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Atlanta Falcons Training Camp: Lofa Tatupu Injury Puts Akeem Dent Under The Microscope

Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you hope. That is certainly the case with Lofa Tatupu.

Just as Falcons training camp is about to open up, the team has announced that the ex-Seahawks linebacker will be out for the entirety of the 2012 season after suffering a pectoral tear in the weight room this weekend, leaving some question marks at the position.

After opting to let Curtis Lofton sign elsewhere in free agency this offseason, the Falcons had signed Tatupu in hopes that he could come in and compete to start at middle linebacker. He was, at least in my mind, a good low-risk signing with some big potential (he was first team All-Pro in 2007, after all).

But with Tatupu now out of the picture, the spotlight search for Lofton's successor now falls on one Akeem Dent.

I couldn't imagine a much better situation for Dent. The starting job is now his to lose, and he'll have the opportunity to work with Mike Nolan and the first-team defense throughout training camp.

The main knock on Dent is that he could be a liability if left alone to cover a tight end. But what the second-year UGA product lacks in coverage skills, he makes up for in his ability to play the run. He's a sure tackler, quick to the ball, and has experience in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive schemes.

The good news is that with the Falcons presumably lining up in the nickel package most of the time (remember they now have three quality cornerbacks in Grimes, Samuel and Robinson), Dent won't have to see the field on third down. Instead, he'll simply stick to what he does best and light suckers up on the first two downs.

Though he was a one-year wonder type of player at UGA, Dent has every tool he needs to succeed in the role Mike Nolan now has available, and all of training camp to make things click.

The Falcons don't need an All-Pro. Let Sean Weatherspoon handle that one. Dent needs only to come in and hold his own in camp to convince the coaching staff he's ready.

For more on the Atlanta Falcons be sure to check out The Falcoholic. For more news and notes from around the NFL head over to SB Nation's NFL page.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.