NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Sam Darnold, Panthers, Saints

Buccaneers

Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich isn’t giving any thought to the idea that he almost became the head coach for the Jaguars and remains focused on keeping former HC Bruce Arians‘ offense rolling in Tampa Bay.

“I really don’t have no thoughts about the process. I was the coordinator here, and I’m still the coordinator here so that’s really how I view it,” Leftwich said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “I know there was a lot said, a lot put out there. Obviously that didn’t work out. I’m just happy to be here, happy to be here with the group, going into our fourth year together. Can’t wait to get to work with these guys.”

Panthers

Despite the selection of third-round QB Matt Corral, Panthers QB Sam Darnold remains the current starter in Carolina despite a rough season in 2021. His standing is predictably tenuous, however. 

“Sam is the number one guy right now,” Panthers GM Scott Fitterer said to Pro Football Talk. “He has every opportunity to take it and run with it. We hope he does well. We’ve seen improvement already under [new OC] Ben McAdoo. He’s working hard, he’s throwing the ball well. He’s just got to take it and run with it. He’s got to own the position. The one thing we’re looking to do is stabilize the position. It’s been up and down, up and down. We’re bringing in Matt Corral. P.J. Walker‘s already here. We’ll see how it goes. He’s in the lead right now, but until someone really owns that position, gives us an opportunity to win, it will always be up for grabs.”

Fitterer pointed out Carolina started 3-0 last season and Darnold looked revitalized. Then things went off the rails, probably not coincidentally at the same time RB Christian McCaffrey was injured. 

“I thought he did play well the first three games,” Fitterer said. “I thought he played really well even into the Dallas game. He played well in the first half. I think injuries, losing McCaffrey did play a factor in it, but really it was the inconsistency of the offensive line. There was too much leakage up there. That was one priority going into this offseason, improving the offensive line. We brought in three new bodies that we think can come in and help us start. Drafted a left tackle here in the first round. I think that can only help the quarterback. With Sam when he has time, he delivered the ball [and] looked good, but when he didn’t have time, even when Cam Newton was here, he didn’t have time. It’s hard to play that position and it’s not solely on the quarterback, it’s on us. It’s on the whole offense but one of the big steps we did take was fixing that offensive line.”

Fitterer added it’s not out of the question that Carolina could still acquire a veteran, with 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo and Browns QB Baker Mayfield some notable names still on the trade block. 

“I would say quarterback or any other position,” Fitterer said, “if there’s someone out there that we think can help us, we’ll keep our minds open. We have the money set aside to make several different moves and that was important for us to do. We want that flexibility but if someone can help us regardless of position, we’ll make a move at some point.”

Saints

  • NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reports that the Saints signed veteran WR Jarvis Landry to a one-year deal with a base value of $3 million. He can earn another $3 million in incentives that are based on his individual performance.

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