The Falcons preseason is in the books. Thankfully. While it has been an illuminating summer that taught us a ton about a much-improved Falcons roster, I'm ready for some games that count.
They are nearly upon us now, with Tuesday's roster cuts the last major event before the regular season starts. That stands as one of my least favorite days of the year. While roster cuts are part of NFL's business, it's also a day where tons of people get fired. Many of them have dreams crushed. That's difficult stuff for these human beings, and I hope that's considered when you see some of these names hit the waiver wire.
Let's knowledge the mechanisms of roster construction, not celebrate the departure of some. Okay. Lecture over. I'm officially off the soap box.
Now let's move right on to your questions in this pre-roster cuts mailbag.
Barry Wynn from Rex, Ga.
Hey Scott. There has been a lot of hype coming from the team concerning certain players like Kyle Pitts and Desmond Ridder. There a good number of questions spending high draft picks on certain players like tight end, wide receiver, and running back. Now Pitts has to put speculation about his ability behind him or he will be labeled a draft bust. Same goes for Ridder.
Bair: I've got to disagree with you here, Barry. We're ten thousand miles from Kyle Pitts being a draft bust. He had over 1,000 yards as a rookie, the second-highest total for a tight end. He made the Pro Bowl in his first professional season.
Last year he worked with a quarterback in Marcus Mariota who couldn't get him the ball. Want proof of that? Pitts was targeted 59 times. Per Pro Football Focus, 33 of those targets were deemed uncatchable. That's more than half!! Then he got hurt through no fault of his own and hasn't played with Desmond Ridder yet. The Falcons have been deliberate with Pitts' ramp up, being cautious with the interest of having him ready for the regular season. So, outside of things beyond his control (poor QB play, getting hit in the knee) he has done nothing but positives and showcase elite skill and talent.
Desmond Ridder will have a great opportunity to establish himself as an NFL quarterback and join a small group of passers to do so after being drafted in the third round. I don't think draft bust even plays into this discussion. Let's see how he plays this season before entertaining the thought of the Falcons looking for another QB.
Jimmy Praplaski from Suwanee, Ga.
We spent a lot of money bringing Jessie Bates to Atlanta. What have you seen from him and what kind of impact would you expect from him early in the season?
Bair: Jessie Bates III is a calming presence in the back, a great communicator and cover man who has great command in the back. He'll get his stats with picks and passes defensed, but his biggest contributions might be making others around him better. He can cover up some mistakes on the back end, bait ill-advised throws and offer run support. He can also negate big plays and is solid at hiding his intentions from the opposition. If it sounds like I'm gushing a bit, it's because I am. There's little he doesn't do well. I think he'll be as important a defensive player as the Falcons have on the field this season.
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
Hi, Scott. Is it just me or did Woodside just outplay Heinicke this preseason. I don't know the stats or their salaries, but could he possibly be moved up to QB2 instead of keeping them both on the active roster?
Bair: I could see how you might think that from preseason games, but that's not how it has looked in training camp practices. Taylor Heinicke has earned No. 2 status with his play in practice. That he has so many starts under his belt doesn't hurt, either. I do think Logan Woodside has had a solid summer, and credited head coach Arthur Smith for instilling confidence in him. I think there's a real possibility that the Falcons keep three quarterbacks to start the season because they've all earned it.
Haskell Huffman from Atlanta
My question is, has DeMarcco Hellams shown enough to make the 53 man cut? Not just his defensive stats so far but also the work he has put in on special teams to just try and make the cut. He reminds me of Kazee a bit with the ball hawk like ability. I guess I have two questions. If he doesn't make the 53, do you think he makes the practice squad? I'd hate to lose a possible all-star in the making.
Bair: I, too, have been impressed by DeMarcco Hellams, the seventh-round safety out of Alabama. His draft status doesn't lock him to the roster like others taken higher. He has been a quality special teams player who has also made splash plays during the preseason. He hasn't been perfect, but I think he has been a good player who could be a fourth safety and a core special teams player. As Arthur Smith has said, Hellams "shows up when the lights come on." You want guys like that on your side.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here for inclusion in the next mailbag, which will drop on Friday morning.