One thing is for sure, Sean Weatherspoon will have to take less time in his sack celebrations, or eliminate them all together.
In an AJC piece, the point is made that Curtis Lofton, the on field defensive brain of the team must be replaced. Losing Lofton, a guy who organized and aligned the entire defense, means a new player will have to step up in that role, and take the role of organizer of this defense. Perhaps Weatherspoon is that player.
The interesting thing about the article, is just when the Falcons are planning on using Weatherspoon as the play-caller. Obviously ‘Spoon is a great playmaker, makes tackles for loss and can get after the quarterback on blitzes. He plays the Falcon’s Weakside-linebacker position, and traditionally the MLB (the position Lofton played) was the position that was the brains of the defense. Think of a Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher.
Here is the thing: The Falcons don’t have a MLB who they will want to have on the field on Third-Downs. The current MLBs Lofa Tatupu and Akeem Dent are both very good players, especially in run defense, but could be liabilities on passing downs. I would expect either of them to be taken off the field on 3rd downs, along with their helmet that contains a radio for communications with the defensive coordinator. Someone else would need to receive signals from the sideline as to exactly what defense to run.
That’s exactly what the Falcons are going to ask Weatherspoon to do in 2012 and going forward under Mike Nolan. The Falcons will probably have three linebackers on the field on 1st and 2nd downs (barring exceptions to the rule) and then add more defensive backs while subtracting linebackers. The one 3-down linebacker for the Falcons will be Weatherspoon. He is going to be asked to make plays on 1st & 2nd down as usual, then his role changes. Instead of celebrating and getting ready to blitz or drop into coverage on 3rd down, he will be asked to quickly organize the defense into a huddle, get the defensive signs from a coach on the sideline, communicate that to the defensive players, and then go out and execute his role in the defense on that specific play. It seems like a lot, but it is something that ‘Spoon did while in college at Missouri, and during Senior Bowl activities while he prepped for the 2010 Draft. As Falcons fans, we can feel comfortable with this passing of the torch, because Weatherspoon is prepared to take this role, and capable of doing all that he is asked to do. I guess one more thing is certain too, we will not see him celebrating quite as much. If we do, we will need him to focus more.