NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers

     

Buccaneers

  • ESPN’s Dan Graziano says it’s a make-or-break year for Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston. Winston has a longer leash than Titans QB Marcus Mariota, but if he struggles under new HC Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay could allow him to leave in free agency following the season. 

Falcons

Several injuries hurt the Falcons defense last year, but losing both safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen were arguably the worst. The two are set to return this year and rejuvenate the Atlanta defense.

“The safeties coming back… that’s a big part of it,” Falcons HC Dan Quinn said via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What Keke and Ricardo bring in their own unique way… we had some really good (offseason) practices and they’ll only get better when we (get) Rico and Keanu (back).”

  • Per Ledbetter, S Sharrod Neasman is set to be the top backup at free safety, while free-agent addition J.J. Wilcox is the favorite for the other backup safety slot. 

Panthers

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey became the centerpiece of Carolina’s offense in his second season. Two other young offensive players for the Panthers, WRs D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, are looking to take a similar leap and become reliable producers for the team. 

“We (saw) the jump that Christian had from Year 1 to Year 2,” Moore said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “I’m looking to take the same jump. I know Curtis looking to take the same jump from Year 2 to Year 3. I just know everybody’s trying to get better.”

  • According to Brendan Marks of the Charlotte Observer, Panthers QB Cam Newton is expected to be a full participant when the team starts training camp. 
  • Marks also writes QB Taylor Heinicke has a leg up in the battle for the No. 2 quarterback position so far after spring practices.
  • That would leave third-round QB Will Grier as the third string and QB Kyle Allen as a practice squad candidate. 

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