Editor's Note:The 'Falcons Breakdown' series analyzes the state of every position group on the depth chart. We'll take a look back at the group's overall production in 2022, who we think will stay in 2023 and who could be on the chopping block. We'll also pinpoint the position's biggest question of the offseason.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Before we dive into any type of analysis about the inside linebacker position in Atlanta, let's get one thing straight here: We don't know what direction this group is heading.
Will the Falcons re-sign Rashaan Evans? Will they bring back Mykal Walker, too? What about Troy Andersen? Could his role change slightly with a new defensive coordinator coming in soon? Is there a player worth targeted on the open market to bring in? What about the Draft?
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Essentially, there are two schools of thought regarding the trajectory of the trio of Evans, Walker and Andersen. Either they stay together, or they break up. Sounds simple, right? Well, maybe not, considering that decision alters what the Falcons have to prioritize in the draft and in free agency in 2023.
So, let's not waste any more time. Let's go ahead and dive right into these two schools of thought.
Rashaan Evans: 17 games | Two sacks | 159 combined tackles (six for a loss) | Three QB hits | One forced fumble, two fumble recoveries
Mykal Walker: 16 games | One sack | 107 combined tackles (four for a loss) | One QB hit | Two interceptions | Six passes defended
Troy Andersen: 17 games | No sacks | 69 combined tackles (three for a loss) | Three QB hits | One forced fumble | One blocked punt
Who stays: Evans, Walker and Andersen
On the chopping block: Evans and Walker
I know what you're thinking: "Tori, this breakdown doesn't make any sense." And you're right. It doesn't. But hear me out for a second...
The Falcons have yet to announce a defensive coordinator hire, and in my mind this decision greatly impacts the inside linebacker position because of the nature of members of this group acting as the voice of the coordinator on the field.
There is a world in which I think this entire core group of inside linebackers should stay together in 2023. Evans was an important piece of consistency for this defense in 2022. Though Walker eventually lost his starting spot to Andersen, then-defensive coordinator Dean Pees said time and time again that it wasn't because the Falcons were displeased with Walker's performance. It was that they needed to see Andersen in the role, too. In fact, even if that weren't the case, the competition between two young linebackers is healthy.
Then, there's Andersen, himself. An intriguing player with raw talent that the Falcons have begun to mold into what they want. There's value in keeping these three together again.
However, as there is a world where they stay together, there's also a realm in which they're broken apart.
Let's say a new defensive coordinator wants to come in and revamp the position. With Andersen still being so new to the league, he wouldn't be the one on the chopping block, Evans and Walker would.
Evans was only on a one-year deal in Atlanta. If the Falcons want him back, they'd have to re-sign him. If they don't, he heads to the open market.
Walker will be on the final year of his rookie deal in 2023. The Falcons have already parted with one member of the 2020 draft class before their rookie deal expired (Marlon Davidson), who's to say they wouldn't do that to Walker if they found someone in the draft or in free agency that could play his role?
And that, my friends, is where I leave you.
Biggest offseason question: Do the Falcons get the 2022 band back together in 2023?
If this is me - Tori McElhaney - making the decision I say, "Yes, bring them back." Why? Because in my mind they didn't do enough to warrant not bringing them back, first of all. And second of all, if you need to put money and resources back into the defense I can think of three other position groups that need it more than the inside linebackers do. Especially if they were to keep Evans - particularly - around a bit longer.
In my mind, the Falcons have more significant and pressing needs along the defensive interior, in pass rush as a whole for that matter, and in acquired depth at the cornerback position. Inside linebacker is not a top priority for me at this current juncture.
However, I am not the one making the decisions. I am not the new defensive coordinator. And I am not the one who has a say in which direction the position group goes in 2023 and beyond. Perhaps the actual decision-makers feel differently. Maybe they want to clean house. That's a possibility, too.
For the time being, though, we don't know which side Falcons decision makers are actually leaning towards.
And that, my friends, is where they leave us.
Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos from the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.