FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons reclaimed the NFC South title and became NFC champions for just the second time in franchise history.
The Falcons, calling themselves a Brotherhood, had a major breakthrough in Dan Quinn’s second season as head coach before collapsing in the Super Bowl LI in grand fashion against New England by blowing a 25-point lead.
The offense soared to new heights and the young and marauding defense made great strides over the course of the season.
We continue our unit-by-unit review of the 2016 team with the linebackers:
Who: Starters – SLB – Vic Beasley. MLB – Deion Jones. WLB – Devondre Campbell. Backups – Inside – LaRoy Reynolds (UFA) and Paul Worrilow (UFA). Outside – *Sean Weatherspoon (UFA), *Tyler Starr, Josh Keyes(ERFA) and Philip Wheeler (UFA).
Contract/free agent situation: Reynolds, Weatherspoon, Worrilow and Wheeler are set to become unrestricted free agents.
What they did in season: Beasley emerged as an elite passer as he led the league in sacks with 15.5 sacks and was named All-Pro. Some of them did come in bunches against backup tackles, but he must be given credit for taking advantage of the situation. He listened to the lessons that defensive end Dwight Freeney tried to share and that also helped him. Jones, who had three interceptions, and returned two for touchdowns, is going to be a big-time play-maker. He also led the team in tackles with 106 tackles. Campbell has a great deal of promise. Weatherspoon was a valuable backup, while Worrilow, a former starter, has fallen out of favor and will likely leave during free agency.
What they did in postseason: With extra attention, Beasley did not record a sack in the playoffs. He nearly had a game-saving interception in the Super Bowl.
Comment: Look for the Falcons to try to upgrade the depth behind Beasley, Jones and Campbell.
Monday: The Quarterbacks
Thursday: The defensive line at 10 a.m. and linebackers at 2 p.m.
Friday: The defensive backs at 10 a.m. and special teams at 2 p.m.
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