NFC Notes: Julio Jones, Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints, Trevor Penning


Bucs WR Julio Jones has already earned the respect from his teammates for coming in and picking the offense up quickly.

Leonard Fournette pointed out that Jones has been one of the most impressive through camp thus far.

Julio (Jones), definitely,” Fournette said, via Tampa Bay Times. “You see a guy of his stature, how big and fast he runs and how he gets open, and you see why he is where he is at in the league.

Jones has even impressed the team’s front office.

He’s been more than I expected, to be honest,” Bucs GM Jason Licht said.

Jones has also caught the attention of Bucs HC Todd Bowles.

You know, he looks good,” Bowles said. “Obviously not being with the team in the offseason, he’s still got to get in a little better shape, but we like what we see in him. He’s explosive, very smart, understands the game and he can help us.

Jones believes that he’s been able to pick up the offense quickly and is able to start playing faster and thinking less.

Everything’s coming to me,” Jones said. “The game of football, you just don’t want to have to go out there and think. You want it to become second nature to you. But I’m picking it up fairly quickly, and it’s been good.

Jones has reinvented himself and the way that he takes care of his body in hopes of returning and staying healthy throughout the season.

As far as patience-wise, just going out there like, 60-70 percent and just feeling like you can go out there and compete, I was doing that in the past,” Jones said. “But now I’m just staying ahead of it. Just getting the treatment, the proper treatment, the proper rest, things like that.


Panthers HC Matt Rhule enters his third season in Carolina unquestionably on the hot seat after struggling his first two seasons. As a college head coach, Year 3 was always when his teams would take a big step forward, and he’s obviously hoping for the same in 2022 as it will go a long way toward determining his NFL future. 

“I always think as a team, when you’re ready to win, you win,” Rhule said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “When the mental meets the physical. When the mentality and mindset of everyone, when everyone’s on the same page and they get it, but you also have the right roster. I won in college because I had really good players. And those players took their lumps. And then at some point they were like, we’re done taking our lumps. Whether that’s Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, that’s the part of it. As painful sometimes as last year was, there’s a lot of lessons in last year. We were able to hit that point in Year 3 in college twice. We had a better second year, though. Here we started off having that (good) second year. We were 5-5 and had every right to think we had a chance. And then just didn’t get it done down the stretch.

“Now we can have open conversations with our players because it’s been three, four years now of a late-season slide. Our guys understand now that when we’re in training camp, we’re not training for the first game. We’re training for November, December and January.”

  • Rhule highlighted a few players he thinks are going under the radar, including TE Ian Thomas: “He does all the stuff that allows other people to be highly successful. Not many guys can run routes like he can and still block and pass protect at the level he can.”
  • He also praised DB Myles Hartsfield, who’s entering his third year as a former undrafted free agent: “A guy that can play safety, play corner. He’s a 220-pound nickel. You don’t have very many of those in the NFL, that can run as well as anyone.”
  • Finally, Rhule is expected DE Marquis Haynes to help fill the void at defensive end: “When they told us he was healthy the other day, that was a huge thing for the team. You look at the amount of pressure he’s gotten in the limited snaps he’s gotten, he can rush the passer. As his role gets amplified this year, I’m expecting him to do great things.”
  • Rhule mentioned he’s tried to hire former Lions HC Jim Caldwell for a role on staff a couple of times. Caldwell currently remains out of football. 


Saints first-round OT Trevor Penning spoke about being removed from practice on August 3 after playing too physically and getting into a skirmish with teammates. 

“You’ve just got to play smart,” Penning said, via John Deshazier of the team’s official site. “Play physical, play my game, but be smart. I think, personally, I went to the whistle, I played my game and we’re competing. Football is physical, it’s tough. There’s maybe a couple (of plays) that were like, ‘OK, I gotta maybe chill.’ Coaches said that. They were like, ‘You can’t do that.’ I’m like, OK. Then you learn from it, and you get better from it but I’m not going to take away the physical part of my game. I’m going to be smart with it.”

Penning thinks that his teammates will get acclimated to his aggressive playing style. 

“Probably a little bit of both,” Penning said. “People know kind of how I play and they’re going to know what they’re getting when they go against me.”

Although HC Dennis Allen thinks Penning must reel back against teammates, he is pleased to see how hardworking the rookie offensive tackle is. 

“I think it’s getting way more attention outside of our building that it probably needs,” Allen said. “I see a guy that plays hard, extremely hard, on every single play. Are there some times where we’ve got to pull back the reins a little bit? Yeah. But I wouldn’t classify that any differently than anybody else. He just plays hard and he plays from snap to whistle, and that’s what you want him to do. I kind of like it.”

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