Time for a look at some of the headlines from around the NFC South.
Although Martez Wilson, Junior Galette and Greg Romeus have generated a buzz due to their potential, Mike Triplett writes that Turk McBride is the favorite to start at right defensive end for the Saints the first four games of the season, if Will Smith’s suspension is upheld. McBride started last year when Smith was suspended at the start of the season and produced two sacks in three games before being slowed by injuries.
The Panthers brought in Haruki Nakamura and Reggie Smith, but Sherrod Martin still believes the starting job at free safety is his. But Martin acknowledges he has to improve his tackling. He missed far too many open-field tackles last season. I think Martin has the inside track on the starting job. But I think coach Ron Rivera will keep him on a very short leash. We could see Nakamura or Smith pushed into the lineup the first time Martin misses a tackle.
Atlanta receiver Roddy White said he might be doing less in Atlanta’s offense next season. That doesn’t mean White’s numbers will drop dramatically. It just means the Falcons are diversifying their offense and some things will be different. They’ll be throwing more to Jacquizz Rodgers out of the backfield and using more tight ends. Still, I think there will be plenty of passes thrown down the field for White and Julio Jones.
Sports Illustrated, which picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl last season, isn’t quite as high on them this time around. Sports Illustrated is projecting the Falcons to reach the playoffs, but said they have too many question marks to make a deep run in the postseason.
Tampa Bay made a big splash in free agency this year, but don’t expect that to happen every year. Coach Greg Schiano said his basic philosophy is to build through the draft and that’s the same philosophy held by general manager Mark Dominik. The two decided this was an exceptional year because the Bucs had plenty of salary-cap room and guys such as Carl Nicks, Vincent Jackson and Eric Wright were on the market. There’s one other factor at work here that makes me believe Schiano is very serious when he said this year was unique. Looking ahead at Tampa Bay’s salary-cap situation for 2013, the Bucs already have committed about $115 million in salary-cap space and that’s not even counting rookies Mark Barron and Doug Martin, who have yet to sign. The Bucs simply aren’t going to have a lot of cap space next year.