Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 11/1/12
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons will face Dallas on Sunday without leading tackler Sean Weatherspoon, as head coach Mike Smith ruled him out on Thursday with an ankle injury. Weatherspoon, the weakside linebacker, had played every snap on defense for the Falcons this season until suffering the injury with 9:08 remaining in Sundays 30-17 win at Philadelphia. He was removed from the field on a cart and did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. According to NFL.com, Weatherspoons 52 tackles rank first on the team with strongside linebacker Stephen Nicholas 45 ranking second. Weatherspoons three sacks also rank second on the team. Veteran Mike Peterson, at age 36, will fill in for Weatherspoon in the 4-3 base defense; however, how much Peterson plays depends on how much the Falcons use that defense, as opposed to their nickel package which coordinator Mike Nolan has shown a preference for. Last Sunday against the Eagles, starting middle linebacker Akeem Dent said the Falcons only played six or seven snaps in their base defense. If the Falcons go with their nickel package (two linebackers, three cornerbacks) instead, cornerback Robert McClain, who played 90 percent of the snaps against the Eagles, will become the 11th defender instead of Peterson. Significantly with Weatherspoon out, Dent also must play in nickel situations, which he does not do when both Weatherspoon and Nicholas are healthy. Dent, in his second season in the NFL and first as a starter, has seen his playing time vary wildly this season. He has played as little as one snap against Denver in Week 2 and as much as 100 percent of the snaps in Week 6 against Oakland. Dent played 22 of the defenses 73 snaps against Philadelphia, but most of those came once Weatherspoon, who played 47 snaps, left the game. Dent was asked what it was like to have his playing time be so sporadic. I mean, sometimes its just different, he said. My thing is to always be prepared. Preparation always meets opportunity you never know when were going to have an injury in the game or things like that. Last week something just happened and snap Im just the next guy in, so just have to be prepared. The Oct. 14 game against Oakland was the first of his career in which Dent played in nickel situations and the Falcons narrowly won, 23-20, on a last-second field goal. The Falcons allowed Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer 353 yards passing the most the Falcons have allowed this season in the process. In that game, Dent played with Weatherspoon in the nickel as Nicholas was injured and played only on special teams. This time, Dent is likely to play alongside Nicholas in that package. Smith said that Dent would play the same role in the nickel defense this Sunday; in the Oakland game, the Falcons had Weatherspoon play a different role than what he normally does to accommodate Dent. Dallas owns the NFLs third-ranked passing offense, as it averages 297.3 yards per game. Smith said he expects Dent to be ready. Part of the linebackers role could include defending in pass coverage against Dallas tight end Jason Witten, who caught a franchise-record 18 passes for the Cowboys last week. Akeem gets practice snaps all week when were talking about working our sub package during practice, so he gets an opportunity to work there, Smith said. Hes very familiar with the role hes been trained for. Its not like were training him in one week. Nicholas was asked how it would be different to play without Weatherspoon. I just dont hear him, Nicholas said of his notoriously talkative teammate. Me and Spoon talk a lot while were out there. Whatll be different, Ill be talking to Akeem. Thatll be different. Spoon is definitely an explosive player, man. I can count on him to be there if Im not there. Weatherspoon was a first-round pick in 2010 and is a difficult player to replace, even if the Falcons were talking up Dent and their depth on Thursday. Starting safety Thomas DeCoud likened the situation to the defensive backfield where 2010 Pro-Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes was lost for the season in Week 1 but others have stepped up. Well miss his energy and his intensity, DeCoud said of Weatherspoon. We have that same kind of depth in the linebacking corps.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Clippers ‘overwhelming favorite’ to keep Chris Paul

Giants owner: Signing Kaepernick would anger fans

Mike Trout to undergo MRI after suffering thumb injury

John Wall: Bench was cause of Wizards’ ‘downfall’

Arum says Pacquiao would fight McGregor if Mayweather won't

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Aaron Judge hits first grand slam of his career

David Stern: Lakers could have had Chris Paul, GM panicked

Brandon Jacobs vows to 'expose' Jim Harbaugh, get him fired

Mike Zimmer won’t retire even if right eye goes blind

Kevin Love responds to Draymond Green’s ‘annihilation’ trash talk

Spike Lee deletes Instagram post saying Kaepernick signed with Seattle

Meet your Stanley Cup finalists: Nashville Predators

Getaway Day: There's a murderer's row in the NL West

Journey to the Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 5/26: Bring on the Finals

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Meet your Stanley Cup finalists: Nashville Predators

Getaway Day: There's a murderer's row in the NL West

Journey to the Stanley Cup Final: Pittsburgh Penguins

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker