Roster Analysis: Part VI

With the defensive front four out of the way, we now turn our attention to the linebackers. This position is normally supposed to be the strength of a team, with athletic wonders stuffing opposing running backs at the line, blanketing tight ends as they search in vain for an open spot in the middle of the field and tracking down quarterbacks for major losses and huge momentum swings. Let’s look at what we have, shall we…….


Part VI-Linebackers

by Dewey

-O’Brien Schofield, Paul Worrilow, Justin Durant, Brooks Reed, Nate Stupar, Philip Wheeler, Tyler Starr

d6_schofieldO’Brien Schofield-contract expired, unrestricted free agent

O’Brien was brought in to be a bit player (20-25 snaps a game) and to help teach his new team their new scheme, having played in it for 2 seasons. Schofield played both OLB and rush DE in Seattle, so his knowledge of the defense permeated both the LB core and DL core. However, due to circumstances beyond his control, Schofield was routinely asked to play in the 35-40 snap count area, something to which his aged/surgically repaired knees were not meant to do. Like a lot of his teammates, O’Brien played better in the 1st half of the season then he did in the latter half. I’m assuming the wear and tear got to him with those knees. Schofield performs much better with a much lower pitch count.

Paul Worrilow-contract expired, restricted free agent

What does it say when your team’s leading tackler 3 years in a row was and UDFA? Yes, Jessie Tuggle was such a player for the Falcons, but Worrilow is not Jessie Tuggle. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Worrilow. Total effort guy, takes no time off in the off-season trying to perfect his craft or work on his body, has a nose for the ball and is always around the action. However, his constant failures to wrap up cause multiple missed tackles during the season, usually in the open field for all to see. And, at least it seems, whenever he has a chance to make a big play on an opposing RB for a major loss, he whiffs on that tackle as well. Most say he is subpar in pass coverage. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, I think he’s just required to cover longer than he’s capable of due to a poor pass rush. That’s not to say Worrilow is an excellent pass defender, but I do think he’s serviceable.

d6_durantJustin Durant-signed through the 2017 season, $3,182,291 cap charge

Cut pre 6/1-$833,334 dead money, $2,348,957 cap savings

Cut post 6/1-$414,666 dead money, $2,765,625 cap savings

Trade-same as pre 6/1

In 2015, Justin was everything you thought he would be. Sure tackler, very active, good in space, good coverage linebacker, smart and injury prone. Durant missed games at different parts of the season for different ailments and still wound up as the team’s #2 tackler. There’s not a lot left to say about him. Durant is everything you could want out of a LB minus the injuries. It makes you wonder what kind of numbers he could put up and what type of an effect he would have on a defense if he could stay healthy for the entire year.

Brooks Reed-under contract through 2019 season, $3,440,000 cap charge

Cut pre 6/1-$3,760,000 dead money, $320,000 cap charge NOT savings

Cut post 6/1-$940,000 dead money, $2,500,000 cap savings

Trade-same as pre 6/1

d6_reedReed was the one big free agent signing we made prior to the 2015 season. Perfect size for a linebacker at 6’4”, 250+lbs and can run. Reed was coming off of an injury, re-injured himself in camp, came back too soon, re-injured himself again, then didn’t make his debut til the 4th game, and I’m not sure he was ever 100% healthy. Stat lines for 2015 are not too impressive: 13 games, 17 tackles, 3 stuffs for -5yards. That’s it. Which isn’t a ton different from his career numbers. 73 career games, 186 career tackles(not even 3/game), 14.5 sacks ,1 forced fumble with 2 fumble recoveries, 1 INT, 16 tackles for loss, 10 passes defensed. And most of those numbers were on defenses that had JJ Watt and Mario Williams, who were getting most of the attention. We’re paying a lot of money for a lot of mediocrity. I guess there’s something to be said for setting the edge, taking on blockers, but at some point you’ve got to fill up the stat sheet don’t you? Hopefully, Brooks comes back healthy in 2016 and given another year in the new system can contribute some numbers, but history is not on his side here.

