Joplo Bartu has overcome a lot in the past year. He drew minimal interest from NFL scouts as a college senior, going undrafted. He clawed his way onto the Falcons' roster, drawing praise but receiving less attention than fellow undrafted free agent, Paul Worrilow. Then, as a dismal 4-12 rookie campaign drew to a close, he lost his mother to cancer. Talk about adversity.
Now, with the 2014 season drawing near, Bartu has an opportunity. It's an opportunity born from unfortunate circumstances, specifically the Sean Weatherspoon injury. With Spoon out for the year, the Falcons need someone to fill that role. For what it's worth, it appears that's not a huge reach for Bartu.
"Joplo played linebacker on the line of scrimmage last year that was most like what he had done in college," Nolan said after OTAs on June 4. "Not expecting him to contribute so soon, that was our way to allow him to mature. He is now aligned at inside linebacker off the line of scrimmage about 4 yards or so. It is new to him but it is his best position as an NFL player. It fits everything about him. He's done OK so far."
Because the Falcons parted ways with Akeem Dent, Bartu's road to noteworthy playing time is relatively traffic-free. I wrote about this last week, and now the landscape is dramatically different. Bartu is now competing with Worrilow, a middling veteran, a rookie with potential, and two seventh rounders. Tell me he didn't just become way more important.