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Bair Mail: On Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen, Kyle Pitts and John FitzPatrick

We also discuss the Falcons' salary cap outlook for 2024 and an A.J. Terrell extension

We're two games through the preseason slate, inching ever closer to games that count. The Falcons have looked pretty good thus far, both in games and practices. There's no doubting their better than in previous years. We don't know by exactly how much. We'll have to wait for the regular season to make that call, when we see these players and schemes operating at full power.

That leaves plenty of questions and discussion topics for us to ponder in this Monday mail bag. Let's get right to the Q+A in the latest Bair Mail:

Tarik Nichols from Knoxville, Tenn.

After watching two preseason games, two things have stood out that are very concerning. 1. Arnold Ebiketie has played a lot of preseason snaps for someone who was thought to be a potential starter or at least a heavy used rotational player. 2. Despite playing against 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stringers, AK47 has not shined, stood out, or outperformed the backups he has faced. Are the extra preseason snaps a result of coaches wanting to give a 2nd year player more reps to gain experience and work on technique? Or is Coach Nielsen not as high on AK47 being a major contributor as fans may have thought? I think many fans expected a 2nd year leap from the young pass rusher. Should we be concerned?

Bair: I, too, found it curious that Arnold Ebiketie has been playing so much in this preseason, Tarik. I think the extra snaps are more about getting AK experience in a somewhat new role, where he might have to drop down in coverage or rush from a standup position. That's a little different than what he has done in the past.

In terms of him not playing well, I would challenge you a bit on that. I think he has been pretty good both in games and practices, flashing real potential as a pass rusher. Sure, he could be more consistent, but I think he's going to do just fine this year as a reserve and situational player working behind Lorenzo Carter and Bud Dupree. I'm definitely not ready to stress over Ebiketie at this point. I think he'll be a positive contributor in 2023.

Bob Colman from Bozeman, Mont.

Is it possible that Troy Andersen could become the Falcons "emergency" QB? He had a lot of talent as MSUs QB in the Big Sky. This would obviously save a roster spot...

Bair: The Falcons are thinking about quarterbacks when evaluating their 53-man roster options, but Troy Andersen isn't part of them, Bob. They're pondering whether to keep Logan Woodside as a third quarterback, to take advantage of the new rule where an inactive third QB can enter a game if the other two get hurt.

Troy Andersen, in my mind, would stay at linebacker even in a pinch. While Andersen has quarterbacking experience and was pretty darn good at it, my guess is that, in a major quarterback pinch, they would just put Cordarrelle Patterson in the wildcat and let him run. They have several former quarterbacks on the roster who can throw, but they would probably just run a ton if Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke were unavailable.

Now for an update on Troy. Boy, is he fast. He's working well with Kaden Elliss as an off-the-ball linebacker and has really developed on the defensive side of the ball. He can cover most anyone – again, the dude is fast – and is a sure tackler. He's going to be a real defensive asset for Ryan Nielsen in 2023.

Timothy Parker from Augusta, Ga.

How many TEs do you think the Falcons will have on their 53-man roster? We know Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, and Parker Hesse are locks. MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick, and Tucker Fisk obviously are fighting for that fourth spot. I doubt any of the three TEs clear waivers for the Practice Squad based on performance. Pruitt is the most experienced. FitzPatrick is built like Pitts and has shown he can block and catch. Fisk looks like the odd man out which is a shame because he's looked good in Preseason.

Bair: That's a good question, Timothy. My pal Tori always says that, when it comes to Arthur Smith and predicting his 53-man rosters, keep one more tight end than you think you should. That's a good philodophy to live by. But, would they really keep five? That seems like so many, even if this position group can do so much. You obviously know that Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith are in. Parker Hesse's a really safe bet, maybe a lock in his own right. Then you probably keep MyCole Pruitt, too. And John FitzPatrick? He has had a good camp and I think they just might keep him, but does that mean you go really light on receivers? Maybe try to work with one less offensive lineman? That's a tough call, isn't it?

You could probably get away with that, especially if you think of Pitts more as a receiver than anything else. Tough call though. I will say, though, that all five of the guys we've mentioned are worthy of a roster spot.

Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

Hi, Scott. Just curious: Can you tell me what the Falcons salary cap will look like next off season, or is it too early to be thinking about. I'm thinking, though, if Terry has the money to spend like he just did, look out! Thanks.

Bair: Per OverTheCap, Will, the Falcons are set to have $38.5 million in cap space, working under the estimation that the cap will be set at $256 million. They can always create more through roster movement, but a good chunk of that, though, will go to an A.J. Terrell extension. They've gotta get that done first. But the Falcons have been smart with their money and can be players in free agency should they so choose. Maybe not to the extent that they were last spring, but they can go get someone if they really want to.

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