FLOWERY BRANCH GA - JULY 30: Sean Weatherspoon #56 of the Atlanta Falcons runs off the field in between drills during opening day of training camp on July 30 2010 at the Falcons Training Complex in Flowery Branch Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Just a little series on players I expect to be under intense scrutiny in 2012. First up, wunderkind linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
To say expectations for Sean Weatherspoon have skyrocketed would be to severely understate matters. After a sophomore campaign that saw him emerge as one of the best outside linebackers in the NFC, 'Spoon has a legion of fans waiting for him to do great things in 2012.
Make no mistake: "Spoon will be the featured player in Mike Nolan's new defense. John Abraham will pile up sacks, Asante Samuel and Brent Grimes will make a ton of noise in the secondary and one or two young players will almost certainly surprise with the more aggressive scheme. But it's 'Spoon who will be counted on to do everything, ranging from tackling running backs to rushing the passer to helping out in coverage on third downs. He's truly an every-down linebacker, and he'll get his opportunities.
The question is what he'll do with them. 'Spoon's major weaknesses at this stage of his young career are the tendency to blow a few easy tackles and a lack of truly elite coverage skills. When those are the two things I can most easily point to, you know we're dealing with a fairly special player. It's fair to say that at the tender age of 24, Weatherspoon will probably best his 115 tackles, eight pass deflections and four sacks from a year ago.
So the spotlight will be on 'Spoon in 2012, and justifiably so. If he can handle a little extra responsibility and play up to the level he did last year, he'll probably head to his first Pro Bowl this season. If he can top that, the Andromeda galaxy ain't the limit for him.
How do you think 'Spoon will fare in 2012?