Falcons add linebackers

Justin Durant and Brooks Reed are new members of the Falcons defense.

With Sean Weatherspoon gone to Arizona, the Falcons needed help at linebacker. They got it Tuesday in the first day of free agency with the signings of linebackers Brooks Reed and Justin Durant.

Reed, who stands 6-3 and weighs 254 pounds, is 28 years old. He has played four seasons for the Houston Texans, starting 52 of 60 games played.
“He’s been there and you know what he’s going to bring every game,” said Patrick Starr of State of the Texans.com. “He’s limited. He is limited as a pass rusher. That is ultimately why the Texans had to move on.

“I think what he does well is play physical. When you look at him, he looks like an inside linebacker. Pass rushing is not something he is good at. I don’t know how that is going to change under Dan Quinn.”

Starr said the Texans, both coach Gary Kubiak and his successor Bill O’Brien, toyed with the idea of moving Reed inside to middle linebacker. But injuries and scheme fit kept him on the outside.

“He’s a football player,” Starr said. “He’s durable. He’s going to be there for every snap. He’s showed he can play with his hand on the ground and standing up and he can possibly be that inside guy. He’s versatile.”

It will be interesting to see where new coach Quinn prefers Reed on the defense. It might depend on the others that are brought in through free agency and the draft.

Reed has only 14.5 sacks in his four NFL seasons. He had six in his rookie campaign and three each the last two seasons.

Durant, who is 6-1 and is 230 pounds, is 29 years old. He is more of an inside linebacker. Durant played the last two seasons in Dallas. He started the first six games of the season last year before tearing his bicep and missing the rest of the season. Durant has also played for Detroit and Jacksonville in his eight-year career.

These two dramatically help the depth at linebacker. Paul Worrilow started all 16 games last season after starting 12 in 2013 as an undrafted rookie. Joplo Bartu started 14 games in 2014 after starting 13 as an undrafted rookie the previous season. Atlanta also had rookie Prince Shembo, who played mainly at inside linebacker last season after the season-ending injury to Weatherspoon. Quinn has already said Shembo will go back to outside linebacker, where he played in college at Notre Dame.

The Falcons still need a pass rusher. They may believe Reed can improve his numbers. We will see if they still talk with Jason Worilds, a free agent linebacker with more pass rushing ability who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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