NFC South Preseason Stock Watch

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
7:22
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The Saints have played three preseason games and the Panthers, Buccaneers and Falcons each have played twice. Let’s take a look at whose stock is headed in which direction.

FALLING

Steve Spanuolo, defensive coordinator, Saints. Some people believe Spagnuolo is the logical choice to take over as the temporary head coach when Joe Vitt steps aside at the start of the season. But Spagnuolo’s defense didn’t do him any favors when it got torn up by the Jaguars on Friday night. The Saints may be better off turning things over to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael or offensive-line coach Aaron Kromer. That way Spagnuolo can focus solely on getting his defense ready.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Zuttah
AP Photo/Brian BlancoCenter Jeremy Zuttah, seen at June minicamp, stumbled in Tampa Bay's second preseason game.
Jeremy Zuttah, center, Buccaneers. The team made a big leap of faith when it signed Zuttah to a large contract, shifted him to center and ushered Jeff Faine out the door. Coach Greg Schiano had Zuttah at Rutgers and has faith in him. But that faith will be tested quickly if Zuttah doesn’t play better than he did Friday night against the Titans. Zuttah was fine in the opener and a young guy at a new position should show improvement every week.

Michael Turner, running back, Falcons. I know it’s only the preseason and offenses are holding back a lot of their tricks. But so far, Turner looks a step slow and no longer seems like a great fit in the Atlanta offense. I know Turner is one of those guys who needs carries to wear down a defense and really be effective. But the Falcons have insisted that Turner’s carries will be limited this season. I’m not sure he’ll have as big an impact if he’s not getting the carries.

RISING

Doug Martin, running back, Buccaneers. The injury to LeGarrette Blount is supposed to be minor, but he’s likely to miss some practice time and a preseason game or two. Blount had been sharing first-team work with the rookie. Martin’s going to get all the first-team snaps for the next bit and this could be when he really separates himself from Blount.

Akeem Dent, middle linebacker, Falcons. He’s expected to play in Friday night’s preseason game, after sitting out the last one with a concussion. The Falcons must have been happy with what Dent already was showing because they didn’t go out and sign a veteran when he went down. All indications are the Falcons still plan to use the second-year pro as their starting middle linebacker.

Cam Newton, quarterback, Panthers. If you didn’t see what he did in one half Friday against the Dolphins, you owe it to yourself to go back and watch it. Newton moved the ball effortlessly. He’s got plenty of help at the skill positions and this Carolina offense is well on the way to being one of the league’s most entertaining.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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