The Falcons have to find a way to get Mykal Walker on the field

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A little over halfway through the opening quarter of Atlanta’s first preseason game against the Titans, Dean Pees dialed up a standard of his scheme where he covers the A-gap with a walked-up linebacker then overloads both A-gaps with the other off-ball linebacker. Third down and seven yards to go, Mykal Walker and Adetokunbo Ogundeji met at the quarterback to force Tennessee to punt just before crossing midfield.

This is a staple of Dean Pees’ defense, so Falcons fans should expect to see these exotic blitzes more often than they have in past Falcons defenses. What is exemplified in this play is Mykal Walker’s versatility. I explained in January exactly what the second-year linebacker could become in this defensive system, and this is just the start.

Foye (Oluokun) was drafted as a safety and has made the switch to inside linebacker, and it couldn’t be going better. Mykal Walker was similarly positionless in college too. He played inside and outside linebacker at Fresno State, but Walker even showed well at defensive end too. The former Bulldog has experience playing in a system with multiple fronts — exactly what Dean Pees wants to do.

Walker can do anything that his new defensive coordinator needs him to. He can defend the run or pass and rush the passer from the inside or outside linebacker position. I would venture to guess that Foye and Debo will occupy the starting inside linebacker spots, which leaves Walker to play outside linebacker — where he showed well in his rookie year.

Jayon Brown is as good of a comparison as there is for what Mykal Walker can be in Dean Pees’ system. In an article where I broke down Atlanta’s new defensive coordinator’s scheme, I mentioned the similarities in Brown and Walkers’ game. Both are impressive athletes who excel in coverage, which is part of the reason for PFF’s high praise of Walker. Look at what having versatile defenders allows for Pees to do, multiple bodies along the line of scrimmage confusing the offensive line of who’s blitzing and who’s dropping in coverage.

Eventually, Walker will make enough plays to force the staff to find ways to get him on the field. At this point, the Falcons have a plethora of off-ball linebackers to succeed in this new-look Falcons defense. Walker is likely a depth piece at the start of the season, but Pees could play more base defense with linebackers who can cover and blitz as impressively as Walker, Debo, and Foye.


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