Updated at 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 24
PFW reported this spring that the Falcons viewed Akeem Dent as a legitimate contender to win the starting job at middle linebacker. The Falcons believed he could be an effective two-down player in 2012, sources said, but they wanted some veteran insurance. Dent would not be handed the opportunity with ex-Seahawk Lofa Tatupu also in the mix to start in the middle.
That plan has been scrapped in the wake of Tuesday's news. Falcons head coach Mike Smith revealed that the pectoral injury recently suffered by Tatupu will require surgery to repair, forcing him to miss the entire season.
The Falcons could eventually look outside for help from a free agent if Dent struggles during the preseason, but we expect Dent to get every opportunity to prove he's the answer in the weeks to come. Dent, a third-round pick in 2011, became a core special-teams player as a rookie and the Falcons saw in him the potential to be an adequate and relatively cheap answer at middle linebacker after Curtis Lofton departed for the Saints in free agency.
- Lofa Tatupu