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Arnold Ebiketie showed progress in rookie year, potential for better in the future -- Rookie Review

High total of QB hits suggest his sacks could spike in Year 2

Editor's Note:The Falcons Rookie Review is a series of stories that analyze the rookie seasons of members of the Falcons 2022 Draft class. We take a look back at their 2022 production, as well as a look ahead to what 2023 could hold for each individual. Arnold Ebiketie's up next.

The Falcons didn't want to keep fingers crossed and hope that Arnold Ebiketie would fall to them in the NFL Draft's second round. There was a real chance he'd never get to the No. 43 overall pick, so they took decisive action. They traded up to No. 38, providing the Giants an additional selection for the luxury, and secured the dynamic Penn State edge rusher.


Ebiketie was seen as a borderline first-round talent by many and securing him could help the Falcons insufficient pass rush in the short- and long-term.

He certainly made an immediate impact, recording his first NFL sack in his first NFL game. His numbers weren't overwhelming overall, though he was an impactful pass rusher and someone who improved stopping the run. He's also a fun-loving, magnetic personality who is a quality locker-room presence. Let's review Ebiketie's first professional season and preview what's to come for the Penn State product:

A look back: Ebiketie finished with just 2.5 sacks as a rookie, but he was impactful overall rushing the passer. He finished the season with 28 quarterback pressures and nine quarterback hits in 303 pass-rush snaps. That last sum is a good indicator that a bigger sack total is possible with just a bit more refinement.

He got better as a run defender and edge setter, which is important for someone who wants to be a three-down player.

What Arnold learned in 2022: That the NFL is a grind, going against the best of the best over 17 games. Ebiketie showed significant improvement in all aspects of his game and was a real force in spurts this season.

Getting better was key for Ebiketie, who is relatively inexperienced playing football after picking up the game in high school. The Cameroon native has proven a quick study, both in college and the pros.

That was most evident in his run defense defender – he made some mistakes early on – and the innovative methods used to attack the passer while making a solid impression on this coaching staff.

"I aspire in the future to be that every down guy," Ebiketie said on Jan. 9. "I feel like you have to get a little bit bigger. That's something I'll be working on in the offseason."

Areas for improvement: We often see real growth from players heading into their second season. That's especially true for edge rushers of NFL quality, who can see sack totals and forced fumbles spike when talent combines with additional experience.

While the Falcons will surely add to his position group this offseason, likely acquiring a premium asset, Ebiketie has the drive and ability to become a major contributor to this pass rush.

He's hellbent on doing that, with plans to use the down period effectively to progress and prepare for a big year in 2023.

"I think the best part about it, is that I'm not a rookie anymore," Ebiketie said. "I know what to expect moving forward, to have the whole offseason to work on some stuff, and I mean, I'm excited. I think the future is bright and I'm looking forward to next season."

Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos on defense from the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.

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