- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Although a good chunk of the NFC South isn't practicing Tuesday, there still is a lot going on as we get ready for the start of the season. Let's take a run through the headlines:
With the team deciding to keep only five linebackers, the final spot came down to Robert James and Spencer Adkins. James won, in large part because he showed what general manager Thomas Dimitroff likes to call "urgent athleticism." Translation: James is a better athlete than Adkins and the Falcons think he can make some plays as a backup and on special teams.
A lot of people tend to think of the Falcons as a veteran team and that’s true to some degree. But their real goal is to have a mix of older and younger players and they tried to get younger without any making any dramatic moves this offseason. One way they leaned toward the youth movement was when they elected to go with undrafted rookie Josh Harris as their long-snapper over veteran Joe Zelenka.
Newly-signed backup quarterback Luke McCown has a general idea of coordinator Dirk Koetter’s offense because the two were together in Jacksonville the last three years. But McCown is still learning the language because the Falcons are using different terms than what the Jaguars did.
Coach Ron Rivera said he’s optimistic running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) can play in Sunday’s opener. Rivera even implied Stewart might practice Wednesday. If Stewart can’t play, that means more carries for DeAngelo Williams and could mean some time at tailback for fullback Mike Tolbert.
Here’s a story that’s off the beaten path. Carolina receiver Steve Smith will take his cleats off and walk barefoot to the locker room at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. Smith will do this to raise money to buy shoes for needy children. But it does have to be pointed out that Smith just returned from a foot infection that caused him to miss part of the preseason.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Bradley Handwerger writes that temporary New Orleans coach Aaron Kromer says he’s following a formula. You can’t argue with that. What Sean Payton did since taking over the Saints in 2006 has worked pretty well for the Saints.
Wide receiver Adrian Arrington said he’s appreciative the Saints kept him on the roster even though he missed the preseason games with an injury. Arrington has a chance to be the No. 4 receiver. But I’ve got a feeling his fate might have been a lot different if rookie Nick Toon didn’t suffer a season-ending injury.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
A lot of people are debating why quarterback Josh Freeman didn’t look sharp in the preseason. Charlie Campbell throws out a theory that makes as much sense as anything else I’ve heard. Campbell writes that Freeman is suffering from a lack of continuity. The Bus changed offensive coordinators before his rookie season ever started. They gave him a quarterbacks coach in 2010 and he had some success then. But Freeman took a big step back in 2011 and that got the whole coaching staff fired. Now, with coach Greg Schiano, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and quarterbacks coach Ron Turner, Freeman is starting from scratch. But, at least this time, he’s got a true No. 1 receiver (Vincent Jackson) and an all-purpose running back (Doug Martin).
Defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry, who was released by the Bucs on Saturday and re-signed Monday, isn’t doing what Amobi Okoye did and attacking Schiano’s character. Instead, Gilberry says he understands the business. Hmm, that might be the reason Gilberry is on the roster and Okoye isn’t.
Although a good chunk of the NFC South isn't practicing Tuesday, there still is a lot going on as we get ready for the start of the season. Let's take a run through the headlines:ATLANTA FALCONSWith the team deciding to keep only five linebackers, the final spot came down to Robert James and Spencer Adkins.