- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time for a quick look at the headlines from around the NFC South:
There’s some significant news out of Atlanta. Tim Tucker reports that the Georgia World Congress Center is optimistic a deal can be worked out on a new stadium for the Falcons by the end of the year. The plan is for a retractable-roof stadium to open in 2017 downtown. An exact location and some other significant details still need to be worked out.
Predictions are popping up all over. Here’s another one that has the Falcons winning the NFC South and going to the NFC Championship Game.
There’s an interesting subplot to Friday night’s game between the Falcons and Dolphins. Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry will be facing his brother, John, an offensive guard for the Dolphins. They last time they faced each other was in the 2010 preseason. Coincidentally, that’s the last time the Falcons won a preseason game. They have lost seven straight exhibitions, the longest active streak in the NFL.
With all the injuries the Panthers had last season, I don’t think we truly got to see what coordinator Sean McDermott’s defensive scheme is all about. The Panthers have their injured players back and have added some new pieces. McDermott provides a big clue about what he wants to do when he says, “We’ll throw fastballs at the quarterback’’. That’s another way of saying he expects a lot from the pass rush.
Here’s a look at players that might be on the roster bubble in Carolina. At first, I was a little surprised to see Thomas Davis’ name on the list. But, when I really thought about it, it is possible that the linebacker might not even be on the roster on opening day. He’s trying to come back from his third torn ACL, and comeback stories don’t always end well.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Aaron Kromer said he’ll lean heavily on the assistants as he fills in as head coach for the first six games of the season. That’s a wise plan. Even with coach Sean Payton and assistant head coach Joe Vitt serving suspensions, the Saints have a strong staff. It’s highlighted by offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who joined the Saints when Payton took over, and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who previously was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams.
Recently acquired linebacker Barrett Ruud has had very little practice time. But the Saints might give him some playing time in the second half of Saturday’s preseason game with Houston. The important thing here is just to get Ruud on the field and see what he has left physically. The Saints need to find out if Ruud can help them. If not, they’ll need to pick up some more linebackers to help them get through a bunch of injuries at the position.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs have been happy with what they’ve seen out of rookie linebacker Lavonte David so far. But, as Stephen Holder points out, Davis faces his biggest test yet in Friday night’s game with the Patriots. David could find himself trying to cover New England’s dynamic tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Roy Cummings has a list of five things to watch as the Bucs play the Patriots. He starts with Tampa Bay’s offensive line, which is only fitting because that group didn’t play very well in last week’s loss to Tennessee.