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Falcons 2016 roster review: Middle linebacker

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Place your bets.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There's a battle set to brew in the middle of Atlanta's defense.

Incumbent middle linebacker Paul Worrilow, the undrafted free agent who has been the starter for the past three seasons, will attempt to stave off rookie second-rounder Deion Jones.

Paul Worrilow

There's a lot to like about Worrilow.

The Falcons signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Delaware back in 2013, and he became a full-time starter just six games into the season, finishing the year with 127 tackles. Worrilow followed up with 142 tackles the following season, and that number dropped to 95 in 2015.

What's undeniable about Worrilow is his work ethic and overall desire to get better — whether it's packing on more muscle or sitting down with film in the offseason. And his captain status for last year can't be ignored, as it proves he's viewed as a leader within the locker room.

With that said, it's clear Atlanta needs an upgrade. While Worrilow may have the intelligence and — at some length — the instincts to play the run, he ultimately doesn't have the athleticism, speed or coverage ability to be a playmaker.

Still, the Falcons coaches see value in him, as evident by the second-rounder tender they used on him.

Deion Jones

Dan Quinn said he wanted the Falcons linebackers to get faster, and the rookie linebacker out of LSU brings 4.38 speed to the table. Jones played weakside linebacker while in school and he'll likely have to pack on a few more pounds to play the middle, but he certainly has the ability to be what Atlanta needs.

He's able to cover both tight ends and running backs out the backfield — things the Falcons have struggled mightily with the past years — and make plays from sideline to sideline. When's the last time Atlanta had that in the middle.

However, Jones is still a rookie and the NFL has a pretty steep learning curve, so it may take a bit before he can truly play up to his speed.

LaRoy Reynolds

Reynolds figures to be Nate Stupar's replacement on special teams. If he makes it onto the field on defense, something has gone terribly wrong.

Even if Worrilow does win the starting spot, expect Jones to be used in passing situations.

How do you think the middle linebacker battle will unfold?