Weatherspoon helps Falcons fix the right side of the ball

Sean Weatherspoon will have the Falcons' defense headed up next season.

Sean Weatherspoon will have the Falcons' defense headed up next season.

FLOWERY BRANCH — In his never-ending quest to not let you know what he’s really thinking – which just makes him an NFL general manager — Thomas Dimitroff balked at answering a question the other day.

It was a simple one: In his extreme makeover plans, on which side of the ball were the Falcons closer to completion?

Dimitroff started and stopped his answer twice, before finally saying: “I would suggest we’re a tad closer to where we want to be on offense.”

Statistics, actually, would tell you a lot closer.

The Falcons had to take outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon on Thursday night.

Injuries in 2009 notwithstanding, when a team finishes 21st in total defense, 28th against the pass, 26th in sacks, 16th in interceptions and 26th in passes defensed, it’s not even a close call.

The pass rush stunk. The coverage stunk. This weekly game of bend-bend-bend-drop-to-your-knees-and-pray-you-don’t-break gets real old after a while.

Opponents had 54 pass plays of 20-plus yards last season. At some point, the question became, “How many of these guys are missing major organs?”

Weatherspoon is not a one-man Mr. Fix-it. But he’s as close as the Falcons’ could have hoped for with the 19th pick. He can play the strong side. He can play the weak side. He can rush the passer. He can hit. He can drop into coverage, an important factor in a division stuffed with athletic tight ends.

“We were in a situation where we needed to build the defense — build depth, increase versatility, eliminate the explosive plays in the passing game,” Dimitroff said after the pick. “In our mind, Sean will help us become more consistent and help us eliminate those explosive plays.”

Now it can be told. Dimitroff locked onto three players in the days leading up to the draft. All on defense. End Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech, end Brandon Graham of Michigan and Weatherspoon. (Florida center Maurkice Pouncey was in the next group.)

Morgan seemed like a long shot. But with a few surprising picks ahead of them — offensive tackle Trent Williams at four to Washington; cornerback Joe Haden at seven to Cleveland; defensive tackle Tyson Alualu at 10 to Jacksonville — Morgan tumbled down. He finally went to Tennessee at 16.

What if both he and Weatherspoon were there at 19?

“We wouldn’t have made our pick in only five minutes,” Dimitroff said. “We would’ve had  a much more pointed discussion. It might’ve come down to the last minute. But we really liked Sean. In the end, we felt the linebacker spot would really help our pass defense.”

The Falcons considered dropping down and swapping picks with Denver at 22 or 25, thinking they might still be able to get Weatherspoon there. But they were worried they might lose him.

“He’s the guy we targeted,” Dimitroff said.

Dimitroff’s first draft was going to be offense-heavy, even if Matt Ryan wasn’t the choice. His original plan was to take LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey with the first choice and try to come back with Michigan quarterback Chad Henne with the Falcons’ next pick. Offensive picks would follow.

Last year was all about defense. Seven of the team’s eight selections were on that side of the ball, including the top four who will be back in 2010: defensive tackle Peria Jerry, safety William Moore, cornerback Chris Owens and defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.

This moves the defense’s makeover closer to completion. Injuries voided the rookie seasons of Jerry and Moore. Both will be back. Cornerback Dunta Robinson, a six-year starter in Houston, was signed in free agent.

Under the circumstances — which included injuries to Ryan and running back Michael Turner — it’s a wonder how the Falcons slipped to only 9-7 last season. Weatherspoon will help them move forward again.

Dimitroff was beaming after the pick. The draft is the favorite part of his job. He feels like he has been scouting players since he was 10 years old, when his father was a long-time pro scout.

“It brings me back to my roots in football, down on the field, sniffing the pits,” he said the other day, using an old scouts’ term.

Defense gets the Falcons back to the roots of football. It was a good day at work.

Earlier posts

Draft night (LIVE): Behind the scenes at Falcons’ HQ

Draft day (Part II): Tebow top 15, Morgan to Falcons?

Draft day (Part I): Falcon options; Berry rips Deion; Tebow to Vikes?

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

119 comments Add your comment

JSS

April 22nd, 2010
11:05 pm

And they still can’t stop or outscore the Saints!

Spooner

April 22nd, 2010
11:11 pm

Well, I guess that happened to about 30 other ball clubs…

Larvell SugarBear Blanks

April 22nd, 2010
11:12 pm

Jeff,

A little surprised Pouncey was in the second group

PlusSizeModel

April 22nd, 2010
11:15 pm

Do the Falcons not also get that Williams dude back at corner this year too? It’s potentially four impact players they didn’t have last year. Not a bad place to be. Not to mention Harry Douglas returning. 2010 is looking good for sure.

