FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- We're steaming toward Desmond Ridder's second start, this time a Christmas Eve affair against the host Baltimore Ravens.
It should be a tough one whether Lamar Jackson plays or not, and it's one the Falcons simply must have.
They'll have to rely heavily on rookies to get it, including Ridder and running back Tyler Allgeier. We'll discuss both of those guys, plus the future at inside linebacker and Rashaan Evans' role in it.
We also talk about Arthur Smith's contributions in this Wednesday mailbag.
Ben McDermott from Oxford, England, U.K.
One thing that has really impressed me of late is how hard Tyler Allgeier plays, fighting for every yard. This aggressive style of running paid off with the 100-yard game on Sunday. I want to know your thoughts on his development and whether he could be RB1 for years to come.
Bair: Tyler Allgeier is a fun player to watch. He's so physical at the point of attack and maintains balance even after receiving significant contact. There's an underrated aspect of game, however, that I really enjoy: patience.
Allgeier is willing to let a hole develop, and he's also able to improvise or try something else if the first option isn't available. Take that 2-point conversion against the Saints as an example. He bounced that play outside not once but twice looking for the proper angle, eventually found one that got him across the goal line.
He has impressed the Falcons staff with how he has developed throughout the year.
"There are a lot of things he does that we value," head coach Arthur Smith said. "I think for a rookie, something that we noticed going through that I think is the hardest learning curve is the protection element, and he does a nice job with that as well."
Tish Flemming from Atlanta, Ga.
I've been really impressed with Rashaan Evans. Do you think he will be back next year?
Bair: I'm glad you brought this up, Tish. I think Rashaan Evans' emergence has been an under-the-radar storyline this season. I have been impressed by his physicality, his leadership and smarts. He's not a perfect play, but there's a dynamic playmaking element that shows up once or twice per game, where he looks every bit of a first-round pick.
He has been a good find and quality field general for Dean Pees' defense. Pairing him with Tory Andersen, which began in earnest last week, is a good idea beyond these next three weeks. He signed a one-year deal with the Falcons last spring and, if I were GM, I'd bring Evans back for a return engagement. Maybe two years, $9 million? That should get it done and set up some stability on the defensive interior.
Jeremy Smith from Newnan, Ga.
Do you think Arthur Smith's job might be in jeopardy? In my opinion he did a great job this season winning many games that people said they wouldn't win, but having one win on the road is not a good sign.
Bair: Arthur Smith's seat is ice cold, Jeremy, as it should be. I have a great deal of respect for Smith as a play caller and a head coach, and he's one of this team's greatest assets right now. The second half of this season hasn't gone well, but that's not on coaching. That's because injuries depleted a thin roster still under construction and, eventually, wins became harder to come by.
I agree that Smith has done a great job with this unit. He transformed his offense to play to Marcus Mariota's strengths and built one of the NFL's best rushing attacks. Once the Falcons find stability at quarterback, this offense could be really, really good. So, to answer another mailbag question, Smith will continue calling plays. Take that to the bank.
Colby Johnson from N.C.
Long time fan, first time posting. Why would we bench our starting QB who had us in every game in the middle of a division race for a 3rd round rookie QB??? It's so frustrating!! I believe we win that game against the saints easily with Mariota. Such a bad decision by Arthur Smith in my opinion to do that right now.
Bair: Appreciate you chiming in, Colby. And while acknowledging Desmond Ridder didn't get the Falcons back on the winning track, I still think it was the right call. That stats and the final score don't reflect that, and I'm not sure the quarterback decision decided that game. It became clear to me, and the Falcons staff, after that Steelers game that Marcus Mariota was not the long-term answer at quarterback. He was making critical mistakes, often late in games, and wasn't efficient.
Ridder wasn't efficient either, but there are subtle signs that he can add a dynamic quality to the passing game. He has a strong arm and is a good deep-ball thrower. I've written a few columns saying it was the right move at the right time and I stand by that opinion despite the loss.
You need to see what you have. The Falcons had lost a number of games and needed to shake things up. Now Ridder has four games to show progress and to highlight his talents during games. That was his first game since August, the first time against real pressure. Let's see how he responds with a game under his belt.
Call for questions
We've got one more Bair Mail left before Saturday's game against the Ravens. Submit your questions https://www.atlantafalcons.com/news/mailbag for inclusion in that mailbag.
The guys put in the work in Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the Baltimore Ravens, presented by Gatorade.