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Bair Mail: On Troy Andersen, Mykal Walker and Rashaan Evans, Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, plus some Dee Alford talk

Your questions get answers in this Friday Bair Mail

This week has legit flown by, hasn't it?? We're just a few sleeps away from a big game against the Cleveland Browns. That provides a real opportunity to reward the home fan base with an entertaining home win.


That's a real possibility if the Falcons run well and tackle well and find efficiency in the red zone. We talk about several important factors in this game, especially with young players who could make an impact. And, as always, we'll talk quarterbacks as we always do.

Let's get to your questions in this Friday edition of Bair Mail.

RJ Clement from Bozeman, Mon.

What is your overall feeling about the linebackers and how they are producing or progressing?

Bair: We can go through the position group as a whole, RJ, but something about your location suggests you're interested in a certain second-round rookie from Dillion. I'll get to him in a bit, and answer a few Tory Andersen questions at the same time. (Hi, JC Daniel!!)

The Falcons are happy with how their starting unit is performing. We've seen Rashaan Evans be a tone-settling, physical presence solid against the run. We've seen Mykal Walker communicate well wearing the green dot and capitalize on turnover opportunities, with a pick and forced fumble (recovered by Evans, no less) in the first few games. That's a good start for the starting unit.

While last year's starters, Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun never left the field, we've seen Andersen work in with the top defense. He played nine defensive snaps against the Rams and 19 against the Seahawks. Falcons coaches have addressed this, saying it's nothing against the starters. They're just trying to get Andersen involved more often. That's smart for two reasons: 1. These cameos are part of a longer-term development plan to get Andersen ready to be a full-time guy in time. 2. They'd be crazy not to take advantage of his crazy athleticism.

That said, it's clear to me that he still has a lot to learn about the scheme, in role in it and his communication with the rest of the defense. Getting more action will help him learn faster and make plays when given the chance. NOTE: Dean Pees gave a long, detailed answer about playing Andersen and his progress to this point, in the video above, around the 11-minute mark. Nate Landman, one of my favorite training camp players, has played but a handful of defensive snaps but is a major player on special teams.

Chrystian Price from Canton, Ga.

My questions have never been on Bair Mail before but I'm hoping this is the one. I was just curious as to the backup quarterback situation. Do we at some point need to see what we have in our backup Desmond Ridder? Should we see him in an NFL game before the end of the season to see what he's made up of. I'm just curious as to that because are we going to draft a QB next year with the QB class being really good or are we riding it out with our current setup? Just interested in your thoughts and what you think of our QB situation since Mariota has had some struggles, IE fumbles and accuracy issues. He hasn't looked good throwing the ball other than outside the pocket.

Bair: Sorry I haven't gotten to one of your questions before now, Chrystian!! I try to get to everyone at some point. I'll jump on this one because Desmond Ridder gets brought up on a regular basis in the mailbag, often in tandem with some issues with Marcus Mariota's play.

I'll agree that Mariota has made some critical, unacceptable mistakes in the early going. I would also echo what Arthur Smith has said a few times, that he's running the offense well, adds another dynamic to the scheme with his athleticism and is improving as a passer. He's also willing to make and complete more tight window throws, something I thought was missing in the first few games.

I think he'll do better as the season progresses and he gets more comfortable with his co-workers. On whether we need to see Desmond Ridder at some point this season, only if it's natural. For example, if it's Week 15 and the Falcons are way out of it and Mariota's struggling. I don't expect it to be anytime soon. Don't forget that he's not getting many first team reps, if any. With just two full-time quarterbacks on the roster, he's running the scout team during the practice week. As he explained to The Athletic's Josh Kendall, he's not getting tons of game-prep practice. Even when things got rough midway through the Rams game, Ridder wasn't warming up. Is he ready? I don't know. We can't watch much practice anymore. I also don't think it's fair just to drop him into a game at this point. I don't think we're anywhere close to seeing Ridder start. That's my opinion, anyway.

Carl Harrington from Houston/Atlanta

Morning Bair absolutely love your insight, my question is about the Defense while they've been holding their own, I have seen that we give up such big chunks of yardage towards end of games and rarely are we close in defense of most plays, but in preseason we had one guy sure you know already who I speak of who smothered guys in defense and also had more interceptions than anyone starting, the kid (Dee Alford) was a ball hog and had a nose for the ball, yes I know he gives up a little size but his foot work and spew make up for it, we had a small guy at corner some years back we traded to Miami but he puts me in mind of, to give us a better chance at turnovers do you think we will see Dee get playing time anytime soon? Thanks for your response in advance.

Bair: You're right Carl. Dee Alford had one heck of a preseason. He earned his spot on the 53-man roster. We just put out a video on Dee (which you can see above) and a feature right here written by our Ashton Edmunds.

He has played 49 defensive snaps thus far, getting some work in each game. It's a bit of The Troy Andersen logic, helping prepare him for the long term. He has been good when active, though he's clearly working in the slot behind Mike Ford. Mike has played well, too, so having him in reserve is a good thing. Also, playing slot cornerback in this defense can be complicated, with run defense and blitzing responsibilities. It's bit unknown how he is with those responsibilities.

Sloane Willing from Melbourne, Australia

Well done, Bair. Good use of form lines. Geelong won by a big margin. Keep up the good work.

Bair: I knew it! I definitely didn't flip a coin or pick the best uniforms or anything. Ha. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Appreciate the questions and the frequent correspondence. And go Cats! Or maybe, if I'm supporting your side, go Demons?!?


The Falcons Audible presented by AT&T

Each week, host Derek Rackley and former Falcons QBs Dave Archer and DJ Shockley will talk about the Falcons, the NFC South and the biggest storylines around the NFL.

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