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Bair Mail: Starters in preseason games, Matt Ryan's camp performance and his legacy

Kaleb McGary and Frank Darby also discussed as we answer your mailbag questions


Welcome, everyone, to Bair Mail.

This one's super long so I'll keep the intro fairly short.

No use in ranting or raving about anything right now, with one more open preseason practice and Sunday's game versus Cleveland as remaining evaluation points.

That may sway an opinion here and there, but impressions have been made. Many haven't been made on you, with most regular contributors held out of the preseason to this point.


You all don't seem to like that, which was apparent in this week's mailbag, so let's address that issue first:

Will Smith from Summerville, Ga.

I just read in Tori's report (Welcome, by the way) that Matt Ryan might play two series or less. On one hand, I get it. We don't need a late injury, but...I'm of the opinion that Matt should actually play at least the first half, with the starters, to get a little real time, real hitting experience together before things start for real. Especially with Kyle Pitts and all the new RB's. Or maybe they've done it enough in practices. Your thoughts?

Bair: Appreciate you reading Tori’s report. That's a good habit to create if you want the best, most insightful Falcons coverage out there. Regarding how much the starters should play, you might not like my answer.

I respect your stance, but I'm new school in this regard. Health is all that matters in the preseason. Get your major contributors to Week 1 in one piece. Practices are intense enough that established players can get ready without playing in games, even with new schemes.

The counter argument is simple: Don't use regular-season opener to get in sync. Each game is too precious. Counter to that counter argument: No amount of added chemistry or cohesion will matter if Ryan or Pitts or Grady Jarrett get hurt in the preseason. Play one series, maybe two, if you want. Just make sure you get out alive.

Anderson E from Austell, Ga.

Hey Scott. Keep it real with me: How well has Matt Ryan performed (or haven't) during training camp, including the practices/scrimmages? Not just with throwing the football, specifically accuracy and velocity, but running (learning) a new offensive scheme.

Bair: Love that you dropped a "keep it real" on me after I used that phrase a ton in Wednesday's Bair Mail. Every time I see it now, I think of that Dave Chappelle sketch about when keeping it real goes wrong. We don't wanna do that.

I will be honest about Matt Ryan's camp performance. I thought he was a tad off at times early in camp as compared to what's often surgical precision. That'll happen while learning a new scheme, possibly due to timing or accuracy.

While an errant throw gets wonky here and there, Ryan he has been better of late and seemed regular-season ready during last week's joint practices at Miami. He runs Arthur Smith’s offense well and has clearly earned the new head coach's respect.

He's the linchpin to the entire season, as with most quarterbacks. If he stays healthy and productive, especially late in games, the Falcons will be competitive.

James Miller from Rochester, NY

After a few drinks, my friends and I always get into the big debate. Is Matt Ryan in the Hall of Fame if he never wins a super bowl (hopefully he does)? I argue up and down that he will be, but they think I'm being biased because I'm a Falcons fan. What do you think?

Bair: I seem to have poked the bear in the last Bair Mail -- Get it?? Man. Word play is fun. – but simply proclaiming Ryan would be a Hall-of-Famer. I think it's a slam dunk. Many find that a point of contention and dumped one question after another into the mailbag on this topic. To the masses, I hear you and had read your Ryan takes.

I'm don't agree with most of them. I won't go over every aspect of the debate here, but the stats are great. The overall record's pretty good even after three subpar Falcons seasons. There are plenty of quarterbacks enshrined haven't hoisted Lombardi. Whether he does or not remains to be seen, but that shouldn't keep him out. I don't know if he'll get in on the first ballot, but it shouldn't take long and the vote won't be close.

Alexander Wurzer from Amstetten

What do you think about Frank Darby. Will he make the Roster? His two catches in the last preseason game were good and impressive. He seems to be a cheerful guy and brings a lot of fun into the team, which is also nice to see.

Bair: You're from Amstetten, huh? Had to look that one up. Only one I could find was in Austria, which would make you the farthest Bair Mail contributor yet. We don't have any prizes for such a distinction, but I appreciate you following the Falcons and reaching out from across the pond.

On to your question: I think Frank Darby has an uphill climb, fairly low odds of making the 53-man. Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage are locks. Olamide Zaccheaus is a virtual certainty. Tajae Sharpe seems set. The coaches seem to like Christian Blake. We're already at five. If they go with six – that's a big if – Chris Rowland's waiting in the wings. Darby has flashed, but it seems tough to see how he makes it. I'm not saying he for sure won't, but it seems tough. A practice squad spot is another option if he doesn't make it.

Charlie C from Boulder, Colo.

Scott, hope you got used to the humidity of the Georgia summer, but what the heck is going on with Kaleb McGary and the starting RT position? And keep up the good work!!!!!

Bair: Gotta warn you, Charlie, flattery will get you nowhere, except a guaranteed answer in Bair Mail. I kid, I kid. Sorta. Thanks for the kind words. Now on to the question.

From my vantage, Kaleb McGary seems in line to start at right tackle. While he worked with lesser units after returning from the physically unable to perform list, McGary has been a first-team regular recently. He got some work in the last preseason game – the first run went his way, which was no accident – and could get some more Sunday. In my opinion, it would take something unusual for him to lose the starting job he has held the last two seasons.

Call for questions

The final preseason game is upon us, with one more Bair Mail between now and final cuts. I'll drop a 53-man roster projection in the morning and follow it up with a mailbag, so get your questions in now or after Sunday's game against Cleveland. That should be a spicy one.

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