June 6, 2012; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons linebacker Akeem Dent (52) during organized team activities at the Falcons training facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE
The Atlanta Falcons have several positional battles, but it's true that very few of them are for starting jobs. Middle linebacker is an exception to that rule.
It's Lofa Tatupu versus Akeem Dent for the starting job, and it sounds like it's going to be a fairly intense battle. Dent has more raw upside at this point, given that Tatupu is closer to 30 and has been out of the game for a year. Nonetheless, Tatupu's considerable experience makes him a force to be reckoned with. A loose use of the word force, perhaps.
This is the most interesting camp battle to me because of the stakes. The Falcons may have tossed Curtis Lofton to the curb this off-season, counting him as a two-down linebacker who would have cost too much to keep in that role. Replacing him will not be easy, though.
I do think Tatupu has the edge, given his wealth of experience and previous success. The Falcons seem to like his competitive nature and past play enough to give him a leg up on the competition. Whether he lasts the entire season as a starter will likely depend on his health and how Dent fares in pre-season.
Long-term, I do believe this is Dent's job. He's got the measurables and the talent to make a difference. With Nolan installing a new scheme, the team is likely to prize the veteran.