- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Where will the pass rush come from in the NFC South?
We asked that same question back when Julius Peppers was leaving the Carolina Panthers. Although you could have argued at the start of the offseason that every team in the NFC South needed to make a dramatic move at defensive end, none of them have.
The Saints have the division’s top remaining defensive end in Will Smith and they need another year of double-digit sacks from him. But it remains to be seen if they can get Smith any help from the other side. Charles Grant was cut and a lot of fans say that’s addition by subtraction. The Saints did add Jimmy Wilkerson and Alex Brown. But they’re a pair of guys who have been nothing more than steady veterans.
Atlanta’s the team that talked the most about improving the pass rush in the offseason, but the Falcons haven’t made dramatic moves. They’re pretty much sticking with what they’ve got -- hoping John Abraham can bounce back from a lackluster season and gambling that Kroy Biermann or Lawrence Sidbury can step forward. Although they did little on the outside, the Falcons strongly believe that the return of defensive tackle Peria Jerry from injury will create a surge in the middle that should help free up the defensive ends.
Tampa Bay is following a similar philosophy. The Buccaneers used their first two draft picks on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. Their primary task is to stop the run. But McCoy has the tools to give the Bucs an interior pass rush for the first time since Warren Sapp left the team.
That Panthers didn’t panic when they let Peppers walk as a free agent. They had been preparing for this situation in the past few drafts. They brought back veteran Tyler Brayton as insurance, but they believe Everette Brown, their top draft pick from 2009, and Charles Johnson are ready to step up and help fill the void left by Peppers’ departure.