The Atlanta Falcons must draft a linebacker for 2016


Coming into the 2015 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons’ expectations weren’t all that high. After making it to the NFC Championship game in 2012, the Falcons won a combined 10 games in the next two seasons which left them no choice but to fire Mike Smith and revamp a lot of the positions on the team.

Only six NFL head coaches have made it to the Super Bowl in their first year, so thinking that Dan Quinn and the Falcons were going to make that seven was a little far-fetched at the time. However, the Falcons sit a 5-1 on the season and have a great shot at making the playoffs.

Regardless of whether or not the Falcons make it to the playoffs, the team still has several key positions that they need to address in the 2016 NFL draft and free agency. The biggest need has finally come to fruition after the teams’ fist six games of the year.

The Falcons must draft a linebacker in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft.

Whether that be an outside linebacker or a middle linebacker is up to Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli, Dan Quinn and Arthur Blank, but they desperately need somebody that can play the position at a high level.

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Let’s take a look at the Falcons’ first loss of the season for instance. The Atlanta defense was torched in the middle of field by Drew Brees and a guy by the name of Benjamin Watson. Watson caught a carer-high 127 yards on 10 catches, all of which were thrown into linebacker territory.

In the game, Desmond Trufant was targeted once while Robert Alford was targeted twice. Yes, that is a true statement.

Brees completed just two passes of 20 or more yards all game. One on a 22-yard strike to Watson and one to Brandin Cooks on a 26-yard route. However, Brees completed 13-of-13 on throws short left, 9-of-11 of his throws to the middle of the field and 6-of-11 to the short right side of the field.

That’s pretty astounding. Brees was able to pick apart and manipulate the Falcons’ linebackers en route to a 28-of-35 night on short, intermediate passes.

Another thing the Falcons’ defense have struggled against in 2015 is against a running back who can catch the ball. I’m not going to drown you in more numbers, but it’s safe to say that the number of yards allowed to running backs receiving is pretty high thus far.

The Falcons’ current linebacking group consists of middle linebacker Paul Worrilow and outside linebackers Brooks Reed, Justin Durant, O’brien Schofield and Joplo Bartu while Nate Stupar has had his reps as well. Out of this group, only one will be starting in 2016.

Can you guess who that guy is? It’s Reed. The Falcons signed him to a long-term deal, so you can’t expect them to cut ties with him this early. However, the Falcons just might be ready to jump off of the Worrilow bandwagon and rightfully so.

Worrilow had a great story coming out of college. Worrilow made the 53-man roster and won the starting middle linebacker job as an undrafted free agent out of Delaware but hasn’t been very good. His days’ in Atalanta may be numbered.

Durant on the other hand has done a nice job, but has missed a lot of time due to injury. Durant has missed games due to injury everywhere he has played, so this comes as no surprise. But, he isn’t a longterm answer for the team. Nor is Worrilow.

There is no need to start throwing out names as to which linebacker the Falcons will draft. It’s way to early to be guessing because odds are, you will be dead wrong.

Just know that it is looking more and more likely that the Falcons use the 32nd pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft on a linebacker. See what I did there? Yeah, that happened.

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