Prince Shembo's release and the horrifying police report preceding it ensured any discussion of his roster spot would be charged for a while, which is why I've waited nearly a week to dust this one off. At some point, though, we are in the business of writing about the NFL, and the constant winnowing of roster spots and roles on an NFL team stops for no on incident, no matter how grim that incident may be.
So we have to ask what's going to happen in the wake of Shembo's departure. I doubt he would have been a starter for this team, but he was a second-year player with some promise who figured to be a piece of Dan Quinn's rotation at outside linebacker, and someone's going to have to step into that role. That player is most likely to step in for the starting SLB and will be asked to do some pass rushing and work in coverage, so they'll need to have a skill set that fits.
In my mind, the obvious choice is Stansly Maponga, who has shown legitimate pass rushing skills in his limited opportunities up to this point. It's easy to forget that Maponga's just 24 years old, and if he's able to develop further under Dan Quinn's coaching staff, he should be a fine rotational piece for the defense. The major knock on him up to this point has been a lack of consistency, but it's difficult to display any when you don't have consistent playing time, so I look forward to seeing him get a shot.
Your other best options include Joplo Bartu, who has special teams value and may be able to find more success under a new regime, or Tyler Starr, who basically took a redshirt year in 2014 and will hopefully have turned from a promising raw athlete into a more refined player who will be ready to contribute in 2015. I have no idea what the team plans to do with Marquis Spruill, who I like a great deal, but he should probably be in the conversation just in case. Your starters at the two outside spots are likely to be Brooks Reed and Justin Durant, the team's two major free agent signings at the position this offseason.
It's a reminder of why the Falcons went out and got Reed and Durant in the first place, because this is a young, unproven linebacking corps that looms as a major question mark for the Falcons if injury should strike. Whether it's Maponga, Starr, Bartu, Spruill or someone else, let's hope a couple of these guys are ready to step in and deliver quality snaps for this new-look defense.