Here's what the Atlanta Falcons' linebackers currently under contract did in 2015, in case you forgot.
- Paul Worrilow started 15 games, putting up impressive surface numbers, but struggling in coverage again
- Brooks Reed started just five games and put up 17 tackles, looking slow and out of sorts
- Sean Weatherspoon played fewer than 200 snaps for an injury-ravaged Cardinals defense
- Tyler Starr had great hair and got in the last game of the season
If you were going to point to one position group as being a fundamental part of Atlanta's ongoing struggles with defense, linebacker would top the list, and they've actually lost three of their better players there (Philip Wheeler, Justin Durant, Nate Stupar), with no real indication any of them are coming back. That is, to put it mildly, problematic.
That's why what Vaughn McClure wrote yesterday about the Falcons double-dipping at linebacker in the draft makes so much sense. You can patch over guard this year with Alex Mack on board, and you can squint and see enough upside between all the guys competing for the strong safety job to not sink significant draft capital into that position, but you cannot ignore linebacker and expect this defense to function properly. Unless Worrilow, Reed, 'Spoon and/or Starr take massive steps forward, you need at least two young, athletic players added to the mix here.
Expect Darron Lee, Reggie Ragland, Deion Jones, and several others to be in the mix as the Falcons try to restore a position that used to boast stalwarts like pre-injury Sean Weatherspoon, Michael Boley, and even Mike Peterson to its former glory. I'm not convinced they'll double dip in the first and second rounds just yet, but let's just say it's a believable outcome.