Falcons rookies continue to be difference-makers

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The Falcons have begun the 2022 season similarly to how they started the 2021 season — 0-2. However, the team looks a little different this year. Atlanta folded like a lawn chair against playoff-caliber teams last season, but that’s not the case through the first two weeks. Against two widely regarded playoff teams in the Rams and Saints, the Falcons have remained competitive up until the final whistle, and that’s progress even if they are still losing those games. A reason for that is the impact of the Falcons’ 2022 rookie class.

Last week, several first-year players made impressive debuts. Drake London led the Falcons in receiving in his first game ever, hauling in five receptions on seven targets for 74 yards. At the same time, Arnold Ebiketie tallied three pressures and the first sack of his career. Those difference-making plays carried over into Week 2.

The Falcons No. 8 overall pick continued to ball and was once again the team’s leading receiver, catching eight passes for 86 yards and the first touchdown of his NFL career. He’s come as advertised and has quickly become Marcus Mariota‘s favorite target. The USC product is the first rookie to record at least five receptions and 70 yards since 2015 when Stefon Diggs did it. Moreover, London joined an impressive list of 21-year-old rookies with more than 150 receiving yards in his first two NFL games. It’s hard not to be excited about a player when he can do things like this with the ball in his hands:

I imagine we’ll be talking about London in the same vein as we did Kyle Pitts last year, so get used to seeing me praise him in these weekly pieces. However, one rookie that might not be mentioned too frequently is Troy Andersen. The Montana State product wasn’t projected to make much of an impact outside of special teams. Much like Richie Grant last year, Andersen will play sparingly in Dean Pees’ defense as he acclimates himself to the playbook. Still, the second-round pick made a massive play at a critical juncture for the Falcons, blocking a punt in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown by Lorenzo Carter to bring Atlanta within one score.

Tyler Allgeier also made his NFL debut but wasn’t as impactful on the stat sheet as the others, recording 30 yards rushing on ten carries. DeAngelo Malone and Dee Alford recorded a pair of tackles as well. Atlanta is a young team, so they need to get this level of contribution from these first-year players.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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