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Tuesday, September 22, 2009
How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch



Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


Falling
Peppers
Julius Peppers, Panthers DE. Did you see him do anything Sunday?

Nope, neither did I. It always seems to be feast or famine with Peppers, but it shouldn’t be that way. The guy is one of the league’s best pure athletes and should be good for a couple of plays every game.

The fact he’s eating up $18 million in salary-cap space and the Panthers have holes elsewhere only magnifies things when Peppers has one of his two-tackles, zero-sacks games.
Adams
Gaines Adams, Buccaneers DE. This was supposed to be a break-out year for the former first-round pick. So far, he’s produced very little. Coach Raheem Morris came out Monday and said Adams isn’t producing.

Consider that a last-ditch attempt to light a fire under Adams. The Bucs want sacks out of this guy and they’re not getting them. They’ve got Stylez G. White, a former starter, on the bench and Morris’ patience is wearing very thin. If Adams doesn’t produce in the next few weeks, he could end up on the bench.
Bryant
Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers WR. He sat out Sunday’s game at Buffalo because of a knee injury and his status for the next game is in doubt. Bryant had a great year last year and was hit with the franchise tag. He’s making almost $10 million and, on paper, he’s Tampa Bay’s top offensive weapon.

But paper hasn’t translated into reality so far this year.

Rising
Colston
Marques Colston, Saints WR. Deservedly, there’s a lot of talk about Drew Brees being the league’s best quarterback. Time to start throwing Colston’s name into the argument for wide receivers. His eight catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns Sunday gave official confirmation Colston is back at full health after being banged up for most of last season.

Prior to that, Colston used his first two seasons to establish himself as one of the best young receivers in the league. His progress got delayed last year, but he’s starting to take the next step. Brees threw for more than 5,000 yards last season without having a receiver reach the 1,000-yard mark. That shouldn’t be an issue this year. Colston’s numbers could end up being ridiculous.
Johnson
Thomas Johnson, Falcons DT. With rookie starter Peria Jerry now out for the season with a knee injury, Johnson is likely to take his place in the lineup. Pretty amazing for a guy who last played for the Houston Texans in 2006. But the Falcons were impressed with what Johnson did in the preseason and have used him in a rotation with Jerry and Jonathan Babineaux in the first two games.

Trey Lewis, who has had two major knee injuries, will play a role as the third defensive tackle. But Johnson will play a more important role and the Falcons believe he can handle that.
Smith
Steve Smith, Panthers WR. On a team filled with inconsistency, Smith is the one constant. He’s always going to show up and he did on Sunday against the Falcons. With quarterback Jake Delhomme rebounding from a couple of brutal games, he and Smith showed they still have great chemistry.

As long as Delhomme can get the ball near Smith, the little receiver is going to make his share of catches.