Atlanta Falcons LBs Disrespected in PFF Position Rankings

With Kaden Elliss, Troy Andersen and Nate Landman in the fold, the Atlanta Falcons have a strong trio of linebackers.
Kaden Elliss leads the Atlanta Falcons' linebacker room.
Kaden Elliss leads the Atlanta Falcons' linebacker room. / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Falcons linebackers room seems to have it all.

A returning leader in Kaden Elliss, who had a standout 2023 season with 122 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. An ascending third-year pro in Nate Landman, fresh off a breakout campaign in which he finished third on the team with 110 tackles and fourth with seven tackles for loss.

Troy Andersen, a talented, high-ceiling player is now healthy after missing the final 14 weeks of last year with a pectoral injury. J.D. Bertrand, a fifth-round rookie from Notre Dame, has drawn strong reviews for his work ethic and instincts.

Yet for as much as the Falcons' linebackers seem to have - production, youth, promise - they don't have the external respect to show for it.

Pro Football Focus ranked the NFL's linebacker cores, and Atlanta placed a lowly 24th, up four spots from last summer's edition.

"Elliss is somewhat limited in coverage, but he has proven himself to be a solid run defender and a useful blitzer," writes PFF's Gordon McGuinness. "A positive step forward from third-year linebacker Troy Andersen would be significant for this unit, with the 2022 second-round draft pick out of Montana State earning just a 40.2 PFF overall grade as a rookie before missing all but two games in 2023."

But while the Falcons may not garner universal praise for the group of linebackers assembled, they remain confident. Andersen said he believes there's a chance for the room to be special, and first-year linebackers coach Barrett Ruud agrees - sparked by the diverse skill sets of the top three players.

"Troy's probably the highest-end athlete - can really run, [is] big, strong, fast, has all the measurables," Ruud said this spring. "Kaden's probably the most versatile, where he can rush the passer, play on the line of scrimmage, covers well on third down.

"And Nate's kind of more of the old-school, box, throwback linebacker."

Falcons head coach Raheem Morris inherited the trio of Elliss, Andersen and Landman this spring and quickly recognized the quality of the group.

From their on-field experience to their communication and leadership, Morris feels the Falcons have "an awesome problem" trying to deciper which two take the field - to the extent Atlanta may play three at times this fall.

"They’ve got different styles of play, they’ve got speed differences, they’ve got hand usage," Morris said during OTAs. "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."

Atlanta's linebackers may be overlooked nationally, but on a defense full of questions, the middle isn't one of them. Instead, it's a strength - and from Morris to Ruud and the players in the room, the Falcons are littered with confidence their linebackers are much better than No. 24 league-wide.

Daniel Flick


Daniel Flick is an accredited NFL writer for Sports Illustrated's FanNation. Daniel has provided boots-on-ground coverage at the NFL Combine and from the Atlanta Falcons' headquarters, among other destinations, and contributed to the annual Lindy's Sports Magazine ahead of the 2023 offseason. Daniel is a co-host on the 404TheFalcon podcast and previously wrote for the Around the Block Network and Georgia Sports Hospitality Media.