Eight in the Box: Breakout player

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
12:00
PM ET
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.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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