NFC South Breakdown

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NFC South Breakdown

Postby widetrak21 » Wed Jun 21, 2006 3:08 pm

- from espn...

After an agonizing season stemming from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, the Saints will try to establish some stability with a new head coach, quarterback and hopefully a new attitude. Atlanta brought in several new starters and its receiving corps should benefit from last year's experience, but make no mistake: Michael Vick's accuracy must improve for the Falcons to have a big season.

Jon Gruden did an exceptional job with the Buccaneers last season. Chris Simms and Tampa Bay's offensive line should take steps forward, but Tampa Bay remains a step below the Panthers -- who should challenge Seattle for NFC supremacy. At this point, Carolina looks like one of just a several NFL teams that don't have a glaring question mark and few teams can match their overall depth. The Saints are light years away from the Panthers, but Atlanta and especially Tampa should compete for wild-card spots.


Carolina Panthers
The rich got richer this offseason. For some reason, it did not receive a lot of publicity, but the signing of defensive tackles Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu could turn the Panthers' defense into one of the best in the NFL. If Kris Jenkins is close to the player he was before his injuries, Carolina will have a rare group of interior linemen with a blend of outstanding size, power and quickness.

No one will benefit more from these signings than Dan Morgan. He should be well protected by his massive defensive tackles, allowing him to use his excellent speed and instincts to track down ball carriers and make game-changing plays. Interior running lanes are going to be scarce -- terrible news for opposing running backs. No team in the league can match Carolina's pairs of starting defensive ends and cornerbacks -- terrible news for opposing quarterbacks. The outside linebackers are unproven, but there is young talent with depth, and the extreme talent around them will aid in the transition.

On offense, the Panthers added Keyshawn Johnson, who should thrive against consistent single coverage, and DeAngelo Williams, who will help keep fragile DeShaun Foster fresh while adding insurance in case of another injury.

Last year, defenses keyed on Steve Smith and he still put up better numbers than any other receiver in the league. What Smith did last season was remarkable. With the addition of Johnson, Smith will continue to torture his opponents and actually might face single coverage on occasion. He might not match his 2005 numbers, but his value will not decrease. Expect Johnson to become a force on third downs and in the red zone.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme goes under the radar a bit, but he has proved capable of winning big games and taking his team deep into the playoffs. There has been some shuffling of the interior offensive line starters, but don't expect this to hold the Panthers back. Head coach John Fox has established himself as one of the best in the business and has a very talented deep roster to work with. Expect a run at the Super Bowl this season.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Despite inserting a new quarterback, having their star running back battle injury, Michael Clayton's sophomore meltdown and minimal talent along their offensive line, the Bucs managed to make the playoffs last season. Gruden got exceptional production out of his offense and might have done the best coaching job of his career.
This unit will be better in 2006. Cadillac Williams, Alex Smith and Simms have valuable experience under their belts, and the offensive line was clearly a major offseason priority. Clayton carried too much weight last season and lost a lot of his quickness while putting a strain on his lower body, resulting in numerous injuries. He reportedly has dropped the extra weight, and although he might not regain the production of his rookie season, expect him to have a better season than last year's disaster.

Veteran receiver Joey Galloway was simply outstanding last season despite facing the brunt of opposing defenses' attention. He re-emerged as a true game breaker, and Gruden will exploit this threat to open running room for Williams. Galloway has a history of injuries and must stay healthy.

Although he has never carried the load or proved to be a true workhorse, Williams has rare feet, burst and vision. He is capable of putting this offense on his shoulders and establishing himself as one of the very best running backs in the league. Gruden will lean on him in a big way.

It's a tribute to Monte Kiffin, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and several other Tampa Bay' defensive staples that little seems to change with the Buccaneers' defense year after year. It once again will rank in the top 10 overall in just about every team defensive category. Tampa's running game should be improved, which will help keep the Bucs' undersized defense fresher than in previous seasons.

The Bucs are one of the best-coached teams on both sides of the ball, and their roster is more talented than a year ago. They are a wild-card-caliber team that is a step behind Carolina for division supremacy.



Atlanta Falcons
Instead of fortifying their roster via free agency or the draft, the Falcons made three trades for starters. The additions of defensive end John Abraham, safety Chris Crocker and offensive tackle Wayne Gandy via trade will help shore up three positions of need.
With the Falcons' undersized defensive tackles, the loss of Ed Hartwell to injury and awful safety play, Atlanta struggled mightily to stop the inside run last season. Hartwell is healed fully; the linebacker play will be improved; and the Falcons brought in two new starting safeties. This should help remedy the problem, but the Falcons are still very light up front and could have their hands full against Tampa Bay and especially Carolina at the point of attack. Although he also is undersized, the addition of Abraham adds a proven pass-rushing presence that will allow Patrick Kerney and Rod Coleman to battle more one-on-one blocking schemes to get to the passer.

