Wednesday, August 08, 2007

NFL SWOT Analysis: NFC South

Atlanta Falcons:

Hall (Photo courtesy of

Strengths: The Falcons will rely heavily on a talented front seven built on speed and athleticism. On the defensive line, DT Rod Coleman and DE John Abraham will use their gifts of rare speed and agility at their positions to get into the backfield, while Grady Jackson plugs the middle. Top pick Jamaal Anderson rounds out the foursome. A speedy linebacker corps, led by Keith Brooking, should compliment both the line and the secondary with strong safety Lawyer Milloy occasionally moving up into the box. DeAngelo Hall is slowly becoming one of the feared CBs in the league.

Weaknesses: Obviously, QB is a major weakness without a weapon like Michael Vick at the helm. Many have seen Joey Harrington and his ineptitude in the NFL. Anyone holding out hope needs to look no further than his former college coach, Jeff Tedford. The man is a genius at making QBs look good. Look at his list of first round draft picks that never panned out in the NFL: Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith, Harrington, Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers. If Vick misses significant time, this will be a long year for the Falcons. The Matt Schaub trade, to Houston, will come back to haunt this franchise, at least for this season.

Opportunities: The acquisition of WR Joe Horn and the continued big play from Alge Crumpler takes some of the pressure off Michael Jenkins and Roddy White. One of these two needs to step up and be the future of this franchise at WR (if not both). Converted CB Jimmy Williams could be a big boost at safety, if he can put his game together and be a defensive QB. He is as athletically gifted as they come.

Threats: The running game has been atop the NFL for some time. Easily forgotten is the fact that Vick’s numbers contribute to the overall numbers in the running game. If Vick misses time, we will see just how strong the running game is. Add to that the fact that Dunn will miss some time early on.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Jerrious Norwood from Warrick Dunn, Running Back. Dunn is 32, and at 5’9” and 180 pounds, he cannot be expected to be the feature back for long. While Dunn should not be counted out completely (even with the injury to start the season), Norwood could take the lead role for good this season. One of my pre-draft sleepers from 2006, Norwood proved to be a potential home run threat, making several big plays last season.

Camp Battle: Michael Vick and the Long Arm of the Law. Not exactly a camp battle, but the significance holds the prospects of this season in its hands. As inconsistent as Vick has been as a QB, without a fallback plan like Matt Schaub, the team is at a major disadvantage. Love him or hate him, Vick is a weapon that opposing defenses have to plan around.

Rookie Contributor: Defensive End, Jamaal Anderson. Anderson has a supporting cast that should take a lot of pressure off him. His phenomenal size and his athleticism at the position should give him a leg up. Also keep an eye on Chris Houston who may be the team’s third CB going into the season.

Carolina Panthers:

Smith (Photo courtesy of

Strengths: The defensive line should be dominant. Forget offseason trade talk surrounding Kris Jenkins. He slimmed down from his minicamp weight and showed up to training camp ready to rumble. In fact, he teamed up with the massive Ma’ake Kemoeatu to break a blocking sled. Anyone who’s ever pushed a blocking sled knows what kind of feat that is. Familiar bookends, Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker return. Arguably coming off his best season, Peppers should continue to be a threat to offenses. The offensive line has a couple of new starters, however Jordan Gross and Mike Wahle should do a decent job anchoring the line.

Weaknesses: Mike Minter’s abrupt retirement, due to knee injuries, leaves the defense without its QB. Untested second-year safety Nate Salley will move over to Minter’s vaccated spot, making the calls in the secondary. Chris Harris, who was lost in a logjam at safety in Chicago, could help ease the loss, if he can regain his rookie form.

Opportunities: Delhomme has some potential options on hand. Steve Smith is the top target, but there could be a fair share of #2 types on the roster. Drew Carter and Keary Colbert are in a battle for the spot alongside Smith. However, Dwayne Jarrett could eclipse them before the season is over. Another receiver to keep an eye on is second-year TE Jeff King. King gives Delhomme a nice large target to look for underneath and in the end zone.

