- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time for a look at the top Monday headlines from around the NFC South:
Chase Coffman’s NFL career never has come close to fulfilling the promise he showed in college at Missouri. Injuries held him back in Cincinnati and a short stint with the Bucs came to an end when Tampa Bay brought in Dallas Clark. But I think Coffman at least has a chance of developing into something after signing with Atlanta. He’s a pass-catching tight end with limited blocking skills. This could be the final season for veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has been a brilliant pass-catcher, but rarely is asked to do much as a blocker. Maybe after serving as an understudy to Gonzalez for a year, Coffman could take his place.
Drew Davis may have moved ahead of Kevin Cone in the battle for Atlanta’s No. 5 wide receiver spot. Davis has had a nice camp and he also is showing signs he can contribute on special teams, which ultimately could earn him a roster spot.
Left tackle Sam Baker, who dealt with some major back issues last year, said he’s healthy. Baker needs a strong season because he’s in a contract year.
Coach Ron Rivera repeatedly used the word “disappointed’’ when talking about his team’s preseason opener. It wasn’t a great performance by any means, but it was far from the worst preseason effort I’ve ever seen. So why was Rivera so upset? He said his team didn’t play with a sense of urgency. In that light, his sentiments are understandable. The Panthers have high expectations for themselves and they should be playing with a sense of urgency, even if it’s only a preseason game.
Sam Farmer takes an in-depth and off-beat look at Carolina safety Haruki Nakamura. Although he was raised in Cleveland, Nakamura’s parents made sure he was exposed to the Japanese culture. His father was the former coach of the Japanese Olympic judo team and Nakamura was involved in that sport, which he said helps him as a football player.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Larry Holder has status reports on some of the top position battles. One of the biggest is kicker, where Garrett Hartley and John Kasay are squaring off. They appear to be even so far, but that means Hartley probably gets the nod because he has four years remaining on his contract.
Although many thought the fact he played college football in Canada would make him a developmental project, New Orleans defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is showing signs he might be able to contribute immediately in the NFL.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Receiver Tiquan Underwood has been one of the brightest stars of Tampa Bay’s preseason. He attributes his strides to increased confidence, after getting an important tip from training partner Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals.
Dory Leblanc has a review of what Tampa Bay’s rookies did in the preseason opener. Top draft pick Mark Barron was held out due to a minor injury, but the next two picks -- running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David -- showed they should be able to make an impact right from the start.