Who Takes Backup LB Spots?

The Battle for LB Role Players 

Will "The Beast" Keep a Spot? (atlantafalcons.com)

Will "The Beast" Keep a Spot? (atlantafalcons.com)

Competition Throughout
As mentioned several times before, competition throughout the entire Falcons roster has been and will be heated, intense, and fierce since the start of training camp. The vicious competition will not be limited to starting spots such as Defensive Tackle or Strong Safety. Some of the more concentrated battles will be those backup positions where players are fighting tooth and nail simply to earn a spot on the 53-man protected roster. Many of these players will be fighting for their professional lives in many instances.

A Special Teams Must
Although they may not be asked to contribute on offense or defense in a major role, they must exhibit a great versatility and tenacity on special teams. In the Falcons case, they must prove they can play for special teams Coach Armstrong, who demands toughness, speed, and most importantly hitting. Atlanta’s special teams proved to be one of the best in the NFL last year (setting a new NFL record for least amount of punt return yards against them in a single season, with 49 yards). So this will be harder than normal fight, not one simply based on offensive or defensive play-making ability in the advent of an injury.

Only 6 LB’s?

We originally could assume that since Coy Wire not only earned a roster spot as a backup LB, but also replaced Michael Boley as the full-time starter, that he likely has a pretty safe spot. However, The Falcons then went out and signed Jamie Winborn. Since is roughly the same age and similar in playing style and utility as Wire, their looks to even be competition for Coy now. The Falcons carried 6 linebackers on the 53-man protected roster: Brooking, Boley, Lofton, Nicholas, Wire, and Gilbert. Even though Brooking and Boley are gone, Mike Peterson was brought in to take one of the LB spots. Since Tony Gilbert earned a spot on last year’s squad, he looks to be in a fairly good position to retain a spot on the defense since he’s the only linebacker other than Peterson who is trained mainly at Middle Linebacker and can back up Lofton in a pinch. The possibility that the coaching staff will look to keep an extra LB, outside of the given six, for special teams purposes is very thin since they will look to be keeping 5 to 6 wide receivers, and potentially 5 running backs with the return of Thomas Brown and re-signed Jason Snelling, 5 DT’s with the injury histories of Jerry and Lewis, and 5 DE’s with the drafting of Sidbury. Cuts will have to be made somewhere.

Using the assumption that Wire and, maybe Gilbert, look to be pretty solid favorites to make the squad, that will leave several players fighting like mad to not hear the words “coach wants to see you, bring your playbook”. Outside of Peterson, Lofton, Nicholas, and Wire, a look at the candidates in the fight:

Tony Gilbert – #51
Height: 6′0, Weight: 248, Age: 29, 5 years NFL experience
Bio – Known as a special teams stud. Tied for sixth in Jacksonville Jaguars team history with 38 Special Teams tackles. Played in all 16 games in 3 years (2004 – 2006). Played MLB at UGA under current D-Coordinator Brian Van Gorder. Has big advantage of making team since he can backup Lofton in the middle, but also slide over to one of the outside spots in a pinch. Earned a spot on last year’s 53-man protected roster

Spencer Adkins – #59
Height – 5′11, Weight – 230 lbs, 40-Time: sub 4.5, 30 reps x 225
Bio – Undersized linebacker that never developed at Miami after a highly productive high school career. Huge upside with loads of potential, but is very, very raw. Will definitely be a long-term project. Wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. Lacks assignment discipline.

Robert James – #51
Height – 5′10, Weight – 218, 40-Time: 4.72, 22 reps x 225
Bio – Athletic Outside Linebacker that had an excellent senior campaign two years ago. Breaks down well, sheds blocks in a fluid manner. Has a quick change of direction. Shows above average pass coverage skills despite height. Not an exceptionally tough linebacker. Gave an impression of apathy towards his football career coming out of ASU. Falcons waived James after concussion sidelined him for season, but they opted to retain his rights.

Edmond Miles – #43

Height – 6′0, Weight – 243, 40-Time: 4.64,
Bio – Played in all games on special teams for the Miami Dolphins in 2007, becoming the first rookie to lead the team in spec teams tackles. Bounced around between Miami, New York, and signed with Falcons in late April. Projects as a serious long-shot to make roster over more well-known and established linebackers.

