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Falcons training camp battles: Who wins the middle linebacker gig?

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Will it be Paul Worrilow, Deion Jones, or LaRoy Reynolds? Our roundtable of writers has spoken!

Paul Worrilow Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The fight for the middle linebacker gig for the Falcons is one of the most hotly-contested battles on the roster, and there are at most three genuine competitors for the job.

Those players are Paul Worrilow, who has spent the last three years starting but has failed to lock down the job long-term; second round rookie Deion Jones, who offers a ton of speed and intriguing upside but may not be an impact starter year one; and LaRoy Reynolds, an expected special teamer who could hang on around during the summer. It’s widely expected that it will come down to Worrilow and Jones, though.

Our roundtable of writers weighed in on the battle, and here’s who they expect to win out.

Caleb Rutherford

MLB: Paul Worrilow….for now

I’m convinced we’ll be trotting Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell (spoiler alert) out at two of our LB positions before the season is over. The emphasis on drafting specific kinds of LBs we’ve lacked severely over the years suggests to me that they’re not coming to Atlanta to ride the bench. That said, I do think Worrilow’s experience wins out initially, but by season’s end, don’t be surprised if Deion Jones is calling the shots.

The DW

MLB: Deion Jones

All signs point to Worrilow starting again, but speed kills, and Jones is considerably faster than Worrilow. While he will need to learn the nuances of the Quinn defense, the difference in athleticism will be too substantial to ignore. Given the Falcons inability to cover tight ends and running backs in 2015, boosting the speed in the linebacking corps is critical - and Jones is a clear upgrade over Worrilow in this department.

Dave Choate

MLB: Deion Jones

If the Falcons weren’t emphasizing athleticism and speed, I’d give this one to the relatively steady, veteran Paul Worrilow, who has a ton of starting experience and still may have his best seasons ahead of him. Worrilow is a fine athlete in his own right, but Jones has the quickness and coverage ability to be a huge asset over the middle, even if he’s likely to have his growing pains, and I think he’s going to get the opportunity to learn on the job.

Kendall Jackson

MLB: Deion Jones

Editor’s Note: Tragically, Kendall could not finish his writeup due to an advanced case of forgetfulness.

Allen Strk

MLB: Deion Jones

Unlike Ra’Shede Hageman and Jalen Collins, who were recent second round draft picks, the Falcons aren’t going to hesitate with Deion Jones. The coaching staff should realize that Paul Worrilow isn’t a starting-caliber middle linebacker. Although there will be plenty of growing pains with Jones, there is simply no upside playing Worrilow for 40 snaps a game. Jones’ speed and instincts should make him an instant upgrade in coverage. If he can add more muscle and learn to take on blocks more effectively, then he should be utilized as a full-time starter rather than only in their nickel package.

William McFadden

MLB: Deion Jones

Dan Quinn wants his players to be fast and physical, and Deion Jones has the former trait in spades. I’ve never been one to place an excessive amount of blame on Paul Worrilow, but it’s become clear that his best use is probably in a reserve role. If Jones can pick up the playbook quickly, he should be able to establish himself in the middle of this defense.

Matt Chambers

MLB: Paul Worrilow

I hate making this selection more than I hate raisins in cookies, and don’t get me started on the disappointment in finding out those things are not chocolate chips. We know what we have with Worrilow, which is not much. But it would be expecting a lot for Jones to catch up to the speed of the game, put on a bunch of weight, and learn the playbook by week 1. Feels like Worrilow gets plenty of time as the starter this season, with Jones taking more reps as the season progresses.