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Bair Mail: On A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward and the Falcons secondary, Calvin Ridley and more

We also evaluate the Falcons four-man pass rush through two weeks of the regular season

SEATTLE -- The Falcons are starting their practice week in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday, working out up here before facing the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.


There are a few things they need to fix to get their first win of the season, which was a hot topic in Wednesday's mailbag. We talk tons of defense in this one, including the Falcons secondary and the pass rush. We also ponder Calvin Ridley's future in the latest edition of Bair Mail:

Chris Duke from Covington, Ga.

Bair, a couple of points I'd like to make. First, credit should be given to our Falcons for showing a bit of resiliency and putting up a fight against the Rams, however, at some point, we'll need to figure out how not to place ourselves into those positions and win games (hurts my heart to think about how we could be 2-0 right now).

Second, what is going on with AJ Terrell? First against M. Thomas, then it was A. Robinson. AJ has been touted as one of the best corners in the league. Is he that, or did we all just over rate him?

Lastly, A. Smith has to better figure out how to better get Pitts more involved. He's just way too talented to have the numbers that he has right now (coming from a fan that wishes we would've taken M. Parsons in the draft instead). Your thoughts?

Bair: I'm going to stick with the A.J. Terrell question, Chris, and defer to Tori McElhaney’s breakdown of the Kyle Pitts situation, which you can find right here.

A.J. Terrell has given up more touchdowns in two games that he did all of last year. There's no disputing that. Here are his coverage numbers, per Pro Football Focus: 10 receptions for 94 yards and four touchdowns on 11 targets.

That's not great. No disputing that. I'm still not ready to hit the panic button on this elite talent. He has faced some top receivers early on and lost some battles. He'll learn from that and improve. Let's keep an eye on the QB rating against him. Right now, it's a sky-high 141.9. Let's see where it's at in two weeks. Bet it's a lot lower. The logic behind it is both simple and unscientific. I just believe he's too good to carry on like this.

Robert M from Statesboro, Ga.

Hey Bair, love the mailbag and always appreciate your honest take on things. 0-2 sucks. Bad. But I could not be happier with this past draft class. We're already seeing contributions from deep in the draft class. But my question is about the defense. All preseason we heard about how deep, and how the best position group on the team was the secondary. Now they have made a few great plays, but it seems more often than not, our secondary is getting torched. Am I wrong, or is this just an unexpected issue that'll be worth monitoring?

Bair: Since we just got done discussing A.J. Terrell, I thought we'd stay on the secondary kick. I understand your concern, Robert, after Jameis Winston torched the defense in the fourth quarter of Week 1 and Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp may serious hay on Sunday.

I'm not going down the rush-and-coverage rabbit hole here. I will say that the coverage could be better all around. It's definitely worth monitoring this group, especially with young safeties Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins in the back. We've see some rotational shuffling there as well, with Erik Harris playing in the slot and Dean Marlowe stepping in for Hawkins in the second half against the Rams.

Regarding Will Smith's question, also on the secondary, PFF grades those guys out right in the middle of the road. That's probably a fair assessment after two games. I'm waiting until we're four games in to make a real assessment, but better is expected. Seeing the secondary create turnovers, however, is a big deal. They got two last week and need to keep taking it away.

I have full confidence in Terrell and Casey Hayward. I agree the Falcons need better from those two and that group.

Travis Bryant from Advance, Mo.

Scott, So I am not really getting why so many people are already calling for Ridder to start when Mariota was specifically brought in to be the bridge QB and give him a fresh start. But that's a question for another day.

My topic: Calvin Ridley. I know he took a year off for his mental health. I know during that time we shopped him around. I also know he got suspended this year for betting on his own team to win while he was away. But do you think there is a sliver of a possibility he may be interested to stay in Atlanta with a new offensive arsenal we are building organically through the draft and the Falcons interested in keeping him? Or do you think that ship has sailed?

Bair: Interesting question, Travis, about a player and asset that hasn't been discussed much recently. The Falcons will have options in that regard, because he contract essentially freezes during his suspension. When his eligibility is reinstated, the Falcons will retain Ridley's rights on a fifth-year option.

My first instinct is to say it's hard to imagine Ridley playing for the Falcons again. My second thought, anything can happen. Time heals and changes things. We may emerge next spring with the Falcons-Ridley partnership as the best option while he gets back to NFL football. I could also see him immediately hitting the trade market, with the Falcons able to save cap space and add valuable draft assets. I'm not into bold predictions, but a trade seems more likely at this point. I reserve, however, the right to change my mind.

We take a monochrome look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams on September 18, 2022.

Lewis Costa from Freehold, N.J.

Hard fought game and they never quit but where was the pass rush yesterday? no sacks going against an offensive line that was banged up missing starters and they could not get home, hardly any blitzing either.

Bair: The Bills didn't blitz Matthew Stafford, either. He'll pick you apart if you send folks too often. Blitz rate will fluctuate based upon the opponent and whether it will be impactful. They did need to do a better job getting home rushing four. That will be an issue until the edge rushers prove otherwise, and make offenses pay for paying too much attention to Grady Jarrett inside. I need to see more and better from Lorenzo Carter. Ade Ogundeji has been just okay to this point and Arnold Ebiketie is talented but still learning.

This is a young group that will continue to grow, though I think the blitz could be better against Seattle in Week 3. We'll see how much Dean Pees dials up against Geno Smith. The Falcons have impactful blitzers and nobody's better than Dean at creating them. They just have to make the right calls at the right times and get more from the pass rush winning one-on-one matchups.

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