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Dan Quinn wants faster linebackers

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Atlanta's defense took a major step forward under Dan Quinn, but the roster still has a few glaring weaknesses.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

One those top weaknesses? The Atlanta Falcons lack any semblance of speed at linebacker. If a play requires the likes of Paul Worrilow to win a footrace, Atlanta is going to have a bad play. Quinn realizes this is a problem, and is looking for a thumper with sideline to sideline speed.

ESPN's Vaughn McClure caught up with Quinn, who just finished up looking at Senior Bowl prospects.

"We certainly want to find ways to see our speed and tackling at linebacker (improve)," Quinn said.

His reference was to both free agency and the draft. Quinn caught a glimpse of what type of speed some of the draft prospects possess during last week's Senior Bowl.

"I haven't dug in all the way with the group, but I have a real clear vision of what I'm looking for," Quinn said. "It's the space tackling. In college football right now, there are so many spread offenses. So space and tackling, that's where so much of the game is.

The pro game has moved away from the run heavy schemes, and Atlanta's roster has failed to keep up. The Falcons have struggled in third down situations in part due to their slow linebackers, who typically get winded when first running onto the field.

McClure correctly points out that Atlanta's fastest linebacker is Justin Durant, who is not only typically dealing with injuries but is also not very fast. Brooks Reed was injured through most of last year, but was never known as someone who can keep up pace with a quicker running back. Worrilow has always suffered from speed issues, and realistically should be limited to running downs.

McClure points out a few potential targets for Atlanta based on their game speed: Alabama's Reggie Ragland, LSU's Deion Jones, Kentucky's Josh Forest, Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith, UCLA's Myles Jack, and Ohio State's Darron Lee. There are a few free agents that could fill in, but none that jump off the page as a great addition. Expect Atlanta to add at least one speedy linebacker in the first two days of the draft.