Linebacker ready to tackle expectations
Sidelined most of last season, Troy Andersen aims for breakthrough.
Falcons linebacker Troy Andersen appeared all set to become a starter last season, but a torn pectoral muscle in the second game cut things short. “Nobody likes being injured. You just try to stay engaged mentally as best that you can,” he said. JASON GETZ/AJC 2023

FLOWERY BRANCH — It was supposed to be a breakout season for Troy Andersen.

A linebacker from Montana State who was drafted in the second round (58th overall) of the 2022 NFL draft, Andersen was all set to move into the starting lineup and slay running backs, quarterbacks and tight ends all across the league.

However, a torn pectoral muscle in the second game of the 2023 season cut things short.

Andersen was activated from injured reserve late last season and has started his climb back from rehabilitation.

“I’m good,” Andersen said.

“Yeah, I feel good. Kind of back to normal. Hopefully, better than normal. Yeah, it’s pretty good.”

Andersen is not limited at all as he participates in the team’s organized team activities.

With Andersen out, Nate Landman stepped into his role. They lived together and used to watch film at home together.

“We’d ride down to the games together,” Andersen said. “Talk about it on the way back. Watch film and whatnot.”

Landman took control of the starting job and finished second on the team with 122 tackles.

“He’s a tremendous player,” Andersen said. “He’s a little bit of a throwback, an oldschool thumper. I’m trying to learn some of that.”

Landman, after a productive career at Colorado, was signed as an undrafted free agent.

“He’s extremely smart,” Andersen said. “Just trying to understand schemes and what little minute details that can really make a big difference. He’s been great to learn from.”

While it’s the offseason and the players have not put on the pads, Landman is working with Kaden Elliss and the first-team defense, and Andersen is working with rookie JD Bertrand on the second-team defense.

“It’s been fun so far, to put a new scheme in and get back out on the grass,” Andersen said. “Implement it, run around and play a little football.”

Andersen tried to spent his time out constructively.

“First off, it (was horrible),” Andersen said. “Nobody likes being injured. You just try to stay engaged mentally as best that you can. Work on your body because you have a lot of time on your hands.”

The Falcons are implementing a 3-4 alignment after playing a hybrid 4-3 last season.

“I think it’s really exciting,” Andersen said. “You can see it out on the field. (The coaches want) us to play fast, play free and be physical. Communication has been getting dialed in. These OTAs are just a start. Once we put the pads on, it’s going to be really exciting. I’m excited to see how it comes together.”

Andersen was somewhat of a controversial pick for the Falcons. He was selected before the Eagles took former Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean in the third round (83rd overall). Both were out with injuries last season when they were slated to take over their spots.

Andersen has played in 19 games and made seven starts. He has 88 tackles, four tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and half of a sack.

Dean, who sustained a foot injury last season, has played in 22 games and made four starts. He has made 43 tackles, two tackles for loss, one quarterback hit and half a sack.

The Falcons are hoping to utilize Andersen’s athletic gifts moving forward.

“Fast,” Falcons coach Raheem Morris said. “Troy is extremely fast. He’s quick. He’s got great short-space quickness. And you just, I see the real intent to work on his, what we call chute awareness, right? That’s keeping the ball in the chute, tackling on the right side, using the right shoulder.”

Morris was quick to note the Falcons can’t tackle during OTAs. “But you just love the approach,” he said. “And you love all the things that he’s going through in his mind, the intent for the ball, his communication level.”

Andersen is starting to communicate better on defense.

“So I’m starting to hear his voice become louder and things of that nature,” Morris said. “They’re exciting to watch. And, you know, obviously he’s healthy, so that always helps.”

Morris hasn’t ruled out playing Andersen with Elliss and Landman in some schemes.

“Watching those three guys out there, man, it’s been fun to watch,” Morris said. “You’re talking about some big humans that can move really quickly and do some special things, particularly with the ball and getting in the way and getting in the way of passing lanes.”

Inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud is working with Andersen.

“There’s more clarity in what he’s telling his front, and that has to come from Barrett,” Morris said.

If Andersen keeps coming on, the Falcons will have a delightful problem.

“These three backers and, who knows, there may be more, but these three guys that (have) well-documented snaps for us and that have gone out there and played a lot of football, is so much fun to watch,” Morris said.

“They do so many good things, it’s almost like three different coaches sitting in a room at the same time. It is going to be exciting to get them on the field. Maybe all at the same time, because they have that type of ability that warrants more playtime.”

Morris said the coaches would have to get creative and innovative to come up with a plan that best uses all of the inside linebackers.

Andersen is adjusting to the new staff while he works his way back into form.

“I think the culture is awesome that he’s created,” Andersen said of Morris.

“Kind of friendly environment where you’re able to come in a work and grind. But being supportive in every aspect. They do a great job (with) nutrition, weight room, training staff and coaching staff. Just kind of all over. Across the board. I think it’s been great so far.”

Andersen is still hoping for his breakthrough season.

“You’re always learning, and I’m learning every single day,” Andersen said. “But it is crazy to be going into Year 3, and I guess (I) understand what offenses are trying to do a little bit more now. Understand (my) job in the scheme and being able to help whoever, whether it be our young nickels or our young linebackers. I’m still learning from them as well. I’m always trying to pick up things and improve.”

Andersen is just fine working with Landman and Elliss.

“Those guys are awesome,”  Andersen said. “Lucky to be in the room with them. Picking their brains. Learning from each other. Competing with each other.

“I’m excited for training camp to come along this season because I think our inside linebacker (group) is going to be pretty special.”



■ QB – Kirk Cousins, Taylor Heinicke, Michael Penix Jr., John Paddock

■ RB – Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Avery Williams, Carlos Washington Jr., Jase McClellan

■ FB – Robert Burns

■ WR – Drake London, Josh Ali, Austin Mack, Casey Washington, JaQuae Jackson, Dylan Drummond, Daylen Baldwin

■ Slot WR – Rondale Moore, Ray-Ray McCloud

■ TE – Kyle Pitts, Charlie Woerner, John FitzPatrick, Austin Stogner, Ross Dwelley

■ LT – Jake Matthews, Tyler Vrabel, Barry Wesley

■ LG – Matthew Bergeron, John Leglue, Ryan Coll

■ C – Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil, Jovaughn Gwyn

■ RG – Chris Lindstrom, Kyle Hinton, Nolan Potter

■ RT – Kaleb McGary, Storm Norton

■ WR – Darnell Mooney, KhaDarel Hodge, Chris Blair, Isaiah Wooden, OJ Hiliare


■ DE – Zach Harrison, Kentavius Street, Demone Harris, James Smith-Williams, Brandon Dorlus

■ NT – David Onyemata, LaCale London, Tommy Togiai, Eddie Goldman, Zion Logue

■ DT – Grady Jarrett, Kentavius Street, Ta’Quon Graham, Willington Previlon, Ruke Orhorhoro

■ LOLB – Arnold Ebiketie, Bradlee Anae, Kehinde Oginni

■ LILB – Kaden Elliss, Donavan Mutin, Milo Eifler

■ RILB – Troy Andersen, Nate Landman, JD Bertrand

■ ROLB – Lorenzo Carter, DeAngelo Malone, Bralen Trice

■ CB – A.J. Terrell, Antonio Hamilton, Jayden Price, Anthony Sao

■ Nickel CB – Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, Trey Vaval

■ FS – Jessie Bates III, Micah Abernathy, Tre Tarpley III

■ SS – DeMarcco Hellams, Richie Grant, Lukas Denis, Dane Cruikshank

■ CB – Clark Phillips III, Natrone Brooks, Kevin King, Anthony Johnson


■ K – Younghoe Koo

■ P/H – Bradley Pinion, Ryan Sanborn