Friday, October 18, 2013
Falcons' plan at LB remains up in the air
By Vaughn McClure
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said he has options at linebacker. It will be interesting to see what those are if Akeem Dent doesn't return to the lineup Sunday.
Dent, who missed the last game with an ankle injury, was back at practice this week but is listed as questionable for Sunday's NFC South clash against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He started at middle linebacker when healthy.
Omar Gaither started at middle linebacker in the last game alongside outside linebackers Joplo Bartu and Stephen Nicholas. Paul Worrilow, who surpassed Nicholas in the starting lineup in Week 4, seems to have recovered from the knee injury that bumped him back out of the starting lineup during the last game.
"We've got some guys that have now played in our sub package -- a number of guys -- Akeem being one of them, Stephen, and our two rookies [Bartu and Worrilow]," Smith said. "So we'll have some flexibility in our sub package.
"Omar has not played in any of our sub, but he's played in our base. So it gives us flexibility in terms of how we're going to put that together."
The Falcons have gone with a different linebacker trio in every game, not counting Week 2 when defensive coordinator Mike Nolan started the game with an extra defensive back in the nickel package.
Outside linebacker/defensive end Kroy Biermann, who started Week 1, suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon tear in that opener. Fellow starting outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was placed on short-term injured reserve with a foot injury and is eligible to return. Weatherspoon tweeted Friday that he is targeting Nov. 17 at Tampa Bay for his return.
Injuries, of course, have taken a toll on the 1-4 Falcons. Wide receiver Julio Jones is done for the season after foot surgery. Fellow offensive starters Roddy White (hamstring), Steven Jackson (hamstring) and Sam Baker (knee) are all sidelined.
Here is the full injury report for the Falcons-Buccaneers game:
FALCONS – Out: WR Roddy White (knee, hamstring), RB Steven Jackson (hamstring), LT Sam Baker (knee), TE Chase Coffman (knee); Questionable: LB Akeem Dent (ankle); Probable: RB Jason Snelling (concussion).