Three summers ago, I made predictions about what the Atlanta Falcons roster might look like in 2015. Recently, I revisited those predictions to discover just how oddly accurate and wildly inaccurate they were in most cases.
But in so doing, it got the creative juices flowing once more to try and do it again, this time predicting what the Falcons roster might look like three years from now in 2018. As I did then, I will break down each position group with the goal of examining a pathway that the Falcons roster could go down.
Now that defensive line has been discussed, it’s time to turn towards the linebackers…
Vic Beasley makes the switch permanently to outside linebacker in 2017, playing there on early downs before kicking down to become a pass-rusher at defensive end on third downs, similar to how Dan Quinn utilized Bruce Irvin in Seattle in 2014. Beasley blossoms in the role, as his athleticism is an asset when asked to play in space and make plays. Despite being a part-time pass-rusher, Beasley finally eclipses double-digit sack totals for the first tim in 2017 with the hope of building off it in 2018.
However despite Beasley’s strong presence on the outside, he’s not even considered the be the team’s best linebacker. That honor goes none other than to 2016’s top draft selection: UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. Having played under linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich during their shared days in college, Jack is a perfect fit for what Quinn is looking at the position prompting the Falcons to move up for him in the draft.
Jack has found a home at middle linebacker by 2018, despite playing on the outside for most of his college career. Jack’s rare athleticism has made him into one of the league’s premier linebackers by the time 2018 rolls around, with two Pro Bowl bids under his belt. He easily is the leader and centerpiece of the Falcons defense.
Manning the other outside spot is 2017 free-agent signee Jelani Jenkins. Jenkins played under Quinn during his time at the University of Florida and the Falcons were just biding their time until the former Miami Dolphin hit the open market in 2017. Despite being somewhat overshadowed by Beasley and Jack, smart observers understand that Jenkins is also a major contributor to the Falcons’ defensive success.
Those three form a starting linebacker unit that is in the conversation for best in the league. Former starter Brooks Reed is dumped after 2016 thanks to Beasley’s emergence. Justin Durant was able to stick around for one more season, but mainly as a veteran backup to help show Jack the ropes. The only starter from 2015 that still remains in 2018 is none other than Paul Worrilow, who since the drafting of Jack has been relegated to being a backup. Worrilow is a trooper despite his demotion, providing valuable depth at both middle and weak-side linebacker and also becoming one of the team’s top players on special teams.
Helping him out in that regard is fellow backups Boris Anyama and Justin Knott. Anyama was able to stick around for a few years on the Falcons’ practice squad, thanks to the coaching staff really liking his athleticism and coverage abilities. He serves as Beasley’s primary backup. Knott works behind Jenkins at the other outside spot, being the team’s final pick of the 2017 draft after a solid career at Iowa State. Knott is a bit undersized, but proves himself to be an invaluable replacement for the departed Nate Stupar on special teams. Both Stupar and O’Brien Schofield weren’t re-signed after 2017 as both hit age 30. Despite multiple good years of production on special teams, the Falcons feel that they can get considerably younger with Anyama and Knott.