Undrafted LBs Could Help Pave Way To The Playoffs
If the Atlanta Falcons want to rise up to the mountaintop of the NFC South again, the defense must attack often like a hungry pack of wolves. Someone, or a group of playmakers, must captain the defense and ignite a fire on that side of the ball.
Atlanta gave up a total of 379.4 yards per game last season, tied for 27th in the league with the Jacksonville Jaguars. They also ranked near the bottom in interceptions, opponent’s points per game, sacks and rushing yards per game. LB Sean Weatherspoon missing a good chunk of the season, along with DE Kroy Biermann’s season-ending injury, did not make things any better for the defense.
Despite the injury bug and a below-average defense, the Falcons still managed to end the season on a positive note. I think Weatherspoon’s return had a lot to do with it, for he is the emotional leader of the defense. You can also factor in the defense's ability to slow down the passing game (ranked 12th against the pass) and its 1,050 tackles made and 14 forced fumbles, both in the Top 20. Assuming that Biermann and Weatherspoon will be 100 percent by opening weekend, Falcons fans will be rooting for their team to seal the deal and finally reach the Super Bowl.
But what if Weatherspoon loses time again to due to injury? Who will step up and serve a leadership role?
The answer is found in two undrafted rookie free agents - Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. Both linebackers played in all 16 games and started at least 12 of those. Worrilow ended up leading the team in tackles, while Bartu racked up 85 tackles of his own and sacked the QB 3.5 times. Their stories alone - going from undrafted rookies to the starting rotation - proves that they have the work ethic and motivation to create havoc against offenses for years to come. Their production will help them gain leadership in the locker room in the event that Weatherspoon does go down again or plays ineffectively.
In short, Atlanta should be led by the linebacker corps this season, with the occasional WWE slams from S William Moore. Fans should be looking forward to seeing how the two former undrafted rookies help the Falcons return to the playoffs in 2014.