Welcome to Straight from the 'Beek! The Falcons are getting ready for what's turning into a critical game on Sunday against NFC South foe Tampa Bay. And Falcons fans far and wide have lots of questions, so let's get right to them. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.
And away we go.
Ernie from Flowery Branch, GA
Hello, Beek. Enjoy straight from the Beek. First time writing in, but second year reading. I just want to make a comment. I am a die-hard Falcons fan. I watched every game that was televised when Joey Harrington was the quarterback. Just want to point out to all the negative people out there that there are only four teams in the NFC with more than two wins. That means that the rest of the NFC has only one more win than we do. The stretch coming up is crucial and I think they can win the next five games. I am a season ticket holder and go to almost all the games at home and I get loud. My last comment is to the fans. When you go to the games get there on time, be loud, and let the opposing team know we are there to support the Falcons. These guys feed off of that, they need us. I go to these games and several fans only get up to make noise on third down when the defense is out there. The point is to let them know we are there and we are a big part of why playing at home should be a fear for the opposing team. Show up to the games and make noise!! RISE UP!!! It's not just a saying, it literally means do what the phrase says. Samuel Jackson doesn't ask you before the game on the screen what we do for no reason!
Matt: Thanks for being a loyal reader and great to finally hear from you, Ernie. I think your points are spot on. The four teams with more than two wins are the Rams (5-0), Saints (4-1), Panthers (3-1) and Bears (3-1). That's it. The records of the Falcons' next five opponents are as follows (in order): Buccaneers (2-2), Giants (1-4), Redskins (2-2), Browns (2-2-1) and Cowboys (2-3). Am I saying those next five games are easy wins just because they all have a .500 or less record? Absolutely not. Just look at the scores around the league every Sunday – most of the games come down to a handful of plays – and I expect the Falcons will have to fight tooth and nail to win any or all of those games. But it's certainly doable – and this race is wide open. And you're right, Ernie, about showing up and being loud. I've had coaches and players tell me what a difference the fans can make – and they definitely notice when the energy is (and when it isn't). They feed off it. Again, thanks for writing in. Jerry from Statesboro, the unofficial deputy and leader of the Beekers, I'm sure will reach out at the games. Maybe y'all need to identify yourselves as Beekers with signs or T-shirts or something. Anyway, have fun at the game and be loud.
William from Appling, GA
Hey Beek! I'm a huge fan of your discussions and I really like your feedback on questions. I hate that some are so rude and can't see the big picture and still be supportive of our Falcons. My question will hopefully pull away from the negativity some are trying to spread and offer some fun. If the NFL Draft were to take place today, what position would you draft at with our first-round pick? Knowing that we would have all of our injured people back next season, would you draft an offensive guard/center who could start at guard until Alex Mack is gone? Maybe another defensive lineman to push Vic Beasley and add some rotational snaps? Would love to know what you think!
Matt: Wow, an NFL Draft question in early October – love it. You guys know how much I love talking about the draft and go for the cheese every time. Look, I remember asking all of you about the draft and which position you, the readers, thought was the most important back in April. Here is how almost 2,000 people responded:
And, just for fun, since defensive tackle was a position of need in the offseason, I also asked readers which prospect at defensive tackle they coveted most. Here is how you all responded to that #beekpoll:
Now, the Falcons did draft a defensive tackle in the third round of draft – Deadrin Senat out of South Florida. And so far he's looked solid at times during his rookie campaign (11 tackles, two tackles for loss and two QB hits). But I'd still like to see the Falcons address both lines early in the 2019 NFL Draft. My favorite prospect heading into the 2018 NFL Draft was guard Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame – he ended up going sixth overall to the Colts. It's hard to argue with the Falcons' top pick right now, though, to be honest. Calvin Ridley has been as good as advertised, if not better. I think the Falcons will need to ride that offense as much as possible until they gel and get healthier on defense. I could talk more draft, but let's save it for late February, March and April!
Gary from Ozark, AL
I'm trying to figure out why the Falcons haven't gone to free agents or trade for better players since they have so many injuries on defense – if they want to win now. They said that they were confident in the players that they already have on the roster, but the second and third stringers got seriously outplayed by everyone else's second and third stringers in preseason. How can they hold up against first stringers now if they couldn't hold up against second and third stringers?
