The Falcons have multiple rookies on the shelf, one on the practice squad, and a couple who don’t really play. For all that, this is productive and effective group of rookies, with at least five players holding down major roles and a handful of them truly shining.
That was the case this week, where Drake London reeled in a touchdown, Troy Andersen was all over the field, Arnold Ebiketie continued to heat up as a pass rusher, and Tyler Allgeier once again led the team in rushing. Here’s this week’s rookie report.
WR Drake London: Touchdown machine
London now has about one-third of Mariota’s touchdown passes on the season, and has scoring grabs in each of the past two weeks. The best ball Mariota threw all day was this one, a back of the end zone dart past a defender’s hands and right to London.
The rookie receiver has sky-high potential and limited production in a passing attack that is simply not built to feed him, but Mariota and London’s end zone rapport is a burgeoning one and that’s a good thing for the offense, given that London is precisely the kind of big, sure-handed red zone target this team needs to feature. He’s at 39 catches for 409 grabs and four touchdowns on the year.
OLB Arnold Ebiketie: Heating up
The rookie had a sack in the first week of the season and then zero for the next eight weeks, tallying pressures at a rate that compared favorably with the top rookie pass rushers in this class but without the sack numbers. That’s starting to change.
In this one, Ebiketie ratcheted up the pressure and came away with a sack, and he now has 1.5 over the past two weeks. He’s looking just a little more confident and comfortable, and given that he was impacting the game in less visible ways throughout his rookie season up to this point, it’s scary to think of what might happen if Ebiketie is putting the pieces together. He’s a strong bet to finish second on the team in sacks behind Grady Jarrett.
ILB Troy Andersen: Active and disruptive, critical to special teams
Andersen’s playing time rebounded a bit this week, as he wound up handling 35% of the defensive snaps after getting just over a quarter in Week 10. He made the most of those snaps, piling up five tackles, flying all over the field, and earning a tackle for a loss along the way. His speed makes him useful against players like Justin Fields who can tuck the ball down and run for a mile, and while it’s hard to say how much playing time he’ll get in a given week, the arrow continues to point up for the rookie linebacker.
Andersen was also instrumental on Cordarrelle Patterson’s return touchdown, slowing one defender with a block, getting tossed out of the way, and immediately charging back into the fray looking for work and helping out on another block.
QB Desmond Ridder: Where else but the bench?
Atlanta has made it clear that as long the Falcons are in the playoff hunt and Mariota isn’t imploding, the veteran will be under center. Ridder will continue to wait for his opportunity to start.
OLB DeAngelo Malone: Continuing quality work as a reserve
The same note as past weeks. When Malone plays, he shows up as a physical presence in this team’s outside linebacker group. He’s getting fewer snaps than everyone else in that rotation, but I’m excited to see what he’ll look like in 2023 with experience under his belt and potentially a much larger role.
RB Tyler Allgeier: Platooning with Patterson and efficient
Patterson ended up nearly splitting snaps with Allgeier—the veteran got 27, Allgeier got 30—but once again the rookie led the team in rushing and did a nice job of fighting for extra yardage. On the day, Allgeier managed 55 yards on 8 carries, chipped in a nine yard reception, and had at least one really nice block to help out in the passing game. He’s done a really nice job and will continue to split work with Patterson down the stretch.
DL Timothy Horne: A major part of the defensive line rotation
The same note applies here. Horne is a rotational piece for this line and has played the run pretty well, especially in recent weeks, and may be ticketed for a larger role with Ta’Quon Graham likely to miss time.
LB Nate Landman: Inactive Sunday
Chiefly a special teamer at this point, Landman has lost work to veteran Nick Kwiatkoski as the season grinds on. His ability to stick on the roster is an indicator that he’ll probably be here in a reserve and special teams role a year from now.
WR Jared Bernhardt: Still on injured reserve
We don’t know if Bernhardt will return this year or not, but suffice to say he’ll have a larger impact in 2023 than he has this year if all goes well.