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Falcons Linebackers Coach Pleased With Paul Worrilow's Play


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Falcons linebackers coach pleased with Paul Worrilow's play
Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Paul Worrilow knows he's sometimes a target of criticism. He just goes about his business and works to get better.

Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, who played 10 NFL seasons at inside linebacker with San Francisco, understands solid linebacker play. That's why Ulbrich isn't overly concerned about the outside perception of Worrilow.

"He continues to improve, particularly from a coverage standpoint,'' Ulbrich said. "It starts with pre-snap indicators and really identifying when the play-action is coming, when the bootlegs are coming, and when the threat of checkdowns is coming based on the formation and based on the splits. These are all the things that we've studied throughout the week.

"He's gaining a better understanding every single week of when he has a threat; when he has a crossing route that he's got to respect; when he's got a checkdown and when he doesn't have a checkdown. And then beyond that, when the ball is snapped, just his fundamentals as far as his footwork and understanding leverage and that in our defense, we always have help -- always, when we tackle. So that's understanding where my help is and playing to that, and then taking my shots when I can. He's find inches in his game every single day. He's just the ultimate competitor that way.''

Worrilow, who led the team with 142 and 127 tackles the previous two seasons, enters Sunday's game at Tennessee with a team-leading 41 tackles. He never focuses on numbers, however. His words following last week's 31-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints were about cleaning up communication issues, a big part of his responsibility playing the middle in a 4-3 defense. Plus Worrilow said he made a mistake by not dropping into coverage on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to tight end Benjamin Watson.

"I'd say it's been adequate,'' Ulbrich said of the communication aspect. "And not making any excuses, but you've got a group that's very new to this defense and this scheme and the detail within it. We're still ironing out every single detail because every team is going to present a different challenge to us; a different look and scheme. Finding ways to adapt this defense to other offenses is still a challenge because it's the first time our guys have gone through this process.

"Because when you're so simplistic, in time you'll see virtually every way a team will try to attack us. Last week was a little bit unique, and give credit to New Orleans, but we can be so much better. I think communication was part of it. We just weren't ourselves. We didn't play at our standards. It was disappointing, but it also was a great opportunity for our guys to learn.''

Ulbrich appreciates the fact Worrilow holds himself accountable.

"We've got a group of guys that always point the finger at themselves, and that starts with a Worrilow who has been here for a while and is respected at a high level,'' Ulbrich said. "He's a guy who's always going to point the finger at himself. It starts with him doing that and taking great accountability, and it takes every coach doing that. If you've got a group that's committed to doing that and improving and pointing the finger at themselves and being accountable, then I think you have a great chance to be successful.''

Here's Ulbrich's quick breakdown of the linebackers who have played the most snaps (excluding newcomer Philip Wheeler, signed this week):

Worrilow : "He is absolutely finding his voice as a leader on this defense. He's always been kind of the underdog and maybe viewed himself as a guy who's just clawing to survive. But we're past the survival mode with him. Let's start excelling. Let's start thinking elite-type thoughts. He's starting to view himself a different way, so that's been encouraging.''

Justin Durant: "We love it when J.D. is in there (elbow injury) because he's been a great addition. He's provided a great voice and a model of what a pro looks like. He's just very serious and very detailed with his preparation. He's a guy who plays hit butt off. He excels not only in the pass game -- which I think people expected of him because he's an undersized guy, an athletic guy -- but he's done a great job in the run game.''

Joplo Bartu: "He's shown to be a great in between the tackles run defender right now. He's powerful and a strong tackler. He's got good run instincts. We've just got to keep refining his game as far as really seeing the pre-snap indicators and taking all the information the offense is giving us, and then really working out the kinks in his pass coverage. He will because he's committed to it.''

Nate Stupar: "A ton of versatility, which has been great for us. He can play [strongside] for us. He's started for us at SAM and played a lot snaps, but then has also stepped in as a nickel [weakside] linebacker. And he's played a little [middle] for us. Everywhere he's played, he's played at a high level. He's a great guy to have on your roster. If anybody goes down or anybody gets moved around, you feel great about him take the field.''

