NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers

     

Buccaneers

Buccaneers CB Vernon Hargreaves was benched during Sunday’s game against the Cardinals after HC Bruce Arians thought “he didn’t look like he was hustling to go in for a tackle” on a 55-yard catch and run by Cardinals WR Andy Isabella. It’s the second time Arians has made an example out of Hargreaves after sitting him out for OTA’s for not being ready to practice. 

“If that’s what coach saw, that’s what he saw,” Hargreaves said via ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “There’s no arguing it. I need to hustle, point-blank, end of discussion. And I’ll get better. I’m sure I’ll talk with him this week and we’ll get things straightened out, and we’ll see where to go from here.”

While much of the outside speculation about Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston and his future in Tampa Bay has been pessimistic given Winston’s continued turnover issues and the course of the Buccaneers’ season, Arians has been mostly positive when asked about his quarterback this year. Following Sunday’s win against the Cardinals, Arians said Winston was on track to remain in Tampa Bay on another deal after his rookie contract ends after this season. 

“He’s taken us down the field to win or tie the game the last two weeks in the last two minutes,” Arians said via NBC Sports’ Peter King. “That’s the maturity of a young quarterback you’re looking for. If he plays like he has the last two weeks for the rest of the season, I’d say there’s a really good chance.”

  • Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul earned a $600,000 bonus for being active and playing in 91 percent of the defensive snaps Sunday. (Greg Auman)

Falcons

The Falcons shuffled things around on their coaching staff this past week, including moving WR coach Raheem Morris to the defensive side of the ball to coach the secondary. The move seems like it paid off on Sunday, as the Falcons downed the division-leading Saints for their second win of the season. 

“He understands exactly what offenses are trying to do to us,” Falcons S Ricardo Allen said via the Athletic’s Jason Butt. “We tweaked, we buzzed, we mixed up a couple of little coverages. A lot of it came through him because he was teaching us what the offenses were trying to do. We played the game plan like that.”

  • Per NFL Media’s Steve Wyche, Morris called defensive plays on third down and in two-minute situations, while LB coach Jeff Ulbrich called the first and second down defense, which he’s done since Week 6. 
  • Falcons HC Dan Quinn entered the season calling the defensive plays. 
  • According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Falcons RB Devonta Freeman is having an MRI to determine the severity of a foot sprain he suffered Sunday. 

Panthers

Panthers HC Ron Rivera earned the moniker “Riverboat Ron” for his sudden shift in philosophy early in his career to become more aggressive on fourth down. Rivera has often said, however, that he prefers “Analytical Ron” instead and his decision to go for two after cutting into the Packers’ 14-point second-half lead on Sunday illustrates why. 

“Yes, that was purely analytics, 100 percent,” Rivera said via the Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue. “The thing is, if you get there and then you score at the end, then you’re kicking to win the game. If you don’t get it there, you get an opportunity to go for two again. We feel pretty good about the play we had called the first time, and we felt good about having the second one up. It’s most certainly something where we went ahead and followed the analytics of it.”

  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer mentions that an unknown wrinkle in how the Panthers will handle QB Cam Newton‘s future is that there’s uncertainty if the current football decision-making staff will still be in place after this year. 
  • Breer notes there’s been speculation that Panthers owner David Tepper could leverage his connections as a former Steelers minority owner or his friendship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft to bring in people from those organizations. 
  • Art Stapleton reports that the Giants are working out TE Scott Simonson on Tuesday.

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