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Bair Mail: On Mykal Walker, Adetokunbo Ogundeji and signs of Falcons progress


Welcome, friends, to Bair Mail.

If you're looking for the Falcons unofficial preseason depth chart, you've come to the wrong place. Click here if you’re dying to see it but, pretty please, with sugar on top, come right back.

Ah, you've returned. You're too kind.

Now that you've all seen the depth chart – it's okay to admit that it's football fan catnip; this is a safe space – do you know anything new? You trust everything you read? Or can we all just admit it's unofficial for a reason?

I've never met a head coach who liked filling one out, in the preseason especially. The exercise is normally met with an eye roll, followed by a public declaration that the P.R. director did it to underscore its lack of importance. We'll see Wednesday afternoon if the buck gets passed to David Bassity, as tradition dictates, or if Arthur Smith gets asked about it at all.


It has become common knowledge these preseason depth charts should be taken with a grain of salt, so coaches aren't always peppered about it. Several positions seem both correct and obvious. But…you think Kyle Pitts is a second-team tight end, or that Adetokunbo Ogundeji is a fourth-string edge rusher at this stage?

Yeah. Me neither.

It makes more sense to use it as a conversation starter, a reason to kick back with your buddies and talk Falcons football. Now that last part I can get behind.

Talking Falcons with you is a job perk, so let's end my depth-chart diatribe and get on to a few questions in Wednesday's mail bag.

Kevin Barry from Sierra Madre, Calif.

With the added weight over the offseason, do you see some plays where Mykal Walker comes off the edge in Dean Pees new defense? I haven't heard much on Walker as of yet. My other question is about Adetokunbo Ogundeji, and if you see him as an early sub in games or starter next to Fowler?

Bair: Let's address these one at a time, Kevin. I think Mykal Walker will remain an interior linebacker, but Dean Pees blitzes comes from everywhere. It's possible he's active attacking the quarterback, but don't forget that Deion Jones is pretty good at that, too.

Next thing: You haven't heard much about Walker? Read this story from my guy Daniel Chisholm.

Then watch this:

And then this:

As you can read/see, Walker's doing A-OK.

Regarding Adetokunbo Ogundeji, there's no way of knowing where he'll end up. The Notre Dame product has flashed in camp. Now he has to do so in preseason games and continue to outshine veteran members of his edge-rushing rotation. So, as I always say, time will tell on that front. He's an intriguing prospect worth keeping an eye on this summer.

David Hicks from Marshalltown, Iowa

What statistical measurements will you use to [identify] improvement this year? Is it as simple as more wins than last year? A winning record? Is it more TDs in the red zone? Increased sacks/pressures on opposing QB's? Less hits on our QB? Do you have a top 3 that you'll be assessing?

Bair: I love this question, David. No sarcasm. I think it's an interesting one because significant progress can be made without an overwhelming increase in wins. Sustained success is the ultimate goal. It often takes time to get there, and there are several ways to show you're getting better.

I asked then-Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie something similar when the Silver and Black were taking drastic measures to get right with the salary cap. He said they had to pass the eye test, that he would know progress when he saw when he saw it. The answer was a bit subjective for my taste, but I understood his point. McKenzie, one of my favorites in the industry, was essentially saying what you are saying, that progress shouldn't only be measured by wins and losses.

Let's say this: wins are the alway most important metric, and the Falcons are capable of winning more than they did last year. They need to close, to finish games where they have a late lead. I think they'll do that more because they have better coaching, and there's still established talent on this roster (unlike the Raiders in 2014, when McKenzie got asked that question). Arthur Smith wants his team to be tough. I'd bet my bottom dollar he means both physically and mentally.

Red-zone efficiency on offense and defense is important. So is turnover ratio. That's a big one for me. So is yards per carry and missed tackles. If you can't tackle well on defense and get at least four yards on the ground in a cloud of dust, you've got a problem.

Call for questions

We've only got one more mailbag before the preseason opener against Tennessee. Get your questions in now by clicking this link. Promise I'll answer a ton in a Friday morning Bair Mail.

Dante Fowler is putting in work along with the rest of the Atlanta Falcons to earn his spot on the 53-man roster. Take a look at the best images from Day 11 of 2021 AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp.

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