Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon dislocated his finger during Monday’s practice against Cincinnati and will miss tonight’s preseason opener at the Georgia Dome. (Photo: Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)
Throughout the offseason, in OTAs and many times during training camp, Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith emphasized the need for the team to stay healthy.
After weeks of good news on that front, the Falcons took a couple of hits this week.
Sean Weatherspoon dislocated a finger Monday and is expected to miss a few weeks. He and Julio Jones, sidelined for precautionary measures, are both being held out of tonight’s 8 p.m. preseason opener against Cincinnati at the Georgia Dome.
The more significant injury came Tuesday, also in a combined practice with the Bengals.
Right tackle Mike Johnson suffered a dislocated left ankle and fractured fibula, Smith said. Johnson, carted off the field and put in an ambulance at the team’s Flowery Branch facility, is scheduled to have surgery next week.
Offensive line was one of the competition spots during camp and Johnson was listed first on the depth chart at his positions, leaving a void for the team to fill.
But Smith said during minicamp that he wanted to be able to mix and match players on the right side of the line.
“As I’ve said many times, we’ve got to have seven guys that can go play,” Smith said in June. “We’ve got our starting center (Peter Konz) that has played guard for us. That gives us some flexibility.
“We feel really strong about Lamar Holmes, our third-round draft pick. It’s time for these guys to step up and we feel very confident that they will.”
Despite the recent losses, the Falcons are potentially an even more dynamic team than made the NFC Championship game last season. General manager Thomas Dimitroff made major acquisitions with the signing of the NFL’s leading active rusher Steven Jackson and two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora through free agency. He also re-signed Pro Bowl safety William Moore and left tackle Sam Baker.
In the draft, Atlanta further bolstered it’s defense, including the addition of cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Both impressed Smith during camp, playing at a position where rookies can often find success.
“It’s really about their athleticism because so much is match-up coverages,” Smith said.
“There’s not a whole lot of vision coverages. Those guys have the skill set you’re looking for in a corner. They can match up and play against the wide receivers.
“Now, we’ve got to learn our system, learn our verbiage, know when they’re having help and how they’re going to play the different coverages. But I think the corner position, the wide receiver position and the running back position are ones that guys can come in and play early. It’s not nearly as complex, especially at the wide receiver and the DB position out on the corner.”
The Falcons play tonight before finishing out training camp Saturday and Sunday in Flowery Branch.
They play three more exhibition games — the only other one at home against Jacksonville on Aug. 29 — and open the regular season in New Orleans on Sept. 8.