Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mykal Walker has the potential for a breakout season in 2022.
The 6-3, 230-pounder from Fresno State started two games a season ago, posting 35 total tackles across 17 games and recording a crucial pick-six in Atlanta’s one-score victory over the Carolina Panthers. Walker had a growth-filled offseason in the weight room, with his build drawing positive reviews from the Falcons staff.
Walker enters his third season in the league and is expected to take on a larger role in the defense this season, something defensive coordinator Dean Pees feels confident in.
"Mentally, Mykal Walker is top shelf, Pees said. "He really is smart, football smart, understands, communicates. I have no qualms whatsoever about him understanding this defense."
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In his rookie year, Walker entered as a fourth-round pick just looking to make some small impact. Then, with the coaching change in his second season, he had to learn a new defense. But now with his second year in Pees' system, Walker has the confidence to succeed.
"He's got more confidence in that position," head coach Arthur Smith said. "You can hear him at practice; that's what we push the guys to do. Great defenses usually got guys that are great communicators."
The Falcons are working towards having a great defense, something that wasn't the case last year. The team was ranked 29th last season in the league. As a franchise, the Falcons have had a top-10 defense just three times in the last 20 years.
While his third year won’t necessarily go down as a make-or-break season for Walker considering his history of solid contributions, there’s no guarantee he’ll be given another opportunity to seize control of a starting linebacker position. It could be the perfect storm created for Walker to break onto the scene in his third NFL season.