The Falcons have another big game coming up, with the 49ers coming to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the middle of a tough stretch.
The Falcons play the Bucs, 49ers and Bengals in succession, looking to get some wins against some of the NFL's best teams.
That's no easy task, but the mailbag tells us there's some confidence brewing in the fan base. We address a ton in this Bair Mail edition, discussing Isaiah Oliver's role when he returns, the Deion Jones deal, whether the Falcons should be buyers at the NFL trade deadline and if they can realistically get into the playoff race.
Krepton from Savannah, Ga.
What are the expectations for Oliver when he returns to the lineup? Will he come back in as the starter and what improvements can we expect for the defense? Final question, what will the falcons have to do better to be broadcasted over the jaguars here in Savannah?! Thanks!
Bair: I would assume that Isaiah Oliver will be the primary slot cornerback when he's formally added to the active roster. Will that happen before Sunday's game? Arthur Smith said he'll make that call on Saturday.
The real question is how he'll be used. Dean Pees can get really creative with his slot cornerbacks, especially if they're able to blitz and be aggressive in run defense. Pees said he'll need to see Oliver play at full speed before judging what he can do.
"Some guys are better cover guys," Pees said last week. "Some guys are better blitzers. Some guys are better in zone. What I do like is like when I had Logan Ryan at Tennessee, those guys could do it all, it was great. Do I think Isaiah could do that a year ago before he got hurt? Yes. Do I think he can do it now? I don't know. I won't be able to give you an answer on that until I see him actually practice a lot and go full speed, full tilt all the time. Just to go out there in a jog-through is not going to tell me whether or not he's ready. We have to watch him full speed in practice to see if he's capable of doing it."
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
Hi, Scott. It seems a shame that Deion's Falcons career has ended the way it did. Was it the salary cap issue, his underperformance under Coach Pees last year, shoulder this year, or a combination of all the above? At any rate he deserved a better send off than he got.
Bair: Breaking up is hard to do, Will. Rarely does an NFL player ride off into the sunset after a long career. It wasn't Deion Jones' fault the previous regime paid so much to extend him and then renegotiated his deal at a short-term gain and long-term loss.
Ultimately, his contract had to get moved, and the Falcons were able to do that. That helps their cap situation and they got an improved draft position down the line. He was a darn good player, one of the best coverage linebackers in the game.
I'm not sure he was a perfect fit for what the Falcons now do defensively, especially playing on the weak side. Jones' efforts here are and were appreciated, and I think it's a good thing he can get a fresh start on a contender and be featured prominently in Cleveland's defense. This trade was a win for all sides, even though it'll be weird to see him in a different uniform.
J Blash from Hinesville, Ga.
Hey Bair. I was just wondering how much money we saved with the Jones trade. What position should we look to add before the November deadline?
Bair: The Jones trade doesn't save a ton is cap space. The linebacker redid his deal recently, driving his base salary way down. The Falcons will take on roughly $12 million in dead cap space in 2023 after the trade as well.
Per overthecap.com, the Falcons have $9.6 million available.
Will the Falcons be buyers at the NFL trade deadline? I have a tough time imagining that. Draft assets are solid gold for this team, and I don't think there's a single player who will push them into the NFC's elite class. I think they're better off getting as much as possible from the players they have over trading for one.
There are definite areas of need, however. Picking up a defensive lineman would be of great benefit, especially a nose tackle, considering how thin they are at the position. That spot would make the most sense to me. If you are going to make a trade, you don't want a rental. You want someone who can be part of your future as a rotational piece at least.
Zackery Goodnight from Dallas, Tex.
Even though we sit at 2-3, this season, in my opinion, has already felt like a success. I think the fan base can feel that Arthur Smith has this team headed in the right direction. It's crazy to think that we honestly have put ourselves in every game that we could potentially be 5-0 without certain scenarios happening. With that being said, it's a long season, do you feel this team with how competitive we have been, can make a playoff push? At the beginning of the season, asking that question would not even be imaginable. I know every team has that goal but is the feel of the atmosphere around the team the same as the fan base?
Bair: I agree with you, Zackery, that outside perception of the Falcons has changed during this early season. Simply put, the Falcons are a tough out. Will that mean Atlanta will enter the playoff picture? Not necessarily. They have to start stacking wins. There's a real opportunity to do that down the road, with a softer portion of the schedule coming up after playing the 49ers and Bengals.
I do think this group has the fan base excited. They play an entertaining brand of football and are competitive with most everyone. Again, these are not assertions I would've made even a few weeks ago. The Falcons have demanded respect this season, and it should be freely given after seeing how these Falcons go about their business. Will a playoff push happen? Not sure. Could it happen, especially in an only so-so NFC South? Absolutely.
Take a look as the team rocks the red helmet as they put in the work in Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the San Francisco 49ers, presented by Gatorade.