Nate Stupar-contract expired, restricted free agent

Nate was brought in by the previous regime because of his prowess on special teams. In 2015, due to some injuries and inconsistent play, Nate got to be on the field for a lot of meaningful snaps and didn’t disappoint. Really good in pass coverage, sure tackler who doesn’t over commit can set the edge and even got into the backfield for a sack this past season. If Nate doesn’t watch out, his days as a special teams ace could be numbered.

Philip Wheeler-contract expired, unrestricted free agent

Signed before the week #8 game against Tampa Bay, inserted into the starting lineup week #9 against the Niner’s, Philip did all you could ask from someone in that situation. It really isn’t that far of a stretch to say Wheeler was our best LB in the 2nd half of the season. A veteran of now 4 teams, Philip has had some really good seasons and not so good seasons. At 31 years of age, I don’t believe Philip is in the Falcons long term plans, but it’s nice to know he’s just a phone call away.

Tyler Starr-signed through the 2016 season, $600,000 cap charge

Cut pre 6/1-$0 dead money, $600,000 cap savings

Cut post 6/1-same


What can you say about Tyler? Nothing! Why, because in 2 seasons with the Falcons, we’ve seen more of his hot wife Megan than we have of Tyler. On the team but never dressed out in 2014. On the practice squad until late in the season in 2015. His career stat line: 1 game played, 1 special teams tackle. I’m sorry, but I’m gonna need more to go on than this. At 6’5”, 250lbs Starr looks every bit the part of menacing NFL linebacker down to his flowing, golden locks. Starr dominated the lower football ranks at South Dakota, but that hasn’t translated to anything at the pro level. Whether he’s just not getting the chance or he hasn’t proved he deserves a chance, this is probably the end of the line for Tyler. We’ll miss you Megan!


Tommy Nobis: Pro Bowls ’66, ’67, ’68, ’70, ’72; All Pro ’67.

Analysis: More production is needed from this group. A lot more. With only 3 linebackers currently under contract, there could be a lot of turnover here or we could see some of the old familiar faces return. Probably a mixture of both. With an improved pass rush, the 2015 Falcons linebackers would have probably had better numbers, especially in pass defense. But there aren’t many LB’s in the professional ranks that can keep up with TE’s and RB’s all the way across the field and some 20 yards deep while also trying to keep their eyes on what’s happening in the backfield. If nothing else, the tackling here needs to get shored up.

My Conclusion: I didn’t separate the ILB’s from the OLB’s for a couple of reasons, (1)quite a few of our guys played both, though they are generally suited for 1 or the other, and (2) I don’t believe we have a true ILB in the group. That being said, here goes my breakdown…Brooks Reed stays (sigh). I’ve already eaten a couple of huge contracts with Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai, I’m not about to swallow another one. Plus I hope if he comes back healthy, he can at least produce at the pedestrian level he did in Houston. Maybe he just gets flat beat out and we can cut him post June 1st where we don’t get hit with as much dead money. But for right now, he’s on the team. Nate Stupar is an unrestricted free agent that I want back. With the season he put together, he might be on a couple of other teams’ radar as well. If I tender him at level 3, that’s 1 year at $1.3+ million. If someone else wants him and we don’t match their offer, we only get back a draft pick equal to where Nate was drafted. Nate was drafted in the 7th round. I think someone would go after him and to keep him we would need to match their offer, I’m not giving Nate up for a 7th round pick. So, I’ll tender him a level 2, he’ll get 1 year at $2.0+ million and no one is going to give up a 2nd round draft choice for Nate, so he stays.


Jessie Tuggle: Pro Bowls ’92, ’94, ’95, ’97, ’98.

