Undrafted linebacker Paul Worrilow was one of the reasons Atlanta Falcons fans were optimistic coming into 2014. The undersized player added weight, quickly became a starter, and earned play calling duties.
However, this season he has been a disaster. The middle of the field is consistently open, with the likes of Matt Asiata tearing up the defense. The team gives up the 5th most rushing yards in the league and is statistically the 2nd worst defense. For the first time ever, I am thankful for the Jacksonville Jaguars keeping us out of that last spot.
This is not all Worrilow's fault. Mike Nolan has done nothing but force players into roles they are not built for, and Worrilow is among the misfits. It almost feels like Nolan is actively trying to get fired. While Nolan's list of poor decisions continues to grow, one thing that appears clear is that Worrilow is not a good fit for this defensive scheme. Not that I pretend to understand what exactly the defensive scheme is, other than crippling, deflating and infuriating.
Having two big bodies along the defensive line like Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai should allow for an inside linebacker to produce. Instead, Worrilow has gotten trucked, struggled to get off of blocks, and is just washed out in the run game. Despite adding muscle in the offseason, he still lacks the physical play the team needs to slow down opposing offenses. After giving up over 200 yards of rushing to an undrafted free agent running back and a rookie, changes need to be made.
Pro Football Focus has never been a big fan of Worrilow, but he already has the 2nd lowest run defense grade, after only Ra'Shede Hageman. While a bad run defense grade for, say, Robert Alford, is not anything too terrible, but an inside linebacker is problematic. Worrilow's biggest responsibility should be plugging the run, but he has been seriously struggling with that this season.
In order for this defense to turn around, the Falcons need to cut back on the snaps of many players, and I think Worrilow should be one of them. The problem is the team has so few other options at inside linebacker. Joplo Bartu is potentially an even worse scheme fit and Nate Stupar has only been on the roster for about one month.
Realistically, the Falcons need to change their scheme or get a new inside linebacker, from either off the street or through a trade, or other teams will be able to run all over this defense.