NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints


Last year, Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard was starting to build some momentum before a torn Achilles cut his season short. It’s taken some time, but Howard appears to be building momentum again. The absence of Rob Gronkowski has given him an opportunity and he had a great game Thursday night against the Eagles with six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. 

“He was just scratching the surface,” Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians said via the Athletic’s Greg Auman. “I mean, he was really coming on like gangbusters last year, and then he got hurt. And that’s a hard injury to get over. It’s a 12-month job. He’s doing a heck of a job right now.”

  • Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians said while S Antoine Winfield remains in concussion protocol, he may still return this week. (Auman)


Panthers HC Matt Rhule promised that the team would have a “vastly different look” offensively, particularly speaking, he wants OC Joe Brady to focus on establishing the run.

We’re not gonna line up and drop back and throw it 40 times a game and think that’s gonna win the game for us. It hasn’t,” Rhule said.

The team is down star RB Christian McCaffrey, however, RB Chuba Hubbard has filled in admirably, while displaying his versatility out of the backfield.

“(Critics will say), ‘There’s no McCaffrey.’ Well, Chuba (Hubbard) is showing us he can run the football at a high level when given enough opportunities,” Rhule added. “So we’re gonna redefine who we are. And we’re gonna run the football. And we’re gonna protect our quarterback, and we’re not gonna turn the ball over anymore. That’s the only way that we’re gonna win.”

The Panthers brought QB Sam Darnold in and feature a solid trio of wide-receivers, but Rhule doesn’t feel that the team’s identity is through the air.

I just know this: If you run it 24 (times) — and some of that is quarterbacks running on dropbacks — if you call 16, 18, 19, 24, 25 runs, you better have an elite passing game. And right now, that’s not our strength. We’re not going to turn it over and all of a sudden be a running team that’s gonna line up and run the ball down your throat. That’s not really who we are, either. We just have to have a little bit more of a blend of running the ball and throwing the football.

Rhule balanced his words with some praise for Brady, calling him one of the better young coaches in the game today, but added the team needed to find some consistency offensively and that falls on the coaching staff. 

Joe’s a great, great, great young coach, great coordinator. We played well at times offensively. We’ve just gotta be more consistent,” Rhule said. “That’s gonna happen this week. It has to happen this week. And if it doesn’t happen this week, then next week I’ll come in and say, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta do this better,’ and we’ll try to get it done next week.

  • Panthers worked out LS Turner Bernard and P Drue Chrisman. (Aaron Wilson)


Saints DB coach Kris Richard offered some praise for CB Marshon Lattimore and his focus.

“It’s a testament to his preparation and essentially his love for the game,” Richard said, via ESPN’s Mike Triplett. “He goes out there, he’s got a lot of faith in who he is as a player and his ability. And he loves ball. So it’s not a surprise.”

Saints DC Dennis Allen added Lattimore has impressed because of everything they ask him to do.

“Look, I honestly feel like cornerback is the hardest position to play in the National Football League,” Allen said. “And when you have talented people like [Lattimore], it does allow you a little more flexibility in what you can do and how you can play the other guys.

“There are a lot of times where he is on their best guy and is by himself. That is certainly one of those things where we feel like we have the advantage in that matchup, regardless of who he’s going up against. It allows us to utilize the other 10 guys on the field to do a lot of different stuff.”

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