- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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We’re into the slow time of year with the Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers already through with their minicamps and the Falcons not starting their minicamp until Tuesday. But there still are a few items of interest around the NFC South this afternoon. Let’s take a look.
Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano says he’s not concerned that quarterback Josh Freeman has missed on some deep passes in offseason workouts. Schiano has made it clear that connecting on some deep balls will be an important part of his offense. There’s time for Freeman to improve in that area. He already has a big arm. He’s just getting used to wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who can make a lot of things happen down the field. The Bucs just put in a new offense, so there’s an adjustment period. If Freeman doesn’t start hitting on deep balls more consistently in training camp and the preseason, then it’s time to worry.
Although Chase Daniel knows he only has been a temporary fill-in until the Saints get quarterback Drew Brees signed to a long-term deal, he said he enjoyed serving as the leader of the offense for most of the offseason program. Daniel’s stint with the first-team was cut a bit short by a thumb injury, but the experience should benefit him if he has to play down the road.
Speaking of backup quarterbacks, Charlie Campbell has a list of four quarterbacks that must stay healthy for their teams to avoid disaster. Three of them – Brees, Freeman and Cam Newton -- are from the NFC South. We all know there’s a huge drop off from Brees to Daniel. I tend to agree that the Bucs and Panthers would be in trouble without Freeman and Newton. When healthy, Freeman and Newton each have the potential to be great. There’s no potential for greatness in Tampa Bay backup Dan Orlovsky or Carolina backup Derek Anderson. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan isn’t on that list and I don’t think that’s any shot at Ryan. The Falcons have a veteran backup in Chris Redman. He doesn’t have great physical skills, but he has enough experience to come in and run a very talented offense in the short term.
Teammate Justin Blalock said Atlanta rookie guard/center Peter Konz is picking up both positions very well. In an ideal world, I think the Falcons want Konz, who played center in college, to spend his career at guard. But he could always play center in a pinch.
Although his father, Darrell Green, is a Hall of Famer, Carolina rookie receiver Jared Green knows he faces an uphill battle just to make the roster. The Panthers have some talented young receivers in front of him. But I saw Green make a couple plays in the recent minicamp and he could have a shot at earning a spot on the practice squad.
Speaking of Carolina rookies, cornerback Josh Norman had been getting good reviews recently, including one from veteran receiver Steve Smith. But Norman made a huge mistake when saying publicly he had blanketed Smith in practice. As you might expect, Smith reminded Norman he’s not at Coastal Carolina anymore.