The Falcons are working their way through an important stretch of OTAs, where so many new players and coaches are trying to come together and build chemistry vital to success when the games actually count.
First impressions are now out of the way, and we can start to build upon them to better understand the individuals the Falcons are working with.
It's a fun time, especially with so much new to analyze and dissect. You all have tons of questions working through this stretch, so let's get to them in this Friday morning Bair Mail.
We'll have another mailbag next week, shortly after Friday afternoon's open OTA session. Let's preview that even by answering your questions:
Anthony Wimberly from Macon, Ga.
With all the improvements on defense on each level. Do you see our linebackers core becoming better or will that be the weak or should I say not as good position group? I believe in Terry and Smith but Rashad Evens was our top tackler last year and he's still on the market. Do we bring him back during training camp?
Bair: Rashaan Evans was a fan favorite, and someone I believe to be a good player. Sometimes guys like that join at the start of a camp or if there's an injury that creates an opening.
I do think the Falcons linebacker corps will be pretty darn good without and add. It sure seems like the Falcons plan on going with Kaden Elliss and Troy Andersen at the three-down, interior linebacker spots. They invested a sizable contract in Elliss and a high pick in Andersen, a pair of athletic, modern linebackers who can do a bit of everything. They can drop back in coverage and cover most any position save a burner receiver – which they wouldn't do anyways – or come forward to rush the passer or play aggressive run defense close to the line of scrimmage.
It's a dynamic pairing to be sure. We've seen a bit of what Andersen can do athletically and he should be better and more controlled during his second. Elliss thrived when given a full-time gig, and Nielsen obviously knows what he can do after working together in New Orleans. They have Mykal Walker in a backup role there. With some competition providing fourth option inside.
Timothy Tabor from Beckley, W.V.
How is Zach Harrison doing in OTAs?
Bair: We shouldn't draw conclusions of any kind at this phase of OTAs, especially when discussing linemen. It's hard to evaluate the line of scrimmage without pads. You can tell that Harrison looks the part, a long and powerful defensive end/edge rusher.
Read more about what the Falcons liked in Harrison during the pre-draft process in our Finding Falcons series. Then listen to this: Harrison's primary goal early in this offseason program is to show the coaches that he’s a tireless worker who doesn’t make mistakes twice. That's key to unlocking quality potential, which can be reached with proper development of excellent physical tools.
Joe Carroll from Newport Beach, Calif.
Hi Scott, been away for a while but I'm back and I gotta say I like our chances this coming season. I was wondering if the Falcons are or were giving any thought to picking up Deandre Hopkins? He's a (somewhat) local guy and considered a hero at Clemson and still has a lot of tread on the tires. Plus, he's one of the brightest guys in the NFL. Could be a good role model guy too. Not to mention, a serious threat opposite London which frees up Pitts…. Thoughts?
Bair: I'm sure every coach in the league will get a DeAndre Hopkins question during OTAs, and Arthur Smith will be no exception.
While adding a talent with a track record like Hopkins' is attractive, I don't see Atlanta as a prime option. They Falcons only have 10.6 million in cap space, per OverTheCap.com, though some of that sum must remain free to account for players going on IR and in-season signings. Tough to imagine the remaining space being enough for Hopkins. He's also at the stage of his career where he'd probably like to link up with a title contender, and I would pick the Falcons as obvious favorites right now.
While I agree that he would help the likes of Drake London and Kyle Pitts and Mack Hollins immensely, it's tough to consider the Falcons at prime landing spot at this time.
Joseph Anderson from Grovetown, Ga.
What is the status of John FitzPatrick? I am a Bulldog fan as well. I was glad to see him drafted by the Falcons. I know he was injured but will he make the roster this year?
Bair: Good question, Joseph, that a few folks have had. The sixth-round pick and former Georgia Bulldog spent last season on injured reserve, even as he practiced for a few weeks at the end of the season.
FitzPatrick is back on the field and working in Falcons OTAs after a year essentially getting right after an injury-troubled rookie season. His physical issues started the year before at Georgia, so there's hope what was essentially a redshirt year in 2022. He's a massive human and a solid blocking tight end, but there's hope he can be a versatile piece of the offensive puzzle. His position group has serious competition, though, with Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith and Parker Hesse as virtual locks to make the roster. There will be competition for what we'll assume will be a fourth roster spot in the 53-man list, but FitzPatrick has to go earn it during camp.
Call for questions
Keep an eye on the notes and quotes coming out of Friday's OTA session, which should provide some answers and even more questions worth submitting right here for inclusion in next week's Bair Mail.
Take a look at the 2023 Atlanta Falcons in action during OTA practice.