Happy Kyle Pitts day to those who observe, which should be every Falcons fan.
Why is it Kyle Pitts day, you ask? Well, it's 8/8 and Kyle wears No. 8. We've got a whole slate of content coming out today, including a longform feature and a video later Monday afternoon.
Be sure to check it all out.
- Ade Ogundeji 'quietly' coming into his own on Falcons defense
- Updating top five Falcons position battles
- How Arnold Ebiketie found his way to football, then to the NFL
- Positional breakdowns: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Receivers/Tight ends, O-line; D-line; ILBs, EDGE; Secondary
- Training camp storylines: Line of scrimmage; Edge rush, Quarterbacks
This Bair Mail provides some counter programming, focused less on Kyle and more on the rest of the squad as we head into our first preseason game week.
Let's get to some of your questions heading into that contest against the host Detroit Lions;
Mukhtar Voss from Atlanta, Ga.
Dean Pees has mentioned before that he made the defensive scheme easier than he would normally because of the relative inexperience of Richie Grant and others. With Grant's strong camp performance so far, what kind of complexity can we expect this year in Pees' year #2?
Bair: I don't think Dean simplified his defense last year. He didn't use the whole scheme last year, though, focusing instead on plays the group could focus on mastering. I also think it's overstated to say Richie Grant struggled learning the scheme last year. He was playing two positions. That's a lot for anyone to absorb in their first year.
I did want to opt-in to this question, however, as an excuse to talk about Grant. Last year's second-round pick has had a quality start to camp and seems in line to start at one of the safety spots.
He's playing confident and showing a competitive streak on the back end. He's communicating well with the cornerbacks and the defensive front. While there's still a ton to prove, Grant looks like a far better player than he was a year ago. He's also more comfortable. That's huge.
Head coach Arthur Smith talks a lot about a long-term plan for young players, and Grant's development was always a big picture play. He was supposed to be a core special teams player as a rookie and develop on defense. Check. Now he's supposed to work towards/into a starting role. At this point in camp, he's on his way to achieving that goal.
Tyler Leyshon from Temple, Ga.
Pitts and Drake London will be the top two options in the passing game, but who is going to be the third and fourth options? Will it be Cordarrelle Patterson or Bryan Edwards or Olamide Zacchaeus?
Bair: I think you're dead on with the primary passing targets, Tyler. Kyle Pitts has looked great early in camp and should be even better than he was during a stellar rookie year. Drake London has "instant impact" written all over him, showing toughness in traffic and the route-running savvy required to create separation at this level.
In terms of other top passing-game targets, Patterson will be heavily involved both out of the backfield and from standard receiver positions. They're going to move Patterson all over the place finding mismatches and unique ways to get him the ball. Olamide Zaccheaus has been the third option among receivers. Auden Tate and Anthony Firkser will be factors as well.
This group of pass catchers is deep, with a diversity of talent and the ball can go to a number of different targets. I would say will that, after Pitts and London, we'll see a lot of Patterson targeted a lot. Those guys will be the "top 3" but lots of guys will get involved.
Caleb Whetzel from Lebanon, Penn.
It's been abundantly clear through free agency signings that the front office has been chasing any wideouts that could be of service. Even with more wideouts then the beginning of the offseason is there a chance that they go for some other vets? Maybe a good slot receiver like Emmanuel sanders? Or a deep threat like T.Y.Hilton? Any guys that still have some left in the tank?
Bair: I think there will be a time the Falcons add veteran depth at some position, probably late in the preseason or once we hit a game week. Will that guy be a receiver? I'm not sure. You bring up some intriguing names, including one I like a great deal. Emmanuel Sanders is a pro's pro and a great locker room leader. Covered him for a bit when he was a 49ers and came away impressed.
Will they add a vet like that? Will a vet like that want to come to a Falcons team in transition? Not sure on either front. Also, I think they want to give Drake London and Bryan Edwards room to work and develop through experience. Arthur Smith likes what Olamide Zaccheaus brings to the table, and I think bringing younger talents along is a better use of a roster spot than tying it up with an older, one-year rental. But, if they have a crack at Sanders, you'd have to consider making that add. I'd consider a 28-year-old Will Fuller, as well. He has been hurt a lot, but he's a talent who has produced in the past.
Nothing like football on a Saturday in the South, right?
Ryan Stafford from Gainesville, Ga.
First time that I felt the need to ask a question of you (devout follower of the Falcons since 1966) Sad news about Vince Taylor's injury. Have you heard any rumors/speculation re: a possible replacement? Grady will be so much more effective if they can find a viable candidate to replace Taylor. Appreciate what you and Tori do for the fans.
Bair: Appreciate the kind words, Ray. Tori and I really enjoy working for Falcons fans. The Falcons defensive line has taken some real hits, with Vincent Taylor's loss possibly the biggest. He's unavailable, Eddie Goldman retired, and even Bryce Rodgers got banged up in Saturday's practice.
While there are some intriguing young players in camp – I'm a big Derrick Tangelo guy -- I agree with you that the Falcons need some reinforcements on the open market. They could also wait for cuts to see who springs free. They need to add some competition to the group, preferably a veteran to add to the rotation. Who that player will be is uncertain. He may still be on someone else's roster, but I'd bet an add somes pretty soon.
Jack Martin from Houston, Tex.
Bair, enjoying all the content we are getting from the Falcons media team. Keep up the good work (Tori's accent makes me homesick!). Given all the position battles this year, do you think we will see a higher participation rate of "starters" in preseason? Seems the team has gotten off to slow starts the past few seasons and I attribute this partially to sitting the starters all preseason. Thoughts?
Bair: This question was well-timed, Jack, because head coach Arthur Smith addressed it directly after Saturday's practice. He said that everyone, including Kyle Pitts, Cordarrelle Patterson, Grady Jarrett and Marcus Mariota, will play in the preseason
"Everybody who is healthy will play," Smith said.
Exactly how long and in how many games, however, is another matter. I would bet Mariota plays a few times. Some of the others may just get cameos. That's a departure from last year, where some stars barely or never saw the field. Smith said that every year is different, and this one requires some time getting in sync during a live game.
John Pope from Phenix City, Ala.
What's up, Scott?! Long time reader, first time writer. My question for you is how are the UDFA's faring in camp? What are your thoughts on them and do you have any favorites? I really like Stanley Berryhill, Bernhardt, Nate Landman, and Derrick Tangelo enough to think that they might snatch a roster spot. Thanks!
Bair: I'm glad you brought up the undrafted players, John, because it ties into my series on UDFAs in camp. The first one came out Sunday and focuses on receiver Stanley Berryhill. I iike your list, especially Tangelo, but I would include offensive tackle Tyler Vrabel in the group of impressive undrafted players.
In terms of who has the best shot to make the 53-man roster, I think Tangelo or one of the other defensive linemen has the best chance, given the state of that position group. Offensive line could be another. Even landing a practice squad spot is a prize, a chance to continue developing within the Falcons system while earning another chance to make it in 2023.
Call for questions
It's almost game day! Submit your questions right here for inclusion in our Wednesday Bair Mail.