Eight in the Box: Key offseasons

May, 10, 2013
5/10/13
12:00
PM ET
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a key player from each NFC South team who needs to show something in offseason sessions:

Atlanta Falcons: Drafted in the first round in 2009, Peria Jerry was supposed to be a dominant defensive tackle. That got thrown off track very quickly when Jerry tore up his knee in the second game of his rookie season. He has come back but never has been close to being the player he was before the injury. The Falcons have accepted that Jerry is only a role player. But Vance Walker left via free agency, and they would like Jerry’s role to increase this season. They want him to be the top option in the rotation behind starters Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters. This is the final year of Jerry’s contract. If the Falcons aren’t completely sold on what they see in Jerry during the rest of the offseason program and preseason, they could bring in a veteran defensive tackle.

Carolina Panthers: It is blatantly clear that it is now or never for wide receiver Armanti Edwards. The Panthers gave up a future second-round pick to draft Edwards in the third round of the 2010 draft. The hope was that the former college quarterback could be an effective receiver and return man. To date, Edwards has five career receptions and hasn’t been able to hold on to the return job. The acquisitions of return specialist Ted Ginn and a growing list of young receivers seem to put Edwards very much on the bubble as training camp approaches.

New Orleans Saints: Safety Malcolm Jenkins might be the most perplexing player in this division. A first-round pick in 2009, Jenkins seems to possess every talent (physical skills, work ethic and intellect) necessary to be a star. Yet Jenkins really hasn’t had much of an impact. Maybe new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will figure out a way to get Jenkins finally to play up to his potential. But the Saints used a first-round pick on Kenny Vaccaro, and they want to get him on the field. Maybe the arrival of Vaccaro will light a fire under Jenkins.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The team is putting a lot of eggs in Da’Quan Bowers' basket. After letting Michael Bennett depart through free agency, the Bucs have made it clear they’re counting on Bowers to be their main pass-rusher. The potential is there for that move to work out well. Bowers has rare physical skills and quickness. But injuries slowed him in his first two seasons. He needs to show the Bucs he can handle the wear and tear of starting for an entire season.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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