Drake London and Arnold Ebiketie had big, bright moments.
Atlanta may not have won Sunday, but they did put together some very impressive stretches. Happily, members of the 2022 Falcons rookie class contributed to that, with Drake London and Arnold Ebiketie shining against the Saints.
That means our weekly rookie review is a fruitful one, even if only a couple of players were major contributors on Sunday.
We’re sticking to rookies on the roster, so John FitzPatrick (injured reserve), Justin Shaffer (practice squad), and the team’s practice squad undrafted free agents won’t be mentioned here unless they join the 53 man at some point. Let’s take a closer look at how the rookies fared this past week.
WR Drake London: Atlanta’s leading receiver
Coming off a fairly significant injury that cost him all but a handful of snaps in preseason, London made his presence felt. The rookie wideout was tied for the team lead in targets (7, with Kyle Pitts) and led the Falcons in receptions (5) and yards (74). He was a favored target for Marcus Mariota over the middle of the field, where his sure hands and ability to make contested catches play so well, and it’s easy to see why the team fell in love with him.
London will draw some Jalen Ramsey on Sunday, but should be expected to have another quality game. He’s on pace for 80 grabs and 1,184 yards after a single effort.
OLB Arnold Ebiketie: First career sack
I’ve felt since he was drafted that there was a very real chance that Ebiketie will lead the team in sacks this year, as he’s already a very capable pass rusher and figured to have a major role even if he wasn’t starting. So far, so good there.
Pro Football Reference credited Ebiketie with three pressures, one incompletion against him in coverage, and the first sack of his career while playing 43% of the defensive snaps. His role will likely grow as the year rolls on, but he’ll be impactful regardless of the snaps he plays, and this was an extremely encouraging first effort for the rookie.
ILB Troy Andersen: Tied for team lead in special teams snaps
Expectations for Andersen on defense this year should be modest. The Falcons drafted him knowing that he’s an incredible bundle of potential and athleticism, but far from a polished one, and they showed last year they’re willing to slow-roll top picks if they feel their development warrants it. See Grant, Richard.
Andersen will, like Grant a year ago, have a major role on special teams. He tied for the team lead in special teams snaps on Sunday with 25.
QB Desmond Ridder: No snaps Sunday
Ridder’s only getting into a game if Mariota is hurt or as a starter when the team decides he’s ready, so you shouldn’t expect to see much of him in the early going. With Mariota healthy and playing a pretty solid game, Ridder was parked on the bench. You’ll have to wait if you have Ridder fever.
OLB DeAngelo Malone: Inactive
The Falcons prioritized having more tight ends and interior depth and gave a role to Quinton Bell, who played snaps on defense and was very active on special teams, which in turn led to Malone being an inactive. A promising pass rusher in his own right, Malone will be active later this season, but we likely won’t see much of him early on with Bell having a real role unless the team feels they need extra edge rush help.
RB Tyler Allgeier: Inactive
The bruising rookie back sat this one out with the team prioritizing depth elsewhere, just like Malone. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Damien Williams was injured early and Cordarrelle Patterson was forced to carry the load, which naturally he did extremely well.
Allgeier will be active in the future and will likely carve out a significant role down the line, given his promise and the need to keep Patterson fresh all season long, but if Williams is healthy we may not see him next week.
DL Timothy Horne: Significant reserve role
Surprisingly, the undrafted free agent made the roster, and even more surprisingly, he wound up playing nearly 20 snaps Sunday.
The team may well add depth, which might imperil Horne’s reserve role or even roster spot, but he’ll stick around in some capacity because the team clearly likes him and he’s worth developing as a reserve.
LB Nate Landman: Special teams role
Landman has done enough quality work on special teams to this point to be active on gameday over Nick Kwiatkoski, a seasoned veteran, which is a credit to him. He may be inactive in the future if the team needs Kwiatkoski for depth, but like Horne, Landman landing a roster spot is impressive and he should have a bright future as a reserve with this team.
WR Jared Bernhardt: No snaps Sunday
Bernhardt is a deep reserve with developmental upside at wide receiver. He was active on Sunday while Damiere Byrd was inactive, but did not play a single snap on Sunday. Chances are that Bernhardt will needs an injury in front of him to have any kind of real 2022 role, but perhaps that changes with time. The fact that he made the roster after an impressive summer still sets up him well for the future.