Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC South Roundup, Preseason Week Two

A trip through the headlines in the Bucs' division finds injury issues with running backs in Atlanta and New Orleans and a linebacking corps trying to come together in Carolina


A quick look at the news being generated at training camps around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers division:

Tampa Bay was the only one of the four NFC South teams to win during the first full weekend of preseason play (New Orleans had won the week before in the Hall of Fame game), but of course victories are often a coaching staff's secondary goal in early August.  All four South teams are still in training camp, preparing for what is sure to be another ruthless season in the most competitive division in the NFL over the last decade.


Teams haven't started making cuts yet butin Atlanta, the Falcons have already lost one of their 2012 draft picks for the season.  Fifth-round pick Bradie Ewing, a Wisconsin product, was thought to be the front-runner for the fullback job in the Falcons' offense, whatever role that might be under new Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter.  Ewing suffered an ACL tear in the Falcons' 31-17 loss to Baltimore on Thursday, which means the Falcons could turn back to Mike Cox, who started against Tampa Bay in the 2011 season finale.  Atlanta also reacted by signing FB Lousaka Polite, who had some fine seasons in Miami.  Of course, with Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones, the Falcons may be very pass-oriented this fall anyway.  All three were outstanding in the Baltimore game, with second-year man Jones racking up six catches for 109 yards and a score.


In Carolina, the middle of the Panthers' defense is trying to rebound from a 2011 season in which the linebacking corps was decimated by injuries.  Both Jon Beason and Thomas Davis are returning from mishaps that cost them most of last season, and they're joined this year by former Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft.  Beason lost last year to an Achilles injury and has been dealing with a hamstring issue since the start of camp, but the team is easing him back into action this week.  Davis, who has seen each of his last three seasons cut short by knee injuries, has been brought along slowly this summer but on Monday saw his most extensive camp action yet, taking part in seven-on-seven passing drills.  Kuechly, of course, has been very active, and it appears as if the Panthers are narrowing in on using the rookie on the weak side rather than in the middle.  Even with Beason held out of the preseason opener, Carolina kept Kuechly on the outside and used Jason Phillips in the middle.  Kuechly has reportedly looked good in camp in terms of his run defense and his pass coverage, but the Panthers are also working on his blitzing skills.  Kuechly rarely blitzed in college and is admittedly in the learning stages of that type of work.


In New Orleans, the Saints generated news that got the fantasy football scene buzzing when running back Darren Sproles came out of Thursday's game against the New England Patriots with a sore knee.  Coach Joe Vitt confirmed on Monday, when the team returned to practice, that Sproles would be rested this week and wouldn't play on Friday night against Jacksonville.  However, Vitt also said that, has this been a regular-season week, the speedy running back likely would play, so the injury doesn't appear to be serious.  The team will also hold defensive tackle Turk McBride out this week after he sustained an ankle injury.  Buc fans may be interested in one of the Saints' signings from late in the offseason: former Tampa Bay quarterback Luke McCown joined the team on June 7.  McCown missed a good portion of the Saints' offseason work but says that his experience in the NFL has helped him find a comfort level quickly as he joins the New Orleans QB duo of Drew Brees and Chase Daniel.  McCown said he has found a lot of similarities between the offense run by the Saints and what he played in during his time under Bucs Head Coach Jon Gruden.

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