Falcons' rookie linebackers ready to get it started

Falcons rookie linebacker De'Vondre Campbell appears to have won a starting job as the regular season nears. AP Photo/Todd Kirkland

ATLANTA -- It was rather telling when Atlanta Falcons rookie linebacker De'Vondre Campbell played just three snaps Thursday night before exiting the field with the likes of Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Vic Beasley Jr., and Ricardo Allen.

The starters weren't expected to play much in the final preseason game and didn't, with just one series against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Campbell obviously received the veteran treatment with his cameo appearance, just another sign that he has won the starting job at weakside linebacker heading into the regular season.

The fourth-round draft pick from Minnesota is not taking anything for granted, however.

"You can never say that you've done enough," Campbell said. "I make mistakes, just like everybody else. I think I've taken steps toward that starting job, but I haven't really been consistent enough, in my eyes.

"I just have to stay in my playbook, like I've been doing. I've got to try and continue to play at a consistent level. I think I've been doing good, but you can never stop learning. I've just know I've have to keep growing and keep on the track that I'm on."

Falcons coach Dan Quinn stopped short of declaring Campbell and rookie middle linebacker Deion Jones the starters for the Sept. 11 season opener against the Tampa Buccaneers. However, Quinn also said he's comfortable with Campbell and Jones in the roles they've played this preseason, which included three starts together in four games. Three-time leading tackler Paul Worrilow and veteran Sean Weatherspoon started the first preseason game at middle and weakside linebacker, respectively.

"We had to get a lot of work put into these guys," Quinn said of his two rookie inside linebackers. "We knew in the preseason they needed a lot of work. Fortunately for us at linebacker, we've got some pretty good depth there. Between Dre, Deion, Spoon, Worrilow, LaRoy Reynolds, that's a very competitive and, in some cases, veteran group where they're there to lean on one another for experience and questions.

"They're all going to see action. They're that good of a group. And they battle for it."

Jones and Campbell were drafted, in large part, because of their speed and ability to cover up some of the coverage issues the Falcons have had in recent years. The biggest challenge for Jones, a second-round draft pick from LSU, is having the mental capacity to run the show from the middle linebacker spot.

"I'm not going to lie, it took a minute," Jones said of playing the middle. "Worrilow is always going in early and drawing things up, going over plays with me. For me, it was processing everything that we were going over on the board and doing the same thing on the field."

Jones appreciates the vote of confidence from Quinn.

"It means a lot," Jones said. "It means that I've been doing the things that coach asks. For me, I really want to make him proud so he won't regret his decision. I want to hold myself accountable, hold up to a standard."