Brooks Reed: "He's the head-banger, tough guy that we were hoping that we would get. He's an excellent run defender. If you run his way ... he's just very tough, very physical, very heavy-handed from that standpoint. His pass coverage stuff, we just continue to work on it. It's still fairly new to him, but he gets better every day as he gets healthier (groin surgery), because that's been our biggest obstacle with him. He didn't practice virtually at all during the offseason. As he gets healthier and feels better and gets in better shape, we'd like him to really get involved in the pass rush, too.''

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So Wheeler was brought in to start? Come on. Use some common sense. We have lb injuries.

Wheeler was brought in to stop the bleeding in the passing game. He doesn't have to start. He can come in on obvious passing downs. Durant has been back at practice as well. I def wouldn't take wheeler coming here lightly. At some point they gotta figure out how to keep qb's from dinking and dunking long enough for the pass rush to get there. The short quick passes to rb's were killing us.
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Wheeler was brought in to stop the bleeding in the passing game. He doesn't have to start. He can come in on obvious passing downs. Durant has been back at practice as well. I def wouldn't take wheeler coming here lightly. At some point they gotta figure out how to keep qb's from dinking and dunking long enough for the pass rush to get there. The short quick passes to rb's were killing us.

That was my whole point...We brought in Wheeler for a specific role...Because we were not happy with all the bleeding.

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That was my whole point...We brought in Wheeler for a specific role...Because we were not happy with all the bleeding.

I know what you were saying cause I agree. I was explaining to him don't think it's all about an injury to Durant. Common sense also says if rb's kill your backers on short throws you gotta stop that bleeding.
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Wheeler was brought in to stop the bleeding in the passing game. He doesn't have to start. He can come in on obvious passing downs. Durant has been back at practice as well. I def wouldn't take wheeler coming here lightly. At some point they gotta figure out how to keep qb's from dinking and dunking long enough for the pass rush to get there. The short quick passes to rb's were killing us.

Fatboi I think you have also said that the Falcons coverage weakness is in the middle of the field. I know the deep middle is primarily the responsibility of the Free Safety. Who is primarily responsible for the short to intermediate middle of the field, the LBs or the Strong Safety? Not only are opposing teams killing us with dinks and dunks to the RBs, but also short to intermediate passes to the TEs. From some of the comments I have read, it appears that many of Ben Watson's receptions in the last game were on the Safeties and not so much on the LBs.

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Fatboi I think you have also said that the Falcons coverage weakness is in the middle of the field. I know the deep middle is primarily the responsibility of the Free Safety. Who is primarily responsible for the short to intermediate middle of the field, the LBs or the Strong Safety? Not only are opposing teams killing us with dinks and dunks to the RBs, but also short to intermediate passes to the TEs. From some of the comments I have read, it appears that many of Ben Watson's receptions in the last game were on the Safeties and not so much on the LBs.

Lets face it neither Moore or Ishmael are great in coverage its just a fact its been a weakness now and for me after watching either guy for multiple seasons I see it as still an ongoing issue.

i've almost excepted it is what it is and we just have to live with the fact at SS we just can't cover.

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Wheeler was brought in to stop the bleeding in the passing game. He doesn't have to start. He can come in on obvious passing downs. Durant has been back at practice as well. I def wouldn't take wheeler coming here lightly. At some point they gotta figure out how to keep qb's from dinking and dunking long enough for the pass rush to get there. The short quick passes to rb's were killing us.

I wouldnt take it lightly either...DQ worked this guy out and signed him on the spot. When most people think coverage most think about man coverage and not zone. Wheeler was brought in because he is good in zone coverage. Outside of Durant he is the most instinctive, athletic and best zone coverage linebacker on the team. Exactly what you need to play cover 3. Worrilow, Burtu, Reed and Stupar are good run defenders but not so much against the pass. Quinn is a smart man he know that cutting down on those short passes will help the pass rush get home.

Edited by FentayeJones
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I know what you were saying cause I agree. I was explaining to him don't think it's all about an injury to Durant. Common sense also says if rb's kill your backers on short throws you gotta stop that bleeding.

"Linebackers Coach pleased with Worrilow"

That makes at least two of us.

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