The Falcons put plenty of good things on tape against Cleveland in Week 4, with new faces emerging alongside more established stars.
That's a plus for team depth and injury protection, which will be tested with Cordarrelle Patterson on injured reserve.
The Falcons are getting some frontline depth back in the secondary, and we'll talk about that and more established defensive backs, especially the safeties, and other IR candidates to return in this Wednesday Bair Mail.
Jimmy Brooks from Brunswick, Ga.
I am loving the physicality and hustle on both sides of the football, but, what really is catching my eye is both young safeties. I don't know how they are grading out but , every week they both seem to be getting better. What and how do you feel about are young safeties? If you would you please tell me how they are rated against the rest of the NFL please.
Bair: I agree with you, Jimmy, that both Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins have been really good early this season. Grant has equaled Mykal Walker for the most defensive snaps on the team, has a pick to his credit and quarterbacks have a 26.4 passer rating when targeting him, per PFF. His coverage grade ranks fourth among all full-time safeties, per PFF, and his passer rating against is the league's best.
Hawkins hasn't been quite that good in coverage but still solid, though he has been a solid run defender helping out closer to the line of scrimmage. He has a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a quarterback pressure to his name already.
Remember way back when, oh, about 8 months ago, when folks were upset with the Grant pick? Seems crazy now, doesn't it? Arthur Smith always used Grant as an example of someone who required patience and a long-term vision. That belief in him, that plan, is playing out in front of us this season. Those guys have been impressive and seem worthy of being incorporated into the team's long-term plans.
Oh, and I have a question for you Jimmy. And, as a fair warning, this a question from someone born in California: does the best Brunswick stew come from your town? Did it originate there?
Zackery Goodnight from Dallas, Tex.
After Huntley's GREAT game against the Browns, who do you think they feature more in the absence of Patterson? Do they ride the "hot hand" or just go 50/50?
Bair: Interesting question, Zackery, one that we won't be able to answer until we're in the middle of Sunday's game. My feeling is the hot hand gets more carries following an early split.
Cordarrelle Patterson was operating more as a feature back in the first three games than someone moving across the formation, meaning those standard carries will go to someone else now that he's on injured reserve. Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley definitely proved worthy of a large role with efficient runs versus Cleveland, though Tampa Bay's defense will be an even tougher opponent.
I would anticipate a two-headed monster, plus Avery Williams, over a feature back with Cordarrelle Patterson on injured reserve the next four games at least.
Caleb Mumm from Mountain Brook, Ala.
Will the injured reserve coming back, like Deion Jones, Jalen Mayfield, and others make an impact for the Bucs game?
Bair: Arthur Smith just designated cornerback Isaiah Oliver to return – I had to stop writing this Bair Mail to write this news story – meaning his 21-day practice window has opened before the team has to determine whether to activate him or place him on season-ending IR. This designation suggests he's pretty close to a full comeback from last year's ACL tear.
That would be a huge boon for this Falcons defense, which needs a true slot corner who can execute all the blitzing, run defense and coverage responsibilities required in this scheme.
We'll see when exactly he's able to enter a game. He's got time.
In terms of the others on injured reserve eligible to return this week, Deion Jones, Marlon Davidson and Jalen Mayfield didn't receive that designation. It's uncertain when or if they'll come back this season. It's just a big unknown at this point, and Smith didn't address those other IR players when asked on Wednesday.
"All of our guys are on different time frames," Smith said. "There's no need to press it, but you will see Isaiah today."
Also, as a note, Damien Williams is eligible to return to practice off injured reserve after Sundays game at Tampa Bay.
Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.
Hi, Scott. I've been impressed with how well our o-line is blocking this year, both in the run game and pass protection, compared to last year. I know everyone's got a year's experience in the system now, so they should be better. But...how much, if at all, has the switch from Hennessy to Dalman factored into said improvement? Thanks.
Bair: I think the Dalman switch has something to do with improved offensive line play, but I think left guard Elijah Wilkinson has maybe more to do with it. He hasn't necessarily been spectacular but has been steady and stable, something that couldn't be often said about the left guard spot last year.
There's that, Jake Matthews being Jake Matthews and, oh, the right side of the line is playing out of its mind. Right guard Chris Lindstrom is playing out of his mind and Kaleb McGary's off to his best start. He has been a good pass protector and a ferocious run blocker opening wide lanes.
Call for questions
Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Friday's Bair Mail edition.
We take a monochrome look at the win over the Cleveland Browns on October 2, 2022.