We're getting ever closer to a big division game in a super-tight NFC South. Like, everyone's within a game of each other. While approaching midseason. How fun is that?
I know it's not full of dominant squads at this point, but the drama's high.
And, as Dean Marlowe pointed out in our Thursday conversation, the Falcons are 0-2 in the division. Gotta start winning within the NFC South to pick up ground or, now that the Falcons are alone in first place, create separation.
That includes this game against Carolina. I've seen that team's record and what they've done, but they're no pushover. Just ask Tampa. Falcons gotta be prepped. Gotta be ready to go without at least two members of the ideal starting secondary (Casey Hayward and Jaylinn Hawkins), maybe more.
While there's excitement within the fan base about that game, y'all are focused on the trade deadline and adding pieces. And yes, I continue seeing your queries on Desmond Ridder and Marcus Mariota. I'm sure I'll address them again once we have more evidence to go off. I spent more than 1,000 words on that topic the passing game on Monday. I'm sure ill touch on it again soon.
Let's get to your questions in this Friday mailbag:
Payton M from Smyrna, Ga.
With Cordarrelle Patterson coming back soon (I hope), what have you thought of the job Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley have done as the primary backs in his absence?
Bair: They've done an admirable job stepping into prominent roles, with both Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley averaging more than four yards per carry. That's the efficiency you're looking for out of the operation, especially with both guys hovering around 2.8 yards after contact per attempt.
They're tough runners, and that last stat proves that point. The entire rushing operation has executed well with the commitment required to churn out some bigger, often explosive runs. It should also be noted here that both guys rushing to the right, especially on either side of Chris Lindstrom, has been highly productive. The star right guard deserves a little credit here too.
That production isn't too bad for a fifth-round rookie and a first-year pro getting his first real opportunity at consistent carries. Allgeier and Huntley establishing themselves as productive backs could also allow the Falcons to move Cordarrelle Patterson around a bit more, upon return off IR, than they did when he was healthy.
Kerry Campbell from Destin, Fla.
Hope I'm getting this one in before Bair Mail comes out!! The Falcons are in first place after that Bucs loss. Could the Falcons win the division? A win over the Panthers would put them a game up.
Bair: The NFC South is wide open, Kerry, and was before Tampa Bay dropped to 3-5 with Thursday's loss to Baltimore. Now the Falcons sit in first place and could go a game up with a win over Carolina. Or…the Panthers could move into first with a win. Things are, shall we say, compacted. I'm sure every NFC South team feels they have a shot at the division, no matter how badly the start of the season has gone.
The Falcons are also 0-2 in the division and need to start stacking wins within the division. That's how they can take control of this thing. While no one's scoreboard watching, the Falcons are cognizant of how the division is taking shape. All of their goals are in front of them, an encouraging as we soon enter the second half of the season. The road to the division is simple: start stacking wins. Can they do that? And handle their injury issues? And fix some ineffective parts of their game? And peak as we head towards December? If they do those things, the Falcons will be a playoff team.
Chris Mills from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
I saw the Giants picked up Robert Quinn for a 4th round pick. Being as we need more D-line help couldn't we have gone after him?
Bair: I hear you, Chris, and Robert Quinn would be an interesting add to any team. Trying to win right now. I think the deal makes sense for the unbeaten Eagles who are really going for it. The Falcons are pushing for wins as well, but they're earlier in their process of building up the roster through the NFL Draft, with some calculated moves in free agency.
Draft capital is solid platinum to this group, and giving up a fourth-round pick is a lot. And Quinn and Philly mutually voided the last two years of his deal, which contained roughly $25 million in money that was not guaranteed. That ain't worth a fourth-round pick to this team.
If the Falcons will be active at the trade deadline, in my opinion, they should try to trade an older player for a younger one, and keep its draft capital where possible. They're trying to get younger and deeper. The more they hit in the draft, the more than can run on rookie contracts and add a few big vets. But that's just me talking here. I'm not against buying at the deadline, but it would have to be a near-perfect deal that helps this season and down the road, for reasonable freight.
I know others asked again about defensive linemen and cornerback, but hopefully you can use the philosophy described above, and in Thursday's mailbag to see how where the Falcons are in roster building impacts what they do, what they're willing to give up and the risks they're willing to take.
Lester Bentley from Stockbridge, Ga.
Why aren't the Falcons Coaching not using the first-round receiver and tight end as much?????
Bair: I can't answer this one much better than Tori McElhaney did on Wednesday afternoon, in this story right here. It's a thorough, researched analysis of what's going on there. Check it out.
Take a look as the team puts in the work in Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the Carolina Panthers.