Matt: Hi, Gary. Look, there aren't any saviors walking the streets as free agents right now. If there were, teams would have already snatched them up. Trades? Tap the brakes. You can't just go out and mortgage the future on what most likely would be a short-term Band-Aid – if the player you went out and traded for actually panned out. You have to find a willing trade partner. And if that player is so good that he'll help turn everything around for your defense, why would the other hypothetical team here even want to trade that player in the first place? And then there are all the salary cap ramifications. Would that player even fit under the Falcons' already-tight cap? And if you try to make space, who are you cutting (and there are cap hits involved with any subsequent moves). And what about all of the players the Falcons are trying to re-sign? There are a number of excellent players who are approaching new deals (see Grady Jarrett). Don't forget them. I could go on … but you have to realize that this isn't like fantasy football. There is so much more to consider – culture, scheme, salary cap, long-term plan for team building, current players, etc. Hope that at least makes a little sense. They drafted and brought in the players they have now for a reason and they are doing their best to get them ready for the Bucs game. That's all that matters right now – winning on Sunday with the players on this roster.
Dennis from Smyrna, GA
Hi Beek, really enjoy reading your column. I been a Falcons fan from day one and I refuse to give up on them period! First a question, has anyone looked at the difference in injuries on natural vs. artificial turf? The team makeup is based on speed, on natural turf they seem half step slower and now with the injury problems makes me wonder. Now an observation, skill positions get the ink but the "fat guys" up front win games. We seem to be getting beat on both sides of the ball regularly. Hopefully we use high draft choices next year on defensive tackles and guards. RISE UP!!
Matt: Hey, Dennis. Glad you're enjoying SFTB! There have actually been a number of studies on the natural grass vs. artificial turf. I don't have them all, nor can I spout off all of the detailed results. However, I can tell you that the injury rates are relatively similar. Both surfaces have their pros and cons, if you will. I found a pretty decent piece on it here, which was written prior to Super Bowl LI between the Falcons and Patriots. Regarding your assessment, you're right: games are won and lost in the trenches. If you're losing the battle at the line of scrimmage, it affects the running and passing games. But it's not all about the "fat guys," as you put it. Size helps, but superior technique, execution, quickness are all keys to winning. If you read my comments above about the draft, I'm on board with targeting those position groups.
Jeff from Stockbridge, GA
I'm a little tired of "fans" saying we stink. I can't think of a team past or present that had as good a defense as the Falcons had last year, losing six starters and then having any success. Until the Pittsburgh game, the offense was firing on all cylinders. A breakdown in pass protection doomed any chance at winning and having six starters out coupled with poor tackling spells defeat for any team. As a fan since 1969, I can say without hesitation I've seen far worse. I was looking for better results this year than have been produced but no one expected injuries to hit the team so hard. I'm a fan, period. No one needs to be fired and they certainly don't need wholesale changes. It happens. Things will get better when a few key players return and will definitely be better in 2019.
Matt: I've been impressed with the number of Falcons who get it – who have had the right perspective this season as the team has dropped some tough games and suffered some critical injuries. And you're definitely spot on, Jeff. Injuries are a part of the game, but you don't overreact and mortgage the future with knee-jerk reactions or moves. And I'll point out, Jeff, that this season is far from over or decided. I expect they'll get better before the season ends, and hopefully it starts this weekend against the Buccaneers.
Like I always say, this space is about you, the fans. So, we'll end today's SFTB with a letter written by Nick from Lithonia, Ga.
I've played and fell in love with football a long time ago. Growing up in the inner city of Atlanta, it helped to get away from a lot of things going on. It was a positive thing. Now that I'm grown and playing days long done my passion still burns deeply. With that being said honesty and heart is missing from this team. We are talented but misguided. Tough love is crucial, accountability to the team, to each other and the fans build character. Dan Quinn has a tough job but, in my opinion, is more of a politician and people pleaser than a football coach. He says iron sharpens iron, but these players break mentally in crucial situations. Why don't we have competition at the quarterback position? A person capable of pushing Matt Ryan (even the Saints brought in Teddy Bridgewater), situational football on offense and defense is on the collegiate level at best. Quinn says we are focused on "us" ... that's for preseason. During the season you have to game plan on your opponent. Make scheme changes based on who you are planning that week. (Which is why Kyle Shanahan was successful). Any other coaching staff or quarterback would love our offensive roster. Defensively we run a basic scheme which should help players play fast. I get it, but in the NFL's complex offenses will adjust and pick you apart. Which is why we can't stop anyone. Players are playing hard, but the scheme doesn't work and coach are too stubborn to change habits as the season slips away. I'm heartbroken and just disappointed that egos at this stage and the inability to be truly honest with yourselves will waste careers, seasons and ultimately break the hearts of fans in a city that deserve so much more. Thanks for the time Beek.
True football and City of Atlanta fan,