Kane337

April 22nd, 2010
11:16 pm

Brees is on the Madden cover. The Saints will have some bad luck this season. Bet on it.
Besides, nobody has repeated as champs since the Patriots did it in 03 and 04.

PlusSizeModel

April 22nd, 2010
11:17 pm

Shoot, make that five on defense: Williams, Weatherspoon, Moore, Robinson, and Jerry.

jaymin

April 22nd, 2010
11:17 pm

i can’t wait to play the Aints again. Drew Brees breaks his leg first game after the madden curse

Kane337

April 22nd, 2010
11:17 pm

PlusSizeModel – Yes the Falcons resigned Brian Williams. He will be back on the team but he is coming off of major knee surgery. Not sure if he will be the starter opposite of Dunta. Grimes and Ownes did well late in the season.

hiramsaint

April 22nd, 2010
11:18 pm

draft night and all you losers can do is talk about the saints. i’ll bet all you falcants fans are closet saint fanatics

waynester

April 22nd, 2010
11:18 pm

It’s a relief to know that we, the fanbase, aren’t clueless seeing as most of us seemed to have zeroed in on the same players as our front office. I had hoped we’d trade down too, but I’m a happy camper tonight.

jaymin

April 22nd, 2010
11:18 pm

so who do we take tomorrow?

was there a chance the falcons were considering bulaga?

Jeff Schultz

April 22nd, 2010
11:18 pm

Larvell — Me too on Pouncey. But Dimitroff told me it was close. Said he had a “handful” of players, which he defined as 3 and finally told me: Weatherspoon-Morgan-Graham.” When I said about Pouncey, he said, “He slipped right through the fingers.” So it was a close fourth. But TD also knew the Steelers were going to take him so it wasn’t even an issue.

Jeff Schultz

April 22nd, 2010
11:19 pm

Jaymin — I would think Falcons will try hard to get into 2nd round — and yes, also think OL will be a focus.

Monger

April 22nd, 2010
11:20 pm

AMAZING PICK…Weatherspoon is a FREAK of an athelete…FAST, STRONG, HARD WORKER, LEADER…AMAZING MOTOR, PLAYS SIDELINE TO SIDELINE…I am Beaming after this pick, as well….with Spoon and the signing of Dunta Robinson, as well as Peria Jerry and William Moore coming back from injurys, our defense will definately be a lot better, a lot faster, and a lot more intimidating to opposing offenses. We have some ballers all over, and Im so excited. We still have 7 more picks to build the offensive line some, get a DE, a good WR, and TE to groom after Tony G leaves. Im excited about SPOON!!!! Great player, and with a line of Spoon, Lofton, and Nicholas, our LB core is set for the next 10 years!!!

tim

April 22nd, 2010
11:21 pm

irony of ironies Tebow the QB and Moreno in the backfield at Denver..imagine that!

congrats Bay Bay, D Morgan, Tebow

April 22nd, 2010
11:21 pm

well this is what we learned tonight: how the mighty have fallen (Notre Dame and UGAY), UGAY j e a l o u s over Derrick Morgan, Bay Bay Thomas and Tim Tebow all going in the first round and lastly, someone from the UGAY football team will land in jail tonight and consequently kicked off the team Friday unless of course he is first string…have a good night everyone including the Athens Outhouse Inbreds

jaymin

April 22nd, 2010
11:22 pm

i’m hoping they draft a good TE tomorrow to groom cause tony’s gone after this year.

Also, any chance we take a DE like a Greg Hardy or Corey Wooton?

All the guys with character issues are falling especially those from Florida. ie brandon spikes and carlos dunlap

Old Dog 1

April 22nd, 2010
11:27 pm

Seems like we are building to win our division first. We gotta get the players to stop the Saints and go from there. I like the pick!!!!!

Kane337

April 22nd, 2010
11:30 pm

Tim, the Broncos also got GT’s Demaryius Thomas.

Reid Adair

April 22nd, 2010
11:30 pm

Sean Weatherspoon is a fantastic addition. The defense improved immediately. Some folks started getting excited about Derrick Morgan, but I didn’t see any way he would still be on the board at No. 19.

Welcome, Sean.

And, Jeff? Thanks for the great work tonight.

Billy O

April 22nd, 2010
11:31 pm

Hey jaymin…..I wouldn’t count Tony out after this year. He has never been in the playoffs. If we make them this year and don’t win the SB, he may just want to come back for one more chance. Just a thought……

Harmon Wages

April 22nd, 2010
11:36 pm

I cannot believe we didn’t take Bulaga,OT. I thought he would be off the board by our turn. Matt Ryan needs an OT for now and the future. I hope Weatherspoon works out,the defense needs help, I agree.