Justin Durant is without question the toughest call here. He’s obviously the best LB we currently have, but for whatever reason he just can’t stay healthy for an entire season. Just once in 9 seasons (2012 with Detroit) has Justin played in all 16 games. He comes to camp, but if I can find a healthy player that is comparable to Justin’s skill set, I let Justin go. Paul Worrilow is kinda in the same boat as Stupar. Generously listed as our starting MLB, I believe Worrilow is much more suited to being an outside backer. His 2 best statistical games came there 3 years ago when he was thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries(back to back 19 tackle games). Like Stupar, Worrilow is a restricted free agent. Not going to tender him level 3 since he was an UDFA, so we wouldn’t get anything in return if we decided to let him walk. I’ll tender him a level 2, same as Stupar. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone gives up a 2nd rounder for him. I really like Schofield, but those knees of his really limits what he can do, especially if pressed into extra playing time. O’Brien was brought in to mainly help out understanding the new system, I hope that’s not needed in year #2. I let him walk. Philip Wheeler was great when we needed him, but we need to get younger and more athletic here as well, so he’s not invited back. Tyler Starr comes to camp, but he’s got about as much chance of making the club as I do. This isn’t an area we need to go free agent shopping in, this is an area where we need to draft for now and the future.


Keith Brooking: Pro Bowls ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05.

I like a lot of linebackers in this year’s class. Of course there’s Jaylon Smith of the recently torn ACL. I’m not as gung-ho about him as SW is, mainly because of the knee and you never know exactly how someone will bounce back from it, though the medical field has come a long, long way with regards to knees. We need a true MLB. Someone that is going to attack opposing RB’s and wrap them up securely once they’ve gotten hold of them. You all know my love affair with Tyler Matakevich from Temple. A couple of others I really like who would be more outside than inside are Jordan Jenkins from UGA, Kyler Fackrell from Utah State and Deion Jones from LSU, who’s a bit undersized at 6’1”, 228 lbs but can wrap up, cover and runs like the wind for a LB. And lastly, let’s not forget, on my team, Vic Beasley is moving to OLB, at least in base situations.

Conclusion: Reed, Durant, Starr, Schofield, Worrilow and Stupar all come back. Another under the radar UFA is signed and this position is addressed in the draft as well. Quinn has stated that the trenches are where the main concentration will be. He may think, like I do, that our group of LB’s will be better with a better unit in front of them.


After the Weatherspoon disappointment, no new LB candidates on the horizon… yet.

211 thoughts on “Roster Analysis: Part VI

  1. SG

    Is it any wonder that the count for season ticket holders for our temporarily homeless soccer team are outpacing PSLs for the established and over-endured brand of the Falcons?

    1. Grits Blitz

      WWR – But, that’s just the point by those “higher ups”. It’s by design, not accident.
      (Ssshhh. Don’t let the secret out. Operation on A.B.’s dole is a very good gig if you can just get in. As they say “down under”, no worries mate!)

  2. waynesworldreview

    Like you guys (and gals), I read a lot of mock drafts this time of year (since my team is a perennial no-show @ the SB). The vast majority have us going pass rusher with Jaylon Smith from ND getting the most votes followed by Ragland. Ogbah, Floyd, etc are getting a few also.
    I’d love to draft Smith even if he won’t see action early on next season. He’s the most complete LB to come along in a while and (since we probably are looking at a couple more years to turn the ship) would be worth waiting for….

  3. Mr B

    All I have to say is if Tampa Bay finishes above us…..that is gonna be some very bitter crow. I just remember who Ryan grew when Welcome Back had home working out…could it be that the reason we won two division titles had something to do with coaching…I know division titles are not playoff wins, but geez, these are the Falcons. I am afraid DQ might be learning that.

      1. Dewey


        I made the reference the other day that folks are making the Clowney comparison with Robert Nkemdiche, DE/DT, from Ole Miss. Million dollar talent with a 5 cent brain.

    1. Flo-Ri-Duh

      gman – Have not hear of any attitude problems with Jaylon Smith. You guys may want to reconsider before drafting him. He had a very serious knee injury – tore his ACL & MCL. I wouldn’t expect him to play at all in 2016. Myles Jack had a much less serious injury – meniscus tear (not a ligament). His rehab time was estimated at 4-6 months. Jack says he will be taking part in the combine. Doubt he will last to #17 pick but if he does Falcons should jump on him. says he’s 6’1″ 245 lb – others say he’s 230 lb. If healthy he’s what the Falcons need.

