Akeem Dent says he is ready to step in at middle linebacker for
the Atlanta Falcons.
Dent, a third-round draft pick from Georgia last year, overcame
concussion symptoms to take 28 snaps in Thursday’s preseason win at
Miami. It was his longest work in a game situation as Atlanta’s
starting middle linebacker.
”It was exciting to be out there on the field with my
teammates,” Dent said Sunday. ”Nothing compares to it. You can
practice, study in the classroom and watch film, but you’ve got to
be live to really see how you’re progressing and what you need to
Dent had some growing pains. On the Dolphins’ first snap from
scrimmage, Dent didn’t get proper leverage on a block, and Reggie
Bush broke off an 18-yard run before free safety Thomas DeCoud made
Later in the first quarter, Daniel Thomas ran 9 yards up the
middle against Dent before strong safety William Moore made the
For the most part, though, Falcons coach Mike Smith liked what
he saw from Dent who finished with three solo tackles.
”He just needs to have the different looks and to experience
them,” Smith said. ”We’ll try to get him up to speed as quickly
In the hybrid scheme designed by new defensive coordinator Mike
Nolan, the Falcons (No. 13 in APPro32) will use 4-3 fronts, 3-4
fronts and sub-packages with five and six defensive backs.
Sean Weatherspoon has taken the role held over the past three
years by Curtis Lofton as the three-down linebacker. The Falcons’
other starting linebacker, Stephen Nicholas, will be on the field
when Nolan uses nickel schemes with a fifth defensive back.
But Dent’s responsibilities increased substantially after Lofton
signed with New Orleans as a free agent and NFL veteran Lofa Tatupu
was released on the eve of training camp with a torn pectoral
Though 14th-year linebacker Mike Peterson re-signed following
Tatupu’s injury, Dent quickly emerged as the starter in the middle,
but he is also working for the second straight year on the
first-team coverage and return units on kickoffs and punts.
He got a concussion in the first preseason game while trying to
block a punt against Baltimore.
”I didn’t see the hit coming and things like that, but it was
something that I definitely had to sit out and take the time to get
right before I could return,” Dent said. ”I’m fine right now. I’m
ready to progress and move on.”
DeCoud, a full-time starter over the past three years, wasn’t
concerned that Dent missed two chances to prevent big runs against
Miami. He expects Dent to fill the void at middle linebacker.
”I don’t think there will be any missed steps at all,” DeCoud
said. ”You can see that he has the tangible assets we’re looking
for on defense – speed, smarts, technique, you name it – to be a
success in this league.”
Dent finished his rookie season with 20 tackles and one forced
fumble, but he made those plays on special teams. Now he’s getting
a chance to do much more.
”All of us are excited to play in this defense,” Dent said.
”(Nolan) brought in a system that’s basically built for us to run
around and play fast. That’s something I do well.”
Notes: CB Asante Samuel was given the day off for personal
reasons. Smith said he will return to practice on Monday. …
Starting NT Corey Peters (left foot) was placed on the reserve
injured list and will be out through Week 7. … QB John Parker
Wilson lost the third-string job to undrafted rookie Dominique
Davis and was waived. … Reserve WR Kevin Cone returned to
practice after missing the Miami exhibition with concussion
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and
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