Monday, September 26, 2022

Mykal Walker celebrates the “freakishly athletic” Falcons rookie

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Mykal Walker has been omnipresent for the Atlanta Falcons defense in two games this season. The third-year pro is building his reputation, but Walker is more impressed with another inside linebacker.

Walker praised this “insanely athletic” rookie after the 31-27 Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The hype reveals the rapid progress already being made for the Falcons by another member of this year’s draft class.

Troy Andersen caught the eye of his teammate against the Rams, prompting Walker to say, “He played great. I’m high on him. Troy is incredibly athletic. We’ll have to clean it up a bit with the X’s and O’s, but the sky’s the limit for this kid.” the athlete.

That’s kudos for a second-round pick with just a single NFL game under his belt, though Andersen hardly looked out of place against the Rams. The former Montana State standout recorded just two tackles, but in doing so, Andersen showed his big-play potential blocked punt:

It’s understandable that Walker is so gushing about what looked like a modest outing on the stat sheet. The Falcons need greater playmaking potential at all levels of their defense, which is 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 staff. That’s why Andersen saw action on nine snaps against the Rams after not being involved in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, according to Pro Football Reference.

Unfortunately, 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” and, according to Kendall’s colleague Vic Tafur, “ranks last in defensive rushing success rate (48.8 percent).

Those numbers put the Falcons’ defensive forays into grim context, but Walker’s performances have offered one of the few true silver linings.

While Walker was impressed by Andersen, the feeling is mutual. The first-year linebacker, according to Falcon Report’s Jeremy Brener, applauded Walker’s confidence in taking on his role as the new onfield signal caller for Pees’ defense: “Myke was great. Every day when we watch movies we just share what he sees out in the field. He knows the defense so well that he can make the adjustments on the field and if something is messed up or someone is on the wrong side he can correct that and get everyone to focus.”

Walker has produced figures that confirm his better understanding of the system. His stats include 13 total tackles, a pass breakup, a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception.

The pick came against the Rams when Walker talked quarterback Matthew Stafford into forcing the ball to Cooper Kupp. It was a brilliant subterfuge detailed by Falcons Digital Managing Editor Scott Bair, who noted Walker falling into space after inside linebacker Rashaan Evans covered Rams’ running back Darrell Henderson.

When Stafford thought he had enough room to find Kupp, Walker closed the room and grabbed the ball. The game helped Walker earn that Top grade PFF for the Falcons in week 2:

Walker credited the coaching for his moment of opportunistic sleight of hand per Bair: “As soon as Rashaan took the back, I knew I had to punch in the opposite direction. Now the quarterback thinks he has a guy open. After that, it’s all about instinct and reading the quarterback. That first shot made him throw the ball. That’s something the trainers teach us and make sure you hit your milestones. I did that and was in a position to make a game.

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

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

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

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



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