Let’s take a look at the Friday morning headlines from around the NFC South:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Scott Reynolds writes that middle linebacker Mason Foster is prospering in his second season. That’s a wonderful sign for a young team that’s looking for bright spots. It’s also an early indication the coaching staff and front office were right to leave Foster in the middle. There was some temptation to draft Luke Kuechly and there was at least a flirtation with veteran free-agent Curtis Lofton, who wound up in New Orleans.
Martin Fennelly writes that, despite their 1-3 record, the Bucs are much more competitive than last season. He’s right. The Bucs have been in every game and, had a couple of plays gone differently, there record could be much better. I take that as a sign that coach Greg Schiano has this team on the right path. It might take time to turn the corner. But I’m seeing the same thing from this team that I saw from the Bucs when Tony Dungy first took over and from the Panthers when John Fox took over -- gradual improvement.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Mike Triplett writes that, if the Saints are going to turn around their season (and their defense), they need free safety Malcolm Jenkins to finally play to his star potential. That’s very true. Jenkins might be the biggest mystery in the NFC South. For the past few seasons, I’ve been waiting for him to have a breakout year. Scouts and coaches around the league say he has the talent to be a big-time playmaker. I thought Jenkins might start to shine in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s new scheme. But, so far, Jenkins really hasn’t been a factor.
Ed Werder previously reported that linebacker Jonathan Vilma has filed an appeal of his season-long suspension. As you probably expected, it's now being reported that current New Orleans defensive end Will Smith and former New Orleans players Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove also have appealed their suspensions.
Jonathan Jones has a good overview of the Lisfranc foot injury, the same injury that will sideline center Ryan Kalil the rest of the season. It’s a fairly common injury and will require surgery. But Carolina team doctor Robert Anderson is considered one of the world’s top surgeons for this type of injury.
With backup tight end Michael Palmer out with an injury the past two games, Tommy Gallarda has done a nice job filling in. He’s been used mainly as a blocker, but also is getting some opportunities as a receiver.
Defensive tackle Corey Peters, who has been on the physically unable to perform list, is eligible to start practicing next week. But I’d look for the Falcons to wait a bit on their three-week window on Peters. They have a bye next week and won’t be doing much practicing. Even then, I think it might take Peters a few weeks to get on the field. Coach Mike Smith said it’s going to take Peters some time to get into football shape.