Falcons Standout Hypes Under-the-Radar Rookie: ‘Sky Is the Limit’

Mykal Walker

Getty Mykal Walker has hyped one member of the Falcons' 2022 draft class.

Mykal Walker has been an ever-present through two games for the Atlanta Falcons’ defense this season. The third-year pro is building his reputation, but Walker is more impressed by a fellow inside linebacker.

Walker offered strong praise for this “freakishly athletic” rookie after Week 2’s 31-27 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. The hype reveals the rapid strides already being made by yet another member of this year’s draft class for the Falcons.

Walker Wowed by Troy Andersen’s Debut

Troy Andersen caught the eye of his teammate against the Rams and prompted Walker to say “He played great. I’m high on him. Troy is freakishly athletic. We have to clean him up on the X’s and O’s a little bit, but the sky is the limit for that kid,” per Josh Kendall of The Athletic.

That’s lofty praise for a second-round pick with just a single NFL game under his belt, although Andersen hardly looked out of place against the Rams. The former Montana State standout only registered a pair of tackles, but Andersen did showcase his big-play potential with this blocked punt:

It’s understandable for Walker to be so effusive about what looked like a modest outing on the stat sheet. The Falcons need greater playmaking potential at every level of their defense, something only possible with better athletes on the field.

Coordinator Dean Pees is still struggling to do more with less and find the right mix of personnel. That’s why Andersen saw action on nine snaps against the Rams, per Pro Football Reference, after not being involved against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1.

Sadly, working in rookies like Andersen and edge-rusher Arnold Ebiketie, hasn’t stopped the rot in Atlanta’s defense. The unit still has the “fourth-worst pressure rate in the NFL,” as well as ranking “last in defensive rushing success rate (48.8 percent),” according to Kendall’s colleague Vic Tafur.

Those numbers put the Falcons’ defensive outings into a bleak context, but Walker’s performances have offered one of the few genuine silver linings.

Andersen Reciprocates Walker Praise

While Walker has been impressed by Andersen, the feeling is mutual. The first-year linebacker applauded how confidently Walker has taken to his role as the new on-field signal-caller for Pees’ defense, per Falcon Report’s Jeremy Brener:

“Myke’s been great. Every day when we watch film, just communicating what he’s seeing out on the field. He knows the defense so well that he can make the adjustments on the field and if there’s something that’s messed up or somebody’s on the wrong page, he can correct that and get everybody focused.”

Walker has been producing numbers that endorse his greater understanding of the scheme. His stats include 13 total tackles, one pass breakup, a sack, forced fumble and an interception.

The pick came against the Rams when Walker baited quarterback Matthew Stafford into trying to force the ball to Cooper Kupp. It was a brilliant piece of subterfuge described by Falcons Digital Managing Editor Scott Bair, who noted how Walker dropped into space after fellow inside linebacker Rashaan Evans had covered Rams’ running back Darrell Henderson.

When Stafford thought he had enough room to find Kupp, Walker closed the space and snatched the ball. The play helped Walker earn the top PFF grade for the Falcons in Week 2:

Walker credited coaching for his moment of opportunistic sleight of hand, per Bair: “As soon as Rashaan took the back, I knew I had to punch out the opposite way. Now the quarterback thinks he has a guy open. After that, it’s about instinct and reading the quarterback. That initial punch out got him to the throw the ball. That’s something the coaches instil in us, making sure you hit your landmarks. I did that and was in position to make a play.”

Walker’s emergence is good news for Pees after Foyesade Oluokun, the leading tackler in the NFL last season, joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. Oluokun’s absence is compounded by Deion Jones still being on the fringes of the team.

Jones continues to be touted for a trade, with Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox naming the veteran of Super Bowl LI as a good fit for either the Dallas Cowboys or Minnesota Vikings.

Oluokun and Jones manned the starting spots last season, but Walker and Andersen already look primed to rejuvenate the engine room of the Falcons’ defense in 2022.

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