Jamie Winborn – #49
Height – 5′11, Weight – 230, Age – 30
Bio – In 92 career games (32 starts), has logged 407 tackles (105 solo), 10.0 sacks, three interceptions, 23 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
An accomplished special-teamer who has recorded 46 career tackles covering kicks.
In 2004, ranked third on the 49ers defense with 104 tackles while being nominated by the team for the Ed Block Courage Award after returning from an injury the previous season.

Big Battle – James vs. Adkins
Assuming Peterson, Lofton, Nicholas, and Wire are fairly set in stone to make the roster, the battle looks to 5 players fighting for two spots. It may really be for one spot since Tony Gilbert played for Brian Van Gorder at UGA, and for both Van Gorder and Smith in Jacksonville. He knows the schemes and has good relationships with both men. Also a special teams ace, which is an absolute must to win the spot. Rashad Bobino was cut with the signing of Winborn, and looked to be the main competition for Gilbert. The big battle looks to be between two of Thomas Dimitroff’s later round draft picks, Spencer Adkins drafted in the 6th round of ‘09 and Robert James drafted in the 5th round of ‘08. Adkins seems to have an advantage in pure raw talent with his size, speed, and outright hitting ability. James gives up 10 pounds and an inch height to Adkins, but has spent a year in the system and also is known as a huge hitter. Edmond Miles looks to be longshot to displace Gilbert or two of Dimitroff’s own draft picks.

Must Get Younger
One thing is for certain, the Falcons will have to get younger at the linebacker position very soon, because besides James and Adkins, the Falcons are very long in the tooth at the position. Peterson, Wire, & Winborn are all over 30, and Gilbert is right at the mark, at the age of 29. Is it a lock that the Falcons draft an OLB with their first pick in next year’s draft? Here’s a look at some potentials in that department:

-Travis Lewis (Oklahoma) 6′2, 232; 16 TFL, 4 INT, 144 Tackles
-Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri) 6′1, 235; 37 TFL, 295 Tackles, 3 INT, 9 Sacks
-Sergio Kindle (Texas) 6′4, 242; 12 Sacks 21 TFL 93 Tackles

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For those of you who love’em hot, check out the Chernobyl Wings, courtesy of Ray M. at Tailgating.com

Discussion Framework:
1) Who will win the final one or two spots in the LB corps?
2) Is Gilbert a suitable backup or should they look younger on the waiver wires?
3) Does James size hurt him in the competition?
4) Adkins lack of production at Miami a concern?
5) Is it a lock to draft OLB first next year?

Next Post Preview: Is Chris Houston a Legit #1 Corner?

80 comments Add your comment

Boxcarar

August 11th, 2009
12:06 am

First!! D3, you are the man, keeping fans totally involved. Thanks so m,uch.

Boxcarar

August 11th, 2009
12:08 am

What did Miles do to the Tuna to let such a good rookie campaign leave?

StevieJoe

August 11th, 2009
12:16 am

I kinda think the Falcons might keep only 9 down linemen since Jamal Anderson can play both end and tackle. That would enable them to keep 7 linebackers. An extra linebacker is pretty much always preferable to an extra lineman for special teams purposes. That would allow them to keep Gilbert, Wire, and Winborn as the primary positional backups and one of the youngsters for just special teams.

StevieJoe

August 11th, 2009
12:18 am

By the way, great job D3. Keep it up.

Ed

August 11th, 2009
3:10 am

D3 you are an overflowing fountain of knowledger. Keep up the terrific work…

ATLJBO

August 11th, 2009
3:18 am

I dont think we will run with 5 DT..I think Peria Jerry, Babs, Trey Lewis, and Vance Walker willmake the team as DT… Coach Smith as stated that he believe that Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis can play DT on certain downs (passing downs) …..

I really hope to see Robert James and Spencer Adkins shine during the preseason…… I hope both make the team as special teame/backups.

Jamie Winborn played some MLB for the Broncos last year…. I wonder will he see some time there this preseason.

BT

August 11th, 2009
6:57 am

Good job as always D3.

Assuming they only carry 6 LB`s and no one is pulled from the waiver wire, late?
I don`t see Miles or Adkins makimg the final 53 man roster.
Gilbert and Wire seem fairly secure as solid backups and role players.
That leaves J.Winborn to fend off R.James for the final roster slot.
It`s just my opinion but those two (Winborn and James) will be the battle to watch in preseason.