Dawgforlife

April 22nd, 2010
11:39 pm

congrats, Bay Bay Morgan….a tech fan I see congradulations on your 8th and 9th first round draft picks since the draft began in 1937. For the record, UGA has had 13 in the last 12 years..including 2 oursevles in last years draft and higher picks to boot….see you in Athens…30-24…8 of 9….60-39 all time

IceColdATLien

April 22nd, 2010
11:46 pm

TD, again, makes the appropriate pick… fits a big team need while still getting one of the “best players available” with serious upside at the same time. Couldn’t ask for more from the 19th pick!

JSS

April 22nd, 2010
11:48 pm

@Billy O…
“He has never been to the playoffs?”
Man, where are you getting your info? 1997, 2003 and 2006

SKYROCK

April 22nd, 2010
11:50 pm

I love it when the saints fans talk trash about last year and both times the game with our FALCONS could have gone either way, even as beat up as we were, we competed until the last second. I’ll take our healthy Falcons over your healthy aints any day of the week!!! Aints better hope for more Falcon injuries…. WELCOME SPOON!!!

IceColdATLien

April 22nd, 2010
11:51 pm

By the way, Tebow in top 25 is preposterous. He’s the Tyler Hansbrough of the NFL draft: great college player that won’t have a chance to break into starting role for several years… if ever. At least he’s in the AFC, so we won’t have to hear/see his ridiculous proselytizing too often anymore. He’s probably ecstatic that playing in Mile High (or whatever they call it these days) so he can be as close as possible to heaven… what a loser.

The Ghost of Norm Van Brocklin

April 22nd, 2010
11:52 pm

I’d rather have had another tight-end for the QB to use, but then, the current coach is doing better than I did back at good ol’ Fulton County Stadium.

Hey, Mr. Russian-Named GM, you did run a background check on this guy didn’t you? Checking, among other things, for (1) Pancake house mistresses; (2) Vick dog-fight rings; and, (3) College Town Bars in Georgia?

dan

April 22nd, 2010
11:54 pm

Great Pick. I knew Graham and Pierre-Thomas would be gone, so Witherspoon was a great pick. It gives us depth at LB and will help us in the passing game.

Tommy Nobis

April 22nd, 2010
11:54 pm

Takes more than just a linebacker to make a team. I should know.

Buck N. Kincaid

April 22nd, 2010
11:56 pm

Everytime I hear “Dimitroff” it reminds me of Vodka and I have to take a drink. Maybe this means I am disabled and I should get a bailout from our lovely government. Yeah.

Air Zaza

April 22nd, 2010
11:57 pm

Monger

April 23rd, 2010
12:01 am

Now that we’ve got Spoon and Dunta to sure up the D, I say we get a DE with one of the two 3rd round picks and a WR with the other. Then an OL with our 4th. I think that would be the best way to go. We could look at TE in the 5th, and still find a gem. I really want to get Brandon Lafell in the 3rd, Jeff, what do you think about LaFell teaming up with Roddy, Jenkins, and Harry Douglass?? I think he would be a great WR for our offensive scheme, he is big, can block well, and is a big target with great hands…I think he would be an excellent target for Ryan, am I right Jeff??

Monger

April 23rd, 2010
12:02 am

SPOON IS THE MAN!!!!!!!!! SPOOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!!!!!

AlternateReality

April 23rd, 2010
12:05 am

Hey Ghost of Norm, remember when Dan Reeves drafted a TE 2 years in a row?

Kane337

April 23rd, 2010
12:07 am

I think we are going OL with both of our 3rd round picks. If we somehow move up to the 2nd round I think they look at DE.

Navigator

April 23rd, 2010
12:08 am

Moreno must really feel strange with players in the huddle from Florida and GTech. Actually he doesn’t, because only college fans care about that stuff. When you go to the pros, it’s about winning not college allegiances. It’s too bad many of our Falcons fans don’t understand that.

Stephen

April 23rd, 2010
12:08 am

I was hoping we would get Taylor Mayes. Might as well had kept Demarrio Williams instead of letting him go. Seems like Weatherspoon is just another version of him IMO

Monger

April 23rd, 2010
12:13 am

Let’s get BRANDON LAFELL IN THE 3RD!!!! Then with our other 3rd rounder we get either a DE or OL, whichever has the better player for us…. Carlos Dunlap wont make it past the first half of the 2nd round, but if Dimitroff moves up, I really like Dunlap, but he’s not a hard worker, good character guy, so Dimitroff wont draft him. I like Greg Hardy, but he’s in the Dunlap mold, so he wont get picked either by TD. I also like Corey Wooten at DE, who TD could get in the 3rd. As far as OL, I really like John Jerry from Ole Miss- He’s Peria Jerry’s Brother, and a BEAST at 6-6 328!! The only other OL in like in the 3rd is Matt Tennant-C from Boston College, He’s the 2nd best C in the draft after Pouncey and Matt Ryan’s Former C at BC, could be a huge steal…SO my Ideal draft for tomorrow would be…
1st 3rd round pick- Brandon LaFell WR, LSU
2nd 3rd round pick- Either John Jerry, G Ole Miss or Matt Tennant, C Boston College

If the draft went like this after getting Spoon in the 1st I would be so EXCITED for 2010 to start!!!

