FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - Losing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to a season-ending injury has caused a ripple effect throughout Atlanta's defense.
Weatherspoon, a first-round draft pick in 2009, would've started on the inside and run the huddle, but his torn Achilles tendon means that Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu now hold starting jobs at both inside spots as the Falcons transition to more 3-4 fronts.
Rookies Prince Shembo, Marquis Spruill and Yawin Smallwood are in the mix to earn snaps behind Worrilow and Bartu, who moved into starting roles last year as undrafted rookie free agents.
Career defensive ends Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi and Stansly Maponga are lining up at outside linebacker, but coach Mike Smith isn't too worried about his long-time veterans adjusting to new roles.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL