The Falcons were previously set at the inside linebacker spot. Few players contributed to the position group, because, well, Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun never came off the field. Mykal Walker was activated at times over the last few years and has fared well.
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We're looking at a much different scenario heading into 2022. There's at least a level of uncertainty about Jones' long-term future with the club, considering his elevated price point. The Falcons added a ton to the position group, with Rashaan Evan and Nick Kwiatkoski signing in free agency and Tory Andersen added with the No. 58 overall NFL Draft pick. They'll join Walker competing for snaps.
That should make for a fun training camp for fans to follow. It'll be a busy one for inside linebackers coach Frank Bush, who is working to get all this new talent up to speed. We caught up with the veteran position coach early in OTAs to get his thoughts on some of the newest Falcons linebackers.
On Rashaan Evans running the defense
The thing about him that has been impressive about him is that, while he was in this system with Dean Pees in Tennessee, he sits down and takes notes. He never misses anything and he really pays attention. He asks all the right questions. He prides himself on making it fresh and learning something new every time.
On Troy Andersen
The key right now is to help him get to the athlete he is. He's in learning mode right now. He's trying to figure this thing out. We like him as a linebacker and that's what he was as he finished up at Montana State, he does not know our language. We have to school him up on how we do things. The faster he learns that, the faster he'll be himself on the field. He's trending up. He's doing the right things. I can only say good things about him. He's humble. He's there to learn every day and never takes anything for granted. He's starting to show his skill set the more he learns.
On Andersen's development and expectations
We're looking to put the best guys on the field. If he's one of the best guys in our room, he'll be out there. But it's a process. We don't want to give him the MVP trophy and we don't want to discard him just yet. It's process. I like where he is in the process. He's a humble kid. He's extremely intelligent. He'll get used to our system. We just have to stick with the process. I'm happy with him and where he's at.
How the linebacker position has evolved
You definitely see it more and more, where the position and the league as a whole has gotten more athletic. You see a trend in the league where you have one big linebacker and another guy who can cover. We're a bit old school in that we want guys who can do both. It allows us to be multiple and helps us in that we don't have to change personnel or cater to certain body types. We just get stuff done. It's a passing league. Let's face it. You have to adapt to that and cover. But at the end of every play, somebody's going to get hit and tackled. You need physical players who can wrap guys up.
On Mykal Walker entering 2022 season
Mykal has had a really good spring. He came back in tremendous shape. There's a certain level of maturity that has shown up in the building this year. He physically looks the part, and he's embracing the role of trying to be the guy who can be on the field all the time. He has done a great job and has had a really good spring. We have high expectations for him and, so far, he has lived up to them.