With the regular season well underway, we’ve been looking at the players the Jets have added since cutdown day, continuing today with Paul Worrilow.
The 29-year old linebacker is listed at 6’0” and 230 pounds and was undrafted out of Delaware in 2013. He spent four years in Atlanta, during which time he started 44 games and racked up 385 tackles. He started eight games with the Lions in 2017 but hasn’t played since as he missed all of last year due to injury. Worrilow had actually retired back in August.
Worrilow wasn’t a highly sought-after recruit out of high school, as no Division One teams offered him a scholarship. He instead opted to go the Junior College route before deciding to walk on at Delaware in 2008.
In four seasons with the Fightin’ Blue Hens, Worrilow registered 367 tackles, including 34 tackles for loss. He also had five sacks, eight pass breakups, one interception, four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries (including two that he returned for touchdowns).
After a solid pro day, Worrilow started to get some interest from NFL teams and was eventually signed as an undrafted free agent by the Falcons. He impressed at camp, made it onto the roster and soon ended up in the starting line-up after a series of injuries.
Worrilow produced well as a starter, with one memorable run seeing him produce 54 tackles over a three-game period. He ended his rookie year with 127 tackles in 12 starts, adding two sacks and a pass defensed.
Over the next two years, Worrilow started 31 of 32 games and was eighth in the NFL with 142 combined tackles in 2014. His production was down in 2015, but he did post a career-high four pass break-ups and the only two interceptions of his career.
In Worrilow’s fourth season, he lost his starting job and moved into more of a special teams role. He started just one game and had a career-low 14 tackles. At the end of the year, he moved onto Detroit. In 13 games with the Lions, Worrilow made eight starts and 30 tackles.
Worrilow was signed by the Eagles in 2018, but missed the whole season due to an injury suffered on the first day of OTA’s in May. Although they re-signed him last year, they ultimately cut him in preseason. After initially signing for the Ravens, Worrilow opted instead to retire, but has recently been working out for teams with a view to making a comeback. That led to the Jets signing him this week.
Now let’s take a look at what Worrilow brings to the table, divided into categories.
Worrilow posted very good numbers across the board in his pro day workout, including a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, 30 bench press reps and a reported 6.50 three-cone drill which would have eclipsed the best combine mark ever for a linebacker.
Naturally, he’s almost 30 now and has had to rehab a serious knee injury in 2018, so he may have lost a step since then.
Worrilow is an off-ball linebacker who is probably most comfortable as a 4-3 outside linebacker. However, he has lined up at the Mike position from time to time and will drop into the slot to cover receivers in certain packages.
In high school, Worrilow also played some fullback.
Worrilow’s best attribute is his ability to make decisive reads and get to the ball quickly against the run. Mike Nolan, his defensive coordinator during his first two seasons, claimed that Worrilow’s football intelligence was “out of this world”.
On this play, he anticipates the wide receiver screen and makes a clutch stop in a game the Falcons would ultimately win in overtime.
Worrilow is less comfortable in the passing game as there were times when he blew a zone coverage. He also has a habit of turning the wrong way when changing direction; going the long way around rather than sinking his hips.
Like most linebackers, Worrilow is at his most effective when he can be kept clean so he can make a beeline for the ball. He does that well here.
When required to take on blocks, he will often give ground to enable himself to get off the block and this can cause him to be late in filling lanes or lead to him getting caught up in traffic.
He has good range from sideline to sideline, chases plays down relentlessly and usually takes good angles in pursuit.
Worrilow has been exploited in coverage quite often during his career, as he’s been beaten for 15 touchdowns and does give up big plays from time to time. Here was a costly play he gave up in the closing stages of the Lions’ 2014 comeback win over Atlanta in London.
When he’s sitting underneath and reacting to short passes, he closes well on the ball and can be effective in limiting yards after the catch, but he looks less comfortable staying with his man in space.
Nevertheless, he can handle these man coverage assignments sometimes, as he does a good job here.
Both of his two career interceptions basically saw bad passes thrown right to him, though.
Worrilow closes well on the ball and usually displays good tackling technique. Here he drags his man down in the open field.
However, he has still tended to miss too many tackles. As a full time starter, he led the Falcons with 21 missed tackles in 2014 and again with 18 in 2015. Most of these come as he is disengaging from a block and does get time to square his man up fully. On this play, though, he is unblocked and whiffs on the tackle in the hole.
Sometimes Worrilow will be guilty of throwing a shoulder at a ball carrier rather than making a form tackle and seeing him bounce off. However, he can certainly pack a punch as a tackler as you can see here.
Worrilow forced four fumbles in college and has forced three more since entering the pros. He has had one face mask penalty at the NFL level.
In addition to his hitting, Worrilow is an aggressive blitzer and not afraid to take on a blocker, as you can see.
In coverage, he has been flagged once each for illegal contact, holding and pass interference so he perhaps needs to be more disciplined about grabbing receivers or contacting them early.
When he does blitz, Worrilow has been effective at generating pressure, although most of his four sacks have come from chasing down a quarterback who was flushed from the pocket.
He could have had a fifth here, but this was ruled an incomplete pass after he impressively mowed down the back in pass protection.
Worrilow didn’t play much on special teams initially due to going straight into the starting line-up, but he saw more action there in his final year with the Falcons. He ended up with four special teams tackles that year.
With the Lions in 2017, Worrilow also recovered a fumble following a muffed punt.
He’s also contributed as a blocker in the return game, although he has been called for holding three times and an illegal blindside block once at the NFL level.
Worrilow is known as a player who has an intense work ethic on the field, when watching film and in the weights room. He has said he enjoys and is passionate about the preparation that goes into each game.
In college, he won the Edgar Johnson Award, which recognizes hard work, dedication, leadership, fairness and a striving for excellence.
On the field, he generally plays with good discipline but he can be reckless at times, as he has four unnecessary roughness penalties in his career.
Away from football, he was able to save a 23-year old woman’s life by making a blood stem cell donation.
Worrilow should be fully recovered from his injury in May 2018, but it was a torn ACL so there may still be lingering effects and he may have lost a step, as stated earlier.
Other than the knee injury, Worrilow had also some missed time in 2016 due to a groin injury.
Worrilow should be versatile enough to fill in for the Jets on defense and does have some experience of wearing the headset, so he should be equipped to undertake that responsibility if necessary.
The main connection to Worrilow’s time in Atlanta was that Brian Poole was a rookie there in Worrilow’s final season. Current Jets running back coach Jim Bob Cooter was the Lions’ offensive coordinator while Worrilow was in Detroit and, of course, there are front office connections to both Philadelphia and Baltimore, so the Jets should have several decision makers that know all about him.
The series of injuries at inside linebacker had got to the point where the Jets had to address it.
Worrilow hopefully will steady the ship a little and give the Jets decision makers a better chance to evaluate their defensive personnel by giving the defense a better chance to be competitive again if he can work his way into the rotation. That’s not to say that Worrilow is good enough to be considered a difference-maker, but right now, anyone with base-level competence can step in and provide an upgrade.
Since he was about to retire anyway, are we to expect him just to play out the second half of this year on a non-competitor and then re-retire? If not, then Worrilow might be trying to impress enough to find a job for next year. If all goes well, perhaps the Jets will end up being one of his suitors.