Every team’s primary preseason objective is to get through games without any significant injuries, and so Thursday night’s game provided some bad news for the Falcons.
Akeem Dent, Atlanta’s starting middle linebacker, left the game with a concussion. And Bradie Ewing, a rookie fifth-round draft pick who was expected to be a significant contributor on special teams and possibly to earn the No. 1 fullback job, was lost with a knee injury that could be season-ending.
Even though Dent is a starter on defense, he’s still an important part of the Falcons’ special teams, and it was a hit he took on punt coverage that caused the concussion. Some teams might react to such an injury by limiting Dent to defense only, especially considering that the Falcons already lost middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to the Saints in free agency, then lost middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu to a season-ending injury shortly after signing him. But Falcons coach Mike Smith said afterward that Dent will remain a special teams player.
“He’s a core special teams player,” Smith said. “He’s our base linebacker. He’s going to have to play some special teams throughout the season. When you are a base player, you are playing about 45 percent of the snaps. No regrets whatsoever.”
There’s no word on Ewing’s diagnosis, but he went down awkwardly and appeared upset as he was leaving the field, and the team described it as a “severe knee injury.” That sounds like it may end his rookie season before it starts.