NFC South: 2013 preseason reax Week 1

Observation deck: Saints-Chiefs

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
11:20
PM ET

For those of you who thought coordinator Rob Ryan could come in and turn around the New Orleans Saints' defense overnight, think again.

This chore is going to take some time. That was apparent in Friday night’s 17-13 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Kansas City first-team offense, which wasn’t very good last year, had no problem marching 80 yards on 14 plays for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. The Chiefs also got a field goal on the second drive, when the starters still were on the field. I did see some good moments by the defense, particularly the pass rush, later in the game when the starters were out.

But Ryan needs to use the next few weeks to get this defense ready for the regular season.

Some other observations on the Saints:

With Marques Colston sitting, rookie receiver Kenny Stills got the start. He didn’t have a great night. He dropped a deep pass from Drew Brees and also was called for offensive pass interference.

The Saints handed the ball to Mark Ingram on the first two plays of the game. I think that’s a sign of things to come. The Saints have said they want to run the ball more often and they want Ingram more involved in the offense.

Rookie defensive tackle John Jenkins, who has had a nice camp, recorded a sack of Chase Daniel. Jenkins has had a nice camp and could end up with a spot in the rotation.

Charles Brown got the start at left tackle and didn’t seem to have any major problems. But rookie Terron Armstead got a lot of playing time and still could have a chance to start.

Wide receiver Preston Parker probably enhanced his chances of making the roster by catching two touchdown passes.

Luke McCown may have solidified his lead over Seneca Wallace in the competition to be the backup quarterback. McCown completed 18 of 28 passes for 216 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Wallace, who has been dealing with a groin injury, did not play.

Observation deck: Bears-Panthers

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
11:03
PM ET

The muddled cornerback situation for the Carolina Panthers might be clearing up.

Second-year pro Josh Norman, who is competing with Drayton Florence, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Thomas for a starting job recorded two interceptions in Friday night’s 24-17 victory against the Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium.

Norman intercepted Jay Cutler on Chicago’s first offensive play of the night to set up a quick touchdown. Norman also had an interception that he returned 60 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Florence and Munnerlyn had been getting most of the first-team work in camp. But Norman certainly made his case for a starting job Friday night.

Some other observations on the Panthers:

We saw the two sides of quarterback Cam Newton in some very limited playing time. He threw a great touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell on a drag route. But Newton also forced a ball into coverage and had it intercepted and returned 51 yards for a touchdown.

Rookie fullback Michael Zordich suffered a knee injury on a first-quarter kickoff. Zordich is fighting for a roster spot and the injury looked serious.

Joe Adams, who had the punt return job taken away from him last year, might have gotten some redemption with a 23-yard punt return in the first quarter.

Charles Johnson got credit for a sack, but he got plenty of help from rookie Kawann Short, who got a good push. Short looked good on several other plays.

Rookie running back Kenjon Barner got a lot of playing time and did some good things. But Barner lost a fumble. That’s not going to help him gain the trust of the coaching staff. Adams lost his job last year because he couldn’t hold onto the football and the fumble could haunt Barner.

David Gettis had a couple of nice catches. But I think Gettis faces an uphill battle to make the roster. He’s behind Armanti Edwards and Ted Ginn Jr. on the depth chart and both of those receivers made several plays Thursday night. Edwards and Ginn also have return ability and Gettis does not.

Tight end Brandon Williams had a nice catch to set up a touchdown. He came to camp as a long shot to make the roster, but he might end up sticking around.

Observations on the Falcons

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
10:59
PM ET
If they don’t cut them down, the “empty calories’’ Atlanta coach Mike Smith talks so much about are going to end up costing the Atlanta Falcons.

One drive in a 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals exposed a lingering problem. Early in the second quarter Cincinnati backup quarterback Josh Johnson had two runs for 57 yards on a lengthy drive. The Falcons were able to hold the Bengals to a field goal, which was nice. But the point is the Falcons have to get better when they’re facing mobile quarterbacks.

They have a schedule that includes dates with Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton (twice). Newton gave the Falcons headaches twice last season and Kaepernick and Wilson had success against Atlanta in the playoffs.

The Falcons spent part of the offseason consulting with college coaches to get ideas on how to stop the read option. If the Falcons don’t get better at dealing with mobile quarterbacks, they’re going to run into some big problems in the regular season.

Some other observations on the Falcons:
  • Second-year pro Jonathan Massaquoi showed several flashes, including a second-quarter sack. The Falcons are looking for one of their young defensive ends to complement Osi Umenyiora. So far, Massaquoi seems to be the leading candidate for that role.
  • I was impressed with rookie cornerback Robert Alford. He made some physical tackles and made some plays in coverage. Alford, a second-round pick, might be ahead of first-round pick Desmond Trufant.
  • Drew Davis had a 31-yard catch in the first quarter. He seems to be in the lead for the fourth receiver spot.
  • I’ve been skeptical about Atlanta’s decision not to bring in a veteran backup for quarterback Matt Ryan. After watching Dominique Davis on Thursday night, I’m even more skeptical. Davis struggled with accuracy as he completed 8 of 19 passes for 78 yards with one touchdown and an interception. I still think Davis has tremendous upside, but I think the Falcons should bring in a veteran for insurance.
  • It instantly was obvious that running back Steven Jackson is a big upgrade over Michael Turner. But I don’t think backup Jacquizz Rodgers is going to disappear. Rodgers has home-run potential and the Falcons need to make sure he continues to have a role in the offense.
  • Although the Falcons pulled most of their starters late in the first quarter, they let right tackle Lamar Holmes play into the third quarter. The Falcons gave Holmes an extended audition because they lost starter Mike Johnson to an injury earlier this week.

Observations on the Buccaneers

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
10:48
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get back to work Saturday, the special teams meeting isn’t going to be much fun.

Three bad plays on special teams in the second quarter handed Baltimore 17 points as the Ravens defeated the Bucs 44-16 in the preseason opener for both teams on Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium.

The chaotic string started when Chris Owusu failed to catch a punt and the Ravens recovered at Tampa Bay’s 20-yard line with 10:42 left in the second quarter. One play later, the Ravens scored a touchdown to take a 7-6 lead.

The woes on special teams continued when Moe Lee returned a kickoff 58 yards and kicker Derek Dimke was flagged for making a horse-collar tackle. That led to a Baltimore field goal.

But the worst was yet to come. With 13 seconds left in the first half Chas Henry had a punt blocked and the Ravens recovered it for a touchdown to take a 24-13 lead into halftime.

Some other observations on the Bucs:
  • There is no quarterback controversy. Josh Freeman led the Bucs to one field goal in limited action and made no major mistakes. Mike Glennon might have gotten the hopes up of some fans when his first NFL pass (to Tom Crabtree) went for 61 yards. But Glennon wasn’t as effective the rest of the way. He completed 11 of 23 passes for 169 yards and one interception. Glennon is not a threat to unseat Freeman as the starter. In fact, Glennon needs to play better than he did to hold off veteran Dan Orlovsky for the backup job.
  • Owusu, who has been performing well in camp, had a tough night. In addition to the muffed punt, he also dropped a pass as a receiver and later left the game with an ankle injury.
  • Backup running back Brian Leonard had a nice 13-yard run in the first quarter. He appears to be ahead of veteran Peyton Hillis on the depth chart. Hillis had to leave the game with a knee injury.
  • Second-year linebacker Lavonte David had a sack on Baltimore’s first drive. David had a strong rookie year, but he can make himself into a Pro Bowl player if he can produce more big plays.
  • Cornerback Danny Gorrer made a nice play and came up with a first-quarter interception. But Gorrer had to leave the game with a groin injury.

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