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Falcons rookie report, Week 17: Desmond Ridder delivers

The Falcons rookie class is rolling to finish the year.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This has been an important and impactful rookie class for a thin Falcons team. Nearly every draft pick—every healthy one, at least—has played major snaps for Atlanta and has shown at least glimmers of having a bright future here, and one undrafted free agent has cemented himself as a useful reserve.

This week, Drake London remained a factor, Arnold Ebiketie had a couple of nice plays, Desmond Ridder took another small but noticeable step forward, and Tyler Allgeier ran over defenders like he always does. Here’s your Week 17 rookie report.

WR Drake London: Continues to be top target

It was a quieter day comparatively for Drake London in terms of yardage, especially after he posted three straight weeks of 70-plus yards. Still, he was Desmond Ridder’s favorite target again, reeling in five of eight balls thrown his way for 47 yards. The rapport he’s forged with his fellow rookie is encouraging, and it will matter a lot if Ridder stays at the helm of the offense next year.

London’s set to cap off a very good season next weekend, with 66 receptions for 746 yards and four touchdowns thus far.

OLB Arnold Ebiketie: More snaps in quiet day

The Falcons kicked his snaps back up after a two week lull, which was welcome, and he had a solid day applying pressure and picked up a key run stop. With no sacks and a penalty, though, it was another quiet effort for the rookie, who has shown flashes of real upside alongside stretches where it’s evident that he needs more time and work to become a high-end pass rusher. He’ll be locked into a major role next year, either way, and Ebiketie remains third on the team with 2.5 sacks.

ILB Troy Andersen: Another Sunday, another start

Now on his third straight week as a full-time starter, Andersen continues to look like a real work in progress, albeit an intriguing one. On the day, he had one hurry, a pair of tackles, and continued to look like a man who needs refinement in coverage, as Pro Football Focus credited him with three receptions allowed on three targets for 43 yards. The upside is evident and the hope is that this playing time will help him hit the ground running in 2023, but for now you should probably except a baseline level of competency, some frustrating moments, and the occasional flashes of brilliance in the final game.

QB Desmond Ridder: Continued improvement

From shaky to solid to better than solid in three weeks, Ridder continues to put up ho-hum numbers but looked good doing so in Week 17 against the Cardinals. The rookie quarterback evaded a pair of sacks, put some very nice throws on the money to MyCole Pruitt on a crucial third down, Cordarrelle Patterson in the end zone (it didn’t count), and Damiere Byrd on the sideline (it was dropped/there may have been interference) alongside a couple of outright misses and a lot of solid work. If the Falcons are simply looking for a command of the offense, poise, and weekly improvement then Ridder’s probably coasting his way to the starting job in 2023, but it’d be nice to see him blow up with a statement game against the annoying Buccaneers.

OLB DeAngelo Malone: More snaps on Sunday

It was good to see more Malone, who was characteristically solid in run defense even if he had a very quiet day getting after the quarterback. He’ll likely step into a larger role in 2023, and I’m looking forward to seeing his year-to-year progress.

RB Tyler Allgeier: Stays hot

Wrapping up one of the most productive seasons by a rookie running back in team history, Allgeier continued his fine work on Sunday against the Cardinals. It’s striking how good he is at turning something into nothing, evading defenders, and then trucking his way through them. He led the team with 83 yards on a career-high 20 rushes and reeled in a 12 yard catch, continuing to supply a significant chunk of Atlanta’s offensive production. If anyone had doubts that he’s the clear-cut lead back going forward, hopefully those have been erased.

DL Timothy Horne: Slightly reduced snaps

I feel like I say this every week, but Horne retains a pretty prominent role on a decimated defensive line. This was one of his quieter weeks, as his snaps were reduced a bit and he missed at least one tackle opportunity, but the bulk of his work in 2022 suggests Horne will stick as a reserve for a rebuilt defensive line next year.

LB Nate Landman: Inactive Sunday

A weekly inactive at this point, Landman will hope to be in the mix for a reserve inside linebacker and special teams role in 2023. Just copying and pasting here, but hey.

WR Jared Bernhardt: May come off injured reserve for the finale

The Falcons opened his practice window to come off of injured reserve, and the hope is that he’ll be active against the Buccaneers and can build a little bit on his strong training camp and preseason performances with Ridder at the helm of the offense. Fingers crossed.