Is veteran Dan Connor worth a longer look?

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
8:30
AM ET
The Atlanta Falcons lost a key defensive piece for the 2014 season when linebacker Sean Weatherspoon suffered an Achilles tear while working with the training staff on Tuesday.

With Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu working the inside linebacker positions in the Falcons' 3-4 base scheme, the team did its best to proceed without Weatherspoon this offseason. He was nursing a knee injury before the Achilles tear.

Of course, the Falcons would have been better off with Weatherspoon in the lineup come the start of the regular season based on his experience, talent and reputation as the spiritual leader. But now the Falcons probably have to consider all options just in case depth at the position becomes an issue.

One veteran inside linebacker who comes to mind is Dan Connor, the former third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers. Connor worked out for the Falcons this offseason but didn't immediately sign. Connor remains a free agent.

It's unclear what the Falcons thought of the 28-year-old Connor after the workout. However, Connor does have 27 career starts.

And although Connor performed at his best in the Panthers' 4-3 scheme, he did make a transition to the 3-4 during his brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, he bulked up in Dallas to accommodate playing in the new scheme. He started eight games with the Cowboys in 2012. Connor's last action was back with the Panthers last season.

If Connor is an option, the Falcons probably would want to get him in before next week's minicamp.

The team could just stick with the current group of inside linebackers that includes Worrilow, Bartu and veteran Akeem Dent, along with a trio of rookies in Prince Shembo, Marquis Spruill, and Yawin Smallwood. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said Spruill needs to get bigger and said he's still unsure about Smallwood, so Shembo might be the guy the Falcons turn to for a contribution.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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