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
8:22 am

Boxcarar,

They (the Bills) went 13-3 that season so no it looks like it was the same amount of games.

JWW

August 11th, 2009
8:25 am

For any Asher Allen fans:

http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_13023396?source=rss&nclick_check=1

D3, any ideas on what happened with our guy Mougey? I thought for sure he might sneak in or hang on to at least a practice squad position. Was there a particular matter, like getting off the line of scrimmage or maybe Mougey couldn’t create enough space?

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
8:46 am

CBrass,

That’s my girl. Research.

Let me throw into the mix, Bierman and L Sid. Both have the size and speed to play LB…….Just a thought.

mountain_jim

August 11th, 2009
8:48 am

Really enjoying your columns, D3. Putting some pressure on Orlando to step up his game, I say.

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
8:59 am

D3,

This is in reference to your post on the other blog.

I can see why FL and maybe LSU but Ole Miss and ALA I can’t see that one. I honestly think that Bama maybe beat by VT. The do not have the OL that they had last year. Ole Miss was the feel good story last season and with them losing players like Jerry to the draft I really do not see them doing that again. The may benefit from not having to face us or FL this year and all of their tough games being at home.

I love that we’re getting ignored and people aren’t giving Cox the credit that he deserves. He has the trust and faith of his team mates and coaches and he’s not going to let them down.

Sorry I know this is not a Dawg blog…I got a little carried away.

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
9:06 am

Unca’ Bob,

I’ve learned from the best.

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
9:30 am

D3,

As always another great article. As someone said before Orlando (and the rest of the AJC bloggers for that matter) is going to have to step his game up. You’re doing an outstanding job!! As for your question do you think they will only go after an OLB? What if this guy by the name of Brandon Spikes is available do you think TD & Co will take him? He’s listed as an ILB that’s why I ask. As a Dawgs fan it pains me to say this but the guy is good and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a Falcons uniform if he’s available. Thoughts cagers?

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
9:37 am

Correction Brandon Spikes is listed as a MLB…not ILB. My bad.

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
10:03 am

D3 strikes with excellence again! You are the man!

Two quick points on the previous blog. First, D3, I will be just shy of 70 when the little man is ready to play BUT I promise, if he makes it, only yourself and your First Lady will scream louder than me!! Second, the defense definately will be watched much closer this weekend. I too did not like the effort I say Saturday…even without contact.

Now, the LBs. I’m thinking that six will be the magic number for the LB corps. We know who the starters will be and with Wire, Gilbert, and James, we will complete the rotation. James and Wire will be the depth and will primarily serve as special team warriors.

ATLJBO, I’m down with Babs, Walker, and Jerry at DT. The last position is up for grabs. Lewis would seem to be the pick but we must carefully assess the injury situation. Remember, we have two with a history of those nagging knee issues in Lewis and Jerry. This is important because if we can not be aggressive from the tackle position, it places a lot more pressure on those young LBs. Pressure from the DT position, with the exception of Babs, was a MAJOR issue last season if you break down the tape.

BIRDMAN

August 11th, 2009
10:06 am

D3 Thanks for your time and all the hard work you do for us fans.I crown you KING OF THE FALCONS GOO ROO. ……Honestly Thanks Man

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
10:33 am

CBrass,

I took a peek at B Spikes. I don’t know what skill sets he brings to the table, but he is getting major SEC props. And from his projections, I don’t see him as being available the Falcons draft.

BT

August 11th, 2009
10:35 am

Flashback in NFL/Falcons history.
1978 was a watershed year for NFL as it marked the first year of the 16 game schedule format along with a variety of rule changes, mostly designed to enhance scoring.

The year 1977 saw the Falcons unvail the famous Grits Blitz defence.
That unit set an NFL record that will never be broken by only allowing 129 points for an entire season.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
10:41 am

S Erik Coleman and RT Tyson Clabo got into a fight that had to be broken up. Moments later DT Trey Lewis and OL Michael Butterworth began scuffling.

Falcons RT Garrett Reynolds pancaked DE Lawrence Sidbury during work on the running game.

