Falcons fans, Curtis Lofton is finally out of consideration for the Falcons middle linebacker role. With that being said, the Falcons now have Akeem Dent as the starting middle linebacker. Here is some background on the former University of Georgia standout and Curtis Lofton clone.
For those of you who haven't read up on Akeem Dent, here is a scouting report on him from DraftAce's Ryan McCrystal:
Strengths: Experience in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme. Emerged as a playmaker in 2010, his first as a starter in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. Has the frame to add weight. Decent athlete; looks fairly fluid in coverage and shows the necessary ability to improve in that area.
With Nolan coming in the scheme versatility will be big, and Dent is versatile in scheme and can play multiple formations. He also is one of the smarter players and can be the "Green Dot" player starting out, which means the team has him wearing the radio in his helmet and he is one of the leaders in the defense.
Weaknesses: Limited experience; just one year a starter. Has a slim build and may need to bulk up before he’s ready to be an every-down player at the next level.
He definitely had limited experience in college, but has been able to sit behind competent linebackers in Lofton and Peterson and should be able to come in and give the Falcons a two down starting middle linebacker. Has bulked up and added around 10 pounds of muscle to his frame.
Summary: Dent came from nowhere to emerge as one of the top inside linebacker prospects in the draft in 2010. One-year wonders are often a concern, but Dent is a different story. Transitioning from the 4-3 scheme to the 3-4 system ran by Grantham (a former NFL coordinator) indicates something may have finally clicked as he found the right niche for his skills. The body of work isn’t there to warrant a high selection, but Dent could be an ascending talent with his best football still years ahead of him.
This is one of the best summations of Dent out there. He wasn't a high selection, but was definitely a good pick in the third round. Multiple teams had him around where the Falcons did on their boards and there were rumors that he was going to go in the third round regardless.
Also, Dent was one of the better middle linebackers with his combine numbers. Has similar size to Lofton at 6'1", 240 pounds. Akeem Dent's combine performance:
40 yard dash - 4.73, 20 yard split - 2.72, 10 yard split - 1.70, Bench reps - 24
Shuttle - 4.38, 3-cone - 6.93, Vertical - 37.5", Broad - 10'3"
Akeem Dent had top numbers in the bench press and his vertical was the second highest in the draft for inside linebackers. Not to mention, Dent is from the Atlanta area and is in the same mold as Jesse Tuggle or Keith Brooking, in that he played high school football in Georgia, college football at a Georgia school and played football for the Falcons. Akeem Dent may not be the instant starter his rookie year but should be a long term starter at middle linebacker from this point on.
In college, Dent was a special teamer and reserve linebacker for the first three years. Dent won the starting job his senior year and was the defensive captain that year as well. Dent put up the following stats throughout college:
2010 - 125 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 pass breakups
2009 - 32 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks
2008 - 46 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups
2007 - 36 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup
So, Falcons fans, while you may look around and wonder who will be replacing Lofton, just remember that Dimitroff does everything with the future and the present in mind. Akeem Dent will become a fan favorite just like Curtis Lofton was, as he was a captain at UGA and will likely end up a defensive captain in Atlanta too with his fiery attitude. Atlanta's defense could end up being better off than it was with Curtis Lofton starting.