NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints

Buccaneers 

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times writes that TE O.J. Howard could become a dominant player for the Buccaneers this season now that he’s in his second year with the team.

“You saw two good examples of O.J. right there at the end,” Buccaneers HC Dirk Koetter said of Howard last week. “He made that great catch in the end zone (Tuesday). He made that beautiful catch in the seam, then a few plays later, we threw the screen to him. I mean O.J.’s incredible athleticism just jumps out to you.

“I think with him knowing more what to expect with the 16-game schedule and six-week training camp, it’s easy to see, I don’t think anybody who watched those plays wouldn’t see why that guy was a first-round draft pick last year.

  • Stroud mentions that second-round RB Ronald Jones should get between 15 to 20 touches per game this year.

Panthers

While Panthers OC Norv Turner has worked some top-tier quarterbacks over the years, he admits that he hasn’t had a talent quite like Cam Newton.

No,” Turner said, via Albert Breer of The MMQB. “It’s an understatement to say [Newton is] very unique, and when he’s playing at his best, defensive coaches see him as one of the hardest guys in the league to defend. Now, I think we’ve added some guys that will help, so they can’t totally zero in on Cam and just have a plan for him. We have some guys that have good playmaking skills and are going to help us.

The Panthers are emphasizing the importance of Newton making quick decisions in their new offensive scheme.

“With him, on every play, we want to make sure he has a plan and he’s following that plan,” said Scott Turner. “And to know checking down is OK. A lot of Cam’s issues have come because he’s so talented that he thinks he can make every play work. And sometimes, it’s just not there, so you check down and go to the next play. By holding the ball, sometimes he takes hits or falls into negative plays.

“Making decisions quick, getting the ball out of his hand, that’s where, when he improves, the consistency will come. We’re not trying to make him anything he’s not. We want him to be the best version of himself.

Saints

Saints DC Dennis Allen mentioned that they view the nickel corner position as a start and Patrick Robinson should end up playing more snaps than their strongside linebacker this year.

“He’s playing 70 percent of the snaps,” Allen said, via Joel A. Erickson of The Advocate. “That nickel player is a starter, and he’s going to play more snaps than the SAM linebacker.”

Robinson is coming off of a great season with the Eagles, but he explained that there are obvious differences to playing the same position in the Saints’ defensive scheme.

It’s very aggressive, more on the man-to-man side,” Robinson said. “I would say this past year, it was more of a zone defense when I was in Philly. Here, it’s more aggressive, more blitzing, more of a man-to-man type defense. I’m still trying to get used to it.

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