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Falcons struggling at linebacker and wide receiver

Atlanta's prime time loss highlighted a few roster deficiencies.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The day after a loss we are usually struggling to find answers for how it all went wrong. Nothing rolled Atlanta's way. There were weird turnovers, especially in the red zone. A blocked punt for a touchdown. One of the worst officiating crews in recent memory.

These are all problems that the Atlanta Falcons should not see often this year.

The other problems we will see a lot.

The linebackers are slooooooooow

Paul Worrilow has been a mixed bag since his rookie year. He shined early compared to a crew of bad linebackers. After a few seasons, we have seen all he can do. He can typically make the tackle, but is terrible in pass coverage. Egregiously bad. Worrilow is a major reason why ancient Ben Watson had a career night against Atlanta. Our linebackers have improved the run defense significantly, but the middle of the field is wide open for easy dink and dunk passing.

The lack of speed is evident, and Atlanta will continue to be gashed by short passes. Dinking and dunking will lead to only so many wins, but can be a big problem for the Falcons.

The wide receivers are much worse than thought

I never thought that losing Devin Hester would limit the pass game so significantly. Julio Jones has been struggling to carry the pass game while dealing with his hamstring injury, because there is no one else to pick up the slack. Roddy White is finally healthy, but is drastically short on speed. He can catch the ball, but at 34, is struggling to do much else. Leonard Hankerson is the complete opposite: he has blazing speed but may have the worst hands in the league. As of this point, he is not even an upgrade over Harry Douglas. Nick Williams has looked good for an undrafted pass catcher, but he is not a #2 wide receiver. Justin Hardy has yet to be active.

Teams will continue to focus on Julio and Freeman, because there is no one else on the roster who can consistently make plays. Hester may not be the most complete wide receiver, but the Falcons could use his elite speed to open up the pass game.

This team is still much better than last year

We probably need some perspective on these roster problems. Every team has roster deficiencies, and all we learned last night was the Falcons did not have a magical turn around. There are still problems that the coaching staff will address during the long week, and the team will address in the offseason. Hopefully we will see some lineup and roster shuffling. The team may try to make a trade or bring in a free agent or two to provide some added competition.

This is clearly a playoff team that has a much improved run defense, offensive line, and run game. Things are clearly looking up, but some of our starters are not playing up to snuff.