The NFC South is in a full offensive arms race as each team looks to add versatile weapons in order to combat each other’s scoring ability. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers look stacked and should be looking to add more either through free agency or the draft. Here is how each NFC South team currently stands.
The Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are in a modest re-tooling period. They are moving on from Cam Newton and have brought in a Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. Now, that’s not to say they will not be competitive. They currently have a few weapons that may now flourish with the addition of Bridgewater.
Christian McCaffery is in line for a boost. The ultimate swiss army knife, McCaffrey posted over 1,000 yards receiving and rushing last year. Combine both categories and he had 19 touchdowns. I assess this should improve with a better quarterback under center. The explosiveness between these two will be something to watch.
The wide receiver corps in Carolina is not too shabby either. Though they really don’t possess a big-name target, they certainly have talent. D.J. Moore quietly posted over 1,000 yards last year with four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Curtis Samuel continues to improve. In free agency, the Panthers have added Pharoh Cooper from Arizona, though he has yet to live up to his potential. This group WILL improve with Bridgewater slinging the ball.
Ian Thomas currently rounds out the weapons. The 2018 fourth-round pick has yet to impact the stat sheet in a manner that makes him a threat. That could change though with the exit of Greg Olsen.
Carolina’s Secret Weapon
What could boost the Panthers the most is not a player, but a coach. Coming from LSU and the Saints, Joe Brady takes over as offensive coordinator. He taught Bridgewater when he first got to New Orleans and looks to implement the same offense in Carolina. If Brady and Bridgewater can replicate any success that the Saints had, this could be a potent offense. I would look for them to add another wideout in free agency or the draft to really get them involved in the NFC South arms race.
The Atlanta Falcons
Under center is Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan. Ever steady and consistent, Ryan will keep the Falcons in games. He has had an MVP style season once before and looks to replicate that performance as the Falcons are adding more weapons to keep up with the rest of the NFC South. One question remains, much like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, when will father time catch up.
At Ryan’s Disposal
Atlanta has a good group of receivers, one of whom is as prolific as they come. Future Hall of Famer Julio Jones, even at 31 years old, gives defenses fits. Having posted no less than 1,000 yards a season seven out of nine seasons in the NFL, he must be accounted for at all times. The only issue here is, per multiple reports, the Falcons were in talks to trade him to the Eagles. This would be a huge loss.
The other receivers include Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. Ridley has posted in the 800 range of yards each of his two years. In total, he has 17 touchdowns. The Falcons must believe he can take over for Jones. Behind him sits Gage. He came out as a factor in the offense last season, ending the year with 446 yards and a touchdown. If jones leaves both these players are in for more work.
In the backfield, Todd Gurley joins the Falcons replacing Devonte Freeman. His health will be the ultimate decision-maker. Can he be a workhorse again? The Falcons hope they are getting the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. This acquisition will be tuff to gauge until the season starts.
Replacing the departed Austin Hooper is a first-round pick traded from Baltimore in Hayden Hurst. A pass-catching and blocking tight end, Hust can improve the Falcons in ways that do not show up on the stat sheet. He’s a good addition.
The Big Question
Are the Falcons really going to move on from Julio Jones? If they do then Ridley and Gage will have to step up in a big way. Secondly, what do they get in return? The reports indicated they possibly wanted Zach Ertz. This would be a great addition for two tight end sets but ultimately they would need to acquire another wide receiver in free agency or the draft. I don’t think the offense is done being sculpted in Atlanta. There will be more to come, most likely in the draft as the cap is putting a squeeze on the Falcons.
The New Orleans Saints
The never-aging gun-slinging Drew Brees still sits under center for the Saints as he decided to come back and chase glory for at least two more seasons. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters to Brees who is on the roster. He spreads the ball around so much it makes covering anyone harder. But much like Brady and Ryan, is age catching up?
Brees to Air it Out
Sitting out at Brees’ left and right are Michael Thomas and Tedd Ginn Jr. If that was not enough, the Saints just purchased the talents of Emmanuel Sanders. The duo of Thomas and Sanders could put Brees over 5,000 yards…again. Subsequently, they could be the best pair of wideouts Brees has had at any one time.
Sitting behind the line is also a one-two combo of running backs that is very potent. Headed by Alvin Kamara, a dual-threat running back, the Saints have a balanced offense. Kamara doesn’t need to have a 1,000-yard season to be devastating. He puts up receiving numbers better than most wide receivers themselves. Additionally, you have to game plan for another running back. Latavius Murray continues to pound the rock with an average of 4.1 yards per carrying during his career. He completes a formidable two-headed monster in the backfield.
The tight end position is much less solid for the Saints. Jared Cook and Josh Hill are less than spectacular but they are afforded the Drew Brees factor. They will still need to be accounted for on the field.
Much like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints are all in for 2020 and pose the biggest threat to the Buccaneers’ success in the division. In order to continue to add to the team, the Saints will need to look at the draft as they are pressed against the cap at this time. Don’t expect them to add more in free agency without some major cuts or restructuring.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s the biggest news story of the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed Tom Brady. So how does that change the landscape in Tampa’s offense? The Buccaneers should see some improvements at the quarterback position to the tune of reduced turnovers. Brady is a smart and judicious passer. He will not force the ball into questionable places at times and his touch is a thing of beauty. Also, his mentality is going to positively infect this team. It remains to be seen what will happen. One thing is for sure, Brady has never had this kind of arsenal to play with before. He could become a tier-one quarterback again. We will certainly find out, soon.
Brady’s Best Options of His Career
Possibly the greatest wide receiver duo in the NFL, Brady has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at his disposal. Both receivers posted over 1,000 yards each last year. Evans has posted over 1,000 yards a season all six seasons in the league. Meanwhile, Godwin hasn’t even maxed out his potential yet. Sitting behind this tandem of terror are some wide receivers looking to make a name for themselves. Scotty Miller is a speedster who needs to step up and could become a Danny Amendola clone with Brady. Justin Watson has shown flashes but lacks polish. Lastly, Bryant Mitchell was brought back in after an injury. He will play with a chip on his shoulder and looks to prove he can play. This group can be devastating if they all reach their potential. The thing about this set of players is it may not be done being added to. More on that farther below.
The Buccaneers posses a security blanket of four tight ends. With Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard representing some great options for Brady. There is potential there for them to be a pair much like the 2011 Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez pairing. During the season, Gronkowski pushed over 1,300 yards with Hernandez complimenting him on the opposite side and posting over 900 yards. This could be scary for opposing defenses and I didn’t even mention the growth expected for Anthony Auclair and Tanner Hudson.
Finally, you have Ronald Jones II. Jones II broke out of his shell last season as the gameplay slowed down for him. He should see an increased work role this year and even more involvement in the passing game. Unfortunately, he is the only mentionable running back on this team with the departure of Peyton Barber.
The Way Ahead
The Buccaneers are not done adding to this offensive weaponry. They need another running back and need to solidify the competition for the third wide receiver. Luckily they have some draft capital left. They could bring back Breshad Perriman or bring in Phillip Dorsett. Then there is always the draft. A bigger priority in my mind is the running back position. The Buccaneers need a complimentary piece to Jones II. Someone like Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be on the Buccaneer’s big board. Ultimately, the wide receiver and running back position are not set.
Additionally, the Buccaneers will continue to look to improve the offensive line. I fully expect them to draft an offensive tackle early in the draft. This is a must for the run game to work and the quarterback to stay upright.
I believe, as it stands now, the Buccaneers have the best weapons, and they are not even done adding to them yet!
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