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Bair Mail: On Tyler Allgeier, Ryan Nielsen and the Falcons defense surge, plus Justin Fields

We get into running back workloads and why the defense may have turned a corner in this Friday mailbag. 

The Falcons have another big game next on the docket, a monumental contest with visiting Tampa Bay that provides the opportunity to remain unbeaten in the NFC South and go up two games on the Bucs with four to play.

A loss muddles a division the Falcons currently lead and evens things back up. There's an opportunity here to create distance and take a huge step toward securing their first NFC South title since 2016.

There are still some concerns about the offense especially and how much the defense can shoulder while trying to stack wins. We discuss those issues and everyone's favorite local quarterback playing elsewhere in the NFL in this Friday edition of Bair Mail.


Thomas Fuller from Lovejoy, Ga.

I would like to understand why Tyler Allgeier is relegated to a backup role after his performance from last season. I don't think that Robinson is an upgrade as far as production on the field. We wasted an opportunity to add an impact player on defense. When you look at the last game Allgeier only had eight touches. That's unacceptable.

Bair: While I believe that Tyler Allgeier is an established, quality NFL running back, I don't share all your opinions on this matter, Thomas. I do think that Allgeier should get more regular work.

He also has a different rushing style than Bijan Robinson, someone I think was the right choice for the Falcons at No. 8 overall. He's a special player, a dynamic presence who is a great fit for this scheme. Allgeier should have a prominent role even with Robinson here and Cordarrelle Patterson getting his opportunities.

Allgeier hasn't been quite as efficient as he was last year – the BYU product has 3.4 ypc in 2023, 4.9 ypc in 2022 – but he's still a tough runner who is faster than you think and can rattle off an explosive run even in heavy traffic.

The Falcons have a stout run game that they'll need down the stretch, and I think Allgeier will play a prominent role in an effort essential to Atlanta's playoff quest. Head coach Arthur Smith has used him as an early-game spark aimed to wear defenses down or a later entrant to capitalize if an opponent is gassed.

I agree that the Falcons need more young defensive talent, especially off the edge. There will be a time for that in the future, possibly in free agency or in early portions of the draft. The Falcons have a nice mix in the backfield, maybe one of the best in Allgeier and Robinson, for years to come.

Neil Wilsher from Northamptonshire, England

The one consistent aspect has been the outstanding performances from the defense throughout the season. With such a well-organized and disciplined defense, surely anything is possible if we were reach the playoffs?

Bair: I don't know if the Falcons defense has been outstanding every week this season, but Ryan Nielsen's group has been really good and far better than they were a year ago.

They're also on quite a run right now, having kept opponents out of the end zone for nine consecutive quarters, dating back to the third quarter of a Week 10 contest versus Arizona. Tori McElhaney analyzed this stretch in detail right here, with insight from Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell on what's going right and what has been done better coming out of a Week 11 bye.

Campbell mentioned having more defensive linemen on the field more often, remaining strong up front even when teams try to spread you out. We're also seeing even more three-safety looks, with Jessie Bates and DeMarcco Hellams deep and Richie Grant closer to the box.

Dupree, who has really turned it on lately, also gave Nielsen credit for improved scoring defense.

"Shoutout to Ryan Nielsen, man," Dupree. "He's putting us in situations to be able to play ball. He's made adjustments as the season has gone on. ... It's the calls. It's him bringing the juice to us."

That's a plus, both the execution and the players' faith in their defensive coordinator. The pass rush has improved, with 26 sacks on the year. That includes six sacks and nine quarterback hits over the past two weeks.

If the defense continues trending in a positive direction, then this Falcons team can compete with just about anyone. They'll need some help from the offense though, to avoid the missed opportunities that plagued the Falcons during their recent three-game losing streak.

Ronald Shearer from Port Orange, Fla.

OK, all this hype about Falcons making a trade for Justin Fields. Do you actually see this happening? I, myself don't see him as a much better option than Desmond Ridder. Maybe quicker on his legs, but after 3 years in the NFL, not much improvement. he still makes a lot of rookie mistakes, and really don't protect the ball well either. Do you think this really is a possibility?

Bair: In short, Ronald, I don't. While Justin Fields is a dynamic playmaker and a Georgia native, I don't think he's a great fit in the system despite his athleticism. The Falcons had a chance to pick him back in 2021 and went with Kyle Pitts instead.

He's closer to a contract extension, too, so I don't see tons of upside trading assets to get him. Might as well just use the picks you'd send to Chicago to get a quarterback in the draft if it's ultimately decided that Desmond Ridder isn't in the team's long-term plans. That decision hasn't been made yet, though it's definitely a possibility as Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot evaluate what their team needs to do next.

Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in the work in Flowery Branch for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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