NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers

     

Buccaneers

  • Per the Athletic’s Greg Auman, Buccaneer’s HC Bruce Arians said RB Ronald Jones is their lead back and the others are fighting for roles behind him: “RoJo’s the main guy. He’ll carry the load.”
  • Arians added Jones has improved dramatically as a receiver going into 2020: “I have all the confidence in the world. He put a lot of time working out, catching balls to improve his hands in the offseason, and it’s showing up already.” (Auman)
  • Buccaneers DT Vita Vea will have a “little bit of a club” on his hand coming off minor surgery this offseason, per Arians, while DE Jason Pierre-Paul is fine coming off knee surgery. (Auman)
  • Regarding the battle for the No. 3 receiver job, Arians mentioned fifth-round WR Tyler Johnson is limited by an unspecified injury right now, WR Scotty Miller has put on 10 pounds, WR Justin Watson had a strong finish to last year and WR Bryant Mitchell is coming back off an injury. Arians didn’t rule out keeping six receivers. (Auman)

Falcons

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley has been a highly productive part of the offense since being drafted in the first round in 2018. However, Ridley has yet to crack 1,000 yards receiving as he enters his third year, although he was on pace to do so before an injury knocked him out of the final few weeks last year. In 2020, Ridley’s goal is to prove himself as an “elite” receiver.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m real hungry to show people that I’m easily a 1,000-yard receiver, easily — and even better,” Ridley said via Will McFadden of the team website. “I think that’s what it is for me. I’m always confident in myself, and I’m just really hungry and want to help the team win as much as I can.”

Panthers

Panthers starting QB Teddy Bridgewater says he won’t make the mistake of trying to emulate former Panthers QB Cam Newton like he did last year with Saints QB Drew Brees

“One of the biggest problems I had my first year in New Orleans was I wanted to be like Drew [Brees],” Bridgewater said, via Myles Simmons of Panthers.com. “I had to do everything Drew did in order to have success like Drew. But eventually, I learned that Drew Brees is Drew Brees. I’m Teddy Bridgewater. Cam Newton is Cam Newton. I’m still Teddy Bridgewater. So I can’t go out there and try to be something that I’m not. I play the game the way I play it. I carry myself the way I carry myself, and I’m going to live and die by that.”

Panthers GM Marty Hurney, who was out of the league in 2014 when the Vikings drafted Bridgewater, said there’s a lot to like about his new quarterback.

“I wasn’t even in the business when he came out, but I evaluated him and thought he was one of the best quarterbacks in that draft. I’ve always thought he’s been a winner everywhere he’s been,” Hurney said, via Joseph Person of The Athletic. “Has overcome a horrific injury. I think he’s got excellent feet in the pocket. Has a very compact release, gets rid of it very quickly. His leadership skills — you can talk to anybody that’s been around him — are highly regarded by anybody that’s been with him.”

Bridgewater said that the situation involving Newton was unfortunate, as he signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Patriots for just $550,000 in guaranteed money.

“That’s the tough side of this business,” Bridgewater said. “The way things transpired when I got injured and I wasn’t able to return to the driver’s seat, I just took it as, hey, man, I’ve got to put my head down and continue to work. Eventually, there are 31 other teams that will have the opportunity to fall in love with me all over again. With Cam, it was one of those situations I understand as a player you’re a competitor, you want to get back out there and get that opportunity to show you’re still this elite guy. He’s done some great things. He’s obviously one of the best players to ever play for this franchise. Everyone around here respects him. They speak highly of him. I’m just honored to be following in the position that he left behind.”

Hurney said he and HC Matt Rhule haven’t decided whether they will keep a quarterback in case Bridgewater goes on the reserve list but added that trying to stash P.J. Walker or Will Grier on the practice squad is too big a risk with so much uncertainty this offseason.

  • Bridgewater said he’s been impressed by Panthers TE Ian Thomas, who projects as the team’s starter: “He’s sneaky athletic. I didn’t know he was that much of an athlete,. But spending time around him, you watch him, he’s flying around. … He’s a young guy who’s eager to fill some big shoes.”
  • Panthers DE Brian Burns said he’s past the wrist injury that knocked him out for a chunk of his rookie season last year: “I’m healthy, my wrist is fine. It got better over time.” (Myles Simmons)
  • Burns added about 15 pounds to play defensive end in new DC Phil Snow‘s 4-3 base defense, but adds he’ll still move around in the new scheme: “It’s very versatile. I like that. He can pretty much put me anywhere.” (David Newton)
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