Head coach Arthur Smith knows how big Sunday's game at Carolina is for the Falcons. They just have to beat the Panthers to stay in the mix.
In order to do so, they need better from the passing game and the scoring output as a whole. They need more consistency and to continue building toward a more complete game played.
There's also the topic of how the Falcons got to this somewhat perilous position, and how much can be expected of quarterback Matt Ryan despite issues in pass protection.
A lot of you wanted to talk about 2022 NFL Draft needs, so we delved into that, and the state of the Falcons receiver corps.
Let's get to all that in this Wednesday mailbag:
Christopher Duke from Oceanside, Calif.
Bair, frustrated Falcons fan here in Cali, but can we please stop giving Matty Ice a pass. I understand that our O-Line hasn't been playing well, however, there are things that M. Ryan could do to help out the O-Line and others. He has 1 TD pass in the last 4 games. Is it too much to expect (and demand more) from our $30 million per year QB. … Overall, I just feel more accountability needs to be placed on M. Ryan. Your thoughts?
Bair: I still think Matt Ryan has an ability to be an upper-level quarterback, Christopher. I'm on record saying that and I'm not going to backtrack. I understand that he isn't absolved from the team's recent struggles. That said, the pass protection as been hasn’t been up to par. There are charts and graphs to illustrate that point, but just trust me. He's also more mobile that people give him credit for in evading pressure. You don't have to be fast to do that.
One part of your question struck me. Is it too much to expect and demand more? No sir, it is not. It's not his salary that allows it. It's Ryan's ability. I think he would demand more of this passing game, though he isn't being given a ton to work with.
Jerry B from Hinesville, Ga.
Playoffs?! Are you kidding me?! Playoffs?! Don't talk about playoffs! I'm just happy if we win a game! Ok, now that I got that out the way let's get down to business. Scott, c'mon brother, none of us expect us to beat Tampa. However, there were a few bright spots in the game that kept us in it. We obviously need help at receiver and offensive line. My question is which do we address in the draft first because we are salary cap broke?
Bair: I agree with you, Jerry, that playoffs are a longshot. I took some flak for even mentioning the word in my postgame column, even though the story was how it's the 13th hour and the Falcons have to get scorching hot for that to remain a prospect. It is, at this juncture, improbable.
That has led many to shift at least some focus to the NFL draft. While I don't do that until the math points toward elimination, I definitely know this team's draft needs. You're talking about premium positions at tackle and receiver. The Falcons need so much they'll just take the best available on their board, but that's a cop out answer in a situation like this. I believe edge rusher is their biggest need right now, and they probably need more than one pass rusher.
I agree the Falcons will probably have to re-invest in the tackle spot, as painful as that might be after taking Kaleb McGary in 2019. They need young, productive pass rushers, and lots of them.
J.C. Daniel from Savannah, Ga.
Given our recent defensive draft picks, do you think we were hesitant to draft someone like Micah Parsons? He is incredible. I love Pitts but we are last in the conference in points allowed. With us where we are, where do you see us heading in next year's draft?
Bair: Hindsight is always 20/20 when it comes to the draft. After seeing how he has done this season, Maybe Micah Parsons should've gone second to the Jets. He has been that good. I still stand by Kyle Pitts as an excellent selection who will have an excellent. Fans were upset for a long time the team didn't draft a quarterback like Justin Fields – it's probably Mac Jones now that the season's playing out, right? – and Parsons is a major question. The Falcons need everything and did last year, too. They took the best player on the board, who happened to be a skill player. He’s a really good one.
Next year, I think they need edge rushers, a big-bodied defensive tackle, a right tackle, an outside cornerback and a young running back. Notice how I didn't say quarterback? I think they can wait another year on that one, instead of trying to force the issue, in the first round especially, with a reportedly subpar QB draft class.
Charlie C. from Boulder, Colo.
Scott, even if Calvin Ridley returns to the falcons next season, don't you think that Arthur smith and Terry Fontenot will remake our wide receivers group next year? And, probably our secondary, too, don't you think?
Bair: I do think it could look a lot different, Charlie. There's still so much we don't know about Calvin Ridley, a possible return this season and his future -- Smith hasn't had a recent update on him -- with him out dealing with a personal matter. In a statement released when he stepped away, Ridley said he was doing so to work on his mental health. If he can get that right and find old form, the receiver corps gets a lot better. It still needs upgrades, even if the Falcons choose to keep impending free agent Russell Gage. Their depth is lacking, and a middle-round pick and a savvy veteran or both could help the group as a work. Also, a speed demon to stretch the defense wouldn't hurt. They don't have that element on the roster right now.
Call for questions
Let's fill the mailbag back up in time for a big Friday Bair Mail focused on a massive game between the Falcons and Panthers. Submit your questions and comments right here.
Check out the best black and white images from the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game during Week 13 of 2021.
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.