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Rookie LB Mykal Walker shining in Falcons training camp

The rookie isn’t necessarily headed for a huge role in his first NFL season, but the early returns are encouraging.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 15 Fresno State at UCLA Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A.J. Terrell is the perhaps the biggest name in this rookie class for the Falcons, given that he’s the first round pick at a position of need and has been killing it in training camp. Beyond that, undoubtedly fans are excited to see Marlon Davidson and Matt Hennessy dominate on their respective sides of the trenches, while Sterling Hofrichter will get some buzz because he’s taking over for nine-year veteran Matt Bosher at punter.

Mykal Walker and Jaylinn Hawkins are exciting players, too, but it’s fair to say we don’t expect them to have major 2020 roles. Hawkins is going to be buried behind four veteran safeties with long starting experience and will likely start the year as a core special teamer, while Walker is likely behind Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun and competing for snaps with LaRoy Reynolds, Deonne Bucannon, and Edmond Robinson, among others.

While I still think that’s going to be the case, there was room for those rookies to impress. Walker, in particular, seems to be doing just that.

Walker came out of college with a deserved reputation as a physical player who can rush the passer, with 6.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss in two seasons at Fresno State. One of the areas of his game that was mentioned as a potential area of improvement was his ball skills, as he had 10 pass deflections and 1 interceptions in those two seasons as a hybrid defensive end and linebacker. He’s answering those questions early in camp by playing aggressively and making plays on the ball, including a couple of interceptions.

The thing to remember with Walker is that regardless of his 2020 role, he does have a real shot to start down the line, given that the Falcons hardly hesitated to give former fourth round pick De’Vondre Campbell the starting gig. Walker is also a genuine talent who is showing early signs of a well-rounded game, and the Falcons have needed an injection of youth and talent at linebacker for at least a couple of seasons now. It’s an encouraging sign for a player I hope we get to see a fair amount of in 2020.