Welcome, friends, to the slowest part of the NFL calendar. Offseason programs are over, with the Falcons wrapping their mandatory minicamp last week.
- One question for every Falcons position group: Part I, the offense | Part II, the defense
- Bair Mail: On Tyler Allgeier, Bud Dupree and Desmond Ridder
- How Ryan Nielsen has set proper tone for Falcons defense
- Notes, observations from minicamp: Day 1 | Day 2
- Finding Falcons rookie series: Bijan Robinson | Matthew Bergeron | Zach Harrison | Clark Phillips III | DeMarcco Hellams
The team will now disperse for some downtime leading into training camp starting in late July. That doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about.
I got tons of questions after minicamp, with plenty of good topics to discuss. So let's get right into it in this Monday mailbag.
Justin Kasian from Washington, D.C.
With a lack of clear receiver hierarchy behind Drake London this year (tentatively Hollins/Miller as two and three), do you think the Falcons will opt to hold on to a larger number of fringe guys like Hodge, Hart, Ali/Bolden to shore up some depth if no one clearly stands out or do you think Smith will opt to rely on the hybrid success of our versatile players at RB and TE namely Pitts, Robinson, CP, and Jonnu Smith by using them all over the field as he has mentioned? Can't wait for the season!
Bair: I agree with you, Justin, that it's tough to separate skill players into position groups. We're going to see Kyle Pitts, Bijan Robinson and Cordarrelle Patterson in the pattern a lot. Like, for realsies.
That's why the receiver hierarchy doesn't matter as much in Atlanta as it might for other teams. I do think that Mack Hollins is the clear No. 2 receiver. Scotty Miller is the No. 3 at this point.
I don't think it means the Falcons will keep more receivers that normal. The answer could well be five, which is typical in the league. I would think Drake London, Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller and KhaDarel Hodge are virtual locks. There could be a battle for a fifth spot, with an opportunity for someone to prove themselves. Or they could go with four and keep an extra tight end or running back, knowing they'll help the receiver position a ton.
All that said, I think Hollins and Miller are off to a great start. Hollins is a big dude and plays like one. He doesn't drop passes and could be a reliable option who can win in single coverage. He's also an outgoing personality that enhances the receiver meeting room. Miller is quick and clearly excited about the prospect of an enhanced role over what he had in Tampa.
I've been saying for months that they needed to upgrade the position, but I like this group the more I watch them work. And keep an eye on the position battle for a fifth spot. There are plenty of contenders for that spot.
Dawn Campbell from Sugar Hill, Ga.
How is Troy Andersen coming along in his second year, and how are he and Kaden Elliss working together?
Bair: Troy Andersen has been really good thus far and I think he and Kaden Elliss form a solid pairing on the inside. That's due to versatility, which will allow them to cover for each other. Andersen is so, so fast. He can stay with most any skill player and is quick enough to get after the quarterback.
He seems to be grasping Ryan Nielsen's scheme well, at least from the practices open to the media. The chance to start over the second half of last year was a real benefit to him as well. He just seems comfortable with his responsibilities. I think he and Elliss can form a team strength at the second level.
Glenn Fennell from Swainsboro, Ga.
Have not heard a word about Caleb Huntley's current status. What gives?
Bair: Caleb Huntley has been around the Falcons training complex, rehabbing from a torn Achilles' tendon. That was the case shortly after his surgery. It has remained the case over the offseason, when he has worked closely with the team's training staff to progress towards a return to the field.
One warning though about trying to lock down a timeline for the tough running back's return: Achilles injury are tough to rebound from. They take time to heal and even longer to find the burst that makes a skill player truly dynamic. We have heard positive discussion about Huntley's rehab process, including this quote from Arthur Smith.
"With Caleb, again we'll just assess but I'm optimistic," Smith said. "I don't want to put that out there so I'm not going to give you a date, but certainly trending in a positive direction."
Ethan Nienaber from Atlanta
Looking at the team on paper this year, I think we have a genuine shot at playoffs if everyone can stay healthy, what do you think?
Bair: There's enough talent on this roster to compete for a division title, especially in a wide-open NFC South. There are question marks, however, about how these new faces will play together. That's why this offseason program was so important. They must build chemistry and communicate well together.
That's important for the defense. Offensively, they need steady quarterback. Desmond Ridder is capable of providing that. I also think he's capable of going out and winning a game or two in the fourth quarter. That will be essential is the Falcons are to come out on top of this division. The NFC South will be competitive. The little things will determine the team that comes out on top.
Call for questions
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