ATLANTA, GA- Congratulations are always in order when any rookie or undrafted free agent makes the initial 75-man roster cuts for any NFL team. It’s even more impressive when that rookie manages to see significant snaps in the first half of a preseason game alongside tried and tested veterans.
Joplo Bartu is one of those talented rookies that made the initial 75-man roster on Tuesday. The Falcons had to waive 14 players before the deadline, and with the linebacker position thinning out, it seems that Bartu has a great shot at making the team. He is currently listed as the teams’ third string weak-side linebacker.
During the preseason game against the Titans on Saturday, Bartu saw a lot of playing time with the first team defense when the team needed a linebacker that could cover in space. Last season Stephen Nicholas seemed to have trouble covering mobile, pass-catching tight ends like Zach Miller and Vernon Davis. Coach Mike Smith also used Bartu as the lone linebacker in the dime position in certain defensive packages. If this trend continues we could be seeing young Joplo in the game specifically for third and long situations, much like the play in which he caused a force fumble on Titans quarterback Jake Locker.
“We wanted to see how he handled it; I thought he handled it pretty well,” Smith said on Monday after the game. “I’m very impressed with the way he handled his role in our nickel package.”
With the problems the Falcons had at defending against tight ends and pass-catching running backs keeping the young Bartu seems like a great addition to the defense. He offers flexibility and a chance for the veteran linebackers to get off the field. On the defensive side of the ball I’m personally a fan of keeping fresh bodies on the field at all times. One mistake can go for a long touchdown, shift momentum, and end up on the highlight page of ESPN.
At Texas State during his senior year he recorded 95 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2012. 62 of those tackles came in the final four games of his collegiate career. He had a monster game against New Mexico State; during that game alone he recorded 17 tackles and four sacks. With this performance he earned All-WAC second-team honors.
Bartu wasn’t always just a linebacker; in high school as many talented players often do, Bartu played both ways: as a tight end as well as a safety. He could have gone to Northwestern, a BCS eligible school, but opted to go to Texas State because of strong emotional ties to the school. He picked Texas State to play where his brother, Wellington Deshield had played. While at Texas State, Bartu was a redshirt freshman that started as a safety then was moved to defensive end before finally being placed as a linebacker, a position where he could finally use his full potential.
As the final NFL required 53-man roster cuts loom just over the horizon, the undrafted free agent Joplo Bartu can only hope that his story will continue past the final preseason game against the Jaguars on August 29, 2013.