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Falcons Smith says LB Weatherspoon can fill gap left by Lofton

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Now that linebacker Curtis Lofton has left to join the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons have a big hole to fill. Not just at middle linebacker, but the Falcons also have to replace an important voice inside the defensive huddle .

John Abraham's return to Atlanta -- the defensive end signed a three-year deal this month -- gives the Falcons one veteran leader, and coach Mike Smith said during the NFL Annual Meeting that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is ready to assume Lofton's role despite the fact that he's entering his third season in the league.

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"Sean Weatherspoon is ready to step into that role," Smith told Sirius XM NFL radio, via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Sean is a very verbal player and well–respected even though he’s only been in the league two years."

Weatherspoon, a 2010 first-round pick out of the University of Missouri, started all 16 games at outside linebacker for the Falcons last season and had 115 tackles with four sacks.

As a team, the Falcons took a step back in 2011 after a dominant 2010 season in which they finished 13-3 and earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Falcons went 10-6 to earn a wild-card berth but then were crushed by the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs. Smith said that one of the problems this past season was a lack of consistency.

"I don’t know that we ever got into the routine that we would have liked to have gotten into," Smith said. "It was kind of back and forth. I think that is something that we have to address moving forward. Then again, you want to be peaking at the right time, as you know, December and January is when you want to be playing your best football. Unfortunately, we haven’t done that."



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