Atlanta Falcons: Akeem Dent winning over his linebacker mates

Stephen Nicholas (right) joins fellow linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent during a training camp practice. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Stephen Nicholas (right) joins fellow linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent during a training camp practice. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

By Michael Cunningham

Asked about fellow Falcons linebacker Akeem Dent’s play in the last game, Sean Weatherspoon flashes the kind of wide grin that suggests he thinks the Falcons might be on to something.

Dent played every defensive snap during a 23-20 victory over the Raiders in Week 6. It was the most extensive playing time for Dent since the Falcons drafted him in 2011.

Weatherspoon was curious to see how the first-year starter would handle himself in those circumstances. He said he came away impressed with Dent.

“I was excited to be out there with him for a lot of the time and just talking with him and see how he goes along with the ebbs and the flow of the game,” Weatherspoon said. “That was my first time really getting to play with him a lot. It was fun. I look forward to seeing him continue to have a bigger role in our defense.

“I think he will just get better as we keep working, and we will be better as a unit and get this run game stuffed, and we will be feeling a lot better about ourselves as a unit.”

The Falcons have struggled against the run this season, and Dent came out of the University of Georgia with a reputation as a run-stopper. But the Falcons, who have cited poor tackling and execution rather than personnel as the main culprits in their issues with run defense, don’t appear to be ready to expand Dent’s role.

Dent doesn’t normally play in the nickel defense, and the Falcons frequently have used that alignment this season. Before the Raiders game, Dent’s previous high had been logging 47 percent of the defensive plays against Carolina (30 snaps) in Week 4. He played a combined 17 snaps in the first two games of the season before entering the starting lineup.

With Stephen Nicholas slowed by a sore ankle against Oakland, Dent played all 73 defensive snaps and recorded eight tackles, including six solo.

“I feel like things went well,” said Dent, a Douglass High product. “There’s still a lot to work on and improve on.”

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan offered a measured assessment of Dent’s play against Oakland, calling it an “average” performance. Nicholas is expected to resume his regular role against the Eagles on Sunday, so Dent likely will again play exclusively in the base defense.

The Falcons hope Dent is the heir to Curtis Lofton, who signed with the Saints as a free agent in the offseason. The Falcons drafted Lofton in the second round of the 2008 draft, and he started all four seasons while leading the team in tackles in 2010 and 2011 and in forced fumbles in 2010 and 2009 (tied).

Dent’s expected competition with former Pro Bowl selection Lofa Tatupu never materialized because Tatupu suffered a season-ending pectoral injury before training camp. The Falcons re-signed veteran Mike Peterson to ensure they had another proven veteran at the position in addition to Nicholas and Weatherspoon.

Peterson said Dent has a bright future because of his attitude and physical talent.

“He’s got that fire, run-to-the-ball type of game,” Peterson said. “Young guy, fresh legs. Always eager to learn, eager to make plays, which is a good thing. And he is humble about it, always trying to learn and make himself better, which is hard to find in this league.”

Weatherspoon saw evidence during the Oakland game that Dent is coming into his own.

Weatherspoon said that at one point he made an incomplete defensive call and Dent corrected him.

“He can line you up,” Weatherspoon said. “He had it down pat. He was telling me where to set our defense. That just says he is working hard and he is becoming what we think he can be, and I think he will do some great things.”

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26 comments Add your comment

hooper

October 24th, 2012
5:58 am

falCANS

October 24th, 2012
6:29 am

Im hopeful but not confident. Too call Dents play “average” last game was being nice. I know he is young but man inly bright spit is he doesnt give up on plays even 10rb yards downfield where he gets most his tackles lol .Go Dawgs!!

robertussen

October 24th, 2012
6:44 am

now lets go break andy reids bye week record, get mike smith the franchise win record, and get tony gonzalez his 100th td this weekend

Esquire

October 24th, 2012
7:30 am

5-6-7-8
Everywhere we goooO,
Everywhere we goooO,
People wanna knooOw,
People wanna knooOw,
Who we aaa are,
Who we aaa are,
So we tell theem, So we tell theem,
We are the FALCONS!! We are the FALCONS!!
MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS, MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS !!
OHH AHH OHH YEEAHH

SeenThis B4

October 24th, 2012
8:05 am

Go Eagles! Get #14 Reid!

observer

October 24th, 2012
8:29 am

Are you kidding with this article? Of course his teammates are going to say nice things about him. Don’t see any positive comments from coaches. If you watched the game you know Dent was below average.

General Bortswagger III

October 24th, 2012
8:56 am

I saw Dent out of position quite often. I sure hope that is not the standard for the linebackers here.

Esquire

October 24th, 2012
9:04 am

Redcoat
October 23rd, 2012
4:10 pm

Seen……you still supporting al qaeda? You know the one that kills Americans? Remember!
*********************************************
I see you remember. Frankly those remarks he made about supporting al-Qaeda made me want to spit.

Super Bowl Shuffle

October 24th, 2012
9:04 am

Give this kid a chance. There is a reason he is on this football team and there is a reason he is on the field. Some folks realize that is isn’t that easy to just step into a MIDDLE linebacker position on this level a just start to produce at a high level. He is also coming off an injury in the preseason which caused him to miss some “valuable” practice time and game time. Wait to judge him over the remainder of the season.

Riverman

October 24th, 2012
9:12 am

DLed, There seems to be a lot of comments from teammates about Dent being “eager to learn”, “eager to make plays”. “humble”, “working hard” and “trying to learn”. They say he “is becoming what we think he can be”. They say “I think he will do some great things.” They say “I think he will just get better”. Cudos to Weatherspoon and Peterson for being good teamates and accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Meanwhile CMN stated that his performance was “average”. This is NOT an endorsement. By the way while at UGA, Rennie Curran was known as a run stopper. Dent was known for being average. I believe that if you read between the lines and then actually watch the game replay, then you’ll probably rewrite this article and come up with a different headline.

kd

October 24th, 2012
9:48 am

ummm thats all good and well, but how about making some plays??? Your teammates should have been won over the past year you was here and during the offseason. Numbers dont lie Dent, clearly you have the talent to play in the Nfl but you production is hurting more than its helping. Win the fans over, thats job security

KBP

October 24th, 2012
10:00 am

Dent will improve. If he is just average, then Dimitroff go get someone else to help at MLB. Tatupu was injured early in camp and they have had plenty of time to get someone else. Gotta feeling the Eagles run the ball more than usual this week.

kd

October 24th, 2012
10:03 am

i think the only reason this article was written is because people are all starting to notice that he may not be the solution at linebacker, having him in the games will help in the long run because he is a young guy, hopefully by the playoffs he finds the confidence to play to his full potential. Meanwhile they should maybe cut down some of his plays untill he understand his defense a little better

Jimmy Crack

October 24th, 2012
10:08 am

So basically Dent has only played ONE full NFL game at his position. The bar is set pretty high by some commenters on here, considering Akeem was not a top draft pick. I would suggest that he needs to get a few more games under his belt before we can decide to either tout Dent as the next best thing or cast him into the scrap heap of NFL has-beens. A little patience might be a good thing.

Falcon James

October 24th, 2012
10:28 am

I agree that the headline does not exactly match the article. I really haven’t noticed Dent at all. I think Weatherspoon and Peterson were just trying to help build the confidence of a team mate. But, Nolan comment say it all. “Average” is just a nice of saying “He not bad, but he not good either”. Our whole defense need to step it up a notch. Abe is playing above “Average”, but he about it. We don’t need to be trying to outscore an opponent. We need to score at will, and stop the opponent from scoring all together.

CaliDirtyBird

October 24th, 2012
10:32 am

I agree we need a little patience. Six games in last year we were all still wondering about Bosher. No one is wondering about Bosher now. Plus Bosher might have even cost us a game or two last year because of bad field position. At least so far (knock on wood), Dent hasn’t cost us a game.

Jimmy Crack

October 24th, 2012
10:33 am

If Nolan is calling Dent’s performance “average”, I wonder what he is calling Ray Edwards’ performance as a Defensive End.

“Invisible” maybe?

SeenThis B4

October 24th, 2012
11:09 am

@Esqueer: What you remember is your own parochial bias. What I said about Al Qaeda was that I would rather cheer for the Al Qaeda team than cheer for the falcan’ts. You can try to spin that metaphor all you want, I don’t care. And if you want to spit, go ahead; do it into the wind.

BravesFan79

October 24th, 2012
11:10 am

Not having Lofton might really cost us come playoff time. Sure hope not. Best thing about Akeem Dent is he has a cool name that gets attention. Now if only his play did.

Answer This

October 24th, 2012
11:19 am

STB4 you got your second win and you back in Troll Patrol!? Come on man! You gave up 35 against Tampa……Tampa?! Your Aints are in major trouble! Should have lost that game…welcome back to your weekly kick down! Come get your stratches from the Nation and these Falcon Talons! The Nation is ready to Rise Up….we were sleep for a week! Time to go!

Esquire

October 24th, 2012
11:26 am

Super Bowl Shuffle
October 24th, 2012
9:04 am

*******************************************

I concur. Also, could somebody please light a fire under Ray Edwards to play up to at least half his salary. 5 tackles, 3 assists, 1 yard lost, 2 recovered fumbles

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 24th, 2012
11:55 am

Dent just needs experience and to get that you have to play. He will get better. Lofton can’t be replaced – he was all – pro caliber. Better get a DE in the next draft that can start or free agent one or LB won’t matter. DL and OL are priorities in the next draft. A RB wouldn’t hurt either.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 24th, 2012
11:58 am

Eagles are a notch above anyone the Falcons have played this year…….. physical and strong on the DL and OL. This will be a big challenge to the Dirty Birds. Best to open up the offense early and get a lead on Vick.

Steven

October 24th, 2012
3:21 pm

Replace dent and ray Edwards and atl will be GREAT

Delisha AlMajdobeh

October 24th, 2012
6:36 pm

Way to go Akeem, I remember you from our UGA freshman writing class. Glad to see so many Dawgs making it in the league :)

[...] Atlanta Falcons: Akeem Dent winning over his linebacker mates Atlanta Falcons: Akeem Dent winning over his linebacker mates. 5:00 am October 24, 2012, by D. Orlando Ledbetter. Stephen Nicholas (right) joins fellow linebackers Sean Weatherspoon & Akeem Dent during a training camp practice. CURTIS COMPTON … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]