      1. Grits Blitz

        Flo – Sorry, but damaged goods are a luxury. (I don’t care if his name is A. P. from the Vikings or Gurley or whoever.)
        We need a full team of able-bodied, healthy young studs – to begin with – for the long haul. These seriously injured/infirmed may be okay for rent-a-types for a year or two as backups, but can’t be counted upon for 16 + games EVERY season for multiple years. (A gamble we can’t afford as this FO takes too big on risk on even the healthy ones w/ apparently little/no talent!)

  4. Dewey

    A little salary cap info….
    The cap for the 2016 season has not been set yet, but it’s estimated to be $154,000,000. Though not exact, these estimates are pretty close. Last year, the cap was estimated to be $144,000,000, but actually ended up at $143,280,000.
    So, using the $154,000,000 as a “jumping off” spot. The Falcons are currently $19,132,519 under the cap.
    In 2015, the Falcons ended up $10,358,832 under the cap. This is important because, if the Falcons choose, they can roll this over into there 2016 cap, or they could choose a lesser amount or choose none to roll over. They need to let the league know 2 weeks before the new league year starts.
    If the Falcons choose to use all of their “rollover money”, they would have around $29,491,351 available under the cap before making any cuts.

      1. Grits Blitz

        FLO – Sadly, the truth once again prevails and you are totally “on to something” very real. Tell it brother!
        (Didn’t they make a movie long ago, trying to keep the facts quiet…”Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte”?)

  5. gman

    I think I’m going to choose to look on the positive side. I choose to believe that this GM (General Menagerie) are DQ’s yes men. He tells them what he wants, they go find it. Spikey handles the contracts…DQ says make it work and TD does so. (that one is actually not swallowing very well). Hopefully TD doesn’t ignore the needs based on price. OR spends all the money on more wasted bodies.

    We shall soon see.

  6. John Waynesworld

    Possible Draft Day trade (someone may have done these):

    ATL – 4th Round (#112) (70 PTS)
    TEN – 5th Round (#128) (44 PTS) + 6th Round (#159) (26.6 PTS)

    Reason – This trade could be do-able due to TEN’s extra 6th round pick. It should be good for TEN because ATL’s 4th round pick is just ahead of TEN’s division rivals IND and HOU.

    Possible Trade #2:

    ATL – 4th Round (#112) (70 PTS)
    CLE – 5th Round (#129) (43 PTS) + 6th Round (#158) (27 PTS)

    Reason – CLE should receive 4 Comp picks (4th, two 5th & 7th).

  7. waynesworldreview

    Excellent scenarios! That’s where many fail when mocking trades–only taking into account the needs of ONE team, instead of BOTH. It takes 2 to deal….

    I love this h’yah! Wish I had thought of it first!!!
    Of course, it shouldn’t be up to the fans, but THE LEAGUE ITSELF to enforce the rules on Celebration and Unsportsmanlike Conduct– yet they look the other way When their “Golden Boy” clearly violates the LETTER and the SPIRIT of the rule.
    Again, I remind Cam Fans that the NFL FINED Carson Palmer for Unsportsmanlike Conduct THE SAME WEEK that Cam swiped the ball from the Game Crew to give to some kid… for a MUCH less egregious violation than Cam commits in EVERY GAME!!!
    Haters Gonna Hate…..

    1. Flo-Ri-Duh

      Scams arrogant, conceited and disrespectful of others. Needs to get a bit of respect knocked in to him like Hageman did last time Falcons played them. Hageman gave Scam something to think about and he was a lot more cautious about running around with the ball.

