Falcons’ rookie Troy Andersen coming along nicely at inside linebacker

FLOWERY BRANCH – Things are starting to slow for Falcons rookie linebacker Troy Andersen.

He played a key role in the most recent win over the Bears on Sunday and will be relied upon again when the Falcons (5-6) face the Commanders (6-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at FedEx Field in North Englewood, Md.

“I think things have been going well,” Andersen, who was drafted in the second round (58th overall) out of Montana State, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You try to get better every single week. Every single day. (Linebackers coach Frank Bush) has been great in trying to help me as well.”

Andersen had five tackles and a tackle for loss Sunday, when he played 24 defensive snaps (35%).

“I’m feeling more comfortable, and I’m able to play faster,” Andersen said. “That’s the goal.”

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Andersen has played 217 defensive snaps (39%), and he made one start, against San Francisco. He has 39 tackles, a quarterback hit and has blitzed four times.

He’s also a major contributor on special teams. He blocked a punt and has come close to blocking punts three other times.

Andersen has played 270 special-teams snaps (70%) and had one of the key blocks on Cordarrelle Patterson’s record-setting 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Bears.

In the start against the 49ers on Oct. 16, Andersen finished with 13 tackles while subbing for Mykal Walker, who was injured.

Andersen played several positions in college, including quarterback. He is developing his instincts at the inside linebacker position.

“You can see that and obviously, made some big-time plays for us (against the Bears),” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “He’s had an impact on a lot of spots for us.”

Bush has been pleased with Andersen, who’s 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds.

“He is a big guy that can run,” Bush said. “We do try to find situations to get him out there and free him up, let him run around and go make plays.”

Andersen has picked up the nuances of the defense fairly well. He’s behind Walker and Rashaan Evans, and plays with them when the Falcons’ play a 4-3 scheme.

“When his opportunities have come, he gets out there, and he’s been doing a good job for us,” Bush said.

There has been a key to Andersen’s quick development.

“Sharp kid,” Bush said. “He gets what we are saying. He’s played a lot of different positions. He has a natural feel for football and all of the things that go along with it.

“Now, it’s just about having his feet in the technique and getting reps at practice, in the game and gaining confidence.”

As the season has progressed, Andersen has become more comfortable on the field.

“I think that’s being able to diagnose things quicker and understand what offenses are trying to do, which allows you to play faster,” Andersen said. “When you play faster, you make more plays.”

He’s expecting a major challenge from Washington’s offense, which averages 325.9 yards per game and is No. 1 in the NFL in time of possession (average of 32 minutes, 44 seconds).

“They are an extremely talented group,” Andersen said. “Their quarterback is elusive. He can extend plays. They have good backs. They can fight for extra yards and are good runners.

“Their offensive line is big and physical. They got good skill (players) on the outside. They are kind of a complete offense. We are going to have to prepare well and play well in order to beat them.”

The Falcons revamped the linebacker position by also taking outside linebackers Arnold Ebitketie (second round, 38th) and DeAngelo Malone (third round, 82nd) in the draft.

“They are great being other rookies,” Andersen said. “We kind of have the closeness and that bond. They are great guys that I’m loving to get to know.”

Walker and Evans have been helpful.

“They are great,” Andersen said. “I can’t say enough about how they’ve helped me out to develop and just have kind of supported me. They answer any questions that I have. It’s awesome to be able sit back, watch and learn from them. I’ve just learned so much. It’s been great so far.”

Andersen hopes to get a few more blocked punts this season.

“You’ve got to get there,” Andersen said. “Close doesn’t show up in the stat book. Hopefully, we can get a couple more this year.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17

Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

BYE WEEK

Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD