2012 Atlanta Falcons: LB Sean Weatherspoon Is the Next Cornelius Bennett
Sean Weatherspoon is going to go down as one of the best linebackers in Atlanta Falcons history. He's got the abilities all around to be the spark at outside linebacker that Cornelius Bennett was when Bennett led the Buffalo Bills defense to four straight Super Bowl-caliber defenses.
Cornelius Bennett was known not just for his run-stuffing ability, but his excellent pass-rushing ability and leadership. Weatherspoon has taken over the defense as the leader, and according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC, he will even be relaying signals from the sidelines into the defensive calls in the 2012 season.
Sean Weatherspoon is known for his pass coverage skills and being a tackling machine, but one of the most unknown things about the Falcons linebacker is how adept he is in pass rushing. As Pro Football Focus recorded in just 89 pass rushing snaps, he had four sacks, four QB hits and 10 pressures.
His pass rush snaps per combined pressure rate was one per 4.94 snaps. This rate was better than John Abraham and Lawrence Sidbury, who were the next best pass-rushers on the team and are known as pass-rush specialists at defensive end.
Pro Football Focus mentions Weatherspoon in its linebacker prototypes article:
4-3 WILL Linebacker (OLB) – Sean Weatherspoon
The weak side linebacker is the glamour spot in the 4-3. Things are geared for this guy to fly to the football and make plays. Typically, the SAM will take care of the first lead blocker, the MIKE linebacker cleans up any other blocks and the WILL linebacker can just penetrate and make a play on the football. The WILL therefore is usually the quickest, most explosive of the 4-3 linebackers.
After a breakout second season, the new NFL prototype might be the Falcons’ Sean Weatherspoon. He's a fast, instinctive linebacker and was PFF’s fourth-rated 4-3 OLB against the run last season.
So much like Cornelius Bennett, Weatherspoon is the prototype weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 defense. Both players have ideal size with Bennett at 6'3", 240 lbs and Weatherspoon at 6'2", 244 lbs, and both players are leaders in their respective defenses, top pass-rushers and the prototype for their era at the WLB spot.
Falcons fans can only hope that Sean Weatherspoon leads the defense to be good enough to compete in four consecutive super bowls. The Falcons are hoping just one thing is different about Weatherspoon; they want to win a championship that Bennett never earned.
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