Paul Worrilow heads into 2015 with a new coach, plenty of rumored additions at linebacker and a deeply uncertain role. As dire as that sounds, however, I fully expect Worrilow to be a big part of the team's plans on defense.
Worrilow is quite simply one of the team's natural leaders, an incredibly hard worker and good guy that every locker room would like to have, and he's a capable run defender who can be useful as a pass rusher. I think everyone genuinely likes and admires Worrilow the person, but overexposure has caused many of us to question his talent.
As a primarily two down, run-stopping linebacker who can blitz on third downs in a pinch, Worrilow is a valuable, cost-effective player who should be able to carve out a significant role on Dan Quinn's defense. Quinn has talked about fast and physical, and while Worrilow has work to do on technique, he fits the bill there. When he was forced to play nearly every snap and drop into coverage, which is his persistent weakness through two years, problems arose, and the Falcons didn't have anyone they trusted enough to give Worrilow a breather.
That brings us to mea culpa time. You'll recall the kerfluffle that arose last offseason when I predicted Worrilow might be cut, a prediction I've come to deeply and inevitably regret. My thinking at the time was that with a healthy Sean Weatherspoon and four drafted linebackers, either Joplo Bartu or Worrilow would be on the chopping block, and I figured Bartu would be the one to stick. I was wrong on that on all levels, but once 'Spoon and Spruill went down and Smallwood was cut, I looked really foolish. Full stop, I underestimated Worrilow and the team's admiration for him, and I'm not going to make the same mistake again, even if the coaching staff has been drastically changed.
I don't know what Worrilow's future will be once his rookie contract is up, but he's already had far more success than the average undrafted free agent, and I do believe he'll have a role with Quinn. You can expect to see his snaps scaled back—perhaps significantly—but if they improve the defense around and let him do what he does best, I anticipate he'll put together a successful 2015. He'll just need to carve out that role in June, July and August.
What are your expectations for Worrilow?