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Mark BradleyMark Bradley

A bad early loss: Weatherspoon out for the season

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They aren't celebrating in Flowery Branch tonight. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

They aren’t celebrating in Flowery Branch tonight. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

You might recall that Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus just rated the Atlanta Falcons’ roster the third-worst in the NFL. You might also remember that Monson labeled only three Falcons defenders as “above average.” Now comes word that one of those three — linebacker Sean Weatherspoon — ruptured his Achilles tendon and has been lost for the 2014 season.

Falcons coach Mike Smith announced Tuesday night that Weatherspoon was running “with our medical staff” during one of those essential OTA’s — an organized team activity, which is a fancy term for a post-Memorial-Day-but-pre-Fourth-of-July practice — when the injury occurred. (Good thing he wasn’t trying to work out unattended, huh?) This means that the team’s best linebacker won’t be available for what stands to be the first year the Falcons switch to the 3-4 — which deploys four linebackers — as their base defense.

(The Falcons are still quibbling over whether they’ll be a 4-3 with 3-4 capabilities, but that’s mostly semantics. The Falcons love to quibble over semantics.)

There’s no way to paint a smiley face here, folks. This is a bad loss. Matt Ryan is still the most valuable Falcon and Julio Jones remains No. 2, but Weatherspoon surely ranked among the five most important Birds. No, he’s not an All-Pro, but that’s kind of the point. The Falcons don’t have any All-Pros on defense, and the closest thing they had to one won’t play a down in what stands to be a rather significant season. Whoa, Nellie.

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