NFC South OTA Review

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have been hit hard by injuries and will be without their budding-star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon suffered a torn Achilles while running with the Falcon’s training staff. Receiver Julio Jones continues to rehabilitate his foot and is on target to return to practice once camp starts. Roddy White has been dealing with the death of his brother and is excused from practices at this time.

The performance of quarterback Jeff Matthews has elicited high praise from head coach Mike Smith, “He (Jeff Matthews) has done some great things,” Smith said. He also stated,

“He’s got a nice arm, he’s an intelligent player. I think it’s wide open as far as, who our No. 2 quarterback is going to be.”

Running back Bernard Reedy out of Toledo is showing his versatility as a running back as well as a receiver in early practices. Guard Gabe Carimi has been getting a significant number of first-team reps. Jake Matthews has been obsessively working on his footwork and hand placement to successfully mirror opposing defensive ends.

Cornerback Desmond Trufant has been working primarily at right cornerback. Malliciah Goodman and Tyson Jackson appear to be working well together in an effort to get to the quarterback. They should continue to improve upon their chemistry as the offseason goes along.

Carolina Panthers

During OTAs the Panthers have had some spirited practice sessions with the starters on both sides of the ball scrimmaging against one another.

With quarterback Cam Newton rehabbing his surgically repaired left ankle, Derek Anderson has assumed starting responsibilities until Newton returns.

Visibly agitated by questions pertaining to Newton’s health, head coach Ron Rivera said, “Cam is on schedule.”

The Panthers receiving corps has been much maligned by media pundits and talent evaluators, but their young receivers have shown some promise to date. De’Andre Presley, Philly Brown and Kelvin Benjamin have consistently made plays and are certainly making an impression on their coaches.

On the defensive side of the football, safety Collin Jones had two interceptions in one day, defensive end Frank Alexander spent time with the first team and linebacker Chase Blackburn received high praise from coaches for his hustle, athleticism and awareness in coverage.

New Orleans Saints

The buzz around New Orleans OTAs has been all about wide receiver Brandin Cooks joined the team late as a result of a rule that prohibits rookies from joining their teams until the conclusion of college exams. With that said, he has had no problem dazzling his coaches and his contemporaries with limited opportunities. Cooks took a handoff on a reverse and taunted teammate Keenan Lewis by decelerating and reaccelerating once Lewis thought he had a shot at him. The play resulted in a 50-yard touchdown.

The above mentioned play has earned Cooks the nickname  “Lightning”. In order for the Saints to have a good year, he’s certainly going to have to live up to that name. With the losses of Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, Cooks is going to learn more than one receiver position and it has been said that he will see some snaps a running back as well. We’ll keep an eye on that as the season goes along.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans have been sitting out of OTAs with hamstring injuries, but the receivers still made their fair share of plays. Quarterback Josh McCown seemed to struggle to locate receivers on crossing patterns. Oddly enough the offense appeared to run more smoothly when Mike Glennon was at the helm, despite his two interceptions during the final practice session.

Rookie receiver Robert Herron has opened the eyes of his coaches as to what he’s capable of and veteran Louis Murphy has also shown the ability to become a viable deep threat for the Buccaneers. Running back Charles Sims has shown outstanding burst and suddenness as well as route running ability and hands out of the backfield. Doug Martin continues rehabilitate the torn labrum in his left shoulder but should be 100% when camp starts. Expect a running back by committee approach by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015.

A player like William Gholston has the potential to become a dangerous player in Lovie Smith’s scheme and it appears he’s well on his way to realizing his potential. Gholston has a tremendous first step and has already shown the coaches he can get pressure on the quarterback as a three-technique, as well as at defensive end.  While undersized, cornerback Quinton Pointer, 5-foot-9, 194 pounds, managed to pick off two passes in one day. Safety Mark Barron continues to improve on his footwork and is routinely the first player onto the practice field and the last player to leave.



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