Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn inherited a decimated linebacker corps. It was an unenviable position but he certainly made the best of it. In just over two years, he’s undertaken a wholesale conversion of that unit. It’s now full of young, talented players.
2016 draft picks Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell took on a lot of responsibility as rookies last season. Last month the Falcons added another speedy linebacker, Duke Riley. And while it appears Jones’ role at middle linebacker is clear, it’s fair to wonder how the selection of Riley impacts Campbell going forward.
ESPN’s Vaughn McClure just wrote up a great piece on this subject. In short, McClure believes this is a good problem for the Falcons to have. And, of course, Quinn knows exactly what he’s doing.
When three linebackers are on the field, Campbell is expected to play the strongside linebacker spot. It shouldn't be too difficult of an adjustment, considering the Falcons often played fronts where the Will linebacker was on the line of scrimmage. The "Sam" linebacker lines up over on the tight end's side, and Campbell is a guy with the reputation for covering tight ends.
Basically the Falcons want to see him step up against the run while focusing on blitzing and covering the opposing tight end. Simple enough, no? They want him to take his strengths and put them to good use - nothing crazy about that. Quinn predictably expects Jones and Riley to follow suit.
"I'll basically just open it up to see who can do it the best," Quinn said. "That's what I'm looking to see between 'Dre and Debo [Jones] and Duke, and how does everybody fit, and how do we play them all. All of the guys have unique stuff, and it's our jobs to feature that in the best way. I'm pumped all three are here, and we're going to find lots of ways to utilize them."
It’s hard to have too much youthful talent on a football team. In fact it’s nearly impossible. But Quinn is going to give it his best shot.