His natural talent and big personality make him an obvious choice to become the vocal leader of this defense. I say we turn him loose.
After reading a great discussion in Dawson Devitt’s The Bird Cage about Mike Johnson, it got me thinking how the Falcons should use their first round draft pick, Sean Weatherspoon. D. Orlando Ledbetter has the Mizzou star beginning the year rotating at both outside linebacker positions with starters Mike Peterson and Stephen Nicholas.
While this seems a likely scenario, everyone in Atlanta knows that Weatherspoon will be in the starting lineup sooner or later. I say sooner. You don’t spend a first round draft pick on somebody to play them situationally or as part of a timeshare. I know the goal was to bring him slowly, learning alongside Peterson, but I think the Falcons will name Weatherspoon the starter before week one.
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I don’t think there is anyway the coaching staff will be able to keep Weatherspoon off the field and the ideal situation is for him to start at the weakside (Will) position.
This means the incumbent, Peterson, would focus on being a mentor to his young successor. I can see the Falcons, especially Mike Smith due to their shared history at Jacksonville, wanting to let Peterson retain the starting position this season and then part ways in 2011 when his contract is up. I don’t think they should wait.
Linebacker is not like quarterback or receiver where you want to ease a player into the role. It’s a seek-and-destroy position. Find the ball and go get it. Weatherspoon will have no problem doing that. As a bonus, he played in the pass-happy Big 12 so his coverage skills are honed.
The knock against him is he runs around blocks sometimes, but that can be remedied real quick. There’s no better way to break that habit then having to face the fiery Peterson on the sideline if he does play some Olé defense.
Passing the Torch
I like Peterson. He is a heckuva player and he came in last year and filled the Keith Brooking void admirably. But his time is nearing an end.
He came into the league as a second round draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts before playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his 11 years, he was one of the best linebackers in the league. And when I say “one of the best”, I mean Top 15 overall. Along with London Fletcher, Peterson is one of the most under-appreciated players of his generation.
Like all good things, however, his time as an elite linebacker has come to an end. His last dominant season was in 2005 and Pro Football Focus has him 23rd out of 25 4-3 OLBs who took at least 50% of their teams snaps.
Both Nicholas’ and Peterson’s contracts are up after this season. Nicholas is seven years his junior. Who do you think the team will choose to re-sign?
With Curtis Lofton in the middle and Nicholas on the strongside and Weatherspoon on the weakside, the Falcons linebacking corp would be a youthful, aggressive unit. Mix in the moves the team made in the defensive line and secondary and this defense could go from rookie level to All-Madden in a year.
What are your thoughts? Is this a foregone conclusion already or will Peterson hold on the starter’s role? Will Nicholas be the one to go instead? Or will Coy Wire be in the mix? Let me know in the comments to start the conversation on Twitter.