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Bair Mail: On Marcus Mariota, Deion Jones, Ndamukong Suh, preseason playing time and more

Your questions get answers in this Monday mailbag

Happy OTA day, everyone! NFL offseason programs are allowed to ramp up starting Monday, with more coordinated football activities.

The Falcons' certainly did, with the first OTA starting on Tuesday. We'll be able to see more of these new Falcons, with the Thursday practice open to the media. We'll get to see rookies and vets working together. We'll get to see Marcus Mariota run the offense for the first time. There's plenty to keep a close eye on this spring.


Also keep a close eye on this here website for all the latest Falcons info as we move into the offseason program's third phase. You all have some question about the state of the roster heading into OTAs, so let's get to them in this Monday edition of Bair Mail:

Kerry Miller from Centerville, Ga.

Scott, I looked over the schedule and feel the first 7 games are certainly tough but I have no feel as to what the record will be or what to expect from this team. The roster is filled with so many unknowns that trying to figure out a record is about as useful as a MOCK draft (not a jab at yours, just they never pan out). Now my real question is looking at the current roster is their someone we are not looking at that you think might be the big surprise this upcoming season.

Bair: Biggest surprise? That's a fun question. You can express the passage of time between sentences, but I took a long time before writing this one. Had to think about this choice for a while. And, after great internal debate, I'm going with…Marcus Mariota.

Maybe someone will bring this answer up while calling me an idiot when Desmond Ridder takes the starting gig, but I just think Mariota's in a good place and in a scheme that suits him, fully understanding this might be his best (and possibly last) chance to prove he can be a quality NFL starter. He has all the tools required to be a quality quarterback, with some big-bodied pass catchers who can help him out with large catch radiuses. Expectations are low, and some fans are already looking to Desmond Ridder. I think Mariota steps up and plays well in 2022.

The tight ends were out at Flowery Branch today putting in the work.

Halim Giles from Charlotte, N.C.

Hello Scott! After all of the offseason moves that the falcons made, there's 1 that grabs my attention. To me it seems the falcons are trying to find a replacement for Deion Jones. I mean, I know that he has a high contract, but the type of speed and strength he has is a rare combination, so what are your thoughts? I mean, they already have one of the youngest, and bad defense's in the NFL, so it would be a key-loss for them. (Especially since they lost Foye Oluokun. But with the cap and dead-money situation they have, idk. What are your thoughts? Thanks!

Bair: We talked some about this in Friday’s Bair Mail so I won't get into as great of detail here, but I'll say the Falcons have a solid stable of inside linebackers, and they could survive without him if the Falcons got an offer they couldn't refuse. I don't think anyone save a select few are untouchable.

I agree wholeheartedly that Jones is a supreme athlete and a dynamic player. I also think we can admit 2021 wasn't up to his lofty standard. His contract is complicated, as you mentioned, but working a post-June 1 trade would split his cap hit and make a trade more palatable to the team's cap situation. Will they trade Jones? I have no idea, but never say never.


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Casper Crenshaw from Thomson, Ga.

Do you think N. Suh along side Grady Jarrett would be unstoppable?

Bair: On passing downs, absolutely. Ndamukong Suh and Grady Jarrett working together would be a lethal combination. It's not one, however, I would expect to see in real life. While the defensive tackle remains unattached, I wouldn't (if I were GM) choose to add Suh to a roster that's in so much transition.

I also doubt that this team would be attractive to Suh, nor could the team pay the freight likely required to employ him. I would expect Jarrett to work with his usual suspects, like TaQuon Graham and Marlon Davidson and Anthony Rush on the inside.

Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

Hi, Scott. last preseason, Arthur hardly played the veteran players at all. I realize he and the other coaches wanted to see what the rookies could do, but I think he went too far. By that I mean it seemed that the timing or "connection" was a little off early in the season and it took several games to get everybody on the same page. On both sides of the ball. Did you sense this, too, or think the vets needed to play more offseason snaps? It's true preseason records don't matter but I believe playing time together does. Your thoughts, Sir?

Bair: Arthur Smith addressed this a bit in a recent interview with 92.9-FM in Atlanta, saying (I'm paraphrasing here) that we could see regulars play more than the handful of snaps they executed last year. I question, though, how much more. They've got joint practices on the books with Jacksonville. Per ESPN, they'll have some more against the Jets. Those sessions, in my opinion, are more valuable than any exhibition game.

I would take it on a case-by-case basis, saying the lines could use some work together – I'm keeping Grady Jarrett in bubble wrap – and Marcus Mariota and his receivers could use some timing work when tackling's involved. I don't think Cordarrelle Patterson or Kyle Pitts or AJ Terrell need the work. Drake London probably does, along with the other rookies.

I'm not a fan of playing starters in the preseason, but I can see value in some brief exposure. That's it, though.

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