The loss of Sean Weatherspoon was bad news for Atlanta's defense. The 2013 Atlanta Falcons were never able to recover from multiple injuries along defense and 2014 is off to a bad start with Weatherspoon's ruptured achilles.
Atlanta's new expected defense has been called many things. The only thing we know for sure is Atlanta will run plenty of nickel. It looks like Robert McClain, who had a pretty poor 2013, will battle rookie Ricardo Allen for the nickel position. Atlanta may push for Brandon Flowers to keep both players lower on the depth chart and field three "starter-worthy" cornerbacks.
The Falcons managed to run something like that for about three quarters in 2012 before franchised corner Brent Grimes ruptured his achilles.
If the team can add another great corner, I would expect them to play even more formations with five or more defensive backs. The position that would lose snaps to the extra corner should be the inside linebacker spot. Atlanta can leave a run plugger on the bench after they signed two big-bodies in free agency.
Normally offenses like running against nickel formations, but running backs probably don't see too many defensive lines with 640 pounds of Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai. These two are monsters against the run that should allow Atlanta flexibility in the secondary because inside linebacker becomes less necessary. With a corner that is not a liability in coverage or against the run, the Falcons can competently run nickel as their base formation.
The Falcons may put together a defense that is great in coverage
rushing the quarterback and plugging the run.
If the Falcons sign Brandon Flowers, they may not need another inside linebacker. The spot would likely be manned by Paul Worrilow or Joplo Bartu with Prince Shembo and Yawin Smallwood providing depth and receiving rotational snaps in two-ILB sets. While neither Worrilow nor Bartu are quite as versatile as Weatherspoon, the loss of Atlanta's former first round selection may not hurt as much as expected.
Thoughts? Or am I just crazy?
This is all a bit cumulative to info in the other Flowers article, but here are some beat writers saying Atlanta is in the hunt for Flowers... along with plenty of other teams.
Ten NFL teams, including Ravens, Vikings, Falcons, Lions, reached out to Brandon Flowers so far. In preliminary stage, according to a source— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) June 16, 2014
Minnesota's beat writer discussed Minnesota's interest (and available cap space) in Flowers.
@TonyBrinkhaus nearly $8M in cap space. Few other teams like Atlanta are after him too.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) June 14, 2014
Atlanta is in it. If they lose out, it won't be due to lack of effort.