Thursday, August 05, 2010

Southern Blues.

Ok, NFC South training camp review time. Thing. New Orleans Saints What could the defending Super Bowl Champions possibly have to work on in training camp? Well, if history is anything to go by then; everything. One of the problems with being a defending Super Bowl champion is coming back the next year with that lax attitude of "we're the best, we can't get better." But everyone can get better. If the Saints are going to return to the big game, let alone win it, then everyone needs to stay sharp and keep plugging away in the coming training camp. No group has the pressure on it like the defense though. Having lost LB Scott Fujita, a former defensive captain, the remaining Saints linebackers must step up and fill the void. Together the Saints defense was ranked in the middle of the pack for giving up points. Luckily the Saints offense was able to offset that problem by being as prolific as it was. But here is the catch. The Saints leading rusher, Mike Bell, is gone (Eagles). The Saints were actually one of the more balanced teams last year, but if Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush have to share the load, it remains to be seen how well they will carry on this tradition. Making sure they receive sufficient carries in camp will help. The Saints secondary also needs to dig in for a long year. Expecting Sharper to magically fix everything on the back end is not an option. No Detroit Lions to play this year. And no Redskins. And no Bills. Their AFC division opponents this year are the AFC North, which include three very good teams (albeit two in a state of flux). And the Browns. Last year I have to confess that I think the Saints got lucky along the way. I think there schedule is a little tougher this time, but they might have come up trumps with some of those teams (Ravens secondary is in a bad way, the NFC West). The question is whether the Saints can knuckle down and put in the work one more time, or whether the 'Lombardi Gras' will leave the Saints with a Super sized hang over on the practice field. Carolina Panthers As far as we know, Matt Moore will start day 1 for Carolina. Moore produced well last year when he took over for the "Pickanator", but descriptions of him as looking like a Pro Bowl QB might have been just a tad over stated. Mainly for the Panthers offense it's about two things; finding that run game again and the receivers trying to develop into threats worthy of drawing coverage from Steve Smith. Without Muhsin Muhammed, someone has to step up and be the number two. It is likely that third round picks Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards (converted from QB) will lead the charge in that respect. Running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams need to prepare conditioning wise for a heavy season. Defensively, someone has some big shoes to step into. Julius Peppers may not have been the most consistent player in terms of effort, but 24.5 sacks in the last two years is a big hole that needs filling. Given the aerial nature of the league now, and especially in the NFC South, the Panthers need to make the most out of this training camp for developing Everette Brown and Charles Johnson. Their production could have a big hand in the Panthers success this year. P.S. I hate the Panthers. Atlanta Falcons Offensively the Falcons will have Michael Turner back to full health for the season and raring to go, which will help Matt Ryan no end. Last year it was noticeable when Turner wasn't in the squad. Add missed time to that equation when Matt Ryan was injured and the Falcons really didn't have the makings of a great season. This year it's about keeping everyone healthy and perhaps leaning back on their run game a little more as they did in Ryans rookie year. But truly pivotal to the Falcons hopes this season is how their defense comes together in camp. Dunta Robinson was their big free agent move, snatched from the Texans. His contract is believed to be the second highest for a corner (till Revis signs of course). His production needs to match the money. Up front, Jonathan Babineaux and John Abraham are the central pieces, with Abraham needing to pick his game up back to the level of a few years ago. If he can turn out another 10+ sack season it'll really help so he needs to step up his efforts in camp this year. At Linebacker, enter Sean Weatherspoon, the rookie taken in the first round. Weatherspoon is a talker, a hitter and generally all round sound backer, but this a new league and a new pace. His ability to learn the Falcons system and start contributing from day one will have a big impact on the Falcons D, so expect Weatherspoon to be given the reps to make good. Tampa Bay Buccaneers With Raheem Morris taking over the D in his second year as Head Coach, a lot will rest on his ability to organise and motivate what is frankly an under performing group. The Buc's offense will not save them from obscurity this year. Their defense just might. Gerald McCoy is the shiny new first round tackle at the heart of it all. I imagine Morris will be on his back hard trying to bring the rookie up to speed. The Buc's ranked dead last against the run, giving up a little over 2,500 yards on the ground. This has to stop. McCoy has to make it stop. Which is a worry given that pass rush was more McCoys thing. Even more worrying is that there's a good chance he'll be lining up alongside Brian Price, another rookie tackle. This youth movement has to pay off or Morris could be sunk. A heavy focus of training camp will be getting these two in shape, up to speed and focused on bringing running backs down with a bump. On the back end, Aqib Talib needs to become the corner we all think he can be (well, most of us). The Buc's ranked highly against the pass last year, but a few more turnovers and pass break ups wouldn't hurt. He will also need to help the Bucs' by becoming a force against the run as their woes in this area of the game have been previously pointed out. Offensively..... blah. That's the best I can offer. Josh Freeman and Kellen Winslow will not be able to turn them around alone. Freeman needs his receiving corps to come out of training camp with a sparkling new set of hands and some polished routes. Rookie Arrelious Benn is sadly his best shot now that Bryant is gone. On the ground, Derrick Ward needs to prove that the Giants were wrong to let him leave. It always helps a young QB when you can take some of the pressure off in difficult spots. --- Well, that's the NFC South done and dusted. We're just days away now from the start of the pre-season, with the Bengals playing the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game on Sunday. It's so close you can almost touch it. Personally I can't wait. Hopefully I'll have time to run round the rest of the teams in the next few days. Tomorrow it's the turn of the NFC West. Have a great day everyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why hate the Panthers?