Linebacker Paul Worrilow led the Atlanta Falcons in tackles for the past three seasons, but is he really a top defender on the Falcons?
The tough and gritty linebacker that sports a beard and the number 55 gets mixed reviews from Atlanta fans. Some love him because of his relentless work ethic, his toughness, and his impressive stat sheet.
However, some aren’t pleased with him starting due to the fact that he often takes poor positions and makes the tackle too late. Many analysts don’t know what to make of the undrafted linebacker—is he still developing, is he having trouble making that killer instinct a reality on the field? Is he lacking support from the other linebackers and secondary, or is he just not starting caliber?
Ever since the woeful 2013 season, the Atlanta defense has been anything but stellar. Players like Desmond Trufant and Jonathan Babineaux were consistent models for success, but the majority of the defense was not up to par.
An especially weak component of Atlanta’s defense for the last several seasons has been the linebacker corps. If a running back breaks past the defensive line, he’s off to the races. If a receiver crosses the middle, he’s probably making the catch. When the opposing offense has opportunities like that, it’s hard to win games.
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But instead of just complaining about the defense, or lack thereof, let’s breakdown the play of Paul Worrilow, middle linebacker and leading tackler of the Falcons.
Worrilow transferred around during his college years, eventually landing at an FCS school, Delaware. He would work his way to being a captain and an FCS All-American, as well as earning several other accolades for his play, hard work, and leadership. Most analysts thought Worrilow would go very, very late in the draft, or be signed as an undrafted free agent immediately following the draft.
As predicted, the young and untamed linebacker was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013 by the Atlanta Falcons, and his rookie season looked to be promising. He led the Falcons in tackles and was named to Mel Kiper’s All-Rookie team. Fans were very high on the young linebacker, expecting him to improve as he developed into his sophomore season.
While Worrilow once again led the Falcons in tackles in 2014 and 2015, his rawness was still very apparent. It became obvious that he is tough kid with no fear for charging at an opposing running back, but he was often caught taking poor position or simply getting beat on plays. In short, he never gave up on any plays, but he often made the tackle too late or made a poorly timed hit.
The biggest flaw with Worrilow’s play is his angling. He is more often than not caught in a bad spot on the field. For example, against the Eagles in Week 1 of the 2015 season, he was constantly handled by the opposing offense. He would attack the offensive line, and get stood up by a tight end.
He would swim through the white Eagles’ jerseys in the attempt to make the play on a screen pass, but was shoved around and eventually knocked down by a hulking offense lineman. Perhaps he has poor field awareness, or maybe he just needs more time in the film room.
His play did approve as the season progressed, racking up tackles and a couple interceptions. However, the entire linebacker corps was exposed in pass coverage with crossing routes becoming basically guaranteed completions.
Worrilow almost always found himself trailing an opposing receiver from behind, making the tackle a second after the catch. It soon became clear that his impressive list of tackles doesn’t mean anything if most of them are too late.
If this raw and aggressive linebacker can learn to play and attack smarter, so he doesn’t find himself fighting off a block several yards down field, as well as work on his coverage of crossing receivers, he can become something great. Worrilow has the physical tools and the proper mindset, he just needs to work on a few things to put everything together.