It was only two years ago the Falcons made it to the NFC Championship Game.
But you wouldn’t know it by looking at their linebacker corps.
After last night’s surprise season-ending Achilles tear for star Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons are looking at a total revamp of the second level of their defense, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Weatherspoon started alongside Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas in that NFC Championship Game, and Dent lost his starting job and Nicholas was released.
That will leave them relying on a pair of last year’s undrafted rookies and some of this year’s drafted ones.
Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu were first and third on the team in tackles last year after going undrafted, though injuries made them necessary in the first place.
“The two guys who ended up playing a bunch of games and snaps for us last year, have improved and matured, Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu,” Falcons coach Smith said. “If you would have told me this time last year that those two guys, one was going to be our leading tackler and the other was going to play over 70 percent of the snaps, I would have looked at you and said ‘I don’t think so.’ They are much more mature. We went through some growing pains with them last year and that is going to pay some dividends going forward.”
They’re also counting on four drafted linebackers, all from the later rounds.
Fourth-rounder Prince Shembo, fifth-rounder Marquis Spruill and seventh-rounders Yawin Smallwood and Tyler Starr.
“I really like the rookie class that we brought in,” Smith said. “I think that there are three guys that if they don’t help us on defense right away, they are going to be able to help us on special teams.”
With Weatherspoon out again, they better do more than that.