There were so many questions and comments heading into the bye week that I thought we'd have back-to-back mailbags. Thanks to all of you, and there were a lot of different folks, who joined the conversation.
We're going to take a little break over the bye weekend, with a aim to promote mental health awareness, so let this be the final dispatch from Tori, Ashton and I until Monday.
- Inside Tori's Notebook: On Desmond Ridder, the juxtaposition between his 2022 path and Kenny Pickett's
- Everything Arthur Smith said about Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder and state of Falcons QB position after Steelers loss
- Bair: Falcons in playoff contention, but don't look like a playoff team
- Chris Lindstrom named Falcons Man of the Year
Thanks to everyone who follows along intently. We value each and every one of you, especially those who regularly contribute to the mailbag. I feel like I know you all just a bit. We should meet up before a game some time.
Anyway, let's get to why you clicked on this Bair Mail in the first place. We'll obviously discuss the quarterback situation, but we'll lead off in a different place while talking changes in other places.
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
Hi, Scott. We haven't seen Ridder since preseason so I've kinda forgotten about him. Can you give us a comparison between he and Mariota, as far as physical traits like size, speed, arm strength, etc. and also some of his stats from Cincinnati such as passing/rushing td's and yards? Thanks, from an original Ridder Rucketeer.
Bair: Ridder Rucketeer, Will? That legit made me laugh out loud. And Tori will love that one. I do like the question though, because the conversation around quarterbacks generally centers on what Mariota isn't doing. Let's talk about what Ridder can do.
Now, look, we don't have tons of information on what Desmond has done during the regular season. We don't see him practice and we know he spends most of his time running the scout team. How is he in meetings, grasping the system? While Arthur Smith complimented Ridder's mental acumen this summer, we don't know if he has continued to make progress.
We do know, however, that Ridder was awesome in college. He was a leader and a clutch performer, with a 44-6 overall record and an unbeaten mark at home. He put up solid numbers and showed a strong arm throwing deep and shallow. There were some accuracy issues, which showed up in Falcons training camp, but his misses are aggressive. His game has flaws. He wouldn't have made it to the third round of the NFL Draft if he didn't. But he has moxie, great potential and the confidence required to excel playing a difficult position at the highest level. We don't know if he'll get a chance to showcase it this season or not, but he's an intriguing prospect Falcons fans should be interested to watch live.
Chris Atlas from Marietta, Ga.
if you could make any personnel changes in regard to players following the bye who would you choose? You may leave QB off the list if you wish.
Bair: Thanks for the submission, Chris. Happy holidays to you, friend. I cut the second question on Ridder, because I'm going to get to that. Your query is a good one, considering Arthur Smith said changes will be made coming out of the bye. He also said those changes will be made in the best interest of the team, not in relation to the team's NFC South standing.
And, yes, I'll take a pass on the quarterback here, because we've discussed Desmond Ridder already. I wouldn't be shocked if we see more of Troy Andersen next to Rashaan Evans. I'm a big Evans fan – I think he's earned an extension – and we've seen Andersen's speed and aggressiveness featured at times this season. He swings and misses sometimes, but he plays fast and hard and has real potential to be a force in coverage in run defense. Walker knows the defense well, but Andersen's athleticism may be an asset in a larger role.
Getting Elijah Wilkinson back off IR will be a plus at left guard, adding strength to an offensive line that has been really good, and has improved in pass protection.
I would take a look at the cornerback spot opposite A.J. Terrell as well. I'm not saying Darren Hall should be a backup, but maybe Dee Alford could see time there. And I think we should see more DeAngelo Malone. When he had more than 10 pass-rush snaps, he creates pressure. That has only happened twice, and more snaps could see him make an impact. Arnold Ebiketie has made a real impact this season. Let's see what Malone can do with more opportunities.
Mike S from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Greetings Scott! Let's move on from QB and onto something I've always wanted to know - when the broadcasters say "they have the X ranked defense" where are these rankings, and heading into the bye what are the Falcons ranked? I recall Dean Pees also mentioning this in the pre season, do you feel the defense has improved this season?
Bair: The rankings, are easy to come by, Mike, and they aren't terribly flattering to the Falcons defense. They're ranked 26th in yards per play. They're 13th in yard per attempt. They're 31st in sacks. They're 29th in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. They've been decent preventing points in crucial losses to Washington and Pittsburgh, but the offense couldn't make those results positive.
All that said, I do think the defense is headed in the right direction. Dean Pees, by the way, is not the problem. He's an expert play caller with a great track record of success. This unit needs talent upgrades in a big way. That's up to Terry Fontenot's staff to continue adding players on that side of the ball, and it'll take time to construct a defense you can be proud of. They need more heat off the edge and on the defensive interior. That's the first order of business. Then they have to strengthen depth at cornerback. I think linebacker's doing just fine. Improving the front, with a free-agent addition or two and a first-round pick, will go a long way in improving this unit.
Call for questions
The Bair mailbag will get back at it on Monday, after the Falcons come off a bye weekend.
We take a monochrome look at the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 4, 2022.