    2. Dewey

      If Cam were a better loser, I wouldn’t mind his on field antics. I like that he gives balls to children in the stands. I like that he has fun playing the game. It should be fun. But he needs to handle both sides of the game. When he pouts, sulks, won’t talk to his teammates, it’s so damn childish I can’t stand it. Tiger Woods was the exact same way before all the scandal. Pumping his fist, yelling. You ever see him when things weren’t going well? I swear sometimes I thought he was going to start crying right there on the course. Nobody likes losing, but you need to handle it correctly. I’m currently trying to teach my 6 year old daughter this exact same lesson, the 8 year old is a little better at it now. Lord help me if they’re still acting like this in their mid 20’s like some people are.

      1. SG

        It’ll be interesting to see if he’s actually matured, as Rivera, Kuechly, Johnson, and Newton their beat writer, have professed, if the Panthers lose the SB.

  8. waynesworldreview

    Oh–and one other thing about Jaylon Smith. His coach at ND called him a “generational player at his position” He’s a good character kid. Coach Kelly said that “he’s expected to make a complete recovery” after his ACL/MCL tear (same as Gurley). I’m sure we’ll argue plenty about drafting an injured player but this kid is special–fast, instinctive–there really are no “holes” in his game. I’d take him over the also-injured Myles Jack or the much slower Reggie Ragland. Drafting Smith, while risky, offers a MUCH greater long-term return on investment…. It may not matter since IF the news on his recovery is positive he could go MUCH higher– if he’s still there, it’ll be a miracle…

      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        Situation a few recover to b as fast and strong as ever but some never make it back. Marcus Lattimore was a prime example of that. Always felt that Spurrier brought him back to soon after surgery and when he brought him back he was at full workload after a game or two.

  9. John Waynesworld

    Thanks, WWR.

    Concerning Newton, I don’t even like to speak of him more than this…he is the enemy, pure and simple, just like Brees and (now) Winston. For all those home-town cheering, tookus lickers (like the idiots on the Falcons’ flagship station) that think Newton’s success is somehow Atlanta’s because of his having lived here, I say wake the hell up. As we have already witnessed, every time Newton comes down to Atlanta to play in his “beloved” home town, his #1 goal is to win, but his #2 goal is to embarrass the Falcons in front of their own fans. I hope the Denver defense pummels him.

  10. Wings

    I apologize about the “FIVE general managers” comment posted yesterday. I was wrong.

    There are actually SIX general managers in various spots according to Buck Belue on 680 The Fan.

        1. Hamad Meander

          Plus, the amount of knowledge and common sense that a Cage contributor would bring to the discussion would blow their minds.

    1. JB Falcon

      I once was an assistant coach for a little league baseball team, do you think I could snag one of those GM titles. I could use the money!

    1. Flo-Ri-Duh

      JWW – has a big board top 100

      My #1 pick for the Falcons is their #1 on the Board : Myles Jack (LB)
      * Some say Jaylon Smith is better – don’t think so.
      My 2nd choice for the Falcons is their #10 on the Board: Andrew Billings (DT)
      *This kid is only 19 yrs old! When he grows up he’s going to be an All-Pro
      My 3rd choice for the Falcons is their #19 on the Board: Cody Whitehair (G/OT)
      * The next GREAT guard in the NFL has All-Pro capability as a rookie

      1. John Waynesworld

        Flo, I do like the pick but when I heard that Miles was going to be ready for the Combine, I knew we didn’t stand a chance to get him. His projections have been steadily climbing in the past week. I also like the Billings pick and I hope we get him to pair with Jarrett. I have seen projections from 1st to 2nd round on him. I just read somewhere that there are strong predictions that Billings will break the Combine bench press record (51) set by Justin Ernest in ’99. If he breaks that record we won’t see him at #50, unless we take him at #17. I wouldn’t mind that pick a bit as he absolutely demands double-teams.

        1. Flo-Ri-Duh

          JWW – Myles Jack (LB), as you say, probably a top 10 pick if he tests and checks out health-wise. DT may be deepest position in this draft – Falcons MUST take a DT while the irons hot. Position yourself with the idea of off-loading the huge contracts of Soliai/Jackson in the not to distant future and at the same time UPGRADING your DL.

