WLB Sean Weatherspoon, #56
Height: 6-1 1/4 Weight: 244 Speed: 4.67
Notes: A three-year starter at Missouri with a track background. Was selected 19th overall in 2010 by the Falcons. Started 5-of-11 games in which he played as a rookie at weak-side linebacker, missing five games with an ankle injury and a right knee sprain and recording 42 tackles and one sack on the season. Stepped into the starting lineup for all 16 games in ’11, posting a career-high 115 tackles and four sacks with eight pass breakups. Started the first seven games in ’12 before suffering a low right ankle sprain that caused him to miss three games. Returned to the lineup in Week 12. Has racked up 69 tackles, three sacks, three pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble in 10 starts.
Positives: Explosive in a straight line with outstanding closing speed (when he triggers correctly and has a free path to the ball). Excellent weight-room strength and explosion (though he lacks the toughness and temperament to consistently translate it to the field). Good balance — is seldom on the ground. Is fast enough to recover (when he missteps). Plays every down and seldom leaves the field. Can carry backs and tight ends down the field in man coverage. Has very good coverage range and can buzz short zones (when he recognizes it).
Negatives: Has short arms, tight hips and average lateral agility. Very undisciplined eyes and instincts — is late to react, can be pulled and sucked up by misdirection and play fakes. Needs to improve reading his keys — too often false-steps, gets out of position and takes bad angles. Can play with more consistent knee bend. Lacks urgency when it’s called for — is seldom the first to arrive at a collision, often waiting for the cavalry to show and production is inflated from pile-jumping. Carries a false bravado and arrogant demeanor and his play does not match his mouth. Has been injury-prone and played every game in only one of his first three seasons.
Summary: Is a key piece in Mike Nolan’s fast-flowing "40" front and registers a lot of production on the weak side, where the defense is designed to funnel the ball. Serves as an eraser, capable of chasing down plays with outstanding speed and will deliver some explosive big hits when he has a good angle. However, he lacks the down-to-down consistency and instinctive, football-playing temperament desired at the LB position. Is not nearly as good as he thinks he is — not even the best linebacker on his own team despite carrying the loftiest draft status — and must hone his fundamentals and technique and refine his eyes if he is ever to realize his potential.