Threats: Left Tackle Travelle Wharton is coming off a torn ACL that wiped out last season. He is expected to be the starter this season. Mike Rucker seems to be on the decline and unless rookie DE Charles Johnson can step up early to rotate, the right side could have a hole. MLB Dan Morgon is one concussion away from retirement.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Justin Hartwig to Ryan Kalil, Center. Hartwig is not old, and he is a serviceable player, however he holds great value as a swing backup who can play just about every position on the offensive line. Kalil may not crack the starting lineup this year, but the Panthers need to get him comfortable. If injuries strike and Hartwig is needed elsewhere, Kalil can step right in.

Camp Battle: DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster, DeRunning Back. Look for Williams to edge out Foster for carries, however word is that Williams hasn’t been impressive at the goaline. Foster will probably get the lion’s share of those duties. Nick Goings may factor at the goaline as well.

Rookie Contributor: Linebacker, Jon Beason should have no problem passing Na’il Diggs on the depth chart for the starting spot. Beason has playmaker potential. He rocketed up the draft charts as draft day drew closer. He is in the D.J. Williams/Jon Vilma mold, and would not surprise if he produces as they did early in their careers.

New Orleans Saints:

Bush (Photo courtesy of

Strengths: Between WR Marques Colston, TE Eric Johnson and RB Reggie Bush, Drew Brees has a pass-receiving trio at all three levels of the offense. Bush will be all over the field. His running mate Deuce McAllister will handle most of the running duties with Bush chipping in here and there. Bush will also line up at WR at times. Despite a lack of big names to point out, depth at linebacker and in the defensive backfield will allow decent rotations keeping players fresh.

Weaknesses: While depth on defense is a strength for this team, the defense lacks a player that strikes fear in opposing hearts. There is no superstar for other teams to plan their game around. This will be a priority next offseason. Offensive line depth is a concern that was in the spotlight when Jammal Brown recently went down with a knee injury and was carted off the field. The team was caught with its proverbial pants down. Zach Streif, a 7th rounder last season, is the primary backup. The team has Rob Pettiti and Jon Stinchcomb at right tackle, but neither is a true left tackle. The team was very lucky that MRIs came back negative. Look for the team to keep former Saint Willie Roaf on the speed dial. Rookie guard Andy Alleman is the only other backup worth mentioning, and he is buried on the depth chart.

Opportunities: The young duo at safety offers a lot of upside. Josh Bullocks and Roman Harper look like they could patrol the secondary for years in New Orleans. They would have started alongside each other last season, as Harper won the starting job as a rookie, but was lost for the season early on.

Threats: The biggest threat, by far, for this team is the threat of high expectations. These are probably the highest expectations this franchise has ever had. The pressure is on in the Big Easy.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Dominique Wilkins to Reggie Bush, “The Human Highlight Film” nickname. It’s hard to see Reggie Bush having a sophomore slump. Look for him to lead the league in sick moves.

Camp Battle: As mentioned in the strengths, Brees has 3 solid options to pass to, however he needs a #2 WR to step up. Robert Meachem is raw. Devery Henderson is a home run threat, but take away his nine reception game against the Bengals, and he was largely inconsistent with only 23 receptions in the remaining games. Behind them are Terrence Copper and David Patten.

Rookie Contributor: Unless Robert Meachem steps up, there could be zero (barring injury). Usama Young is buried behind four other corners. Andy Alleman is listed as the fifth guard on the depth chart. Antonio Pittman is the fourth RB at best.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Brooks (Photo courtesy of

Strengths: The defense will once again have to lead this team. The defensive line, led by a no-name cast and a rookie, has a decent seven-man rotation. They are a mix of over and under-achievers who are built to get after the QB. The linebackers are deep as well. The addition of Cato June bolsters a spot where the team had a revolving door last year, opposite Derrick Brooks. Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly return as the starting corners. Their ability to get up to the line and play physical compliments the Tampa-2 defense, and their counterparts at safety, Will Allen and Jermaine Phillips. Both played well last season and only have room to grow.

