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Bair Mail: On Arthur Smith helping Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, defying 2022 expectations and adding homegrown talent

We also discuss the Falcons head coach entering his second season in this Wednesday mailbag

Hey all. Happy Wednesday to you. Falcons full-squad training camp formally starts in one week. ONE WEEK! I'm freaking pumped for what should be an intriguing preseason full of position battles and heavy competition.


There are a ton of questions about how this team with come together this summer and perform this fall, so let's get right to them in the latest edition of Bair Mail:

Wayne Abe from Honolulu, Hi.

Is Arthur Smith going to change the offense to fit Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder? Both QBs like to run and throw on the run. Both are tremendous athletes. Plus the offense line isn't that great, so movement would be our advantage.

I hope Arthur Smith has change and will make this team more exciting. I believe they have a great team more reps will make them very exciting. The defense has to be more aggressive. Go FALCONS all the way!!

Bair: Thanks for the submission, Wayne. I do believe Arthur Smith will tailor his play calling and designs to Marcus Mariota's strengths. Desmond Ridder, too, if he ends up as QB1. That doesn't mean Smith is completely changing the scheme or the offensive principles that are its backbone. He's adding and tweaking. It's finding options in a massive playbook that will work well with the talent he has at quarterback and across the offense.

That's what good coaches do. Arthur Smith is a good coach. Look at what he did with Cordarrelle Patterson and, to a slightly lesser extent, with Kyle Pitts. He found unique ways to let dynamic playmakers make plays. I know his record overall isn't stellar, but Mariota’s a supreme athlete. Finding ways to maximize his talents, or Ridder's, will be key to offensive success in 2022.

Flavius Hobbs from Augusta, Ga.

Welcome back, Scott. Tori held down your spot well. I'm looking forward to both of you collaborating through the season. Players have camps and private lessons during the off-season to help them get better. What do coaches do for improvement? Are they reliant on learning from past mistakes on their own or are there coaching mentors (previous NFL coaches) that help out? What do you think Coach Smith can do better to improve in year two?

Bair: At this level, head coaches and coordinators are doing the teaching at coaching clinics. That said, Smith is a steadfast self-scouter, talking extensively about taking long, objective looks at his play calls and their effectiveness and making adjustments to help his team out.

Learning from experience, by doing, is an excellent source of knowledge. Smith took a ton from his year as a rookie head coach that will help him in Year 2. Having continuity on staff will help as well, as this staff and this roster grows together and becomes more effective and efficient in how they operate.

Take a look at cornerback A.J. Terrell sporting the classic red helmet originally worn by the Atlanta Falcons in 1966.

Mike S from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Hi Scott! Long time! I just read through PFFs rankings and yikes, that was not pleasant! Is it just easier for the national media to say a couple bad years plus QB traded = worst team in the league than to look into it or are we just too close to the situation as fans to gage where we are at? I am not saying this team is Super-Bowl bound but most media types have us ending the season with a top 2 pick which just doesn't correlate to fan confidence in my eyes.

Bair: You're right, Mike, to point out that expectations are low. National folks are looking at Matt Ryan being traded and the dead money piling up and thinking the roster wouldn't have enough talent to compete. I don't think, however, the Falcons are the worst team in the league. They could well surprise and win more than expected.

And, fitting with the theme of this season, the Falcons have to go prove it. That's the case with many veterans here on one-year deals and draft picks who thought they should've gone higher. That's the case with the coaches and members of the front office. They weren't given much respect in preseason rankings and polls, FWIW. They’ll have to go earn it.

James Maddox from Marietta, Ga.

I'm so done with the Falcons because they have no loyalty or compassion for the state of Georgia home grown athletes. Fans are dying to get behind a team that looks out for their own.

Bair: I trimmed James' submission down a bit, but he's referring to the Falcons passing on Justin Fields last year and Malik Willis this draft. That's two Atlanta quarterbacks who went elsewhere.

I would say, however, that the Falcons went HEAVY on homegrown players this offseason. They signed Lorenzo Carter, who's local and went to Georgia. They drafted two Bulldogs this year, taking Justin Shaffer and John FitzPatrick on Day 3. While he went to Western Kentucky, DeAngelo Malone is also from the Atlanta area.

Casey Hayward signed up and he's from Perry and will pair with ATL product A.J. Terrell. The Falcons contingent at Georgia’s pro day was MASSIVE. They're looking at and evaluating UGA products, as they should win discussing a national-championship roster.

And, this is just me, but I would take Kyle Pitts over Justin Fields any day, especially considering they still had a franchise quarterback. I'd probably go with Ridder over Malik Willis, too. We'll see if those prove to be the right moves. Mike Vick is from Virginia, but Atlanta fell in love with him and his playing style.

Georgia is a talent-rich area and mining it is good for any team. It just shouldn't be the sole reason to take someone.

Call for questions

We've got mailbags coming on the regular now, with the season cranking up. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Friday's Bair Mail.


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