Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Linebackers

June 13, 2017, Flowery Branch: Falcons linebackers LaRoy Reynolds (left) and Deion Jones finish the first day of mini-camp on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton/

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

June 13, 2017, Flowery Branch: Falcons linebackers LaRoy Reynolds (left) and Deion Jones finish the first day of mini-camp on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton/

This is the seventh of a 10-part, position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster after their offseason program. Coming Wednesday: Cornerbacks. When the Falcons report for training camp on July 26, they’ll have to find a weakside linebacker after moving De’Vondre Campbell to strongside linebacker.

Stardom has been predicted for Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones, who’s set to enter his second season in the league.

Jones had a dynamic rookie season and is trying to get more vocal as the team’s signal caller.

Jones is also trying to follow the lead of former Falcons linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Paul Worrilow, who were very vocal on defense. “Everybody could hear their calls,” Jones said.

He also wants to add some weight and play between 230 and 235 this season.

Jones led the rookie class with 108 tackles and three interceptions last season. He also had 14 passes defended, which was third-most among rookies.

Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich is convinced Jones and DeVondre Campell, who also started as a rookie, are set to make major leaps. Campbell is moving over to strongside linebacker.

Ulbrich is expecting the group to help develop third-round pick Duke Riley, who’ll compete with Kemal Ishmael for the weakside spot.

“Yeah, no doubt,” Ulbrich said. “The longer you play in this league, the more removed you become from those emotions and that growth process. The fact that he’s got … not only two guys that just went through it, but successfully. And, on top of that, they’re such good teammates that they want to bring him along.”

Jones, a second-round draft pick in 2016, played in 15 regular-season games and started 13.

Campbell, a fourth-round pick out of Minnesota, played 11 games, starting 10. He rang up 48 tackles, seven pass breakups and a pick.

Falcons fans can expect to see plenty of them. Beyond that, it’s too early to say.

Beasley is listed as an outside linebacker, but doesn’t often play there when the Falcons run a four-man front. He’s the prototypical hybrid linebacker-end in today’s NFL — a pass-rusher deluxe.

The Falcons’ pass-coverage linebacker last season, Philip Wheeler, wasn’t resigned. Worrilow left through free agency, joining the Lions.

Back will be — at least before rosters are trimmed — reserve LaRoy Reynolds, who played in 16 games, and Josh Keyes, who played in one game after joining the team from Tampa Bay.

They’re joined by Riley and undrafted rookie free agent Jermaine Grace of Miami, Jack Lynn of Minnesota and J’Terious Jones of Miami of Ohio.

Ulbrich does not rue the lack of NFL experience because Jones, Campbell and Beasley grew so quickly last season into roles as major contributors. In his view, those who have most recently lived it can teach it best.

It won’t hurt that Jones played with Riley at LSU, and they’re friends.

“You know, a lot of guys get so caught up in the competitive nature of this league and business that they lose sight of developing the man next to them because they feel like that’s threatening their own occupation,” Ulbrich said.

“But he’s got two guys who are not like that at all. He’s got great teammates who’ve just been through this growth process.”

Riley, who will have to contribute on special teams, has the potential to be dynamic.

“But at this point, you can assume nothing with rookies,” Ulbrich said. “I’m excited to see his growth and development, and at the same time De’Vondre is going to make leaps and bounds, and all those other guys: LeRoy and Jermaine and Josh Keyes, they all bring something really special to the group.”

The Falcons are hoping that Campbell will help with their coverage of tight ends.

Campbell played 547 defensive snaps last season, which trailed only Jones (896) and Beasley (671) in the linebacker unit. He finished with 48 tackles, seven pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble.

All of that accomplished with limited vision. He’s had offseason Lasix surgery.

The Falcons believe that Campbell can thrive at strongside linebacker. At 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds, he will be used in some man-to-man defense on tight ends in pass coverage.

“He always seems so big, but he can run,” Quinn said. “The guys, just think in our own division, who we have to match up on in Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa, who added another tight end to their team.”

Carolina has tight end Greg Olsen, who has three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. New Orleans has Coby Fleener and Tampa Bay took former Alabama standout O.J. Howard in the first round of the NFL draft.

“He’s a guy with the kind of versatility who can match up,” Quinn said.


Part 1: Quarterbacks

Part 3: Wide receivers

Part 4: Tight ends

Part 5: Offensive line

Part: 7: Linebackers

Part 8: Cornerbacks

Part 9: Safeties

Part 10: Specialists

Here’s a look at the projected depth chart heading into training camp:


WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts, 1 Reggie Davis, 17 Marvin Hall

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf, 79 Will Freeman

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 72 Cornelius Edison, 69 Marquis Lucas

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 Travis Averill, 62 Cam Keizur

RG [71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland], 68 Trevor Robinson

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 75 Andreas Knappe

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 82 Joshua Perkins, 86 D.J. Tialavea, 85 Eric Saubert, 49 Darion Griswold

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 4 Matt Simms, 4 Alek Torgersen

RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 38 Brian Hill, 35 B.J. Daniels

FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew


DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley, 96 Martin Ifedi

DT 92 Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Taniela Tupou

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom

SLB 59 DeVondre Campbell, 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed, Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 52 Josh Keyes

WLB 36 Kemal Ishmael, 42 Duke Riley, 56 Jermaine Grace, 55 J’Terius Jones

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds

NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson, 27 Damontae Kazee

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 41 Quincy Mauger

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch

S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington


K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill

PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 18 Taylor Gabriel

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher