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Tuesday, August 30, 2011
NFC South Stock Watch

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

We won't officially start our Stock Watch feature until the regular season. But there's plenty going on right now, so let's give you an unofficial preseason version of Stock Watch.

FALLING

Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle, Saints. There was a buzz early in camp about Franklin and Shaun Rogers, who both were added to help the Saints get stronger in the middle. Hopes remain high that Franklin will have a big impact, but those hopes might have to wait a bit. Franklin has a sprained knee and could miss a little time at the start of the season.

The Falcons and their Super Bowl chances. Veteran Sports Illustrated writer Peter King has picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl. That may be music to the ears of fans. But, believe me, it’s not what coach Mike Smith wants to hear. Like a lot of coaches, the guy is very superstitious and probably thinks his team has been jinxed. I've seen and heard Smith plead with writers not to pick his team to win the Super Bowl or the division. On the bright side, King was right last year when he picked Green Bay and Pittsburgh to reach the Super Bowl.

Corvey Irvin, defensive tackle, Panthers. A third-round draft pick in 2009, Irvin continues to be listed as a starter on the depth chart the Panthers sent out for their final preseason game. But Irvin is in jeopardy of not even making the 53-man roster. The Panthers thought they had improved themselves a lot at defensive tackle when they signed free-agent Ron Edwards. But he’s going to miss the season with an injury. The team also used a pair of third-round picks to get Terrell McClain and Sione Fua. The rookies could end up starting right away. The Panthers recently picked up Kentwan Balmer and they’re probably not done yet. They’ll keep an eye on who becomes available elsewhere because they’re not sold on Irvin.

RISING

Michael Bennett, defensive end, Buccaneers. The team used its top two draft picks on defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. The Bucs remain high on both, but Bennett has been a star this preseason. He likely will start opposite Clayborn and Bowers and will be used as a situational pass rusher at the start of the season.

Joe Hawley, center, Falcons. Veteran Todd McClure had what the team called a minor procedure on his knee. It’s unknown if McClure will be ready for the opener. If he’s not, the Falcons likely will have to start Hawley, a second-year pro. Hawley hasn’t looked great in preseason games, but he was drafted last year to be McClure’s eventual replacement. The Falcons haven’t gone out and added a veteran, so they must believe Hawley can step up if given the chance.

Cameron Jordan, defensive end, Saints. New Orleans had been bringing the first-round pick along slowly. But the coaching staff must have liked what it saw out of Jordan in practice. The team made a bold move Tuesday by releasing veteran starter Alex Brown. He was a dependable player with plenty of experience, but the Saints must believe Jordan has more upside.