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Falcons Building Blocks: Troy Andersen has opportunity to lead Falcons defensive charge

Now in a starting role alongside Kaden Elliss, Andersen's development should be on full display in his second year in the league. 

The Falcons Building Blocks series is a week-long series of stories that focuses in on certain talent that will be counted on throughout the course of the 2023 year in Atlanta, and beyond.

Two years ago, Scott Bair authored this series, and he had certain requirements and marks the players on this list must have. They had to be on a rookie contract. They had to be 27 years old and younger. They had to be thriving already, "with leadership qualities and potential for even better down the road." Though this list follows a similar pattern, like last year, there are no such requirements for the 2023 list.

We're looking at players the Falcons can build around, regardless of age, overall status or contract details. The Falcons have a foundation set. So, who are the main pillars of that foundation?

By: Tori McElhaney


Troy Andersen was a sleeper candidate for this list, but not one who's importance in this defense should be overlooked. No, he enters into his second year in the league trending upwards, right where you want him to be.

The Falcons drafted Andersen with the No. 58 overall pick in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. As a reminder, that was a spot the Falcons picked up when they traded Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans.


At the time, the pick was a head scratcher for some. Very few knew much about the linebacker from Montana State, but the more people found out about him the more they liked. Having transitioned from quarterback to full-time linebacker in his final year with the Bobcats, Andersen went on to become an FCS All-American and the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. By the NFL Scouting Combine in February 2022, Andersen was turning heads with his 40-time and agility. (In case you forgot: He ran a 4.42 at 245 pounds). But at the time he was drafted, linebacker depth wasn't really an issue for the Falcons. Despite Foye Oluokun being picked up in free agency by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Falcons went out and signed Rashaan Evans to replace him. They still had Deion Jones and Mykal Walker on the roster. So, why did they need Anderson? Well, a year later and with Andersen cementing himself as a primary starter, we now know why.

Though Andersen didn't begin his first year in the league last year as a starter, he grew into the role. In terms of raw talent and ability, it all was there for Andersen. Falcons inside linebackers coach Frank Bush said last year that Andersen's first season in the league was all about refining that rawness. You began to see that refined nature towards the backend of the 2022 season, although there's an argument to be made that it happened before the final four games in which Andersen started.

When Walker suffered a groin injury and had to miss the Falcons Week 6 game against the 49ers, Andersen got his first league start, and with it he showed off exactly why the Falcons wanted him. He finished the game with a season-high 13 tackles. This coming after Falcons fans saw his speed in action on special teams when he blocked a punt for a touchdown against the Rams a few weeks before.

Walker returned to the fold in Week 7, and though Andersen didn't make another start until Week 15, he began to be featured more in the rotation a couple weeks before the Falcons bye week.

Atlanta Falcons inside linebacker Troy Andersen #44 makes a tackle during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, November 20, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

It's his final four games that you should look at when thinking about his potential in 2023, though. Andersen walked away from those four games with 21 of his 69 total tackles on the year, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

Entering into the 2023 season, the turnover at linebacker continues. This time, though, Andersen emerges as a starter alongside Kaden Elliss, who the Falcons picked up in free agency. Throughout OTAs, it was Elliss and Andersen taking majority of the first-team reps with Walker presumably playing a more rotational role in Ryan Nielsen's defense.

Speaking of Nielsen, Andersen was one of only a few players Nielsen specifically spoke about in his very first press conference as the Falcons newest defensive coordinator.

"I'm excited about this particular player," Nielsen said of Andersen in February. "There is definitely a place (for him). His skill set allows him to do a lot of things that fit certain things that we want that position to do. He's been awesome."

Nielsen said at that point he and Andersen had already had three or four conversations about Nielsen's vision for him. At the time, Nielsen had only had the job for 10 days, but he already knew what he had in Andersen. He was already brainstorming for how to use his specific skillset.

All this being said, Andersen's anointment to a starting role shouldn't be a surprise to anyone considering how the Falcons have chosen to develop him, essentially revving him up to a starting role similarly to the trajectory of Richie Grant the year before. It was only a matter of time before Andersen took over as a starter. That time is now.

It makes you think that if this year goes a certain way for Andersen he could be considered an important piece of the Falcons young core of defense-men. And right now, there aren't very many who could be considered young. Not even A.J. Terrell is a young buck any longer. He has too much experience and he's on the very back end of his rookie deal.

In terms of young talent emerging, Andersen has the opportunity to lead the youthful pack in 2023.

Take a look at the 2023 Atlanta Falcons in action during offseason practice, presented by MegaFit Meals.

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