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Falcons 2022 rookie review: Troy Andersen

A fighter jet flown by a very inexperienced pilot, Andersen looks the part but has a lot to figure out.

NFL: JAN 08 Buccaneers at Falcons Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was not all that long ago that the Falcons seemed to have a settled inside linebacker group. Deion Jones was an unquestioned starter and Foye Oluokun had blossomed into one, and with that duo’s youth and ability, it seemed likely the Falcons would have one or both for a very long time.

Instead, Oluokun walked in 2022 free agency and Jones was unceremoniously traded away for peanuts to the Browns, and the Falcons are trying to once again settle the position group. With Rashaan Evans coming off a one-year deal and Mykal Walker failing to solidify a starting job this year, there’s only one man who feels like a lock to be part of the immediate future: Troy Andersen.

A little bit of a controversial draft pick when the Falcons selected him, Andersen has all the tools you could ever ask for, and would be a plus athlete at any position. He is scary fast for a man his size, capable of great feats of strength and guile, and showed signs of being a truly disruptive linebacker in 2022. Andersen also looked tentative for long stretches, sometimes rolled away from tackle attempts like a tumbleweed upended by a strong breeze, and never found his way into a consistent groove as he learned the position at the nFL leve.

It was a year of learning and growing for Andersen, who the Falcons will count on to become a great player in the not-too-distant future. The flashes of brilliance suggest that can happen, but only a lot of work from Andersen and this coaching staff will ensure they will happen. He’s likely to be a starter in 2023 regardless, but the gulf between the possible outcomes in that role is vast, and will depend on how much Andersen figures out over the spring and summer.

Let’s review his rookie season for any clues we might find about his future.

2022 Stats

17 games, 69 combined tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble; 1 pass deflection, 21/23 completions/targets, 218 yards, 2 touchdowns

Rookie year highlights


You could not say with a straight face that Troy Andersen had a great rookie season. He struggled mightily in coverage, had a handful of high-profile missed tackles, and just looked like the raw rookie he was for long stretches. We expected a raw player capable of brilliant stretches, and that’s largely what we got. By and large the “oh, he’s figuring this thing out in real time” moments outnumbered the great ones.

That’s not something that should cause you to be down on Andersen. Like Richie Grant before him, Andersen is a second round pick the Falcons made with the future in mind, but Andersen is far more raw than Grant. He essentially only played linebacker in his junior season at Montana State, and he wound up stepping into a larger role than some of us anticipated as a critical reserve and then starter over the final five games. Given all that, it was going to be a year to take his lumps, and the fact that Andersen did and still managed big moments is encouraging.

Where Andersen shone, like Grant before him, was on special teams. He had a blocked punt early in the year, made some key tackles, and nearly made multiple other big plays for Marquice William’s unit, showing what happens when he’s simply asked to seek and destroy. That seems like a good hint of what Andersen will be capable of doing when his comfort level and experience both level up.

While the results looked inconsistent even after Andersen became a starter, it’s worth noting that the Falcons felt it appropriate to elevate him into the starting line up in the first place, and that linebackers coach Frank Bush had significant praise for his progress, as Ashton Edmunds wrote at

“The kid is doing a tremendous job. Obviously, he’s a big, talented individual, but his smarts and instincts are starting to show up,” inside linebackers coach Frank Bush said in a Dec. 21 press conference. “He’s hitting people and knocking them on the ground better than he did earlier in the season. I think he’s just more comfortable being a pro athlete right now, so I’m happy with where he is.”

The fact that such a veteran coach had such glowing words for Andersen’s development bodes well for his 2023, but there is a ton of work ahead. If Andersen figures it out, he could be one of the league’s most dangerous inside linebackers even if he’s not incredibly consistent. If not, he’ll still find his way to some amazing plays despite his inconsistency, and it will be well worth watching to see what he’s capable of in his second season.