          Would love: if Jack is gone at #17
          #1 Billings (DT)
          #2 Whitehair (G)

  11. Grits Blitz

    Wings – Perhaps they could add a 7th former G.M. and then move him interchangeably (from O to D) as Asst. Coach for Slot Receivers, FBs, MLBs, and Punt/KO Returners.
    All these phony G.M.s = Arthur’s current version of … “Mad Men” (with, of course, himself as Mad Max under the new nest, Thunderdome Two.

    1. gman

      Guys, guys, don’t you get it. The “Round Table” has to be full before the new throne opens. He’s not quite there yet.

  12. Flo-Ri-Duh

    article by Leadbelly : Dan Quinn is heavily scouting Reggie Ragland (ILB) at the Senior Bowl and was impressed by him. Ragland is expected to go mid-1st Rd 15th to 20th range. Quinn said Ragland is bigger than he thought he was and Quinn said he “felt” the speed when Ragland covered the TE’s in practice successfully. Could this be the next “Luke Kuechley”?

    According to scout Daniel Jeremiah the biggest “buzz” and surprise is Carson Wentz (QB), North Dakota State, 6’5″ 230 lb. Say he can make all the throws, is polished in the pocket and has an NFL arm.

    Arthur Blank says he will definitely make a bid for the 1st available Super Bowl slot which will be in 2019.

  13. Flo-Ri-Duh

    Dewey – I got me a problemo with the front office on WHEN contracts should be negotiated and signed.

    TD, evidently, never took “Common Sense 101” in school when it comes to negotiating. Here we go again already.
    Desmond Trufant’s contract expires at the end of the ’16 season. TD should have negotiated and extended his contract a year ago.
    Robert Alford – DITTO!
    * According to both of these guys are UFA’s at the end of ’16. That’s right UFA’s – not RFA’s.
    As The Cage knows this means the Falcons GM – TD has ZERO leverage in negotiations and the agent for these guys will be out there doing his job, which is getting his guy the best contract he can, which means if the Falcons want to keep these guys they are going to have to bid HIGHER than anyone else….. which means T.D. now stands for Too Dumb.

    Guess it’s a good thing they drafted Jalen Collins since one of the current starters (possibly both) will likely be elsewhere in 2017. Maybe Collins was drafted with that in mind? A frightful thought unless Collins has grad-e-ated from daycare to college by ’17 season.

    Phillip Adams (CB) was serviceable but could go elsewhere for a bigger payday. There are plenty of Phillip Adams out there in UFA so I’m not fretting over it to much.

    Travis Howard (CB) – Where am I – Why am I here?

    Akeem King (CB/SS) – Played both CB & S in college. His size says he should be best suited at SS. Versatile enough to play either in a pinch coming off the bench.

    Ricardo Allen (FS) is a ERFA in ’16 : Exclusive Rights Free Agent – Which means if the Falcons make the NFL minimum offer to Allen for one season he is theirs. Expect they will do a little better than that and expect Allen to be on the roster in 2016. Long -term however is doubtful due to some of the limitations Dewey mentioned (size being among them).

    Robenson Therezie (FS) – signed through ’16 and a RFA in ’17. A decent backup when healthy.

    Charles Godfrey – agree he’s gone.

    William Moore (SS) – Oft injured is the problem and a shame. Should be released but a TD/AB favorite. Just got a feeling he will get one final year in ’16 and a SS will be drafted in ’17…. but if this is truly DQ’s say then he could be gone. Even a trade is possible to a team willing to take a chance and needing one final piece to their puzzle? At least that way the Falcons could recoup part of $$$$ down the crapper.

    Kemal Ishmael (SS) – May not start in ’16 but will likely end up starting eventually if W Moore is still on the roster. If W.M> is cut/traded then Falcons will draft a SS 2nd/3rd Rd as the new starter. If so, Ishmael could be in his final year with the Falcons.

    Dewey – No major disagreement with you here… but have to admit I skipped the rant. A BIG question is where will Trufant and Alford be in ’17?
    A strength in ’16 could turn bad if these guys aren’t extended BEFORE their contract runs out. TD means To Dumb.


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