Falcons first-year starter will be defensive signal caller

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The Falcons linebacker position has undergone a bit of a makeover this offseason. Foye Oluokun signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Jaguars in free agency, while Deion Jones’ future remains unclear. His cap hit in 2022 is higher than any other player at his position and is the largest on the team, but his play hasn’t warranted that kind of compensation. There has been much speculation about trading or cutting Jones, but an offseason surgery has halted any decision-making. Now, he’ll miss the first four weeks of the season after landing on the injured reserve.

The influx of linebackers the front office brought in this offseason has completely shifted the landscape of the position. The Falcons added Rashaan Evans and Nick Kwiatkoski through free agency and Troy Andersen with the No. 58 overall pick from the 2022 NFL draft, joining Mykal Walker.

Given Evans’ history as a starter and playing under Dean Pees in Tennessee, he slots in perfectly to be the team’s starting MIKE. Falcons linebacker coach Frank Bush’s words resonate with that notion too.

“The thing about him that has been impressive about him is that, while he was in this system with Dean Pees in Tennessee, he sits down and takes notes. He never misses anything and he really pays attention. He asks all the right questions. He prides himself on making it fresh and learning something new every time.”

Walker shouldn’t be forgotten, though. Despite never being a full-time starter, he is showcasing the willingness and ability to earn that full-time role, which Bush reiterated.

“Mykal has had a really good spring. He came back in tremendous shape. There’s a certain level of maturity that has shown up in the building this year. He physically looks the part, and he’s embracing the role of trying to be the guy who can be on the field all the time. He has done a great job and has had a really good spring. We have high expectations for him and, so far, he has lived up to them.”

So much so that the first-time starter has earned play calling duties for the defense.

Evans has to be one of the other defenders referenced in Rothstein’s tweet, but for now, Walker will don the green dot this season. Inside the organization, the belief is that he’s ready for the increased responsibility. The Falcons will be heavily reliant on Walker to get his teammates in the right position, which is pretty outstanding for a first-time starter. We’ll see how it goes in the season opener against the Saints.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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