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Falcons Vs. Bengals: Linebacker Battles In Spotlight In NFL Preseason

The Atlanta Falcons have a couple of positions that need to be sorted out before the start of the regular season, and Thursday night's preseason game will offer a big test for those players competing for the team's last few roster spots. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution lists his top five positions to watch tonight, listing the battles at inside and outside linebacker at spots three and four.

At inside linebacker, projected starter Akeem Dent will miss tonight's game with a concussion. With Dent out, players occupying the lower rungs of the depth chart, like Max Gruber and Pat Schiller, will get valuable playing time as they work to make the final 53-man team. Linebackers coach Glenn Pires knows how important tonight will be for the two rookies, telling Ledbetter, "This week is going to be a big, big week for those guys."

Outside linebacker looks to be a bit more stable, with Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas starting on the outside, and Robert James and Spencer Adkins serving as their backups. Undrafted free agent Rico Council, however, is making a strong case for himself with his play in camp. Pires noted that Council's ability to stop the run has made an impression with the coaching staff:

"He’s a big, burly and thick guy. He’s got to bring the wood. Those are his assets. He’s a big and strong guy. He’s physical in the run game. That’s what we want to get from him, getting downhill and playing physical."

Stick with this StoryStream for more from the Atlanta Falcons preseason. For complete Falcons news and analysis, check out The Falcoholic.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.