Overall, the defense is a fast aggressive unit that will get after the quarterback and is best suited to play with the lead. It is paramount, however, that Atlanta be able to run the football on offense to win the time of possession battle and keep its defensive line fresh.

Vick didn't progress as quickly as anticipated last season, and there were times when he looked simply awful and just couldn't hit open receivers. Much of the onus of his struggles rests squarely on his own shoulders, but Vick also battled injuries for much of the season and his wide receivers were raw and untested. Expect the passing game to improve with Roddy White stepping up his game in a big way while Alge Crumpler remains a rock of stability.

The Falcons do not put a premium on spending big money on offensive linemen, but they are very well coached and return four starters up front. Warrick Dunn has showed no major signs of slowing down, and Atlanta should be able to establish its vaunted zone running game in nearly every contest. Vick certainly has some attributes you cannot teach and remains one of the most dangerous players in the league, but for Atlanta to get over .500, he must take at least one huge step forward as a passer. Atlanta must at least split its opening two games when it travels to Carolina and hosts Tampa Bay; an 0-2 hole against these rivals would be difficult to overcome.


New Orleans Saints
Reggie Bush fell into the Saints' lap on draft day. Although he didn't fill a major need position, New Orleans did the smart thing and selected this playmaker with rare natural abilities. Although Bush probably will end up on "SportsCenter" with regularity throughout his career, he will not be able to stop the run, keep new quarterback Drew Brees upright or open gaping holes for the run game.

Assuming Brees, Joe Horn and Deuce McAllister show no lingering effects from their injuries, few teams in the league are on par with the Saints in terms of offensive skill position players. The problem on the offensive side of the ball will be up front, where New Orleans has only one lineman it can truly count on (Jammal Brown) and he was forced to move from right to left tackle.

The trading of Gandy to division rival Atlanta doesn't look so prudent anymore. Offensive line depth is also a major weakness, and all the reshuffling surely will result in continuity problems, especially early in the season. This problem cannot be overstated as the Saints are trying to break in a new quarterback and offensive philosophy.

On defense, new head coach Sean Payton has a fine set of defensive ends; Will Smith is in the process of becoming a bona fide star. The Saints also have a deep group of safeties, although Dwight Smith is rumored to be on his way out. The problem is that New Orleans' defensive tackles, linebackers and cornerbacks are mostly made up of journeymen and mediocre talents. The interior of this unit will struggle against Cadillac Williams, the Panthers' power rushing attack and Atlanta's productive zone-blocking running game. Expect the Saints defense to spend far too much time on the field in 2006.

This team has some pieces in place to build around and has done a nice job with its first year of overhauling a poor roster, but the nuts and bolts are still missing. The last four games of the season are brutal, but the Saints should consider the season a success if those games are still of importance. In this division, they will be fortunate to win six games.

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Postby Pudge » Wed Jun 21, 2006 5:02 pm

ESPN wrote:Michael Vick's accuracy must improve for the Falcons to have a big season...Vick didn't progress as quickly as anticipated last season, and there were times when he looked simply awful and just couldn't hit open receivers. Much of the onus of his struggles rests squarely on his own shoulders, but Vick also battled injuries for much of the season and his wide receivers were raw and untested.

I don't know, but I just hate it when outsiders say things like this. If it comes out of the mouth of a Falcon fan, I'll let it slide, but when other people say, I simply think they don't know what they're talking about.

It seems to me that many people are viewing Vick's primetime performances as the only ones. It's unfortunate, that much of VIck's season is judged solely off how played vs. the Jets on Monday Night.

Yes, Vick does need to improve, but he played much better last year than his numbers indicate.
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Postby widetrak21 » Thu Jun 22, 2006 9:26 am

but when other people say, I simply think they don't know what they're talking about.


- Pudge, this to me is kinda like the thread where we discussed the analysts and how they gravitate to the annual elite teams, and let the other 28 or so teams fly under the radar until something proven makes them change their "cookie cutter" opinion. Ie. Until Vick becomes more consistent, all the talking heads will say the exact same thing. No one's really giving any creedence to the fact that he was hurt last year, so his dynamic plays were very much tempered. Then you go 8-8 and can't stop the run at all, then thats what the heads focus on. I saw yesterday espn had us ranked #20 in the offseason. No way I think thats right, but until the heads actually see it, they'll pay practically no attention to the great offseason we had. If Vick rips the Kitties a new one in week 1 (and boy are they talking up that Caroina D now), everybody will get back on the Vick bandwagon quick enough to pull a muscle.

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Postby widetrak21 » Thu Jun 22, 2006 9:29 am

one more point...

I can literally here some dumbass like Merril Hoge saying, assuming Vick plays well against Carolina in week 1, "We all knew Mike Vick had it in him, as it takes several years to master that offense. If he did this against Carolina's D, then the rest of the league better be on red alert!" See how quickly the opinion will flip 180 degrees!

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Postby ridethemattrain » Thu Jun 22, 2006 1:23 pm

they mention Crocker, but not Milloy?!?!

