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Bair Mail: On Marcus Mariota impact, Marlon Davidson and Terry Fontenot retaining homegrown players

We also talk about training camp storylines what I'm looking forward to in this Monday mailbag

What's up, everybody? So glad you're here. I'm Scotty Bair with the (Falcons) flow back in your ear.

Okay, eyes. But that wouldn't have matched the rap lyric I'm trying to borrow. Any guesses? You've gotta be a 90s hip-hop fan to figure it out.


This mailbag ain't a fantastic voyage, but I still on a mission. To see if I can get your attention.

What about now? Figure it out, yet?

You either haven't and are rolling eyes at me, or I've just put a catchy-as-heck song in your head the rest of the day. If the latter's the case, you're welcome.

Either way, we've got some good questions and answers in this Monday mailbag. Let's get to it.

Jake Stevens from Gainesville, Ga.

Scott, dude you're going to think I'm crazy for remembering this. Last year AJ and the rest of the team was asked about there Madden rating… do you remember that!?? Terrell said it was "disrespectful"! Love that right there. If our whole team has that type of mentality and I mean everyone. We have a shot. OZ said what he said last week about playoffs. And I'm telling you dude. If we can have that type of locker room where they want to show EVERYONE how good they are will can put a good season together. Am I crazy or is that the truth or what??

Bair: I do remember that, and I think that prove-people-wrong mentality will fuel this Falcons team through training camp and into the season. Let's be honest here: expectations are not high. The expected win total is one of the lowest, and I think this group will take that personally and try out-do what everyone expects.

The front office brought in a bunch of tough guys who want to prove themselves and earn rewards from solid play, whether that's league-wide respect of a new, lucrative contract. It all starts, however, with the quarterback.

If Marcus Mariota, who was the No. 2 overall pick for a reason, can figure it out and realize vast potential, the Falcons could win a lot more than people expect. Right now, they see a guy who lost a starting job reuniting with the guy who played a part in benching him. Head coach Arthur Smith and his new/former quarterback have a real chance to form a productive partnership that could really surprise some folks. If that works out, the Falcons could be super competitive. If there are struggles at the quarterback spot, with Mariota or rookie Desmond Ridder, the Falcons will have a harder time.

The veterans and rookies were out on the field during Minicamps this week putting in some extra work and interacting with fans before the summer break.

Kevin Fitzpatrick from Conyers, Ga.

On defense, natural progression will make them better. Here's one of my keys to how much better. Marlon Davidson. A second-round pick shouldn't be in the "boom or bust" conversation after two seasons yet here we are. Can he be a disrupter?

Bair: He certainly can. Davidson proved an impactful player at Auburn, against the country's best college-football competition. He's a big, athletic dude who can certainly produce if he figures things out. That hasn’t happened to this point, but he'll have a great opportunity to get things going in 2022. The Falcons didn't really address the defensive line in the offseason, instead believing Davidson and TaQuon Graham can progress and develop into quality defenders and help Grady Jarrett up from.

Can he get some good things going? Time will tell, my friend, but it's something the Falcons need from him to exceed expectations.

Bruce Habeck from Rochester, N.Y.

It is refreshing to see coaching and management giving so many players opportunities to make the team. Hopefully in the future we'll be able to keep the players who perform (like Jarrett) and not lose them (like Foye). What do you think? Hard work not slogans will make this team good.

Bair: Terry Fontenot said this offseason that retaining homegrown players is the best form of free agency. He's dead right with that assessment. The Falcons were not in a spot to retain their own often this spring, due to poor standing with the salary cap and bloated contracts still around from a previous regime. That allowed talents like Foye Oluokun and Russell Gage to walk out the front door as free agents. Those were disappointments to be sure, but the Falcons couldn't compete financially with those deals.

After swallowing a tough pill in 2022, to the tune of $63 million in dead money, the Falcons are expected to have a good amount of cap space in 2023, with a solid financial forecast after that. That means they'll be able to retain those they want to keep – A.J. Terrell, obviously, and Chris Lindstrom as an examples – both from their recent draft classes and veterans on shorter-term deals who prove to be good fits.

Chris Atlas from Marietta, Ga.

What's up Scott? It's been far too long. As an avid reader and contributor to the mailbag I love the preambles. They add an element of personality and flavor. Anyway, before I get further off topic, with training camp approaching, what are you looking forward to most? QB battle, WRs, new player additions, new playbook schemes, camaraderie, pads/physicality etc.

Bair: That's a tough one, Chris. There are several intriguing storylines coming up in this camp. The quarterbacks will obviously be front-and-center, and we'll talk a ton about them. I'm a sucker for an intense position battle. Hopefully I'm not scooping my own story on this topic later this week, but I think the offensive line battles are going to be fierce and fun to watch. I'll also be keeping a close eye on right tackle, center and left guard. I also think inside linebacker could be fun to watch.

We also need to keep tabs on how rookies are fitting in, Arnold Ebiketie and Tyler Allgeier, especially. I know you asked for my favorite and I've given you quite a few, but I think this summer will be a fun one as the Falcons work to develop their roster and build vital team chemistry. It's too hard to pick just one.

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