LB still question with Tim Dobbins addition


Though a lot of the focus Wednesday night was on the Atlanta Falcons acquiring quarterback T.J. Yates from the Houston Texans for linebacker Akeem Dent, the team quietly added another inside linebacker to the mix.

Tim Dobbins, who last played for the Texans, was signed to a one-year, minimum-salary deal ($855,000 for eight NFL seasons). Dobbins worked out for the Falcons last week and joined fellow veterans Nick Barnett and Jonathan Vilma in the workout circuit.

Although the 31-year-old Dobbins has 22 starts in his career with the Chargers, Dolphins, and Texans, he's not expected to come in and make an immediate impact -- unless it's on special teams.

Sure, the Falcons need a replacement for Sean Weatherspoon, who was lost for the season with an Achilles tear. Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu have made up the first-team inside linebacker combination throughout the offseason.

Whether that combination remains the same during the regular season is the unknown. Worrilow should be solid at his spot, but the Falcons don't have full trust in Bartu just yet. Maybe Dobbins comes in and shows something as a veteran. But ideally, the Falcons would love to see one of their rookies emerge.

The primary candidate would be fourth-round pick Prince Shembo from Notre Dame. Shembo came in as a outside linebacker, but was immediately switched to inside linebacker because defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said it better fit his skill set. Shembo said the move has been quite an adjustment because he has been used to rushing the passer.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff obviously sees the upside in Shembo.

"He's an interesting prospect for us," Dimitroff said. "And with that move from outside to inside, it's going to be a transition for him. But we like how he's developing so far."

Don't count out fellow rookie Marquis Spruill, who has been working inside with Shembo during camp. The Falcons like Spruill's ability in coverage, although he still needs to gain some weight.