Falcons training camp has been going on for a full week now. I know that only because I looked at a calendar while recording this week's Falcons Final Whistle. That's the only way I know what day it is. And that's how I know we're in the thick of training camp. All the days and practices run together. Which is an awesome thing.
I love this time of year, when we really get to know a squad, its new faces and how chemistry gets built. Each day brings new questions and storylines and, thankfully, new topics to the mailbag.
We have another good crop in this Wednesday Bair Mail:
Winston B from Chicago, Ill.
What a bummer that Vincent Taylor tore his Achilles. I was really looking forward to both him and Eddie Goldman joining the defensive line. Now, with Goldman retired, we won't get to see either guy. Do you think the Falcons will add to the defensive line? What do you think of the guys we have in there now?
Bair: Grady Jarrett is already being Grady Jarrett. The dude was a disruptive force from the second pads went on Monday morning. His teammates need to help take the pressure off him, and that responsibility primarily falls to Ta'Quon Graham and Marlon Davidson. Anthony Rush will be in at nose tackle, but losing Goldman -- he could've helped rush at nose tackle, and inside on rushing downs -- and Taylor is a blow.
I would anticipate they'll dip back into the free-agent pool and will continue watching cuts for chances to upgrade. They could add a new player as early as this week, to try and get them rolling quickly. That's an area the Falcons didn't add much to, and they've already sustained losses.
There are some names you’ve heard of on the open market – Linval Joseph, Malik Jakson and Star Lotuleilei, to name a few – but the Falcons need to find the right fit for the scheme. They need help there, in my opinion, and it will be interesting to see who they add.
On a side note, you’ve got to feel for Taylor. He suffered a bad ankle injury in the season opener last year and is done in training camp this time around. That just ain't right.
Graham DeLoach from Hendersonville, N.C.
With the newly released decision on Deshaun Watson's suspension, and it being so mild for something so serious, do you think there is a chance the NFL lessens Calvin Ridley's suspension? In either case do the Falcons keep him around after the suspension or ship him off somewhere?
Bair: I don't think Calvin Ridley's suspension will be lessened. These cases deal with different NFL policies and, right or wrong, they carry different punishments. Deshaun Watson violated the personal conduct policy and Ridley violated the NFL’s gambling policy. There are plenty who think the disparity in punishments is unjust. At this stage, this far after the Ridley suspension, I have a difficult time imagining anything changing the fact Ridley will be suspended for a full calendar year, able to apply for reinstatement in February.
As to your next question, it's uncertain whether Ridley will play for the Falcons again. He's still under contract with the team on a fifth-year option that didn't toll due to the suspension. The top-flight receiver could be traded if he's reinstated. The Falcons have added several at his position, including receivers Drake London and Bryan Edwards.
Getting stronger and working harder as we continue into Week Two of AT&T Training Camp!
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
I keep reading that the Falcons will line up in a "hybrid" 3-4 this season. How does this hybrid differ from a traditional 3-4? Thanks for explaining!
Bair: Hey Will. I should probably just call it multiple, or a hybrid defense. That means the Falcons will use multiple fronts, even though their base is a 3-4, with three bigger defensive linemen and two outside linebackers coming in off the edge. I say hybrid 3-4, because 3-4 personnel can move around in different formations. And don't forget that teams spend tons of time in sub packages, with extra defensive backs. Dean Pees has an intricate, effective scheme that gives a lot of looks, with pressure coming from lots of different places.
It's a defense with a track record of success, one that Pees wants to use to elevate the production and the standard in and around Atlanta. As he described in a passionate press conference, mediocrity’s no longer acceptable around here.
David Hicks from Marshalltown, Ia.
Thanks Scott and Tori for answering our questions! I certainly appreciate your input on mine over the past year or so. If either of you find yourself here in Central Iowa, I owe you both the beverage of your choice! Haha! What is your take with the physical fighting that has occurred in camp this early? Is it maturity issues with the rookies, the intensity of the competition, or what?
Bair: We'll definitely take you up on that if we're ever in your neck of the woods, my friend!! Regarding the scuffles from Saturday's practice, Arthur Smith wasn't too worried about it. He's not a big fan of fighting, but, as he put it, he'd rather see guys being aggressive.
"I'd much rather have people you need to pull back than people that you've got to push," Smith said. "This team is competitive as hell and that's a fun group to coach."
Ben Winters from Winston-Salem, N.C.
I am a lifelong Falcons fan and for some reason have optimism for this year's team. It seems like a deeper team and opportunities to have upgrades in skill positions. Last year's team one 7 games while giving away 3-4 others. The South isn't drastically improved, so hopefully we are all presently surprised.
Bair: Expectations for the Falcons are not high. That's near universal, with their win total predictions hovering around 5-6 wins. That's pretty low. Smith made no secret of the fact he thinks those predictions are ridiculous.
"You can put all the hot takes and predictions, great but it's a joke," Smith said. "…Just go and do a google search, like go look and see what they thought of the iPhone coming out if you want to humor yourself. It's hard to find good comedy today, go back and look at predictions if you want real comedy."
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