I suspected the Falcons signed Philip Wheeler as insurance against Justin Durant's elbow injury lingering, and thought that perhaps he could get some play on third downs, where the Falcons have scuffled mightily in coverage. It appears I should have entertained the latter more than the former.
Quinn: we like the coverage ability and speed of Philip Wheeler. Will get trained at ILB. #ATLvsTEN— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 21, 2015
Per our own Jeanna Thomas, Quinn added that he'll get time at weakside linebacker, as well. If he can get up to speed quickly, Joplo Bartu is the guy most likely to lose snaps overall.
It's no secret that the team's current linebacking corps struggles to cover tight ends and running backs, particularly in zone, and if Wheeler is going to be compete for snaps, his likeliest role initially would be to push players like Paul Worrilow and Bartu off the field on some third downs, when that coverage ability becomes critical. This is, of course, an educated guess based on Wheeler's reputation as a solid coverage player, but he has to earn his way onto the field, and it's anyone's guess how quickly he'll be able to do that after sitting in free agency for the last six weeks and putting together a disastrous 2014 campaign with the Dolphins.
We'll see what he can bring to the table in the weeks ahead, but I would not be surprised if Wheeler's inactive against Tennessee.Those hoping he'll come in, start and drastically transform the team's corps of linebackers may need to pump the brakes a little bit.