We're now a week away from the first preseason game, which will be played against the host Detroit Lions. I can't believe training camp is flying by so fast.
- How Arnold Ebiketie found his way to football, then the NFL
- Grady Jarrett on helping Dean Pees, Falcons, change defensive culture
- Why speed of game slowing down 'day by day' for Drake London
- Positional breakdowns: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Receivers/Tight ends, O-line; D-line; ILBs, EDGE; Secondary
- Training camp storylines: Line of scrimmage; Edge rush, Quarterbacks
We've learned a ton to this point, with many more questions remaining as we move into the preseason slate and closer to joint practice sessions against the Jets and then the Jaguars.
Let's get to your questions in this Friday edition of Bair Mail:
Ryan Murray from Wichita Falls, Tex.
Love the column guys, you all do a great job. My question is... How good is Kyle Pitts about to be? I see his highlights and just salivate at how quick and how big he is... I know he is a stud, but I see Randy Moss... is that far off? Thanks!
Bair: Arthur Smith said last winter that Kyle Pitts was "just scratching the surface" after his rookie year. That was referring to a 1,066-yard season as a floor. Here's the crazy part: Smith wasn't lying. Pitts is really, really good.
I talked to him while back for a feature that's coming up on Monday, and he talked a lot about besting himself, about chasing greatness. He has all the talent and work ethic required to be an elite tight end. The only complaint about his 2021 was a single score. The TDs will have to go up in 2022, and they will. He's someone with All-Pro potential, even in a league with George Kittle and Travis Kelce and Darren Waller and Mark Andrews and so many super talents at the position.
The most encouraging thing I've heard from Pitts – beyond him finding a leadership voice – is his focus on route-running precision and dissecting defenses. If he improves in those areas, he'll be really tough to stop.
In terms of a comparison, that's tough. That's also why they call him the Unicorn. I truly the sky's the limit for a 22-year old who's only going to get better from here. And he's already pretty good.
Payton M. from Smyrna, Ga.
You and Tori have talked a lot about the position battles along the offensive line. Are there others you're keeping an eye on?
Bair: Center seems like the most hotly contested at this time, though there are others that could develop over the course of the preseason. I think the edge rusher spot opposite Lorenzo Carter hasn't been decided yet. Many think Arnold Ebiketie will be a regular off the edge, but Ade Ogundeji is going to fight like heck to play significant snaps and retain the first-team spot he currently occupies.
Will Damien Williams or Tyler Allgeier be more of a feature player? What will happen if Deion Jones gets healthy and doesn't get traded? Things would get complicated at inside linebacker.
Notice that I haven't mentioned safety? Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins seem like odds-on favorites to start in the middle. There are several intriguing contests remaining outside the offensive line and it will be interesting to see how they progress.
Dan G. from Suwanee
We've heard about Drake London quite a bit. Sounds like he's doing well. What about other members of this NFL Draft class? Anybody standing out to you?
Bair: I've seen flashes of quality from third-round pick DeAngelo Malone, who looks really quick. He has a reputation as a tenacious pass rusher, and I'm interested to see how he looks in a live game.
Troy Andersen also has speed to spare, and has the potential to be a solid coverage linebacker who can also come forward a bit. There isn't pressure on him to perform right away or get thrown into the deep end, with Rashaan Evans, Mykal Walker and Nick Kwiatkoski as experienced options.
Justin Shaffer and John FitzPatrick are developing, though the Falcons have other options at their positions higher on the totem pole. That's a good thing, though. You don't want to depend on later-round draft picks.
Call for questions
Let's refill the mailbag for next week, and keep the volume high. It was a bit low for this Bair Mail. Submit your questions right here.