Adam Caplan reports that you shouldn't anoint Lofa Tatupu as the starter at middle linebacker just yet. Apparently, Mike Smith has declared an open competition for the starting job between Tatupu and Akeem Dent.
This sets up some nice "wily veteran coming returning from injury versus young up-and-comer" storylines for the summer, but it's also encouraging to know the job won't just be handed to Tatupu. While he was a heck of a player in his prime and the Falcons were encouraged by his workout, he did miss the entire 2011 season. If Dent's hungry and ready, he should get it.
Now, as a few of you mentioned yesterday and today, it's hard to take anything a coach says in the off-season as gospel, but I see no reason to assume Smitty is lying about this one. Dent has considerable promise and is the no-brainer long-term starter, even if Tatupu has the early advantage due to his experience. An open competition benefits the whole team.
Also, Caplan indicated that Smith indicated that Nolan has indicated there will be a change in defensive philosophy. That's both obvious and appallingly vague, but it's still worth getting excited over. A change, fellows!