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Postby widetrak21 » Mon Jun 26, 2006 12:15 pm

- see what i mean...

David (Texas Tech U): Keith, it seems like no one is talking enough about the Falcons, a team that was 2 quarters away from a super bowl a couple years ago. Sure enough, they slowed down after their 6-2 start last year, but the defense had a lot to do with that, directly and indirectly. Don't you think that with the return of Hartwell, with Brooking and Williams on his right and left, the addition of Abraham to go along with Kerney and Coleman, the best DB in the NFC in Hall, and adding Lawyer Milloy to the backfield makes them one of the most formidable teams in the NFC?? (assuming of course that the running game is as good and Vick hits his receivers)

Keith Kidd: David, I agree the Falcons have had a good offeseason with the additions of Abraham, Crocker and Milloy. But a lot will come down to their ability to stop the run. Offensively, Vick will have to carry the team again but will have to play more within the structure of the system for them to have more success and allow them to keep the defense off the field in critical situations. But, I don't think they've done enough to gain ground on both the Panthers and Buccaneers.

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Postby widetrak21 » Mon Jun 26, 2006 12:41 pm

- theme contintues. pretty apparent, and not like we haven't discussed it a ton here, but man it seems like more and more that Hartwell better be up to the challenge of stopping the run. Did anyone see a report recently like he wasn't back to 100% health, seems like he should be by now.

Wes (Atlanta): Jeremy, despite your constant Vick bashing in these chats (and I'm not arguing that some of it isn't deserved) do you think the Falcons and their much improved defense can get back into the playoffs this season?

Jeremy Green: Oh come on, I have not bashed him once today. As for the defense, they are much better. I think getting Abraham, obvioulsy gets them a guy that will get 10 sacks. Jimmy Williams will contribute as a roookie. Again though, they are so small up front - I think they will have trouble again this year consistently stopping the run.

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Postby dirtybirdnw » Mon Jun 26, 2006 1:23 pm

I find it interesting that the experts are talking about Vick playing in a more structured offense. Last I read Knapp is going to let Vick be more like Vick and let him do more of his on the field (aka be superman and run like crazy) improvising.

And then no mention of Milloy in this article because they where talking about players aquired via trade/draft and not so much FA.
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Postby widetrak21 » Mon Jun 26, 2006 3:36 pm

I find it interesting that the experts are talking about Vick playing in a more structured offense. Last I read Knapp is going to let Vick be more like Vick and let him do more of his on the field (aka be superman and run like crazy) improvising.


- Honestly it's cause they don't a freakin' clue really. I've read reports of us this offseason with the main theme varying between.

1. Atl needs Vick to pass better
2. Atl needs to let Vick be Vick
3. Atl needs the WRs to step up
4. Atl should let Schaub start

The one thing they do seem sure of is Carolina, but thats not really going out on a limb. If you read the talking heads regularly, the only division they seem stumped on is the NFC East, and thats just cause it really is a pickem situation other than including Philly, imo. Beyond that its, Carolina will win, Chicago will win (with Minny making noise) and Seattle winning (with Ari making noise). No news flashes there. They don't pay enough attention to ATL to have the true scoop.

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Postby Pudge » Mon Jun 26, 2006 9:24 pm

How I take it from the Vick playing more structured or freelancing more, is that this is his 3rd year in the offense, which is the big year according to all the West Coast gurus, the year that you either get it or you don't.

I think with that in mind, Vick's grasp of the offense should be so good that he'll be able to do both. They may let him run more, but because when they need him to throw, he'll be able to do it. That's at least how I interpret it all. Whether that actually happens, I have no idea...
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Postby widetrak21 » Tue Jun 27, 2006 10:23 am

I think with that in mind, Vick's grasp of the offense should be so good that he'll be able to do both. They may let him run more, but because when they need him to throw, he'll be able to do it. That's at least how I interpret it all. Whether that actually happens, I have no idea...


- This is the key to me, cause if he can do both then theres not a d thats been devised or invented to stop it.

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Postby mickvick302 » Tue Jun 27, 2006 5:02 pm

widetrak21 wrote:- theme contintues. pretty apparent, and not like we haven't discussed it a ton here, but man it seems like more and more that Hartwell better be up to the challenge of stopping the run. Did anyone see a report recently like he wasn't back to 100% health, seems like he should be by now.

Wes (Atlanta): Jeremy, despite your constant Vick bashing in these chats (and I'm not arguing that some of it isn't deserved) do you think the Falcons and their much improved defense can get back into the playoffs this season?

Jeremy Green: Oh come on, I have not bashed him once today. As for the defense, they are much better. I think getting Abraham, obvioulsy gets them a guy that will get 10 sacks. Jimmy Williams will contribute as a roookie. Again though, they are so small up front - I think they will have trouble again this year consistently stopping the run.


I love how "Jeremy" spells "OBVIOUSLY" wrong...shows his brilliance...
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