0

Falcons find linebacker prospects after draft

Mike Nolan is entering his second year as defensive coordinator of the Falcons and will look for rookie linebackers Nick Clancy and Joplu Bartu to make an impact.

Mike Nolan is entering his second year as defensive coordinator of the Falcons and will look for rookie linebackers Nick Clancy and Joplu Bartu to make an impact.

ATLANTA — Following a weekend rookie mini-camp, the Atlanta Falcons feel they may have managed to steal a couple of linebacker prospects after failing to address that need during the draft.

Linebackers Nick Clancy and Joplu Bartu, both undrafted free agent rookies, were impressive in the three-day camp that ended Sunday.

“Clancy and Bartu did a nice job in the special teams stuff and that’s really where those young linebackers are going to get their first opportunity to contribute,” Falcons coach Mike Smith told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “They both can run. We definitely saw that and I like the size of them.”

Clancy took over last year for Luke Kuechly, who was the Carolina Panthers first round pick and made many lists as defensive rookie of the year after setting tackle records at Boston College.

Clancy, who had only 19 tackles as a backup in 2011, collected Kuechly-type stats with 145 tackles in 12 starts last year, good for fourth in the country.

However, scouts noted that too many tackles were well beyond the line of scrimmage and the type defense used should result in the middle linebacker making an inordinate number of tackles.

However, his many stops downfield may have been explained in his poor 40-yard time of 4.93 seconds. So, despite the fact he looks the part at 6-2, 237, and had the numbers, Clancy was not even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and went undrafted.

Bartu, listed at 6-2, 230, began last season at defensive end for Texas State, but was moved to linebacker. He made 71 tackles over his last five games, including 16 tackles against Louisiana Tech and Navy.

“They are very athletic,” Smith said. “This is a big, athletic group in terms of the size of the guys. We have some guys with some really good size.”