The Falcons have completely overhauled the linebacker position this season. Both starters from 2021 — Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun — are on different teams, with the former just recently being traded. Terry Fontenot went out and signed a couple of veterans — Rashaan Evans and Nick Kwiatowski — and drafted Troy Andersen to join Mykal Walker in Atlanta. For much of the season, Walker and Evans have assumed the bulk of the snaps. However, rookie Troy Andersen could see an expanded role in Week 6 with Walker dealing with an injury, which could play a major factor in Week 6.
The first-year starter has missed consecutive practices dealing with a groin injury and has officially been ruled out, making way for Andersen to get the first start of his career. For the most part, the rookie out of Montana State has been a mainstay in the third phase, leading the team in snaps on special teams multiple times. Walker did exit the game against the Bucs last week, and Andersen filled in admirably in his most extended game action to date.
His athleticism is apparent, flying around the field, even notching a quarterback hit on Tom Brady in Week 5. The second-round pick made a massive play at a critical juncture for the Falcons against the Rams, blocking a punt in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown by Lorenzo Carter to bring Atlanta within one score. And he almost blocked another against Tampa Bay. His explosiveness is second-to-none in his position group.
Standing 6’3” and weighing 242 pounds, Andersen ran an unbelievable 4.41 40-yard dash at the combine. He’s an elite athlete who had an impact as a quarterback and running back as well as at linebacker in college. It’s never been a question of physical ability, though; it’s the mental side of the game.
Richie Grant, a fellow second-rounder, didn’t play much during his rookie season for that exact reason. Now, with a grasp of Dean Pees’ playbook, Grant has been one of the best players on the Falcons’ defense. Andersen could experience a similar route and become an impact player next season. We could get our first extended look at what the rookie might provide in an every-down role a bit earlier. Hopefully, he’s up for the task, but don’t be surprised if he struggles. Inside linebackers coach Frank Bush confirmed all of these concerns, noting Andersen is going through a learning phase.
“He’s trying to figure this thing out. We like him as a linebacker and that’s what he was as he finished up at Montana State, (but) he does not know our language,” Bush said earlier this year. “We have to school him up on how we do things. The faster he learns that, the faster he’ll be himself on the field. He’s trending up. He’s doing the right things.”
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire