I thought we'd take a moment to recognize one of the more under-recognized Falcons in 2011.
Akeem Dent was a rookie out of Georgia last year, a thumping linebacker with run-stopping chops and quite a bit of work to do against the pass. I think we all knew that Dent wasn't going to be a starter in his first year in the NFL, but it's worth noting that he was a force on special teams in 2011, with some 14 tackles on returns. That's nothing to sneeze at.
Why shouldn't that escape your notice? Simple. The Falcons have a real problem with consistent, wrap-up tackling on defense, something that Mike Nolan is likely to spend a few sleepless nights contemplating. It's not necessarily possible to train every starter on the D to suddenly become Ray Lewis, but it's not impossible to improve.
That's why I have to believe Dent will be more active in 2012. The Falcons love his special teams contributions—it was a big part of the reason they drafted him, after all—but he can spell Curtis Lofton and even Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas and provide a run-stopping presence in the linebacking corps that's currently missing. All three of the guys I mentioned are awesome players, but none of them are the most technically sound tacklers in the NFL today. I like having Dent as insurance.
It's possible he's heading for a bigger role—if Lofton walks in free agency, it's virtually a lock—but for now it's just nice to have a nasty part-time tackler and special teams ace available when he's needed. That's why I think Dent's going to increase his role in 2012.
What say you?