American Football

Offseason Mailbag: Falcons as wrestling heels/heroes & Kirk Cousins beneficiaries 

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NFL: DEC 10 Buccaneers at Falcons
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You asked. We Answered.

Happy Friday, Falcoholics! Apologies for the delay on this week’s mailbag, but I hope you’re ready to roll into the weekend in style.

We’re less than a month away from the NFL Draft, and it seems that every conceivable option is on the table for Atlanta. Personally, I love that it’s shaped up that way the last couple of years. It keeps things fresh and allows the team to have flexibility when the event gets going. And yet, after selecting Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Bijan Robinson, it does seem like the team ends up taking a player we’ve mostly connected with the team for much of the draft process.

Will that be the case again this year? I’m not so sure. I think a trade down is very much in the cards, but I wouldn’t be surprised either if their pick at No. 8 is actually, well, a surprise. It seems a little too neat for the Falcons to take Dallas Turner or Jared Verse in the Top 10. And as much as I’ve advocated for a big-time pass rusher, I really do go back and forth between building front-to-back or back-to-front. Terrion Arnold is the name that keeps sticking in my brain, so I’m passing that along for y’all now.

I’ll keep these thoughts swirling and provide more updates next week, but let’s go ahead and get to the questions at hand!

I have a question about our linebacker core. With Troy getting healthy, Nate and Kaden playing so well last season could you see us trying to move one to Edge. Us having such a need for a pass rush could you see this happening and if so which one? – Dylan Bond (@DylBond00)

I love where your head is at! I expect this defense to utilize a lot of light boxes, but to present looks that give a different impression. That would mean leaning on the outside linebackers a bit more than your inside options—players like Lorenzo Carter or Arnold Ebiketie. If the Falcons were to move one of the player you mentioned to outside linebacker, I’d expect it to be Andersen. He has the natural athleticism to function in that role, although I personally believe Elliss is the best pass-rushing inside linebacker on the roster right now.

What I actually expect to happen is that Andersen will have a shot to earn his starting job back during training camp. He has a higher ceiling, but it’s clear that Landman has the higher floor at this point. Landman is an A+ special teamer and is proven depth on a very cheap contract, which is outstanding value. I’d like for all three players to share time on the field, because I’m a firm believer in playing your best players, but I don’t know if that’s actually how things will work out.

With the arrival of Cousins, which player will see the biggest improvement from last season due to the Kirk effect? London, Pitts, Bijan or another? – Paul Taylor (@TaylorBoy1977)

Historically, the best throws of Cousins’s career have been intermediate throws over the middle, at least according to Pro Football Focus. That would suggest either Drake London or Kyle Pitts would be the primary benefactors of Cousins throwing the ball. However, I expect Cousins to be a very similar presence to Matt Ryan—a rising tide that lifts all boats.

Pitts is likely the player we will see the biggest jump from, because I do think the gap between how he’s been used and how he could potentially impact the game is largest. London was by far Desmond Ridder’s favorite target, so I don’t know if he’ll see an increase in volume, but he should see an increase in the quality of targets. But if every aspect of Atlanta’s offense improves in the passing game, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. In fact, that needs to be the expectation.

In honor of WrestleMania 40 this weekend, which current Falcons and coaches would make good wrestling heels? And which ones are your babyface choices? Have fun with this one. – Ed Helinski (@MrEd315)

I’ll be honest, wrestling is a bit of a blind spot for me. But your question is still a fun one to consider. The best heel turns are the ones you don’t see coming, right? So, how about Grady Jarrett as the Falcons’ biggest heel? He’s already one of the most physically imposing players on the roster, and there’s so much history and goodwill built up for Jarrett that it would carry a lot of weight if he broke bad.

A couple other players who would be excellent at channeling the dark side are Kaleb McGary, because his overall attitude is already metal AF, and David Onyemata, because he was listed by The Athletic as the Falcons’ top trash talker and I feel like that earns him an auto-bid.

Kirk Cousins is probably the most baby-faced player on the Falcons’ roster right now, so let’s throw him in the mix. Other guys I like to play the hero role would be Younghoe Koo (obviously) and Bijan Robinson. My sneak pick to round out the baby-faced four is Zach Harrison. I can’t stress enough how high I am on Harrison to make a nice jump in Year 2. Losing an amazing mentor in Ryan Nielsen will hurt, but I can’t wait to see what Raheem Morris can do with Harrison. So let’s groom him for one of the good-guy gigs.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for today’s mailbag! If you’d like to submit a question for the future, leave it in the comments below or send to @willmcfadden on Twitter.

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