Major roster moves and a new coaching staff headlined by Dan Quinn has made it easy to grasp the changes as this year's Falcons cross off another week of offseason workouts. The competition we expected to see within many key positions this offseason will only continue to intensify with each passing week, but if any player on this team is up for the challenge, it is linebacker Paul Worrilow.
This is the exact type of environment Worrilow has thrived in throughout his football career and the third-year pro plans to attack this offseason no differently.
"You always feel like you have something to prove each offseason," Worrilow said. "And when you have a new coaching staff, that is going to weigh on your mind. You don't have any credit. Everyone is coming in at the same level and we are all competing for spots."
Worrilow has led the team in tackles each of his first two seasons, compiling 270 combined tackles in his 32 games, but the corps of linebackers around him this offseason are the deepest it has been since the former Delaware Blue Hen was signed as an undrafted rookie in 2013.
The Falcons' 2016 roster is constantly evolving and we've amassed all the players in one gallery that will be updated throughout the year
On March 10, Atlanta added outside linebackers Justin Durant and Brooks Reed, boosting the total to 11 linebackers on the active roster. Worrilow has always been a fan of the process of preparing for each new season and when it comes to position battles, he knows the more competition there is, the better each player will get.
"You always feel that pressure of competition, especially with a big group, but it just makes everybody that much better," Worrilow said. "It's a good group. We are helping each other and we are watching film with each other."
Coaching the linebackers will be 38-year-old Jeff Ulbrich, who left his defensive coordinator position at UCLA to become the Falcons linebacker coach this season.
Ulbrich played 10 seasons with the 49ers and the intensity of the young assistant and his familiarity to the game will be great fit for evaluating what could be the team's deepest position battle.
"He is very intense," Worrilow said when describing Ulbrich's coaching style. "You can feel the intensity in our meeting room when he is explaining things and he's been through it. Anything he is telling you, like where you can take your chances and where you can cheat a little bit in the alignment is a huge benefit."
As for the defensive schemes the linebackers will be running this season under Quinn, Worrilow is confident it will suit his style of play. After a couple weeks of going over the basic terminology and install, Worrilow has noticed that the defense this year is based more on effort than the amount of terminology and alignments.
Voluntary workouts began this week and members of the media had a chance to see the Falcons back at work Thursday morning. Head coach Dan Quinn, QB Matt Ryan and CB Desmond Trufant answered questions in a press conference.
"Through the first couple weeks, there is less volume from everything we have put in," he said. "You can tell it is geared more on effort, the fundamentals of the game, tackling and attacking the ball has been a huge emphasis, as well."
Physically there are differences in Worrilow's preparation for the season. He focused on adding size last offseason but has shifted his focus to improving his mobility this time.
"Mobility is something they (the coaching staff) want me to focus on and I've been working on that every morning, whether it's 20 minutes or an hour,'' he said. "I schedule it so I get here and hour-and-a-half early so I can get that in … strength and conditioning is a huge interest of mine. Even if I didn't play football, working out would be a huge part of my life. "
There is no denying a lot has changed from Worrilow's first offseason with the Falcons when he was an undrafted rookie just trying to make a roster for the first time.
Now, he's a married man carrying back-to-back seasons of leading the team in tackling into the offseason, but the same determination and willingness to improve remains and it has a chance to fit nicely into the type of defense Quinn is building in Atlanta.
"This (Quinn's) defense preaches intensity, attitude and effort and that is something I think I bring," said Worrilow. " I look forward to working on all the fundamentals of the things they are preaching and I think it is going to be a good offseason."