Time for a look at some Saturday morning headlines from around the division:
As we noted in Friday night’s observations, the Falcons showed off their deep passing game Friday night. Here’s a little more on the subject. I’m more than a little amused by all this talk that Matt Ryan suddenly has developed a strong arm. In my eyes, Ryan’s arm always has been strong enough. I know he bulked up a little in the offseason and lots of people think that allows him to throw deeper. Maybe it’s because I come from a bit of a baseball background and that’s probably why I’m not a big believer in the theory that adding muscle allows you to throw a ball further or faster. I think Ryan’s always had the arm. I think he’s just getting more of a chance to show it now.
Rookie Peter Konz got some first-team work at right guard. He’s competing with Garrett Reynolds for the starting position. Coach Mike Smith said the evaluation process of the offensive line will continue through the final preseason game. I think the Falcons are quietly hoping the rookie can win the starting job. He may need some seasoning, but he has far more upside than Reynolds.
Quarterback Cam Newton said he learned a lot from Tim Tebow during their brief time together at the University of Florida. They’ll be reunited Friday when the Panthers play the Jets.
The Panthers have come out and said receiver Steve Smith will miss the game against the Jets as he recovers from a foot infection. All indications are Smith continues to improve and there doesn’t appear to be any concern about him not being ready for the start of the regular season.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said he’s not looking at his first six games as the temporary head coach as an audition. He said he simply will be trying to hold things together until assistant head coach Joe Vitt returns. But the fact is this is a bit of an audition for Kromer. He already was on the radar as a head-coach candidate in the offseason with his name coming up in connection with two jobs. If Kromer does a good job guiding the Saints through the first six games, it should raise the awareness level of him around the league and could help him land a top job.
Nakia Hogan has a list of what to watch in Saturday night’s game against Houston. One of the items he touches on is tackling. It was a problem in the last preseason game, and it’s going to be tested again by Houston running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Martin Fennelly writes that a young Tampa Bay team with a new coaching staff doesn’t need any added adversity. But they’re getting it. It’s likely we'll get official word soon that Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph will miss the season after suffering a knee injury Friday night. A lot has been made about how this team lacked leadership in the recent past, but Joseph was an exception. He brought perhaps the strongest veteran presence of the returning players and it would have been nice to see him get some help in the leadership department from free-agent pickups Carl Nicks, Dallas Clark and Vincent Jackson.
Rookie running back Doug Martin got the start over LeGarrette Blount on Friday night. Generally, teams try to use the same starting lineup in the third preseason game that they plan to use in the regular season. I think that this is yet another sign that the Bucs don’t plan to bring Martin, a first-round pick, along slowly.