Inside linebacker is never the flashiest position. It's a position typically occupied by gritty, stout men with epic chips on their shoulders. And as inside linebackers go, we've got a couple good ones.
If you're heavily invested in advanced statistics, the PFF ratings received by Paul Worrilow and Akeem Dent may disappoint you.
It's worth noting that both Worrilow and Dent played in less than 50 percent of the Falcons' defensive snaps. Worrilow played in 481 defensive snaps, while Dent played in 362. On occasion, they even played together.
Worrilow's negative rating is primarily attributable to what he did after week 10. He rated negatively in 5 of the last 7 games, struggling heavily against the run in the games against Buffalo, Washington, and San Francisco. To Worrilow's credit, his best game of the season came against the Panthers in week 17, when he graded out positively against the run and as a pass rusher.
Overall, Worrilow struggled at times this year, especially in coverage. But when we needed him (i.e., against the run), he could usually be counted on. His season rating against the run ranked 9th in the NFL.
Akeem Dent is, of course, a contentious figure. After Curtis Lofton's departure, Dent was the heir incumbent. Then 2013 happened. He graded out negatively in 6 of the Falcons' first 8 games. In the second half of the season, he struggled with injury and Paul Worrilow effectively took over, even calling plays.
Overall, Dent, like Worrilow, graded out positively against the run (15th in the NFL among ILBs). He's arguably better than Worrilow in coverage, notwithstanding a couple of lackluster performances in the first 2 weeks of the season.
In my mind, Dent and Worrilow are an effective 1-2 punch. They're both very capable against the run, and they're both lacking in coverage skills. Worrilow's ability in coverage could improve with some additional coaching, while Dent's has probably peaked. Going forward, it's fair to assume both men will be an integral part of the Falcons' defense. If I had to guess, Worrilow will log more snaps in 2014, with Dent assuming a back up role.