Time for a run through the Thursday morning headlines from around the NFC South:
Veteran Mike Peterson will get the start Thursday night at middle linebacker as Akeem Dent recovers from a concussion. But undrafted rookies Max Gruder and Pat Schiller also are expected to get long looks. It might be wise to keep one of those guys around as a backup because Peterson could have to shift outside if there are injuries there in the regular season.
Alex Welch has a list of things to watch from the Falcons in Thursday night’s game and one of them is receiver Harry Douglas. He sat out the opener with an injury, but I’d look for the Falcons to get him involved quickly because they have big plans for Douglas. The plan is to use him exclusively as a slot receiver with Roddy White and Julio Jones on the outside. With White and Jones taking most of the attention from defenses, Douglas has a chance at a very productive season.
It’s pretty obvious the Panthers would like to start rookie Josh Norman at cornerback and slide Captain Munnerlyn to nickelback. But Munneryln said he still wants to be a starter. Munnerlyn said he doesn’t mind moving inside on passing downs. It remains possible Munnerlyn could start and move inside on passing downs, but I think the Panthers are going to give Norman every chance to win the job.
Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones have an update on position battles as the Panthers break camp. A critical one is at kicker, where Justin Medlock has been better than Olindo Mare on long field goals. But Medlock needs to show improvement on kickoffs if he’s going to win the job.
It’s not too early to start projecting 53-man rosters. That’s what Carolina Huddle does here.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Quarterback Drew Brees, who suddenly seems very willing to offer his opinion on anything, said he hopes replacement officials aren’t used during the regular season. Brees said he wouldn’t have the same level of trust and confidence in replacement officials as he does in regular officials. Maybe he should have a chat with his buddy, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Although backup Chase Daniel is considered a scaled-down copy of Brees, there’s one big difference between the two quarterbacks. Daniel has the green light to take off and run. It’s something he does well. I’m sure Brees could run more if he was asked, but that’s not something the Saints want.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Ira Kaufman writes that Adrian Clayborn has emerged as the one sure playmaker on Tampa Bay’s defensive line. Clayborn produced 7.5 sacks as a rookie last season. I have no doubt Clayborn can bring that number to double digits if he can just get a little help from his friends up front.
Tom Jones has a list of reasons why Tampa Bay’s training camp was a success. The one that stood out to me is that the players are buying into coach Greg Schiano’s system. I’ve seen no signs that would dispute that. Schiano’s hard-nosed style was a bit of a concern at first because this team was used to just the opposite. But I think unloading Tanard Jackson, Kellen Winslow and Brian Price sent a pretty clear message that players better buy into the system, or else they won’t be a part of it.