Friday, September 14, 2012
Around the NFC South
By Pat Yasinskas
Time for a Friday morning look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Wide receiver Arrelious Benn is expected to play Sunday after missing the opener and the preseason with a sprained knee. A second-round pick in 2010, Benn’s career has been limited by injuries. But there clearly is some talent here. Benn may have to prove himself at first to start climbing the depth chart, but, if he can stay healthy, it shouldn’t take him long to become the No. 3 receiver after Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
Eric LeGrand, the paralyzed former Rutgers player who was signed by the Bucs after the draft, will be at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. LeGrand has maintained a close relationship with Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano and, even though he officially was released before training camp started, has maintained a presence around the Bucs.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said that the New Orleans receivers did not do a good job of getting separation in the season opener. That would help explain why Drew Brees wasn’t as accurate as we’re used to seeing him. But there’s no guarantee that will be fixed immediately. The Saints may have to play young receiver Joe Morgan and newly signed veteran Greg Camarillo extensively this week because Devery Henderson is dealing with a concussion.
Cornerback Jabari Greer is expected to make his return Sunday after sports hernia surgery. Greer has been out for over a month and, under ideal circumstances, the Saints probably would ease him back into the lineup. But with cornerback Johnny Patrick dealing with an injury, that might not be an option. Greer might have to play the entire game.
In two meetings with Brees last season, the Carolina defense gave up 748 passing yards and seven touchdowns. The Panthers showed some signs in the opener that their defense might be improved from last year. But Brees and the Saints should provide a much stronger offensive challenge than Tampa Bay did.
Center Ryan Kalil took out a newspaper ad, promising a Super Bowl victory, prior to the season. Now, coach Ron Rivera has outfitted his players with T-shirts that say, “I have Ryan Kalil’s back." Nothing wrong with using every motivational tactic you can come up with.
In his time as a coordinator and head coach, Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is 1-6 against Peyton Manning. No shame in that. A lot of coaches have poor records against Manning. But Nolan certainly has experience with Manning. He’s got defensive talent to work with this time and simply slowing Manning might be enough because Atlanta has an offense that should score points.
Jeff Schultz writes that if the loss of cornerback Brent Grimes to a season-ending injury is enough to derail the Falcons’ Super Bowl dream, they weren’t going anyway. He’s right. Grimes was an important player, but not the most important player on the defense. Teams are going to have injuries and the ones that can compensate for them are the teams that will succeed.