The Falcons are ever so close to playing games that count. Only Saturday's preseason game against Jacksonville and Tuesday's big roster cut separates us from regular-season mode, when will begin preparations for Week 1's clash with New Orleans.
We still have some major hurdles remaining, and some questions about bubble players who might be around in the regular season. Y'all are also wondering about the status of certain impactful position groups and whether the Falcons need to make additional adds.
Let's get to all that and more in this Friday mailbag:
Trae Hogan from Charlotte, N.C.
Just want to say I love what you guys do! You all do a great job reporting for our Falcons. I have one very important question. HOW IS A TOP 5 CORNER IN THIS LEAGUE NOT IN THE TOP 100 !?!
Bair: First off, Tori and I always appreciate the kind words. Now on to your (very valid) question.
You're right Trae. A.J Terrell not being in the NFL's Top 100 is ridiculous. There is no way on this earth that the Falcons cornerback is not among the league's 100 best. There's no way he's not among the 50 best players on this planet.
There are some things, however, you should know about the process. It's all player vote, which makes it a popularity contest that often adds someone a year later than they deserve a slot. It's also not like each player in the league sits down and ranks guys from 1 to 100. I've seen some of these exchanges with the league and players in Oakland, and guys will fill in a few spots and leave many of them blank. It's a made-for-tv event, not something I would consider an official and credible ranking.
I was pretty pissed when Terrell didn't make the Pro Bowl and wrote a whole column on it. Then he was a second-team All-Pro, which was deserved. Those voting bodies – yes, even the Pro Bowl fan/player/coach voting – is better than the top 100.
I mean, you do think Kyle Pitts is the No. 91 best player? You think that, even will 11 picks, that Trevon Diggs belongs as 23? No. And as one last point on this ranking, type "NFL Top 100" into a search engine. The term comes up as a TV series, not a list of accomplished football players.
With all that said, our social team created this apt graphic considering how Terrell should be viewed.
Will Smith from Summerville, GA
Hi, guys. Tori's piece about Deion Jones coming back, him taking fourth string reps, and especially reading between the line of Arthur's comments makes me feel like he'll never take another snap as a Falcon. Am I on to something, or totally off base? Thanks.
Bair: I would push back a little bit on one part of what you said, Will. I don't think Arthur Smith’s comments suggest Deion Jones won't play regular-season snaps as a Falcon again. I thought he was forthright and honest, which you don't often get from head coaches. Rashaan Evans and Mykal Walker have worked all offseason in first-team slots. You can't just replace those guys without someone else earning it. The whole structure of competition is that the best guy earns a spot. Simply giving one to Jones flies, who came off PUP Wednesday, in the face of that.
Jones, for one, doesn’t seem to mind having to earn his way back to the top, even if that means playing special teams. But, if he's the best player available, in time, you have to create a path for Jones to claim a spot with quality play.
Now back to the last part of your submission. Will Jones take another regular-season snap for the Falcons? It's certainly possible he won't. The Falcons will experience significant salary-cap relief if Jones is traded – not if he's cut – so it might behoove them to ship him for a less-than-sterling return. You have to weigh his salary and the strong state of the inside linebacker corps when deciding what to do with Jones over the long term.
Rohit Makkuni from Pittsburgh, PA
Throughout the last several weeks, I've seen Dee Alford continuously rise up (Pun intended), with no sign of slowing down. There is no doubt in my mind that he A: is my favorite defensive player right now, and B: has well earned a spot on the actual roster. I guess you could say he's my "camp crush." My question is, how high can he go since he has no limit to his success? (evident of him having his name in Falcons articles daily).
Bair: For one, I appreciate the homage. "Camp crush" is a term I use selectively, and Dee Alford is one player where the title fits. He's constantly around the ball, has made several big plays in practice and games and often receives first-team reps. That, in my mind, is a sign he's going to make the 53-man roster and contribute.
In terms of the "how high can he go" portion of the question, I want to pump the brakes a bit there. It's still uncertain how much he'll play and how he'll do against top level receivers. He hasn't seen many of them to this point, so it remains a question mark. Maybe he'll be great. Maybe he'll have an adjustment period. I'm not ready to put him in the Pro Bowl just yet, but Alford has been fun to watch all summer.
Jeremy Baker from Calhoun, GA
Hey Scott. I really hope you get to this question. I think along with myself, a lot to falcons fans are wondering, do we have anyone to get after the qb? I'm just wondering if we need to bring in some help here, maybe JPP? I do not want to see us dead last in sacks again. Any hope on your side??
Bair: It's fair, Jeremy, to wonder about the Falcons pass rusher. There isn't an established game wrecker in this group. Everyone's 26 or younger, and Lorenzo Carter's five sacks in 2021 lead a group with two rookies expected to make real contributions.
As with so many other groups, the pass rushers will have to earn their respect. It won't be given and they have to go show they can set a proper edge in run defense and pressure the passer. They need to win rushing four and create pressure on the outside and next to Grady Jarrett.
Right now, the edge rusher group is a complete unknown and a real wild card for how this defense (and this season) will fare.
There's talent here – I think Ade Ogundeji’s ready to take that next step – but they'll have to go prove they can be impactful as a young group. I wouldn't expect going from dead last in sacks to the top 10. This evolution will take time. Assuming, of course, the Falcons have added the right guys.
We take a look as the Jaguars join us in Flowery Branch.
Tarik N from Knoxville, TN
Not much has been said about Tyler Vrabel over the summer. Is there a chance he makes the practice squad or was Smith just doing old head coach a favor by inviting the younger Vrabel to camp?
Bair: I had a chance to talk with Tyler Vrabel before the Jets joint practice and he's pushing hard to make a good impression. He's always one of the first in the building, diving headfirst into the scheme and his technique.
Arthur Smith has complimented the line Vrabel is on, and I think he'd be a solid practice squad asset. His famous last name aside, he has NFL size. He’s athletic and could develop into an option down the road. He's definitely worth keeping around on the practice squad.