When Lofa Tatupu was determined out for the season earlier this week, Akeem Dent's starting prospects for the 2012 season got a little brighter. He may have been the starter eventually and it's likely the coaching staff wanted him to be the starter all along since the Falcons invested a third-round pick on him in last year's draft, but Tatupu was presenting stiff competition during the offseason.
The Falcons have re-signed veteran Mike Peterson but all indications are that Dent is now the expected starter at middle linebacker this year. That hasn't stopped Dent from taking leadership from all the veterans that surround him.
"I still have a whole lot of work to do," he said Thursday. "When Lofa was here, he was helping me out and leading me. Bringing in Mike Peterson, it's the same deal."
Peterson sees his return to Atlanta as less of a competition role at middle linebacker and more about providing leadership to Dent and Sean Weatherspoon, another young linebacker.
"I can definitely tell them how to play the game and lead them in the right direction," Peterson said of his role. "I think my job is to get Dent ready and bring Spoon along. He's not a young guy now; he's one of the veterans. I'm going to do that and we're going to try to pile up as many wins as we can."
Through just one practice, Dent appears comfortable on the field and maybe a little bigger than last year. His movements are quick and he wants to follow coordinator Mike Nolan's directive of playing fast. In order to accomplish that, a player must know the playbook and Dent seems to be picking it up quickly.
"I'm basically making sure I'm full speed all of the time and be consistent in everything I do," Dent said.