Last week I missed the rookie report—I blame a broken oven—so it’s time to make up for lost time. Atlanta’s rookies have been, by and large, key cogs on a 4-4 Falcons team that has needed their contributions, so it’s time to see who is contributing, who isn’t, and who might be.
Here’s your Falcons rookie report for Weeks 7 and 8.
WR Drake London: Quietly working
The past two weeks, London has produced a combined five catches for 40 yards, or the same number of catches and 34 yards fewer than he had in the first week in the season. After London topped 50 yards in each of the season’s first three games, he hasn’t done so once in the five games since, and his combined yardage through the past five games (132) is less than two-thirds what he managed in that opening stretch (214). He and Marcus Mariota are not currently cooking in that regard.
Naturally, that doesn’t mean London is just out there for the exercise. Those four grabs last Sunday were all valuable, and London has shown to be a willing and capable blocker, a strength that’s helping him key a productive Falcons ground game. The targets will come, either because Mariota will find him some weeks or a quarterback change will occur, but in the meantime London will get a handful of looks per game and pave the way for Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, and Caleb Huntley.
OLB Arnold Ebiketie: Starting and quietly working
Like London, Ebiketie isn’t necessarily making splash plays at the moment, but he’s doing quality work as a starter. The past two weeks, the rookie has overtaken Adetokunbo Ogundeji for de facto starter duties at outside linebacker, and he as a quarterback hit (against Cincinnati) and pass deflection (against Carolina) to his name.
The pressures are still coming and Ebiketie remains the team’s best bet to be a consistently good-to-great pass rusher in the future. He’ll continue to demand the majority of snaps opposite Lorenzo Carter.
ILB Troy Andersen: Play time declining, a factor on special teams
Two weeks ago, Andersen filled in for Mykal Walker and had the game of his young career, with 13 combined tackles and some head-turning displays of athleticism against the 49ers. In the two weeks since then, his playing time has been sagging, but he’s still factoring in on special teams.
In Week 7 against the Bengals, he played 28 snaps on defense and was one of several players who scuffled a bit in coverage. In Week 8, he nearly had a pick and had a couple of adventures in coverage again on just 6 defensive snaps, the smallest number he’s played since Week 1. He did come close to blocking a punt again, however, and remains a core special teamer.
His playing time might wax and wane depending on how much linebackers Dean Pees feels comfortable trotting out in a given game, but Andersen’s still a player worth watching closely.
QB Desmond Ridder: Clipboard duty
The rookie still hasn’t gotten on the field for a regular season snap yet. With Marcus Mariota coming off one of his better performances of the year, we shouldn’t expect to see Ridder anytime soon.
OLB DeAngelo Malone: Continuing quality work as a reserve
You’re only getting glimpses of Malone’s potential this year, but they are tantalizing. Against Cincinnati, he played a season-high 18 snaps and hit Joe Burrow once, came up with a tackle for a loss, and generally looked as active and aggressive as you’d hope. Last week, he played just 9 snaps and had a single tackle.
Malone should be, at minimum, a good reserve. He’s showing he can handle that work in the here and now, and he might get more work in the future.
RB Tyler Allgeier: Platooning with Caleb Huntley, catching passes
The return of Cordarrelle Patterson is going to shake up the running back group a bit, and it’s not clear whether Allgeier or Huntley will lose more work.
Allgeier has been half of a platoon with Huntley, who has been a more effective per-carry runner by a fairly wide margin the past two weeks. While Allgeier isn’t picking up the same kind of yardage, he still is using his physicality to produce positive plays. Where he’s been more impactful is in the passing game, where he’s frequently deployed as a blocker and last week managed a career-high three catches for 46 yards and a nice touchdown scamper.
Long-term, he’ll be at worst a key piece of the backfield. In the here and now, he may be deployed more frequently as that pass catching option and blocker than as a runner with Patterson back.
DL Timothy Horne: A major part of the defensive line rotation
He had one tackle against Cincinnati and four against Carolina, getting about a third of the defensive snaps the past two weeks as a run-stopping piece for the Falcons defense. He has been mostly solid all year and figures to be at least a part of the line rotation the rest of the year.
LB Nate Landman: Small defensive role, larger special teams role
Landman played a little on defense against Cincinnati and actually hit Joe Burrow at one point, but didn’t get any defensive snaps last week as the Falcons mostly stuck with Mykal Walker and Rashaan Evans at ILB. He does play a lot on special teams, however, and that won’t change.
WR Jared Bernhardt: No snaps the past two weeks
With Damiere Byrd rolling and two active receivers in KhaDarel Hodge and Bryan Edwards who barely play, we’re not seeing Bernhardt unless injuries stack up at the wide receiver position. Perhaps in 2023 we’ll get a longer look at Bernhardt, given that every receiver except London and Edwards are hitting free agency in the spring.