NFC South Stock Watch

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
12:28
PM ET
We won’t start our leaguewide Stock Watch feature until next week. But I’m going to go ahead and do one for the NFC South this week because we have more than enough to work with.

FALLING

[+] EnlargeTampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib
AP Photo/Gail BurtonAfter a turbulent offseason, Aqib Talib needs to step up on the field and stay low key off of it.
Aqib Talib, cornerback, Buccaneers. We’re starting his stock low because he had a turbulent offseason and he’s going to be under the microscope. This guy can’t afford a wrong move on or off the field. He’s got to stay focused on football and get his career on a good path.

Mike Peterson, linebacker, Falcons. All indications are the veteran has lost his starting job to Stephen Nicholas, who got a big contract to stay with the team. Peterson re-signed for the veteran minimum and Nicholas got first-team work throughout the preseason. But the good news is Peterson’s the kind of guy who can handle a backup role and be a mentor. He also still might be able to step in and play a little bit, if needed.

John Kasay, kicker, Saints. He starts off the season on the hot seat after missing a field goal and an extra point in his preseason debut with New Orleans. Released by Carolina earlier this summer, Kasay’s a proven veteran who has made many big kicks throughout his career. He was signed to fill in while Garrett Hartley is out with a hip injury. But coach Sean Payton isn’t the most patient guy in the world when it comes to kickers, so Kasay better get on track in a hurry.

RISING

Garrett Reynolds, guard, Falcons. He won the starting job at right guard by beating out Mike Johnson. This is a chance for Reynolds to pave the way to a nice, long career. He’ll be playing next to right tackle Tyson Clabo and that will help. Offensive line coach Paul Boudreau is a master at working with guys who were drafted late or not at all and turning them into reliable players.

Sione Fua and Terrell McClain, defensive tackles, Panthers. Ready or not, the two rookies are going to play extensively. The Panthers tried to buy them some time by signing free agent Ron Edwards, but he got hurt. The Panthers tried a few other veterans, but they either couldn’t play or were hurt. The Panthers are just going to have to throw McClain and Fua out there and hope they grow up in a hurry.

Julio Jones, receiver, Falcons. We’re going to start this rookie’s stock very high because that’s exactly what the Falcons have done in the preseason. They’ve showcased their first-round draft pick, throwing to him often and letting him run reverses. You generally like to save those things as surprises for the regular season. But my guess is the Falcons wanted to go ahead and make opposing defenses very aware of Jones because that may free things up for some other offensive players.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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NFC SOUTH SCOREBOARD