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Bair Mail: Keys to level up Falcons defense, Kyle Pitts expectations and more

Answering your questions in Scott Bair's first-ever Falcons mailbag


Welcome, dear friends, to Bair Mail. You're going to be glad you clicked.

This is the place where all your Falcons questions get answered.

And, to loosely borrow a motto from our pals at USPS, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor crazy hourlong Georgia downpour where lightning hits the ground and rain gutters overflow before going completely back to normal like the storm never happened, nothing will stop us from delivering the insight you seek.

You don't need a stamp or prime membership here. There's no paywall to get past. Simply submit a query and bide time 'til the next Monday, Wednesday or Friday to get a delivery.

Fair warning: Replies may come with some snark. The better the question, the less you'll get, so come correct.

Several of you did after opening up the mailbag last week, so let's get right to a few.

Aaron Grady from Atlanta

What is the most important key for the Falcons defense to bounce back after struggling in recent seasons?

Bair: There are actually two, Aaron.

Pressure and Pees.

If all goes well, they should form a symbiotic relationship that will help the Falcons get better fast.

New Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees is known for creative blitzes and unpredictability, using the element of surprise to make life easier on pass rushers coming from all angles. History shows his play calling helps create havoc and put stress opposing quarterbacks. That leads to mistakes and errant throws, where the Falcons can feast.

That said, Pees can't dial up a zany blitz on every play. Sometimes the Falcons are going to have to win rushing four. Talent must shine in those situations, where defensive linemen must simply beat their blocker or break through a double team to breach the backfield.

We know Grady Jarrett can regularly do those things. We also know he can't go it alone. He needs help pushing the interior pocket. He also needs heat off the edge the Falcons didn't have enough of in 2020.

The Falcons handsomely paid Dante Fowler to bring it but didn't get a great return on investment in 2020. We know the former No. 3 overall pick can get to the quarterback. His 2019 campaign with L.A. proved that point. A repeat of that 11.5-sack, 16-QB hit, two-forced fumble performance would be a gift from above and help the Falcons defense as a whole.

An efficient pass rush will decrease time in coverage – even average quarterbacks will pick you apart with comfort and time in the pocket -- and the need for Pees to bring the house all the time. It will also increase blitz effectiveness, with opposition stressed trying to anticipate the unexpected.

Having Pees in the organization is an automatic level up. Pass rushers getting home is required for the Falcons defense to rise up.


Rick Rickett from Duluth, Ga.

How many games do you think the Falcons will win?

Bair: Nuh-uh. Nope. No way am I making a bold prediction like that before watching a single training camp practice. That's how you end up on Freezing Cold Takes. I've been there once before. The weather is…chilly.

Also, take the media's season predictions with a grain of margarita salt. Have you ever noticed that 99 percent of the predictions for the NFL's worst come in just above .500? No beat writer wants to ingratiate themselves to a locker room and coaching staff by saying (in August) that a team's going 3-14. That's bulletin board material right there.

But…in a halfhearted attempt to answer the question, the money line for Falcons wins sits at 7. If you let me bet with your bottom dollar, I'll take the over confident you'll get a return on investment.

Roderick Baker from Atlanta

What player are you most interested in watching make an impact this season?

Bair: This one's easy. First name: Kyle. Last name: Pitts.

The No. 4 overall pick was unstoppable in college, widely considered the best non-quarterback in this year's NFL Draft.

Expectations are thiiiiiiiiiiiis big – imagine my arms outstretched – and they have nothing to do with Kyle's wingspan. We've apparently upset all of Indianapolis by suggesting his 83-inch wingspan was the largest in decades. After reading countless submissions demanding satisfaction, this counts as an unfounded blow from which Mo Alie-Cox from will never recover.

Here's the tweet that angered an entire city:

The slight will not stand for Colts fans. Maybe a mea culpa will. Alie-Cox's wingspan is bigger. Scientific fact.

Let's see if we can make it up to you: St. Elmo's shrimp cocktail is sinus-clearingly good. Nay, great. Oh, and the combine should never leave Indy. Are we friends again?

While Alie-Cox has Pitts beat in one category, it's hard to imagine him besting the Florida product in many others this season.

Pitts could have a massive impact on this Falcons offense, and it will be fascinating to see how new head coach/offensive mastermind Arthur Smith uses him. My guess: Across the formation in search of mismatches. That should be easy for someone so gifted, who can do so many things so well.

Robert Perez from Largo, Fla.

What is it like to work for the Falcons organization? What's your favorite thing about working for them?

Bair: The coin. That Scrooge McDuck money bin's not gonna fill itself.

Enough Duck Tales references. Woo-Ooh!

Here's the real answer: This organization is trying to do something great. I'm thrilled to be part of digital department hellbent on being the best NFL site in the game, one committed to providing honest insight at every turn. I won't rehash my whole intro column – you can read it here – but I wouldn't have signed up with an NFL team after 20 years with independent outlets for anything less.

There's an awesome collection of talent here, with more on the way you'll get to know during the 2021 season. I come to work every day proud of who we are, what we stand for and what we're striving to become. There's no better feeling than that.

No. 14 on the field, No. 1 in your heart from ????

How awesome was it when you threw that touchdown to (Demaryius) Thomas against Clemson?

Bair: We don't normally answer anonymous queries, but this one simply must be addressed.

I think you have me confused with someone far more coordinated. That, and an "L" in my last name probably isn't the only quality I'm missing that's possessed by former Georgia Tech kicker Scott Blair, who can knock it through the uprights and throw a tight spiral.

My finest athletic achievement isn't quite as cool. It involves a game-winning home run from a UCLA I.M. softball game. Absolutely crushed it. While that isn't forever etched in Bruins lore, it won us the 'ship. And a free t-shirt I refuse to throw away.

A call for more questions

And that'll do it for my first Bair Mail-bag, like ever. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I liked writing it. Let's keep it rolling and make these a regular thing. Submit your questions here to be answered in the next installment.

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