A couple of days ago we learned that Lofa Tatupu had suffered a pectoral injury. Now we find out that he will be out for the season. Obviously, this is bad news as fans were looking forward to seeing what Tatupu had left in the tank and if he could seize the middle linebacker job that was left vacant when Curtis Lofton decided to study witchcraft and bounty hunting instead of playing football.
Time for Dent to step forward
With Tatupu out that paves the way for former Georgia Bulldog Akeem Dent to grab the middle linebacker position. As a rookie, Dent played in 17 games and made 21 tackles. Most of his opportunity came on special teams as he was one of the better special teams players that the Falcons had last year and improved as the season progressed.
Dent is very strong against the run. Here are some snippets from Tom Melton's scouting report from when he was coming out of college:
Positives: Good size, strength and closing speed for his size. Reads run very quickly and flows to the ball very nicely. Plays downhill well and fills extremely well against the run and is an absolute tackling machine. Very reliable wrap up tackler and he shows some pop as a hitter though that is not his mantra. Shows some ability to get off of blocks and moves through the trash well to get to the ball carrier. Gives good effort in pursuit and will chase plays down from the backside. Shows some ability as a blitzer and times up his blitzes pretty well.
Negatives: Doesn’t offer a lot of ability in pass coverage. This is where he struggles. Doesn’t always get very deep in his drops and reads run so well that sometimes his aggressiveness will hurt him as a pass defender.
Sounds a lot like Curtis Lofton to me, which is why we probably let Curtis move on to pursue bounty hunting. Dent will look to grab the role of run stuffing middle linebacker and play a decent amount of snaps except when the Falcons line up in the "Big Nickel".
The Falcons also re-signed veteran Mike Peterson. I see this as solely a "just in case" move. Peterson is a great clubhouse guy and he's a positive presence on the young guys. Nothing bad happens by bringing him in and if he's able to be a solid back-up then it's a solid move. That being said, I would expect the Falcons to keep their eyes open and potential bring in another veteran linebacker as cuts start to happen at training camp.