Weaknesses: The offense is full of question marks. The offensive line is not where they would like it to be. Petitgout is already dealing with injuries. Trueblood is untested. Anthony Davis was a failed experiment at left tackle. The Bucs need young interior linemen Davin Joseph, Dan Buenning and Arron Sears to step up and take over the line. However, the bookends leave much to be desired. Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman are coming off a horrible year where Williams averaged 3.5 yards per carry and Pittman was nearly invisible.

Opportunities: Defensive Tackle Ryan Sims could shed his “Bust” label. If Sims takes a page from linemate Chris Hovan’s book, he will come in with a chip on his shoulder, ready to prove that he is worth his draft status. If he succeeds, Tampa could have a nice DT tandem on their hands. Barrett Ruud has a chance to prove that he was worthy of all the hype in the 2005 draft. He is a throwback player who plays nasty, and could easily become a fan favorite.

Threats: There could be a major QB controversy in Tampa. Jeff Garcia cannot falter, or else it’s a toss up between him, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski and dark-horse Luke McCown.

Passing/Receiving the Torch: Weakside Linebacker, Derrick Brooks to Cato June. One of the best players in Tampa history could be gone. Cato June has looked great and has made Brooks expendable. Unfortunately, in the Cap Era, moves like this (releasing Brooks) happen far too often. It hasn’t happened yet, but don’t be surprised if it does.

Camp Battle: Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall, Wide Receiver. Did Clayton fall this far, or is Stovall that good? It might be a little of both. Clayton has the opportunity to lose the “lazy” label that many Bucs faithful find easy to call him. Stovall, on the other hand, is coming into his own and looking good in camp. While Stovall did not get any attention last year, and was almost moved to tight end, he’s looking good in camp, and was recently listed as the starter on the team’s website. There is a wild card here though. Gruden has been quietly praising David Boston. This could be an opportune time for Boston to make a name for himself again.

Rookie Contributor: Defensive End Gaines Adams takes over for recently released Simeon Rice. Adams, the best pure pass rusher in the draft, has enormous shoes to fill. Time will tell, but hopefully this isn’t too much pressure for the talented end. Sabby Piscitelli is a mammoth safety who packs a hard hit. He could end up getting some playing time early in goaline situations.


backdoc said...

Hey Armin you idiot, how can you say Aaron Rodgers is one that never panned out in the NFL when he has never been given a shot yet. Don't be so brainless next time you make that kind of comment.

Armin said...

While I admit that it was unfair of me to say Aaron Rodgers has "never panned out", two things stick out to me.

1) The Packers drafted Ingle Martin last year. Yes, Martin is a 5th rounder, but why would a team go with another young QB in the draft when they could address another position and grab another QB to "carry the clipboard" through free agency? At the very least, Martin was brought in to challenge Aaron Rodgers as Favre's successor.

2) Even the pre JaMarcus Russell and Daunte Culpepper Raiders didn't want Rodgers: “…the source said the Raiders wouldn't have any interest in quarterback Aaron Rodgers…”

O Ye Packers faithful, Rodgers faithful, whatever faithful. For your sake, I hope Rodgers "pans out".

As for me, I'll look at what history has proven over and over again with Tedford guys. That Billy Volek was the best QB he put in the league...and Volek was barely even touted as anything. In fact, if Volek proves anything, it is that an undrafted Tedford QB is the better way to go.

I can't really make a case for Dilfer. He was below average at best, and the Ravens defense was responsible for that Super Bowl season. All Dilfer had to do was outplay Tony Banks. Need I mention how minor a feat that was?

And a note to backdoc: Keep the juvenile name-calling to the elementary school playground. It's immature, and tactless. I have no problem being called out for anything that I write. Try being more professional next time. Unless, of course, you really were acting your age there. In that case, I'll send you a case of formula to make you feel better about me trashing your favorite player.

Paymon said...

The Falcons sans Vick are an amazing case study. With him, you know that they have the running game no matter who else is in the backfield.

Without him, Petrino's creativity is immediately put to the test and eight-man defensive fronts to stop the run may be commonplace. If he can make an NFL QB out of Joey Harrington, then I'll be a believer.