up front, where they need one, likely two more talents off the edge.

Genaro Espinosa from Mexico

The way I see it, the motto for this regime so far has been "one step at a time" and while the rebuild could take longer than expected, the administration has proven the will to learn from mistakes and the will to make the team better as the season goes by. Specifically, I'm impressed by the chemistry and progress achieved by the O-line over the last few weeks.

In your opinion, what is the next issue on the list that must be worked on, and how could it be addressed so the team could be ready for the next (and harder) half of the season? As always, thank you and greetings.

Bair: Thanks for the question, Genaro. Throw in your hometown next time. Always like to know where Falcons fans are from.

To your point, the Falcons have made strides in key areas, especially on the offensive front. The offense is in better sync, and I think the secondary is doing well despite some setbacks.

In terms of what needs to get better, the pass rush is key. There's no calvary coming in off the street, so the Falcons need to do better with what they have. At times it feels like it's Dante Fowler, Grady Jarrett or bust in getting to the quarterback, and Fowler has been ruled out versus Miami. The Falcons have received sacks from Ade Ogundeji and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, but they need more consistent pressure. The blitz can be better and should be as Dean Pees implements more of his playbook.

And one more thing: We still haven't seen a four-quarter performance from the Falcons. That happens to teams in transition learning new schemes, but the Falcons can get there. They could've shut the Jets down in the second quarter and didn't. Next time they jump up on an opponent, they need to put that opponent away. That they next step in this evolution, and it would show progress in Arthur Smith's first year.

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Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast

Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Terrin Waack. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.

Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.

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