Last year, the Falcons went with a linebacker grouping of Justin Durant (no longer with the team), Brooks Reed (injured, out of shape, and ineffective) and Paul Worrilow (up and down), with the likes of Philip Wheeler, Kroy Biermann, and others mixed in. It was not, to put it charitably, a great group.
This year's group may not be either, but the Falcons have added options and will, as linebackers coach and cliche master Jeff Ulbrich puts it, let "the cream rise to the top."
"We’ve created enough competition that whatever three backers start for us, they are going to be good ones," Ulbrich said.
Right now, the Falcons have rookies Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell, veterans Worrilow, Reed, Wheeler, Sean Weatherspoon, LaRoy Renolds, and of course Vic Beasley competing for three spots, with plenty of rotation likely in the offing no matter who wins. What's intriguing about that group is that between Campbell, (maybe) Reed, Wheeler, Jones and Beasley, there's a lot of athleticism that the team simply hasn't shown us in years. With the renewed focus on the pass rush and on not missing gobs of tackles, I like this group's chances of not being a soul-sucking nightmare this season.
Ulbrich, of course, likely has a better idea than we do who he is going to win these spots, but the early favorites are Beasley, Wheeler, and Jones on early downs and Wheeler and Jones in nickel sets. I'll leave that to you to debate.
As has been the theme of the offseason, the Falcons are unlikely to have a great set of linebackers in 2016, but the unit should be significantly improved.