Let's take a look at the top headlines from around the division:
Quarterback Matt Ryan still has some time to go before he joins what coach Mike Smith calls “the over-30 club." But Ryan’s been getting some of the same benefits as the team’s senior citizens this camp. He’s been getting a little time off. Consider that another way the Falcons are trying to keep a key player fresh for late in the season.
The Falcons released their unofficial depth chart for their upcoming game with the Bengals. There were no major changes. But you have to wonder if the Falcons are going to give rookie Peter Konz a preseason start at right guard. Garrett Reynolds is the incumbent there and the Falcons drafted Konz to provide an eventual upgrade. The third preseason game is when teams generally like to settle on their starting lineups. I wouldn’t be surprised if Konz gets a start this week or next.
As expected, middle linebacker Akeem Dent will sit out this preseason game after suffering a concussion. But it doesn’t sound like this is an injury that will keep Dent out for an extended period. Smith said Dent already is showing signs of improvement.
The Miami Dolphins, who play the Panthers this week, are being featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks’’ this summer. Coach Ron Rivera was asked if he’d like his team to be on the show and he firmly said no. Doesn’t surprise me. Rivera is a guy who's all about business and I don’t see him doing anything that would open his team to possible distractions. Besides, even if Rivera felt differently, I can’t see the Panthers on a reality-television show as long as Marty Hurney is the general manager and Jerry Richardson is the owner. It simply is not their style.
Third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen was sacked five times in the preseason opener. You could say Clausen was the victim of some terrible play by the third-team offensive line. But there were at least a couple situations where Clausen should have gotten rid of the ball. Although he’s practiced well in camp, it’s become obvious Clausen is not going to vault over Derek Anderson into the backup job. That leaves Clausen as the No. 3 quarterback this year, assuming the Panthers don’t follow a league trend and carry only two quarterbacks on their active roster.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Defensive end Junior Galette is sporting a lot more facial hair these days. That’s led to one of the more innovative chants (“fear the beard’’) I’ve heard in a while. It’s been getting a lot of use because Galette has been making some plays in training camp. He’s done that before. But the real test will be if Galette can have a bigger impact in the regular season.
The Saints finally got back to a bit of normalcy at cornerback. Starter Patrick Robinson returned from a shoulder injury Monday. But fellow starter Jabari Greer, who had surgery to repair a sports hernia, isn’t expected to return until shortly before the start of the regular season. That means more first-team work for second-year pro Johnny Patrick.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky said he knows a big part of his job is to provide support for starter Josh Freeman. He also knows he’s not going to play unless Freeman is injured. But Orlovsky said he also is preparing daily as if he will play. That’s what you want out of any backup because one injury could change everything.
Speaking of Freeman, wide receiver Vincent Jackson caused a stir Monday when he said the quarterback was one of the five best in the league. At this moment, I don’t know if you can even rank Freeman in the top 20. But Jackson is projecting ahead, based on what he’s seen on the practice field and there’s no doubt Freeman has lots of upside. Jackson also might be trying to send a dose of confidence to Freeman, which might not hurt when you think about what a rough season the quarterback had last year.