We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ top offseason moves of 2016. Falcons football is just 27 days away. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
Falcons top offseason moves: #2 Upgrades at linebacker
Linebacker was a problem area for the Atlanta defense last season, one Dan Quinn wasn’t happy to settle for. The Falcons actively sought after upgrades, focusing the search to players strong in coverage.
Stopping the run was a strength of Quinn’s defense, but the unit was consistently burned in the middle of the field by tight ends, running backs and slot receivers.
By now, we understand who Paul Worrilow is. Run-stuffing is his forte, dropping into a coverage a consistent issue however. To have any hope of reaching the next level as a defense, the Falcons needed more talent.
Deion Jones—selected in the second round of April’s draft—is expected to a go a long way to helping patch up the major hole in the middle of the field. Jones possesses lightning speed with an ability to sprint sideline-to-sideline in a flash. His coverage skills will help prevent pass catchers building a head of steam and squashing any momentum built on early downs.
Fourth-rounder De’Vondre Campbell is another pushing for a starting job. Campbell currently sits behind Sean Weatherspoon on the unofficial depth chart, but he, along with fellow rookie Jones, has a great opportunity of starting in Week 1. Weatherspoon’s return to Atlanta was another offseason move made at the position.
Courtney Upshaw—a former Baltimore Raven brought to Atlanta via free agency—has a cloudier outlook. Currently listed as a second-team defensive tackle, Upshaw may be referred to as a former linebacker by the time we hit midseason. In all likelihood, he will split time between the two positions.
Many moving parts have contributed to the change at linebacker, a necessary one for the defense to improve.
Jones is the player to watch. Poised to make a significant impact on the Atlanta defense, the second-rounder can ignite what was once a dormant position for the Atlanta Falcons.