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Bair Mail: On Cordarrelle Patterson's impact, Arthur Smith's flexible scheme and Desmond Ridder's next steps

Your questions get answers in this Monday mailbag, the first after a 20-19 victory over the Arizona Cardinals

The Falcons snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday, with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. It was a big moment for the locker room, which was disappointed to slide out of playoff contention during a second-half downturn.

It didn't cost the Falcons much in terms of NFL Draft positioning, sliding from the No. 6 slot to No. 7 after the win. They can't go any higher than six, but could drop a bit with a win over Tampa Bay in a game irrelevant to playoff proceedings and a few losses by teams with similar records.

This final game is more about evaluation that anything else, and we take a look at some important evaluation points for how this season went and what needs to improve heading into a pivotal 2023 campaign.

We talk about all of that in this Monday edition of Bair Mail :

Zackery Goodknight from Dallas, Tex.

I have this gut feeling since Patterson broke the return record that he'd potentially retire after this season. Are there any indications of that? And if that does happen, does RB become a need in the off-season or do you feel Atlanta keeps the same crew they used in Patterson's absence earlier in the season? Obviously Allgeier is their guy for the future. He has shown plenty.

Bair: I don't think retirement is in his thoughts right now. Last year, he was talking about playing for several more seasons. Cordarrelle Patterson is in the midst of a career renaissance playing with Arthur Smith and I don't think he wants it to end. He has an individualized workout schedule, and essentially gets himself ready for the season. While this season hasn't gone perfect, Patterson still plays a vital role that will enhance his versatility now that Tyler Allgeier has emerged as a three-down back.

CP is under contract for next season and I'd bet the Falcons want to honor that deal. Allgeier is obviously around. So is Avery Williams, who has found a niche within the offense after playing defensive back last season. Caleb Huntley suffered an Achilles' injury late in the year, so the Falcons might grab an insurance policy if he's not ready for a while or doesn't have the same explosiveness and burst right away. I would caution against anyone counting him out, though. He's as tough as they come.

Now back to your original question. I think Patterson will be back and will be used in 2023 more like he was used in 2021. This season, Patterson has been spent time where he had to be the feature back, and exceled in that role. Then he got hurt and only after Allgeier inspired such confidence are we seeing the impact Patterson can have when moved all over the place.

Joshua Holub from Carlsbad, N.M.

Do you think going into the offseason Atlanta will try to maintain the running game for next season or gravitate more towards a passing attack now that we know Ridders the future of our franchise based on how well he's adapted to the games as of now, and how well his acceptance has been received by the fans. I don't see how it wouldn't move toward a passing attack with his weapons that are available Pitt, London, Patterson. What do you think?

Bair: Arthur Smith is a flexible play caller and designer. He's not going to force his scheme down anyone's throat, especially if it doesn't fit the talent available to him. Don't believe me? Look at how the Falcons offense looked under Matt Ryan versus Marcus Mariota. Legit night and day. They threw a ton in 2021, with more prototypical run concepts. In 2022, they ran zone reads and RPOs and operated a ton from the shotgun and pistol. We've seen a more minor shift with Desmond Ridder at quarterback – there's definitely more drop-back passes -- though Smith is still leaning on an effective run game as his bread and butter.

What will happen next year? It depends on the talent acquired in the offseason, especially at the quarterback position. While it's easy to knock play calling when things don't go right, I'll say yet again that Smith is one of the team's best assets. He's not perfect – nobody is – and would be the first to admit that. He is objective enough in his film reviews to understand what works and what can be dubbed a failed experiment as he continues to refine his system built around the talent on the roster at any given time.

Barry Wynn from Rex, Ga.

Hey Scott. Ridder showed some improvement this week and a big challenge in facing the Bucs will be a nice litmus test for him. He will face a pass rush so everyone around needs to bring their A game to support him. If the Falcons bring in a speedy home run hitter to stretch the field, then we can really get a good feel of his potential to elevate his game in putting in a more vertical passing game to complement the run game. What are you thinking?

Bair: The Falcons got some good news on Monday, when reporting out of the Bucs beat said Tampa Bay planned to play its starters in a Week 18 contest at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That will provide a solid test for Desmond Ridder and the young, expanding foundation.

In terms of next steps, Ridder talked about finishing well and finding ways to win. I would like to see him push the ball down field a bit more – he took what was given against Arizona, which worked out well on extended drives – and show off his arm talent.

I do agree with him that finding ways to win and score, especially when plays break down and creativity gets involved, will provide glimpses into what he can do off script.

There is nothing, however, that will provide definitive conclusions about Ridder as the team's long-term solution at quarterback. You need more reps, more plays, more opportunities. The Falcons will likely import solid competition as well, as they continue to look for talent at quarterback and other positions during what will be a massive offseason for the franchise.

Call for questions

Let's fill the mailbag back up. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Wednesday's edition of Bair Mail.

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