Atlanta Falcons’ 90-man roster analysis: Linebackers

Editor’s note: This is the fifth of an eight-part position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster. The rookies reported Tuesday for training camp. The veterans report July 25.

As part of the defensive overhaul this offseason, the Falcons’ linebackers unit was not left untouched by the front office.

When the Falcons opened the 2022 season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the New Orleans Saints, the starting linebackers were Ade Ogundeji, Lorenzo Carter, Rashaan Evans and Mykal Walker.

Ogundeji and Walker returned and Carter was re-signed as a free agent. But Evans, who led the team in tackles last season, was not re-signed.

The Falcons clearly are counting on the emergence of second-year linebacker Troy Andersen, and they signed linebackers Kaden Elliss and Bud Dupree in free agency.

Andersen, was a second-round pick out of Montana State, and had a promising rookie season. Elliss, who signed a three-year $21.5 million contract, came on strong last season for the Saints. Dupree, who signed a one-year $3 million deal, is going into his ninth season.

“Now, that I’m going into Year 5, I still believe that I have a lot to learn and pick things up from everybody I’m around,” Elliss said. “But at the same time ... if you ask a question, I’ll give you the answer that I have so far in my career.”

Andersen, who played multiple positions in college, including quarterback, has been a student of the game this offseason.

“Troy has come around with a lot of questions,” Elliss said. “He’s asking a lot of things about how I see things. I ask him how he sees things, just getting to pass along the things that I’ve learned, it’s been a blessing. Also, getting to learn along with him.”

Elliss played for Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen and can help the players in the transition from Dean Pees’ 3-4 alignment to more multiple alignments.

“He’s the biggest cheerleader for you, and he’s also the biggest challenger of you,” Elliss said of Nielsen. “So, when you make a mistake, he’s on you. He’s going to challenge you. He knows and he expects better from you. But when you make the play, there is no one more excited.”

Dupree, who played at Wilkinson County High before becoming a standout at Kentucky. He was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2015. He has 46.5 career sacks, but has battled injuries over the past few seasons. He hasn’t played a full season since 2019.

Dupree also is embracing Nielsen’s coaching style.

“He’s a great guy,” Dupree said. “Intense. Crazy, but that’s what you need. We are all crazy at some times. He’s a great coach. So far, I love working with him at this point. Nothing but learning each and every day.”

Andersen was taken 48th overall in 2022. He played in all 17 games as a rookie last season, including five starts.

Andersen, who’s 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds, showed his athletic ability last season, and he has been building chemistry with Elliss.

“Kaden is awesome to work with,” Andersen said. “He’s been in this scheme. Great person to have around in the (meeting) room to bounce things off of. He’s just a tremendous human being to be able to be around and learn from him. Getting to know him has been fun.”

The first order of business for the linebackers will be to help stop the run. Then, they must defend against running backs and tight ends in pass coverage.

“We want to be versatile,” Andersen said. “We obviously have to know what each other are doing. So, in that sense, you can say interchangeable. Everybody can play everything, and we are just trying to learn.”

Andersen had 62 tackles, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble last season. He played 481 defensive snaps (43%) last season.

“You just try (to carry over) everything that you’ve learn from last year,” Andersen said. “How offenses work in the NFL. What certain formations bring certain type of players. What different teams run scheme-wise. Just trying to take it over and continue to learn.”

Andersen doesn’t believe the new defensive scheme is a major change.

“There are only so many defenses that you can run,” Andersen said. “So, there is certainly carryover. There are a few tweaks that we are trying to pick up and learn and implement it out on the field.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Free-agent signee Bud Dupree talks about the Falcons and how he will fit into the team in 2023.

Falcons’ 90-man roster analysis:

Part 1: Running backs

Part 2: Offensive line

Part 3: Wide receivers/tight ends

Part 4: Defensive line

Part 5: Linebackers

Part 6: Secondary

Part 7: Special teams

Part 8: Quarterbacks

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Arnold Ebiketie looks ahead to the 2023 season with optimism on the potential of the team's pass rush on defense.

The AJC’s projected depth chart


QB – Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside

RB – Tyler Allgeier, Bijan Robinson, Cordarrelle Patterson, *Caleb Huntley, Carlos Washington Jr.

FB – Keith Smith, Clint Ratkovich

WR – Drake London, KhaDarel Hodge, Frank Darby, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Chris Blair

TE – *Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, Parker Hesse, Feleipe Franks, *John FitzPatrick, Tucker Fisk

LT – Jake Matthews, Barry Wesley

LG – Matt Hennessy, Kyle Hinton, Matthew Bergeron, *Jalen Mayfield, *Justin Shaffer

C – Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil, Jonotthan Harrison, Jovaughn Gwyn

RG – Chris Lindstrom, Jovaughn Gwyn

RT – Kaleb McGary, Tyler Vrabel, Joshua Miles, Ethan Greenidge

WR – Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, Slade Bolden, Josh Ali, Keilahn Harris, Xavier Malone


OLB – Lorenzo Carter, Bud Dupree, DeAngelo Malone

DE – Grady Jarrett, Timothy Horne, LeCale London

NT – Eddie Goldman, *Ta’Quon Graham, Carlos Davis

DE – David Onyemata, Joe Gaziano, Ikenna Enechukwu, Albert Huggins

OLB – Calais Campbell, Ade Ogundeji, Arnold Ebiketie, Zach Harrison

ILB – Kaden Elliss, Dorian Etheridge, Tae Davis, Andre Smith Jr.

ILB – Troy Andersen, Mykal Walker, Nate Landman, Mike Jones Jr.

CB – A.J. Terrell, Mike Hughes, Clark Phillips III, Breon Borders, Natrone Brooks

FS – Jessie Bates III, Jaylinn Hawkins, Micah Abernathy, Lukas Denis

SS – Richie Grant, DeMarcco Hellams, Clifford Chattman

CB – Jeff Okudah, Cornell Armstrong, Tre Flowers, Dee Alford, Darren Hall

NB – Mike Hughes, Clark Phillips III, Dee Alford


K – Younghoe Koo, Matthew Trickett

P/H – Bradley Pinion

LS – Liam McCullough

PR – Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, Penny Hart and Josh Ali.

KOR – Cordarrelle Patterson. Carlos Washington Jr.

Note: Players who ended the season on injured reserve have an asterisk.

The Bow Tie Chronicles

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Troy Andersen (44) warms-up during OTAs at the Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /

Falcons linebacker Troy Andersen (44) catches the ball during warm-ups prior to the game between the Falcons and 49ers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 16,  2022. Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Tennessee Titans linebacker Bud Dupree sacks Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS