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Falcons Roster Review 2015: A look at the linebackers

The Falcons are in need of massive upgrades at the linebacker position.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake about it: the linebacking corps was far and away the worst unit on Atlanta's defense.

In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to call the group the worst in the league.

It didn't help matters that Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons' best linebacker and leader, missed the season after rupturing his Achilles in June.

The good news is Weatherspoon is in Atlanta's plans for next season and he certainly fits the fast and physical brand of football new head coach Dan Quinn is looking to establish.

The bad news is the Falcons are still desperate for linebackers.

Let's take a closer look.

Paul Worrilow

Paul Worrilow earned the job as the starting middle linebacker back in 2013 and kept that spot for all of last season.

On paper, Worrilow's stats are exactly what you want from an inside linebacker in the league: in 2013, he racked up 127 tackles and last season he finished with 142. To go along with this tackles, he also notched two sacks in each season.

But numbers don't tell the entire story, especially when they're tackles — an unofficial statistic, according to the NFL.

Tackles also aren't impressive when they're made well beyond the line of scrimmage.

According to Pro Football Focus, Worrilow ranked next to last among inside linebackers — only the Oakland Raiders' Miles Burris graded worse. In 10 games, Worrilow had a negative grade.

He was especially bad in coverage — third worst at his position with a -12.2 rating from PFF — as he often found himself trailing his assignment.

For an undrafted free agent out of Delaware, Worrilow performed admirably. But as last season proved, he's not exactly starter quality, nor is he the three down player Atlanta deployed him as.

In defense of the coaches, they didn't have anyone better to take Worrilow's position. On that same token, it's also an indictment.

Joplo Bartu

Like Worrilow, Joplo Bartu earned his starting position as an undrafted free agent.

Also like Worrilow, Bartu showed very clearly he shouldn't be a starter in the league as he, too, finished with a negative PFF grade in 10 of 16 games.

The Texas State product looked a lot better when he was an outside linebacker in 2013. That season, he showed athleticism and good instincts as he made good plays in the run game and finished with 3.5 sacks.

The move to the inside hurt Bartu as he wasn't as instinctive nor did he flash the speed he did in 2013. He finished the season with 82 tackles and one sack.

Perhaps Bartu finds himself a role as the Falcons head toward a simpler defense. If so, he'll certainly be able to play much faster than he did in 2014.

Prince Shembo

There was a lot of hype throughout the offseason for rookie Prince Shembo, the Falcons' fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame.

Drafted as an outside linebacker, the Falcons moved him to the inside and he seemed to be catching on quickly. He ended up eating into Bartu's snaps and started three games.

Shembo was the only linebacker who ended up with a positive PFF grade for the season, posting his highest mark (1.6) in his first start back in Week 4.

He notched 59 total tackles with a season-high coming against the New York Giants in Week 5.

Ultimately, like Bartu and Worrilow, Shembo probably works best in a part-time role.