The Atlanta Falcons may not have a bevy of talent that is below the age of 25, but they certainly have a pair of good players who fit that mold. The first is obviously Julio Jones who was very successful in 2011 as a rookie, and many expect him to be wildly successful in his second NFL season. He also just turned 23 in February. But the Falcons have another player who is under the age of 25 who ESPN Insider listed as players who haven’t made their impact on the NFL yet, but are on the verge of being major producers. And that player is MLB Akeem Dent.
The criteria that ESPN Insider is looking for is a player who was drafted in the 3rd round or later (or undrafted), has fewer than 5 games started in their career, is still on their initial contract, and in 26 or younger. Akeem Dent absolutely fits all of those requirements. Dent was a great special teams player in 2011, but didn’t get to see a lot of playing time with the defense due to Curtis Lofton playing MLB for the past four seasons. That is certainly going to change in 2012, as he competes throughout training camp with Lofa Tatupu for the starting MLB job. Tatupu was once upon a time a pro-bowl level player, but given his concussion history and double knee surgery a couple years ago, I would prefer having Dent take control of the MLB position rather than Tatupu.
One thing to give Falcons fans hope is the observations that the Falcons special teams coach, Keith Armstrong, made about Dent that ESPN then reported. Armstong said that Dent is the hardest worker on his unit. If Dent can continue that kind of work ethic and dedication to learning the MLB position for the Falcons, there is no doubt that he can take control of this position battle and end up being a very young star on defense for the Atlanta Falcons. Continue to watch Dent’s progress during the upcoming training camp– the Falcons defense hinges upon it.