Falcons turn to Dent

Michael Benford/AtlantaFalcons.com

Akeem Dent and Lofa Tatupu were set to compete for the middle linebacker job after Curtis Lofton’s departure to New Orleans via free agency opened the position late last March. Dent has been the favorite to win the job based on his experience in the system, but any reassurance from Dent earning it by outperforming Tatupu during camp this week is gone. Tatupu injured his pectoral muscle during workouts last weekend and is out for the season. In the wake of the Tatupu injury, linebacker Matt Henson was waived after a non-football related injury, leading to a severe shortage at the linebacker position on the eve of training camp.

New Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan no longer has the luxury of using Tatupu as a contingency plan behind Dent, and Dent will have to anchor the defense this year after spending his rookie season behind the Falcons leading tackler Lofton.


A positive from this setback is that the Tatupu injury occurred before the start of camp and veteran linebacker Mike Peterson was signed Monday to offer much needed depth and leadership at the position. The 14-year veteran Peterson played in 15 games for the Falcons last season and will be able to work with Dent.

Nolan’s defensive scheme is both aggressive and flexible, and he has made a career out of adapting to his personnel and their abilities. Nolan’s philosophy relies on putting pressure on the quarterback, and the pass rush is the foundation of his defense.

Dent is a versatile athlete who played both inside and outside linebacker at the University of Georgia and has the speed and nose for the football to prosper in the Nolan system. Dent’s speed and downhill brand of football fits well into Nolan’s design of a faster Falcons’ defense in 2012 that can defend against the pass.

The biggest red flag following Dent into the season is his durability. Jumping from a limited role into the starting middle linebacker spot is going to be a tremendous test on the body of Dent.

This is a dream come true for Dent who grew up a Falcons fan and attended Douglass High School, which is less than five miles from the Georgia Dome. Dent has been preparing himself to be a starter long before Lofton went to New Orleans, but now reality is starting to set in. Dent will be hard at work with Nolan during training camp and the rest of the offseason to make sure it is a successful Falcons debut.

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