If this year's crop of outside linebackers is expected to give the Falcons a little pass rushing jolt, inside linebacker is intended to be the team's second line of defense.
With human tackling machine Paul Worrilow likely grabbing one spot, promising young linebackers Joplo Bartu and Prince Shembo competing for another and steady thumper Tim Dobbins likely grabbing the fourth spot, the Falcons find themselves with a group that should be able to lay the wood. How effective they'll be at everything else is up for debate, but as was the case with OLB, I'm fairly bullish on this group.
Let's take a closer look.
2014 Atlanta Falcons Inside Linebacker Depth Chart
Paul Worrilow, 110 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass deflection
Joplo Bartu, 70 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 4 pass deflections, 1 interception
Prince Shembo: 40 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 pass deflections, 1 interception
Tim Dobbins: 20 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass deflection
As you can see, I anticipate this group will pile up a ton of tackles. Worrilow is the volume guy, and with some improvement in his coverage and anticipation he could have a fine year. The coaching staff doesn't appear to be worried about how he's going to fit in the scheme, and if he's a starter, he'll get his numbers.
Bartu should be the most productive pass rusher of the group, but I don't think his sack total is going to be anything crazy. I anticipate him being the best inside linebacker on the roster in pass coverage, though he'll have his hiccups.
This would represent a fine rookie season for Shembo, who should see plenty of snaps. I do think the Falcons will look to get him after the quarterback from the inside, and while he'll have his rookie struggles, he should be at least somewhat useful in that capacity early.
Dobbins will hit hard when he's in there, but he'll primarily be ticketed to special teams. At this point in his career, there's not a lot of upside.
Overall, though, I think the Falcons are in decent shape here. If one of Bartu or Shembo doesn't step up they'll likely struggle on the interior, but eternal optimist that I am, I can see something like this happening.
Project away, friends.