Over the last week we've been counting down our choices for the top players on the 2012 Atlanta Falcons roster and we are nearing the end. So far we've featured Tyson Clabo (#10), Michael Turner (#9), Asante Samuel (#8), Tony Gonzalez (#7), Brent Grimes (#6) and Julio Jones (#5). The next man on the list represents the present and the future of the Falcons defense.
After being banged up a bit in his rookie campaign, Sean Weatherspoon broke through last year with 115 tackles and 4 sacks. Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, "Spoon" is poised to break-out even more this season as he takes a leadership role on the defense in his third year as a pro. Here is what the guys had to say about Spoon:
Eric: Now the most important piece in the Linebacking core. Statistically - he was one of, if not the, best 4-3 OLBs in the NFL last year. With Mike Nolan's new system, he's a versatile weapon for him to exploit
Joe: Under-appreciated and undervalued, Weatherspoon is an athletic player who is still improving his craft. His skill set will be much clearer with the change in defensive scheme; becoming more aggressive; letting athletes make plays.
Matt: Weatherspoon followed up a mediocre rookie season with a fantastic sophomore season, showing a great ability not only in run support but also pass coverage. I would expect to see Spoon eclipse his four sacks and eight passes defended (and perhaps even his 115 tackles) while playing almost every defensive snap in 2012. If he takes another step forward this season, he will be a top 4-3 outside linebacker.
Mike: Spoon is the leader of the defense. His swagger is unparallelled, if you don't believe me just attend a summer practice session. He is easily one of my favorite Falcons.
Zach: Wow, that is all I can say when I watch Spoon. I have never seen a player fly around with so much emotion and playmaking ability for the Falcons in the last 5 years. In his short two year career Spoon has vaulted up to the top of 4-3 OLBs and is now being handed the radio helmet and called the leader of the Atlanta Falcons' defense. How many players can claim that accomplishment?
Get more great Atlanta Falcons news and analysis over at The Grits Blitz.