NFC South: Sam Mills III

Eight in the Box: Breakout player

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
12:00
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Who is one potential breakout player for each NFC South team in 2013?

Atlanta Falcons: Receiver Harry Douglas already is established as the third receiver, but the team feels he has big-play potential that hasn’t been fully utilized in the past. With the addition of Steven Jackson, Atlanta’s running game should be much improved. Combine that with the fact the Falcons have Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez as their primary targets in the passing game and there’s a good chance defenses will ignore Douglas. He needs to capitalize on that.

Carolina Panthers: I’m getting a vibe out of Charlotte that the Panthers are very high on the potential of defensive end Frank Alexander. Yes, the Panthers are set with Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson as the starters, but I think you might see defensive line coaches Eric Washington and Sam Mills III try to figure out ways to get Alexander on the field more often. He had 18 quarterback pressures last season. You could see Alexander rotate in more to help keep Hardy and Johnson fresh. But you might also see some sets on passing downs in which all three stay on the field and Hardy slides inside.

New Orleans Saints: It’s time for Mark Ingram to start producing like a first-round draft pick from 2011 should be producing at this point in his career. Fans are quick to put the blame on Ingram for having less-than-stellar numbers in his first two years. But I put the blame on the coaching staff. Ingram has been trapped in the backfield shuffle with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. When Ingram has had a chance to carry the ball, there have been moments when he looks like he can be very good. The Saints simply need to give Ingram the ball more often.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs pretty much telegraphed the fact that they’re expecting a breakout year from defensive end Da'Quan Bowers when they let Michael Bennett walk in free agency. Bowers has produced only 4.5 sacks in his first two years. But he was brought along slowly as a rookie after having a pre-draft knee operation. Last season, Bowers missed the first six games while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. Prior to the knee operation, Bowers was viewed as perhaps the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft because of his huge potential as a pass-rusher. The Bucs are betting that this is the year Bowers realizes that potential.
The Panthers just announced several moves for their new coaching staff.

Coach Ron Rivera has hired Brian Murphy as special-teams coordinator. The team will also retain Ron Meeks and Sam Mills III, who were on John Fox’s staff. No announcement has been made by the team, but ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting the Panthers have hired Sean McDermott as defensive coordinator. McDermott was fired as Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator Saturday.

Murphy held a similar role in Minnesota the past two seasons and was the assistant special-teams coach for three seasons prior to that. Meeks was the defensive coordinator on Fox’s staff, but will now slide over and become the defensive backfield coach.

Mills, whose late father Sam Mills was a linebacker and assistant coach for the Panthers, joined Fox’s staff in 2005. He previously worked as a quality control assistant on defense and also helped with the defensive line. He will continue working in those roles.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Just a heads-up that we'll have a Double Coverage feature Wednesday in which I'll make the argument that Rickey Jackson belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It's going to be a fairly easy assignment, thanks to you. I asked for your help a couple of weeks ago when I first drew this task. Your passionate responses about why Jackson belongs in the Hall of Fame helped me prepare for this one.

I also talked to Carolina assistant head coach Jim Skipper, who was a New Orleans assistant back during the Jackson days. I've also got a request to talk to Panthers assistant coach Sam Mills III Tuesday. Mills grew up around Jackson because his late, great father played with Jackson.

Again, thanks to all who responded to help me make Jackson's case for the Hall of Fame.

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