Denver fan

April 23rd, 2010
12:13 am

The problem as I see it is that we have Moreno who can’t hold on to the ball, Tebow who can’t pass the ball, and Thomas who can’t seem to catch fourth down passes. Not a lot to be excited about.

Sean Weatherspoon - MeMiM

April 23rd, 2010
12:14 am

[...] of the inevitable for the Atlanta Falcons. Show. Weatherspoon attended Jasper High School in JasperSean Weatherspoon – Sean WeatherspoonI wrote recently that Sean Weatherspoon was beginning to feel like in the [...]

drkn78

April 23rd, 2010
12:15 am

Spoon will be a great addition to the Falcons defense and make an immediate impact. He was always around the ball during his time at Mizzou and was the leader of that D. Hopefully Willy Mo will be healthy for the 1st time in two years, and if he is, you all will have a very good playmaker at safety who can make plays on the football as well as being a solid tackler. Congrats Spoon! M-I-Z!

waynester

April 23rd, 2010
12:15 am

I don’t see how we get into round 2 without giving up a current starter or next year’s 2nd and something to sweeten the deal. NE and DEN have lots of extra picks after their 1st rd moves but they’ll make us pay bigtime…
Ghost
fear not–we can get an awesome TE in the 4th
Harmon W
we’ll get help for the O-line tomorrow, hopefully the OC from Baylor or BC
Take DE te’o Nesheim at our 3rd comp and we’re cookin’ with grease!

Monger

April 23rd, 2010
12:16 am

Edit: John Jerry is actually an OT, but he can also play G, which is something TD really likes- versatility in players!!! LETS GO!!!!!!!

Whopper Dawg

April 23rd, 2010
12:16 am

Spoon is a good, solid, maybe very good pick. That is just what TD needed to start with after last year’s disaster of a draft. Jeff, your column make your colleague look like he is covering another team. The three targeted players by TD were never selected as a pick by Ledbetter.

mark wilson

April 23rd, 2010
12:19 am

spoon is the right pick…..now take tennant,curran,shipley,moeki te,jeff owens, aj jefferson, andre roberts……..

Monger

April 23rd, 2010
12:22 am

Stephen-You are wrong about Spoon, in comparing him to Demorrio Williams. If you were to make a comparison, I think he’s closer to Derrick Johnson or Thomas Davis. A COMPLETE LB…with great sideline to sideline speed, amazing football intangibles, and he can blitz/edge rush with the best of them-shooting through gaps, and can match up well with WRs and TEs, and can lay the wood over the middle. He Bench pressed 225 lbs 34 times at the combine!!! Thats great for an Offensive Lineman or Defensive Tackle, for a 239 lb. LB that is off the charts good….so NO he is MUCH better than Demmorrio Williams…

Me

April 23rd, 2010
12:24 am

Tim Tebow 1st round pick 25. All the doggies were claiming he wouldn’t even be a second round pick. Certainly NEVER a 1st rounder. But here’s the REAL kicker…Not just 1 but 3 teams wanted him. Obviously Denver, also Buffalo was poised to take him and Minnesota was so disappionted he wasn’t there that they just passed completely on Clausen and McCoy and completely traded out of the first round. Let’s see…Florida was “finished” when Spurrier left but then even the Zooker came in and took 2 out of 3 from the Dawgs. Then Urban Meyer’s “gimmick” offense was never gonna win in the SEC but then he won 2 SEC and 2 Nat Championships. Wrong again. Then Meyer was off to his “dream job” at Notre Dame. Uh, wrong. Then recruiting was gonna get destroyed because Meyer retired for about 12 hours or so but then he went out and signed the #1 class in the nation. Uh…wrong again. And then he was just lying to all of those recruits and was gonna quit right after signing day except he happened to come back and coached thru a very productive spring……..So I just HAVE to ask…are you doggies EVER right?????

Air Zaza

April 23rd, 2010
12:28 am

Sean Weatherspoon is a beast, no offense to other guys but he’s an impact player who can win rookie DPOY and make the Pro Bowl. Without a question, he is a coup type of pick. Best defensive pick the Falcons made in years.

draft T

April 23rd, 2010
12:29 am

A terrible pick by the falcons—they didn’t need a no name OLB—plenty of more positions more important had gaps. What are they smoking in the falcons mgt offices?