Bair Mail: On Marcus Mariota, Rashaan Evans, Terry Fontenot approach to NFL trade deadline

We also discuss the enhanced value of a late bye in this Monday mailbag

That was one crazy game. So much to digest, so much to process from Sunday's 37-34 overtime victory over the Carolina Panthers.

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There's also a lot to ponder in terms of how the Falcons improve to stay on top in the NFC South. We've got the NFL trade deadline coming up, so we'll address that and a candidate to re-sign for next year, plus an evaluation of Marcus Mariota's Sunday performance and the value of his leadership style in this Falcons locker room.

We'll get to all that and more in this Monday mailbag:

Camereon Williams from Lithonia, Ga.

Hey Bair! First game I thought Mariota LED THE TEAM with his arm. He started off slow but played a great overall game, even with the two interceptions. If he can build on this birthday performance, where do you see this team moving forward as far as playoffs?

Bair: Marcus Mariota had a solid game despite the interceptions. We'd probably feel different had the Panthers won in overtime following his pick to open the extra period, but the Falcons overcame it.

I have been pretty consistent in evaluating Mariota, by both praising his athleticism and playmaking ability while knocking him for critical mistakes. When he doesn't make those, the Falcons are pretty good. When he does give the ball away, the Falcons get in some trouble.

He made some huge plays on Sunday, including the three touchdown passes and big runs, including the 30 yarder in overtime that set up Younghoe Koo's game-winning field goal.

As important as Mariota's performance is his leadership. Jake Matthews said Sunday night that Mariota's someone you want to play hard for, a compliment of the highest order that provides a window into how the locker room feels about him. Mariota's their guy.

I still need to see more consistency from him, but he did a good job finding playmakers and taking calculated risks pushing the ball down the field. I think a vocal faction will demand Desmond Ridder every week, win or loss. I just don't think, and haven't seen any indication, that a QB switch is even a consideration. They're rolling with Mariota and, if he improves avoids major miscues, Mariota can take them places.

Zackery Goodnight from Dallas, Tex.

There's someone on defense that always catches my eye and I wanted your opinion on him. Rashaan Evans. Besides the late TD he and Marlowe gave up, which I feel like was mostly Marlowe's mistake for not staying deep, I think Evans has been a constant bright spot on the defense with his consistent play. He had the late sack, always seems to be around the ball. What do you think of the season he has had so far, and what are the chances ATL resigns him at the end of the season if he keeps this level of play going?

Bair: Love this question, Zackery. Why? Cause I'm a huge Rashaan Evans guy. Not only is he a great dude and a fun interview, he's off to a strong start to this season. He's a tough, physical tone setter who fits Dean Pees' scheme well. He's a good run defender and doesn't miss many tackles, providing steadiness at a spot where it's needed.

I think has fit in well and is a locker room leader and a glue guy. He came to Atlanta on a one-year deal, after Tennessee didn't extend him, and has found a home here. Should they re-sign him? Absolutely. You do, however, have to think about how Troy Andersen fits into all this. He's a physical freak who could be on the Richie Grant development plan, where he becomes a full-time starter in Year 2. Do you go with Evans and Andersen, leaving Mykal Walker in reserve? Or is it Andersen and Walker? You have to figure that out, and you have to be real with Evans when making that decision. Then he can decide what he wants to do.

Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

Hi, Scott, crazy win, huh? Now that we're in first place, and the playoffs suddenly seems like a real possibility, do you think Terry gets us some d-back help before tomorrow's trade deadline? I can't see us getting out of the first round with all the explosive plays we're giving up. Thanks.

Bair: We're no longer talking about battling for a playoff spot, having moved on to a first-round matchup, Will? Your confidence is growing fast. Ha. In regard to the NFL trade deadline, I wouldn't anticipate the Falcons being active. Never say never, of course, but I don't think the Falcons are giving up draft capital and aren't taking rentals.

They desperately miss A.J. Terrell, but he's coming back eventually. I think the Falcons are comfortable with Darren Hall on the other side, and they at least need to know what they have in him for the future. They need another defensive lineman or edge rusher, but I wouldn't anticipate them going out and getting one in trade.

Craig Green from Angier, N.C.

Hey Scott, my question is this: now that the Falcons are at .500 halfway through the season and controlling their own destiny, how important is their late bye week? Does it help or hurt them in your view?

Bair: I didn't like the late bye at all when the schedule first came out. Thought it was too late to be truly impactful. The Falcons are in it, however, and I like it a lot more. Most everyone's banged up by Week 14, and some respite could refuel the Falcons for an important stretch run.

Call for questions

Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Wednesday's mailbag.

We take a monochrome look at the win over the Carolina Panthers during Week 8.

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