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Bair Mail: On Drake London expectations, Arnold Ebiketie and the Falcons pass rush, fixing the offensive line and more

Your questions get answers in this Monday mailbag

Hey all. Happy freaking Monday to you. It's the first one of this dark period on the NFL calendar, leaving plenty of time to ponder great Falcons truths. There were plenty of topics to choose from in the mailbag, so I hand-picked a few to go over in this Monday Bair Mail.


Let's get right to them. Shall we?

Brayton Rahimi from Savannah, Ga.

After growing up watching Julio Jones and Roddy White, it's weird not having a solid receiver room. Do you see Drake London becoming one of those guys for us?

Bair: The Falcons have a track record of drafting top tier receivers in the first round, don't they? From Roddy to Julio to Calvin, the Falcons have stuck the landing on pass catchers so good you don't need a last name to recognize them. You could throw Kyle Pitts in the group of elite pass catchers as well.

Will Drake London join that group? We legit have no idea. It's unfair to project those types of expectations on a young player, no matter how well he seems to fit the scheme. There's no doubt that he’s an elite talent. The guy is huge, can run fast, has a massive catch radius and excels hauling in passes in traffic. That said, London hasn't played a single NFL snap. The No. 8 overall NFL Draft pick needs to prove himself. He also needs to develop, and that will happen over time.

Very few elite receivers were elite when they walked through the door. It's a difficult position to play at the NFL level, and it will take time to see how he’ll fare at this level. He'll likely have opportunities to excel as a rookie, considering the state of the team's receiver corps. I would avoid passing judgement in Year 1, however. Let's give him some time to adjust and find his way in the league.

Flavius Hobbs from Augusta, Ga.

I look forward to your answers and other articles as well as your podcast. Now, having been able to see the team in off season activities, what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of this new team?

Bair: Appreciate the kind words. I enjoy the heck out of these mailbags and the pod. Talking about football ain't half bad. Tori and I came away with 10 top takeaways after watching this team develop over the course of the offseason program, most of them positive. Expectations for this team are low. That's no secret. There's a real chance to exceed them, however, with some talent at the skill positions and in the defensive backfield. There are issues, if we're talking weaknesses here, along the fronts. The offensive line has question marks at center, left guard and right tackle.

The defensive front simply must improve rushing the passer and containing mobile quarterbacks, an issue falling on Lorenzo Carter, TaQuon Graham and a rookies like Arnold Ebiketie to solve. That's a difficult situation for young players, but they'll have an opportunity to grow and develop by doing. It should be said, however, that this is a multi-year project. It won't get fixed overnight. They'll need another round of talent acquisition to fortify the front with enough talent to run Dean Pees' scheme as it should. I would bet, however, that they're in a better spot that they were a year ago.

Norm Brothers from Atlanta

Why has Atlanta struggled to develop a good offensive line? We have invested top draft picks but can't seem to hit (with the exception of Matthews and Lindstrom). Is there something about the college game's move toward spread offenses that makes these guys ill-equipped to transition to the pro game—yet other teams seem to be able to develop later round picks into solid starters? Makes me wonder why we don't focus more on established players in free agency with our poor draft record. Thoughts?

Bair: The Falcons have invested a good deal in the offensive line, to the tune of three first round picks since 2014, including two in 2019, and a series of selections within the first rounds. They obviously nailed the Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom picks. Everything else, however, has been a bit suspect. If Jalen Mayfield and Drew Dalman pan out, the Falcons will feel pretty good about their line situation. If not, they'll have to reinvest. I don't think the trouble finding lineman has to do with college systems. There are a lot of quality blockers coming out of the draft. It's just about finding the right one(s).

The veterans and rookies were out on the field during Minicamps this week putting in some extra work and interacting with fans before the summer break.

Stevie Dixon from Bristol, U.K.

Hey Scottie B! Greetings from over the pond. Of all the new signings this off-season, who would you rather be lost in an unfamiliar city with and why?

Bair: We had a question similar to this asked by our social media team the other week, asking players who they'd want to be stuck on a deserted island with. I've heard Kaleb McGary's the guy you'd want. They guy camps in the wilderness. He can survive in difficult situations, in addition to being a strong and massive human. So, from that vantage, I'm going with Kaleb. I think he has a good sense of direction and good instincts. I'd definitely come out of the experience unscathed.

All that said, he's not a new signing. If we're following that rule, then Rashaan Evans is the guy. The dude chased horses to increase his speed for goodness sakes. He's a strong dude and outgoing as heck and grew up on a ranch, so he can probably handle most any situation in an urban or rural environment.

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