NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints

     

Buccaneers

The Buccaneers hired HC Bruce Arians this offseason because of his reputation working with quarterbacks and the apparent stagnation of former No. 1 overall pick QB Jameis Winston. Arians says part of what he’s emphasizing to Winston is to ignore the pressure that comes with being the top pick and focus on making the best decision each play.

“Twenty-one other guys are gonna play their tails off with you,” Arians said via NBC Sports’ Peter King. “You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to fit a ball into a window. Just dump it to the back. Learn to take your checkdowns. Don’t try to be Superman on every play because you were the number one pick in the draft. You don’t have to be elite. Just play quarterback. He’s finally [getting] it. You dump it off to the back 30 more times a year instead of throwing it into a pigeonhole, you’ll throw for 300 more yards in this game without the mistakes. And you see the light go on. He’s got so much pride, and this team hasn’t won, and the quarterback gets a lot of blame, and the coach gets fired, and he takes a lot of responsibility for it.”

  • Arians announced Buccaneers LB Lavonte David will have arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus, per the Athletic’s Greg Auman
  • The surgery is not expected to affect David’s availability for the start of the regular season. 
  • The Buccaneers activated rookie LB David Kenney from the PUP list. (Twitter)

Falcons

  • Per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Falcons HC Dan Quinn said G James Carpenter will have an MRI on his quad injury, which is expected to be minor. 
  • Falcons G Jamon Brown, who’s competing with Carpenter to start at guard, also didn’t finish practice with a hamstring injury. 

Panthers

The Panthers were listed in a 3-4 defense in their first depth chart release of the preseason after HC Ron Rivera said they’d make a move to a more multiple defense in 2019. Carolina struggled to generate pressure at times last year, finishing with only 35 sacks in 2018, and Rivera thinks the league figured out the Panthers’ 4-3 defense. 

“There’s enough guys out there now, coaches that have been part of what we’ve done, that are out in the league, that I think enough people know more than what I like,” Rivera said via the Athletic’s Joseph Person. “So I think making this move really kind of helps us.”

The switch will necessitate several changes. Gerald McCoy and Kawann Short will play as five-technique defensive ends lining up over the offensive tackle instead of inside over the guards as defensive tackles. The Panthers are moving Mario Addison to outside linebacker and will have to work harder to keep blockers off of LB Luke Kuechly to keep him free to roam. Fortunately, Rivera has experience running a 3-4 from his time as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator before he was hired in Carolina. 

“I’m excited to see how it’s gonna work,” Rivera said. “I like the guys. I think back to my time in San Diego and think about the guys that I had, and I think we match up very well with those guys. But you never know. So I’m excited about getting the opportunity to play against another team (at Chicago this week), and we’ve got a couple of days with really good work against Buffalo.”

  • Per the Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, Panthers seventh-round OL Dennis Daley said he’s learning the backup spots at guard and tackle on both sides of the line as the team tries to develop him into their go-to swing lineman. 
  • Rivera says the team has been impressed with first-round LB Brian Burns, who left practice briefly with an ankle injury but returned after it was taped up. Rivera says Burns has played his way into a three-man rotation: “He’s really separated himself from all the other outside backers. It’s been a lot of fun to watch his development.” (David Newton)

Saints

Saints QB Drew Brees has heard some of the rumblings that his play has faded as the season has gone on the past couple seasons. Brees said that while his passing stats may not be as prolific as they were five or ten years ago, he feels like he’s never been more mentally on top of the game. 

“I’m smarter than I ever have been,” Brees said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “I just know so much more. I think I have the ability to be as good as I ever have been. And I don’t think you can measure that with statistics. Last year, I didn’t throw for as many yards—I’ve thrown for more yards than I did last year probably 12 other times. And yet, I feel like last year was one of my better years overall. My decision-making and execution and just overall productivity, I feel like it was one of my better years, and that I can do it again.”

Brees, who just turned 40 this year, says he wants to play until he’s 45. That’s the same age Patriots QB Tom Brady has identified as his goal, which is based on a study by Brees’ mechanics coach Tom House that shows that’s when athletes lose their ability to recover in the same way. However, Brees is keeping his options open and taking it year by year. 

“I feel I can play a lot longer,” Brees said. “But we’ll see. I just don’t want to take it for granted, I know it’s not going to last forever so I just want to enjoy the moment while it’s here. And about three or four years ago, I just made that commitment—I’m going play every year like it’s my last. I know we say that a lot. But I’m really going to play it like it’s my last. And that’s just forced me to enjoy it even more.”

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