Players began arriving at Flowery Branch on Tuesday for Falcons training camp. The practice starts the next day.
It means we are finally here.
It’s football season again.
This raises a bunch of questions in the latest Bair Mail before we see this year’s team in action. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. I bet you can’t either.
There’s definitely some excitement in the mailbag, so let’s get straight to your questions.
Will Smith of Summerville, Ga.
Hey Scott, it’s been well documented that Julio, for all the great takes etc, didn’t score as many TDs as you might think. If memory serves, Kyle Pitts only scored one last year. Is it just accidental or is there another reason?
bay: I think the lack of red zone goals for Kyle Pitts was not a Pitts problem. He didn’t have much help, which means the cover moved. Cordarrelle Patterson scored a ton and was a reliable weapon in the red zone, and Pitts’ lone TD was the only pock on an otherwise stellar season. Bold prediction: Pitts will score a lot more this season. He learns to beat the covers and work in tight spaces. He’s so tall and athletic that he’ll find ways to open up or just go for the ball when he’s not.
I think he’s going to be a major factor in the red zone, either as a target or creating openings for others.
David Hicks of Marshalltown, Ia.
Without a doubt, Drake London is our WR1, but as a rookie I guess we’ll have to see how that works out. But I think WR2 is much less clear… Bryan Edwards, Damiere Byrd, Olamide Zaccheaus, Auden Tate, etc… but what about Geronimo Allison? Nobody seems to have absolute lock on the WR2, in my opinion. WR3 will also be a battle. That doesn’t even include CP, who I think we’ll see more of as a running back/gadget than a WR, now that we have London. How does the WR roster break down in your opinion?
bay: When it comes to a second starter at receiver, Bryan Edwards is the guy. This is my opinion before arriving at camp, although it will certainly be challenged. South Carolina is a solid deep threat on the outside, with experience as a regular contributor. I think he’s the secondary option at receiver.
But, David, if we refer to WR1 as the best receiver option, I don’t think it’s a receiver. Kyle Pitts is the best option and will play a ton of catcher. In terms of pass-catching hierarchy before camp, I think it’s: 1. Pitts, 2. London, 3. Patterson, 4. Edwards.
The Falcons dispute the separation between pass catchers based on position. At your origin point, London will get tons of targets. They need him to perform. I think Edwards will have a huge in this offense and play a ton. He has the skills to help him succeed in this system. Auden Tate will push him to play, but I think Edwards will be a great option and a regular in the scheme.
Graham DeLoach from Hendersonville, North Carolina
As our roster evolves, do you think we’ll see a more mobile offense with our QBs? ie: screen and option sets. I miss our screen game and strong running offense during the Shanahan years. With the quarterbacks moving under center, hopefully we can create some confusion with an options game and deep threats on top to bomb him in case the gap isn’t there.
bay: Arthur Smith won’t let me participate in offensive strategy sessions, but he will certainly play to his caller’s strengths. That’s what good coaches do. And Arthur Smith is a good coach. There are things in the playbook that will accentuate the strengths of Marcus Mariota – or Desmond Ridder, if he wins the gig – that will show up over the course of the season. No way he’s calling the exact same tricks he did for pocket passer Matt Ryan.
Smith is great at finding or creating offsets to exploit. I would expect him to do that and use Mariota’s speed a lot in his game designs.
Shane Hymers from Canterbury, England
Hi Bair, Fun question. Assuming they would return to their prime, if you could add one piece to complete the Falcons’ current roster of historical players, who would you pick and why?
bay: It’s fun, Shane. And easy for me. I will choose my old favorite Falcon, which would help an area that desperately needs it. Claude Humphrey. He was an absolute monster in defense, capable of creating incredible pressure. If sacks had been a stat in his day, he would have 130 in his career. Do you think the Falcons could use a bully like that? Shit, yeah. He dominated his time. I think he would dominate in this one too.
Kevin Fitzpatrick of Conyers, Ga.
Hey Scott, I thought I’d try to put this on before everything ramped up this week. In my mind, the Atlanta Falcons have the BEST radio play team in the industry! Wes Durham knows exactly what he’s talking about and is beyond reproach. Dave Archer seems to anticipate my every question. They both stream college games, and they share gut-wrenching insights and reactions to who we’re up against. What makes them special is their chemistry. Neither one walks the line of the other. This is from someone old enough to remember the days of blackouts. I was a Tampa Bay fan at the time, so I could only LISTEN to eight games. I listened to A LOT. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have a man named Gene Deckerhoff. Gene/Wes: one-A and one-B. Dave Archer is the best analyst I’ve ever listened to.
bay: I hope they read this, Kevin. I’m sure it’ll make their day. They are not only great professionals, they are also great humans. Falcons fans are lucky to have them.
Call for questions
Boot camp begins, but the mailbag won’t miss a beat. Submit your questions here to be included in the next installment of Bair Mail.