Let’s take a brief look at the Falcons roster and see how many players will be logging time at defensive end in 2017, shall we?
- Vic Beasley
- Adrian Clayborn
- Derrick Shelby
- Jack Crawford
- Courtney Upshaw
- Probably an early round rookie draft pick
- Brooks Reed
That’s likely seven names. Out of all of those players, only Beasley and perhaps the rookie in question are going to be able to log time at linebacker, as the other guys figure to be more inside-out defensive linemen who are options at defensive tackle.
Now let’s look at the list of players who figure to be featured at linebacker.
- Deion Jones
- De’Vondre Campbell
- LaRoy Reynolds
- Kemal Ishmael
- Josh Keyes
That grouping is considerably less deep. Reynolds is a solid linebacker and special teams asset, Ishmael looked interesting at linebacker last year, and Keyes has some promise. That group is missing a clear cut third starter for when the Falcons have three linebackers at the field at once, and could use more depth.
Enter Brooks Reed. He spent much of last year playing defensive end, occasionally excelling and mostly just playing solid football there. He’s going to get snaps regardless at end, but he’s got a ton of experience at linebacker, and there’s a clearer path to playing time available to him there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, and Brooks Reed on the field together on obvious run downs, and it might be the optimal situation unless the Falcons land a linebacker on Day 1 or Day 2 in April.
If Reed can’t get on the field at linebacker, chances are he’ll be lightly used, and probably on the chopping block this time next season. We’ll see what his summer brings.