Sean Weatherspoon, Linebacker
EARLY IN camp the Falcons vaulted Weatherspoon, the 19th pick out of Missouri, to No. 1 on the depth chart at weakside linebacker, hoping he'll supply the pass-rush pressure they've lacked. Defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder chirped at the kid constantly because he needed him to be ready to start in Week 1. "Goddam rookie show out here!" Van Gorder yelled after Weatherspoon made a coverage mistake in one of his first practices. But the 22-year-old wasn't intimidated. In his second camp practice he brawled with veteran tackle Sam Baker.
When the Falcons scouted Weatherspoon, they knew they had to have him. "Sean played against a lot of spread offenses in the Big 12," coach Mike Smith says. "He played in space, which is what he'll have to do here. He faced displaced receivers playing all over the field. That's what the Saints do. He'll match up very well with his quickness against tight ends and backs."
The 6'2", 245-pound Weatherspoon played in coverage more than he attacked the passer in college, so he's excited about taking on edge-rush duties. "Every linebacker loves to blitz," he says. "In this system they expect their linebackers to be fast and to be able to cover and rush. I'll make mistakes, but I really think I can be that spark."
One club source worries that vets will chafe at the fiery, outspoken Weatherspoon. So be it. With him you get the total package. "He's not just a three-down player," Smith says. "He's a four-down player. He could be a star on special teams. He's a coach's dream." And if Weatherspoon is knocking Drew Brees to the turf this fall, no Atlanta defender is going to care if he's mouthy while he's doing it.