The Falcons are expected to keep five linebackers going into 2019. We know that Deion Jones, Foyesade Oluokun, and De’Vondre Campbell will start in the base defense and are guaranteed roster spots. That means Jermaine Grace, Duke Riley, Bruce Carter, Chase Middleton, Del’Shawn Phillips, Tre’ Crawford, Richie Brown, and Yurik Bethune are battling for two roster spots.
The least surprising thing we have seen from the linebackers is Grace looking like a playmaker. Fans will remember him from his time on the preseason roster and practice squad. He made himself known on the field and looks to have only gotten better since his last stint with the team. He’s also a great athletic fit for Dan Quinn’s defense, fitting the look of a smaller, quicker linebacker.
The most surprising thing we have seen from the linebackers is Duke Riley looking like a playmaker. He always had desirable speed but was unable to do anything with it in his first two seasons with the Falcons. He filled in for an injured De’Vondre Campbell and stuffed Derrius Guice on the goal line after shedding a block. He finished the day with six tackles. It was only part of one game, but Riley easily looked better than he ever has.
We have had veteran Bruce Carter penciled in as the team’s fifth linebacker but he is having a very poor season. Already 31, and perhaps the team’s slowest linebacker, it does not make much sense to keep him around over the likes of Grace and Riley.
If both Grace and Riley earn roster spots, the team would have one of the youngest and fastest linebacker group in the league. The team would finally have great depth at linebacker if preseason is any indication. If both players keep it up next week, they should be guaranteed to stick with the team.