The Falcons selected Troy Andersen with the No. 58 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he will have a shot at starting at linebacker. Standing 6’3” and weighing 242 pounds, the Montana State product 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.
However, I don’t see Andersen being able to start from Day 1. Mykal Walker is more experienced in Dean Pees’ defense against NFL offenses. Nick Kwiatkoski is even more experienced than Walker and has had Pro Bowl-caliber performances before. Rashaan Evans will undoubtedly be one of the starting linebackers, and Deion Jones‘ future has never been less clear. I’m not the only skeptical one about Andersen starting.
“Standout & fastest LB at Combine has cover ability to play right away on sub-downs,” Executive Director Senior Bowl Jim Nagy said. “[I] expect him to be starter Year 2. Best football way ahead of him.”
Richie Grant, a fellow second-rounder, didn’t play much his rookie season, so don’t be surprised if the Falcons use Andersen sparingly.
I was very high on Grant coming out of UCF and was overjoyed when Atlanta selected him in the second round. However, his intangibles hadn’t quite caught up with his physical skill set. Grant not only rarely made an impact on the defensive side of the ball, but he hardly made it on the field, period.
Overall, Grant was on the field for only 23.5% of defensive snaps last season, including four games where he accumulated zero snaps on defense. He only surpassed 50% of defensive snaps in three games while playing in over three-quarters of all special teams snaps. A core special teamer isn’t what an organization is hoping for with a second-round pick.
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. “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.”
“I can only say good things about him. He’s humble. He’s there to learn every day and never takes anything for granted. He’s starting to show his skill set the more he learns.”
Troy Andersen will likely have similar first-year struggles as Richie Grant. However, this shouldn’t surprise many people; the Falcons’ defense is notoriously difficult to learn.
“I kind of know [that] the guys that are back kind of know what to expect,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “You know what we’re really looking for. Last year, I’d say we put in, at the end of the year, maybe 60 percent of the defense that we really want to run. This year, it’s going to be 100 percent.”
Photo: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire
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