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For linebacker Nate Stupar, tomorrow is a big opportunity

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The 27-year-old core special teamer draws a start at middle linebacker, and gets a chance to prove he belongs there.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Worrilow has been such a durable fixture at middle linebacker over the last three seasons, despite being one of the most divisive players on the roster, that it's a genuine surprise when he doesn't suit up. Someone has to step up in his absence, and that someone is going to get a long look from the coaching staff.

This is a rare opportunity for Nate Stupar, who enters tomorrow with 27 tackles, one sack, and a huge fumble recovery for a touchdown earlier in the year. He's largely been relegated to his familiar special teams role since the Falcons got Brooks Reed and Justin Durant reasonably healthy and back on the field, but Stupar showed genuine flashes of ability when he was getting real snaps on defense.

For a special teamer like Stupar, especially one who will be a restricted free agent next year, showing value on another unit is the best way to ensure you stay employed. I think the Falcons have seen enough between Stupar's usually excellent play for Keith Armstrong and those glimpses on defense to earn another contract from Atlanta, but he'll never have a better opportunity to make that case than right now, drawing a start in the middle for a player with a somewhat cloudy Falcons future. I don't expect Stupar to ever step into a starting role full-time, but with every linebacker on the team either disappointing or on a one year deal thus far, a nice game here would likely be enough to seal a backup spot for him in 2016.

Let's see what he does with the opportunity.