During a red zone drill, Falcons DE John Abraham was taken to the ground by LG Justin Blalock. Blalock got up gingerly but returned four plays later.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
10:51 am

Falcons CB Brent Grimes has had his hands full covering WRs Roddy White and Marty Booker in practice. But Grimes has held his own.

Backup QB battle: Both D.J. Shockley and Chris Redman are looking sharp in 7-on-7s Tuesday morning.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan concluded 7-on-7s with a fade down the sideline to WR Roddy White for a big gain.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
11:00 am

Seminole Warrior,

I agree on your D-Line. The LB spots as well. My fear is moving S Adkins to the taxi squad will lead to his being picked up by someone else. I know Adkins made several visits around the NFL, including the Steelers. 4.43×40, 4.2 SS, 36.5 VL, BP 225×30.

BIRDMAN

August 11th, 2009
11:08 am

I’M glad RW is back with us.I look forword to see this team play.Thanks U B .Ya’ll keep these reports comin .I love to read em .

GO GETEM BIG BAD BIRDS

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
11:18 am

Unca’ Bob,

Thanks for the info. But if he is available do you think TD & Co will take him? He’s a hard hitting ball hawk which sounds like he’s a perfect fit for BVG and Smitty’s type of defense. As for his character I really can’t say but I know that’s another big thing for when TD & Co considers bringing a player into this organization.

Oh yea thanks for the update. I’m shocked that Dahl hasn’t gotten into it with anyone. I thought he would be one of the first.

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
11:30 am

Business is picking up. That was the intensity that D3 and I thought was missing on Saturday. Crunch time is near as the “real” contact is about to begin. And the hunger is rising. I love it!! Thanks for the update UnCa Bob.

CB, Spikes is a very talented ILB who will be a beast as a MLB. Like UnCa Bob, I do not think he will be around given two points. First, the SEC is WELL known for its defensive players. Second, he will not last to the 15-20 or LATER range in which I think the Falcons will selecting.

I love Clabo’s intensity. And if UnCa Bob’s man Reynolds is the real deal, I would move Clabo back inside to his natural position, guard, and go with Reynolds at RT next season. Sorry Clabo…it’s the process.
Grimes still hanging tough…that is good, very good. I love the kid’s heart and tenacity.

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
11:32 am

Ahhhhhhhhhh BT, the Gritz Blitz. Now that was a defense my brother!!

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
11:37 am

CBrass,

Is it possible they bring him on board? Sure. IMO we go after an OLB to train before M Peterson retires. We need to get a TE on board, also. And with T McClure coming of age, OC will play a part.

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
11:37 am

CBrass, if we were to take him, that would require one of two things in my opinion. We would be shifting to the 3-4 which would require a LB of Spikes talents ORr we would have said that Lofton is not what we want at MLB and a change is needed.

MLB (the ILB in the 4-3 scheme) is set with Lofton I think. Nicholas is ready to assume his role as the SLB but we are uncertain of the future at WLB. Will Biermann transition to the position? Sidbury? or will we look to draft one? If we draft, the choice to me is clear..Weatherspoon.

UnCa Bob, your comments?

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
11:47 am

UnCa Bob, you are right on target. WLB, O line depth, and TE are the positions of need going into the 2010 draft. The depth issues will be easier with the comp picks that we have. I’m thinking we will have at least four of those with a possible heavy presence in the third round given the Boley and Foxworth deals. The third round can provide us with some darn good talent.

Falcon Devil

August 11th, 2009
11:57 am

If it ends up being Adkins vs James take a wild guess who I’d pick. After a few preseaon games it should be a much clearer picture who should stay and who should go but at the current state James has the battle won IMO ( which is 100% biased no doubt, GO DEVILS!). Not only does he have a year in the system which is very valuable, he has a good history of play to look back upon in college. If Adkins couldn’t get on the field much in the Big East it def says something. A workout warrior alone means zero on Sundays as history has shown us. If all Adkins has going for him is 4.4 speed and a nice workout then he won’t be hard to cut. If he is a pet project and can’t contribute as a backup immediatley then practice squad it is. I don’t put too much value in draft position however typically a player who goes in the 5th round (James) has the talent and has proved to be worth drafting while guys in the 7th round are much more calculated gambles. As with Adkins his upside is big but if he can’t contribute now his forty time won’t get him a spot on a 53 man roster.

