Audibles: NFC South Week 1 preview

September, 5, 2008
9/05/08
4:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Carolina Panthers vs. San Diego Chargers, 4:15 p.m. ET

In the Wofford College cafeteria this summer, Mike Trgovac saw me wearing a red baseball hat with "LT" on it and said, "Man, I used to like you. But now you're rubbing it in, too''.

The "LT'' on my hat was for Lackawanna Trail, my old high school in Pennsylvania, and a gift from my old baseball coach shortly before he died. I explained it to Trgovac, who smiled and said it was nice I still cared about my school.

"But I still think it's a sign or something,'' Trgovac said with a laugh. "Everywhere I look this summer, I see LT.''

It's understandable because Trgovac has had months to think about the real LT, LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers. How do you stop him? Or even slow him down a little bit?

That's the task facing Trgovac, Carolina's defensive coordinator. He's got plenty of tools with middle linebacker Jon Beason on the verge of becoming a star, defensive end Julius Peppers trying to become one again and a good group of complementary players.

But Tomlinson has tested many a defensive coordinator through the years. If Trgovac's summer of searching for the perfect scheme gave him an answer, he might stop seeing "LT'' everywhere he looks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET

If I'd actually seen the real Tampa Bay Buccaneers in training camp or the preseason, it might be easier to have a gauge on this team. I spent about six days at camp and went to two preseason games and I still have no idea what the defending NFC South champions are going to look like.

That's largely because the Bucs haven't had a chance to be the Bucs. With Joey Galloway, Jeff Garcia, Jovan Haye and Cadillac Williams out just about the entire preseason and a bunch of other injured players in and out, it was hard to get a read on this team. I'm sure it was the same for coach Jon Gruden.

He's got Garcia, Haye and Galloway back now and all three should play Sunday. But you have to at least be concerned about rust on Galloway and Garcia. Sure, they're veterans, but they didn't play together at all in a preseason game.

Galloway has a long history of lighting up the Saints, who have made improvements to a horrendous secondary. But it's impossible to know if Galloway and Garcia are ready.

Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

If you never have heard of Dewayne White, you very well may before Sunday afternoon is over. He's the right defensive end for the Detroit Lions. He's a pretty ordinary guy, coming off a season in which he recorded a career-best 6.5 sacks.

But, with the retirement of Michael Strahan, White could become the next great pass rusher -- for one day, anyway. White is looking at what could be the luckiest draw of Week One. He'll be out there trying to sack rookie quarterback Matt Ryan in his debut.

More importantly, the only thing between White and Ryan will be rookie left tackle Sam Baker. After an up-and-down preseason, the Falcons are throwing in Baker to sink or swim. Baker is a massive tackle, but he's not known for his footwork and his technique is a little raw. Think Detroit coach Rod Marinelli, an old defensive line coach, might have spent a little extra time schooling White up for this matchup?

The Falcons had better give Baker lots of help from the tight ends and running backs or else the new face of the franchise (Ryan) could have a long day.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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