NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints

     

Buccaneers

Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones had one of the worst seasons ever for a second-round running back, failing to get on the field for more than nine games and averaging only 1.9 yards per carry on his 23 attempts. 

“Last year, it was definitely disappointing for me for myself and from a team standpoint,” Jones said via Eduardo Encina of the Tampa Bay Times. “Definitely, for me, it’s about getting on the right track. We have a new system, a new staff, we’re trying to make our mark in here.”

Tampa Bay RB coach Todd McNair said the team has focused this offseason on building Jones’ confidence and taking away the anxiety that hampered his ability to play to the talent that made him a second-round pick. 

“He was drafted where he was drafted for a reason,” McNair said. “He’s got a wealth of talent. Our goal is to take the anxiety away from him, take the expectations off him. Let just focus and make this thing small. And it seems to be paying off. He’s working hard, and he’s going to keep working hard.”

The Buccaneers elected not to invest substantially in the running back position this offseason, but that could be less of a sign of confidence in Jones and last year’s starter Peyton Barber than it is a reflection of how HC Bruce Arians believes teams shouldn’t “overpay for that position.”

“I like our backfield. I think it’s [an] OK backfield. There’s not a David Johnson or a Todd Gurley. But you don’t need one,” Arians said via Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com.

Panthers

Panthers HC Ron Rivera says QB Cam Newton will still need to work on getting his timing down with his receivers on offense, but that so far his recovery from shoulder surgery has been progressing well. 

“(Timing) is always a work in progress, and that’s kind of what happens when you don’t go through a spring,” Rivera said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “But again, he’s had a good offseason. He’s done everything the trainers and doctors have asked of him, and he’s still got a little bit more work to go over the next four and a half, five weeks.”

The Panthers have an open competition at free safety, where 2018 third-round pick Rashaan Gaulden and former UDFA Cole Luke are battling to prove Carolina doesn’t need to bring in anyone else. Whoever mans that spot will have the benefit of lining up next to veteran S Eric Reid, however. 

“He understands stuff. He understands how teams attack you. He sees stuff before it happens. And when you’ve got a guy in the back end that’s able to do that — we’ve had those for a long time, since I’ve been here — it helps a lot,” Panthers LB Luke Kuechly said. “Any time you can have a guy in the back end that really understands things like Eric, it’s easier. And especially (because) he’s been in this defense.”

Saints

Saints RB Alvin Kamara has become a star in a short time in part because of his versatility. As he enters his third season, he’s still looking to enhance that part of his game. 

“I’m so anxious to see like, ‘What else?’ You know what I’m saying? What else could I do? Where else could I line up? How else could I be successful? That’s the best part of this profession for me,” Kamara said via Glenn Guilbeau of the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. “What’s the next step you’re going to take? ‘Ok, he was good last year. How are you going to prove that you are what you are?’”

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