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
12:05 pm

FD, TD was high on James last season before his concussion issues. He will make the cut..rest easy my brother.

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
12:06 pm

I foresee James as the attacking ST presence that Nicholas has filled over the past two years no that Stephen is moving into full time duty.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
12:29 pm

SW,

I am big on Spoon, too. 155 tackles in one year. Ouch! He must be very fast to cover that much ground. Not to mention his block-shedding skills. He sounds like the real deal to me.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
12:32 pm

SW,

I know we can not trade comp picks. But I can see TD putting something together to get our #2 pick back. TD is pretty slick.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
12:53 pm

Falcon Devil,

I just brought those numbers out to help familiarize those unaware of S Adkins. At 5-11 and 246 lbs, and a 4.4×40 does bring something to the table He is bigger, faster, and stronger than R James. R James was concussed last year, was waived and resigned. Placed on IR for the season. Does that count toward a years experience? Let the games begin.

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
1:00 pm

SW,

Great points. I didn’t even consider us making to change from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Lofton will anchor our defense for years to coming. I was just curious to see what you guys would think about him (Spikes).

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
1:04 pm

Stirg,

I hope everything is going your way. So, you like The Fire-Wall?

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
1:10 pm

UnCa Bob, TD may try to do that. But I see value in the third round next year as well as lower salary numbers. But you are correct. TD is not afraid to make his moves when he feels the need. He did in in his first year with the Sam Baker trade, and this year for TG.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
1:35 pm

SW,

I understand and agree with your points on third rounders. The Pat’s built an Empire (Evil) doing the very same thing. But, if at some point TD feels he needs to move up, he can.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
1:38 pm

Falcons coach Mike Smith on his team’s performance so far: “We’ve had too many mental errors on both sides of the ball. Not just on the offensive side but both sides.”

I hope this is a coaching ploy.

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
1:55 pm

Unca’ Bob,

I’m with you. I too hope it’s just a coaching ploy. But I will say if we’re going to make mistakes I will take them now in training camp instead of during the season.

Big Rich

August 11th, 2009
1:56 pm

D3

I just begin reading this blog just before the beginning of training camp. It has now become a must read for me with DOL. Excellent work and insight. I like Gilbert for sure to make the team barring injury. Don’t know enough yet about the other two backers.

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
2:04 pm

CBrass,

You nailed it. With the Lions looming, we need to get it right. I do wish Stafford well, but not against us.

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
2:15 pm

CBrass and UnCa, I’m not thinking it was a ploy. Based on what I saw Saturday, even without pads, they looked a little lax. It is not time to focus and sharpen. Smitty will get them ready for sure.

UnCa Bob, you again hit it. The Evil Empire, aka Patriot Way North, was built in the middle rounds of the draft. And again, you save money in doing so.

SeminoleWarrior

August 11th, 2009
2:18 pm

Big Rich, put ou your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. ATL will soon know that here in the Cage, you get it all. Solid football coverage, a lot f analysis, recipes, traffic, weather, and so much more. Stay tuned bro. We, under the giudance of our CEO and friend D3, are about to take the world by storm.

Also, props to D OLed…he allowed us to get this revolution started in his blog. We will not forget where we came from!!

CBrass

August 11th, 2009
2:28 pm

SW,

There is no doubt in my mind that Smitty will whip them into shape before these mistakes get to out of hand. This team has too much going for them to let mental lapses get in the way of the Process!!!

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
2:33 pm

SW,

I revisit D-Led often with kudos in hand. Your roots need to prosper in order to bare fruit.

You forgot to mention, film at eleven.

BIRDMAN

August 11th, 2009
2:38 pm

I hope Stafford well also U B .But like you said not against us .I think stafford is in for a bad treat with the Lions front line this year . Do ya think we will see him play this Sat, night ? or maybe start ?

Unca' Bob

August 11th, 2009
2:47 pm

BirdMan,

I sure he will get some reps. The Lions want to see what they have against the rest of the NFL. We may even could see M Ryan for a few plays. The Falcon Staff wants to see the backup QB’s perform.

Nookah

August 11th, 2009
2:51 pm

Greetings Cagers!!! Let me digress for a moment. Marty Booker is gonna be one of the best offseason pickups, mark my words. I feel it….You heard it here first!!!

Go Falcons!!!

Nuff respect everytime!!!