Dan Quinn and the new regime have made it clear many times that they want the Falcons to be "fast and physical". They've backed up that talk with the free agents and draft picks they brought to the team this offseason. Vic Beasley, Jalen Collins, Justin Durant, Brooks Reed, and Grady Jarrett all have one thing in common: they're very good athletes for the position they play.
One area on the defense that could use an infusion of athleticism is the middle linebacker position. Paul Worrilow has been improved from last season, but he shouldn't the long term solution.
A player that the Falcons should definitely have their eye on is UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. Jack's college career abruptly came to an end when he suffered a torn meniscus in practice, but he's played a such a high level that he'll be in the mix for a first round draft choice come next April.
One of the prominent formations in Atlanta's defense is the 4-3 Under (pictured above). Since the strongside linebacker is a run stopper first in this formation, a lot of stress is put on the middle and weakside linebacker to be able to make plays in space. As much as Paul Worrilow has improved coming downhill and attacking runs in between the tackles, he leaves some to be desired when asked to matchup with tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield.
In situations like this, the Falcons would greatly benefit from having a more athletic player at middle linebacker. This play should've been stopped for a one yard gain, but Lance Dunbar is able to pull away from Worrilow and get the first down.
Myles Jack excels in this area of the game. He was one of the most fluid defenders in the country playing a multitude of spots on UCLA's defense. During his sophomore season he played middle linebacker, weakside linebacker, strong safety and some cornerback. Just from that description, this is a player that coaches can trust to make open field tackles against most offensive players.
Jack definitely won't be a cornerback in the NFL, but look how smoothly he lines up on the boundary and brings down the receiver on the bubble screen. When the Falcons play teams like the Saints that try to get their speedy playmakers out in space, a player of Jack's caliber would be incredible to have.
While Jack is proficient in stopping the short passing game he can make plays down the field that are absolutely breathtaking to see from a linebacker prospect. He truly can cover like a defensive back at times; the next play is one of the most spectacular plays you'll see from a 232 pound linebacker.
Proficiency in coverage is definitely a huge plus for Jack, but good NFL linebackers also have to be able to physically defend the run. His athleticism, natural strength, and instincts aid him in run defense as well. He can defend sideline to sideline and stand up linemen in the box.
He can also play well near the line of scrimmage which is an added bonus for the defense in nickel sets. Going back to his days in Seattle, Dan Quinn likes to "sugar" the linebackers from time to time. That simply means positioning the middle and weakside linebacker in the A-gap's in nickel. It's crucial for the defense to be able to stop the run when with smaller defensive linemen on the field.
On the play above Jack is lined up in the B gap, but he shows a phenomenal ability to move with the flow of the offensive line and sift through traffic for a tackle for loss. He can make the splash plays that change games against the run and pass.
Right now the biggest question with Myles Jack is his health. If his knee checks out and he's able to perform well at the combine and the individual workouts then he'll be in position to make a real impact as a rookie. He's exactly what the Falcons defense is lacking and a perfect fit for the Cover 3 scheme.
It's early to actually predict who the Falcons are going to take, but it's a good exercise to project what their needs are now and what players would fit in well with the system. From a scheme, athleticism, and attitude perspective Myles Jack would be the perfect Falcon and it's a safe bet that Dan Quinn and crew will fall in love with him come draft season.
Other Big Names to Watch:
Penn State versus Indiana (12pm ET, ESPN)
Penn State: DE/DT Carl Nassib, DT Austin Johnson
Temple versus Tulane (12pm ET, ESPNU)
Temple: C Kyle Friend, LB Tyler Matakevich
Clemson versus Georgia Tech (3:30pm ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Clemson: S Jayron Kearse, CB/S Mackensie Alexander, DE Shaq Lawson
Michigan versus Northwestern (3:30pm ET, Big Ten Network)
Northwestern: LB Anthony Walker
Michigan: TE Jake Butt, DE/DT Chris Wormley
Missouri versus Florida (7:30pm ET, SEC Network)
Missouri: LB Kentrell Brothers
Florida: DE Jonathan Bullard
Florida State versus Miami (8:00pm ET, ABC)
Miami: S Deon Bush
Florida State: CB/S Jalen Ramsey, LB Reggie Northrup
Utah versus California (10:00pm ET, ESPN)
Utah: LB Jared Norris