NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints



  • Former NFL GM and analyst for the Athletic Michael Lombardi writes the most obvious question for the Buccaneers in 2020 is if QB Tom Brady will be able to push the ball downfield in their attacking style of offense. 
  • Lombardi adds the Buccaneers were among the worst teams in the NFL in red zone defense in 2019 despite having the No. 1 rush defense, which is an area that can be watched for improvement in 2020. 


Panthers HC Matt Rhule mentioned that QB Teddy Bridgewater‘s intelligence reminds him of Eli Manning during his stint as the offensive line coach for the Giants.

“They have meetings where he’ll run the meeting and he’ll run the protection meeting, and the level of — not even detail — but understanding and reasoning behind it is so high,” said Rhule, via Joseph Person of The Athletic. “When I was with Eli Manning, I used to sit there and listen to everything he would say because he was so intelligent. … And to hear Teddy it reminded me of that. It punches you in the face with, ‘Wow, that’s really, really intelligent.’ You can see how all of a sudden people just stop and listen to him.”

Bridgewater, a precision passer, has been questioned in the past about his arm strength and deep-ball accuracy. Rhule disagrees with the critics but has also suggested that Bridgewater may not have to get the ball downfield in Carolina’s offense.

“Teddy, for us, is exactly what we want. I think this offense in general, when you look at in New Orleans, that iteration of it, where Joe first learned it, is not necessarily a vertical, down-the-field passing game as much as it is a catch-and-run, underneath, matchup type passing game,” Rhule said. “You obviously have to be able to throw the ball downfield. Teddy’s got a great arm. I can remember he threw what I would call a launch route 48 yards down the right sideline to the 12-yard line against somebody. So he certainly has the arm strength to do it.”

Rhule filled out his staff with those he worked with at Temple and Baylor, yet hired LSU passing coordinator Joe Brady as offensive coordinator. This came despite the fact that Brady has not run an offense at a pro-level. Rhule admitted he doesn’t know Brady well but likes what he’s seen from the young coach so far.

“I’ll have no idea about Joe Brady ‘til we get to the season. You really can’t find out about what it’s like to coach with a guy until things go bad,” Rhule said. “When you’re getting booed off a field and all heck is breaking loose, that’s when you really find out about people. Everyone gets along in the offseason. Everyone loves everyone in OTAs. You find out about your locker room, you find out about your coaches, you find out about yourself when things go wrong.”

  • Rhule on being “nothing but impressed” with Brady: “He is a football grinder. He’s constantly working on football. I think the players recognize that.” (Myles Simmons)
  • Rhule adds that reports on injured players K Graham Gano and DT Kawann Short have been positive. (Myles Simmons)


Albert Breer of SI spoke with one league personnel director who explained why HC Sean Payton and the Saints traded away draft picks in order to select TE Adam Trautman in the third round.

“That’s why Payton traded all those picks for [third-round TE Adam] Trautman,” the anonymous director told Breer via text. “Let me just get three dudes who I know will make it and maybe contribute. You’re gonna have so many fifth-, sixth-, seventh-rounders not make it, or make it solely on draft selection status. These dudes are going to show up out of shape and having never taken a physical rep or played with their teammates. Huge adjustment.”

Breer adds that Payton knew exactly what he was getting with Trautman and second-round pick LB Zack Baun. Both players had similar reputations and skill sets that would allow them to play specific roles in New Orleans.

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