rain
Saturday July 4th, 2015 9:46AM

Falcons adjust plans after losing Weatherspoon

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Coach Mike Smith believes additions to the Falcons' defense through free agency and the draft have made the unit better able to overcome a key injury.<br /> <br /> Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon's season-ending Achilles injury will test that belief.<br /> <br /> Atlanta lost one of its defensive leaders on Tuesday when Weatherspoon tore his Achilles tendon.<br /> <br /> Smith is confident the Falcons have improved depth at linebacker and better size on the defensive line as they appear headed for a 3-4 base scheme. The team drafted four linebackers last month.<br /> <br /> Among the rookies who now have an increased opportunity are Notre Dame's Prince Shembo, a fourth-round pick, and Syracuse's Marquis Spruill, a fifth-rounder.<br /> <br /> Smith said this week he is impressed with the continued progress of two 2013 undrafted rookie linebackers, Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow. Worrilow led the team in tackles and Bartu was third, but still the defensive problems helped lead to the disappointing 4-12 finish. Veteran linebacker Akeem Dent is another option.<br /> <br /> "They are a much more mature group," Smith said. "We went through some growing pains with them last year that are going to pay dividends moving forward."<br /> <br /> Smith said additions to the defensive line also should give the linebackers better protection to make plays. They signed defensive end Tyson Jackson and defensive tackle Paul Soliai in free agency and drafted defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman in the second round.<br /> <br /> "Those guys are big guys and will be able to anchor the defensive line and that's what we need," Smith said. "We've got to stop the ball from getting to the second level."<br /> <br /> Weatherspoon is expected to make a full recovery following surgery.<br /> <br /> Though the loss of Weatherspoon was devastating, training camp is still one month away. The Falcons have time to adjust their plans, unlike last season, when Weatherspoon hurt his foot in Week 2 and landed on the temporary inactive list. He returned in November but then hurt his knee late in the season.<br /> <br /> He was still rehabbing the knee when running under the supervision of the team's medical staff on Tuesday.<br /> <br /> Injuries were a big reason Atlanta's streak of five straight winning seasons came to a crashing end last year. The Falcons closed the disappointing season with 11 players on injured reserve, including such prominent players as wide receiver Julio Jones and offensive tackle Sam Baker.<br /> <br /> On Tuesday, Smith firmly said he was through talking about last season's bad news.<br /> <br /> "Last year was last year and we try not to talk about it anymore," Smith said. "When you have your best players on the field, it really helps."<br /> <br /> Hours later the team announced that Weatherspoon, regarded as perhaps the team's top defensive player, was lost for the year.<br /> <br /> Weatherspoon set career highs with 80 tackles, four sacks, 14 tackles for losses and eight pass deflections in 2011, the only year he has played 16 games.<br /> <br /> Though he had been held out of organized team activities this month, Weatherspoon was expected to be cleared for training camp before his latest injury.<br /> <br /> NOTE: The Falcons waived tight end Andrew Szczerba and punter Matt Yoklic. Szczerba was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 13, 2012 and spent the 2013 season on injured reserve. Yoklic, from Pittsburgh, was signed as a college free agent on May 12.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 6 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 6 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 6 months ago )
Sports
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 6 months ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 6 months ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 6 months ago )
Professional Sports
Uribe homer lifts Braves past Phillies
Juan Uribe hit a tie-breaking homer in the seventh inning, Julio Teheran delivered another strong home start and the Atlanta Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 on Friday night.
By The Associated Press
8:03AM ( 1 hour ago )
Kyle Busch’s Daytona return starts with another crash
Kyle Busch’s time at Daytona in 2015 has been far from positive. It took another bad turn just nine minutes into Friday’s first Sprint Cup practice session.
By Jeff Olson-NASCAR Wire Service
8:00AM ( 1 hour ago )
G-Braves split DH with Charlotte to end road trip
Behind a complete game from former Major League right-handed starter Brad Penny and a four homer attack, the Charlotte Knights whipped the Gwinnett Braves by a score of 11-2 on Friday night in the second game of the day/night doubleheader at BB&T Ballpark.
By AccessWDUN staff
11:19PM ( 10 hours ago )
Gainesville Braves best of 32; win USSSA World Series
Two come-from-behind wins, last-inning heroics and timely pitching meant one thing for the 9-and-under Gainesville Braves travel baseball team the last week of June: a USSSA World Series title.
2:50PM ( 18 hours ago )
Maybin gives Braves walk-off win over Nats
Cameron Maybin drove in the go-ahead run with a chopper against Max Scherzer that bounced over third base in the ninth inning, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Thursday night.
By The Associated Press
9:23AM ( 1 day ago )