The team announced that middle linebacker Akeem Dent will be out for the foreseeable future in accordance with the league’s concussion protocol program. This means Dent will be out for at least the upcoming game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. He sustained a head injury due to a head-to-head collision in the season’s first preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Dent was expected to take over as the starting middle linebacker this year after the departure of Curtis Lofton to the rival New Orleans Saints. The coaches thoughts were that Dent possessed many of the same skills that Lofton did, and could potentially be better in pass coverage.
This means that veteran Mike Peterson will have to step in at middle linebacker for now. The team re-signed Peterson when free-agent acquisition linebacker Lofa Tatupu was lost for the season with a pectoral injury.
After Peterson, the depth for potential middle linebackers gets very thin with a group of five rookies, of whom the most notable would be former Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Jerrell Harris, who was picked up by Atlanta as an undrafted free agent after the 2012 NFL draft.
Harris saw limited action in his time at Alabama due to a suspension and other issues, and primarily played both the strong and weak side linebacker positions, so moving to the middle could present a challenge for him.
Given the rash of departures and injures that the Falcons have had at middle linebacker since last year, they may have a hard time finding anyone else willing to sign on to play there.