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michael89156

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: May 19, 2013, 12:00:38 AM



Kaufman: Pressure building in NFC South





THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Josh Freeman (left), Mike Smith and Cam Newton are all competing for the same division title.



 
By Ira Kaufman | Tribune Staff

 Published: May 18, 2013


TAMPA -

 High pressure is welcome news if you're an angler checking the weather forecast.

 
But for competitors in the NFL, high pressure may be crippling.

 
Doubts can creep in when you are an acknowledged target, and the NFC South offers up several figures feeling the heat heading into the summer.

 
You either feel pressure or you apply pressure,'' former Bucs coach Jon Gruden said.

 
There is one division coach assigned to the top five in the pressure cooker, along with four players with a lot to prove this fall.

 
Standing tall at 6-foot-6 at the top of the list is Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who set franchise marks for passing yards and touchdown throws in 2012, even as he generated fresh doubts about his future among fans and management.

 
I think Freeman was the biggest disappointment of the season's last quarter,'' ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. He has a lot of repairs to make in the offseason.''

 
Freeman's puzzling slump coincided with Tampa Bay's 1-5 finish.

 
Another NFC South quarterback under scrutiny is Carolina's Cam Newton, the first overall pick of the 2011 draft.

 
Newton was eventually named offensive rookie of the year and made the Pro Bowl as the Panthers went 6-10, but he struggled early last season and Carolina needed a 5-2 finish just to close at 7-9.

 
Newton, who has thrown 40 touchdown passes and scored 22 times on the ground, has all the skills. The Panthers haven't surrounded him with a lot of weapons, but Newton is supposed to make everyone around him more effective and that hasn't happened in two years in Charlotte.

 
Next up is veteran defensive end Osi Umenyiora, signed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal by the Falcons as a free agent from the Giants. Umenyiora, 31, has been undermined by injuries the past few years, but Atlanta is counting on him to provide a pass rush off the edge following John Abraham's release.

 
I feel like I can really help this team,'' said Umenyiora, who isn't surrounded by the talent up front he grew accustomed to in New York. I'm thankful to come here and help this team win.''

 
The Falcons have won plenty. Now, it's up to Umenyiora to help put them over the top.

 
Protecting the blind side of Drew Brees is a big deal in New Orleans, where the Saints will be forced to win the 30-27 games until their porous defense stiffens. Following Jermon Bushrod's free-agent departure to Chicago, the Saints are seeking a new starter at left tackle.

 
First in line is Charles Brown, a second-round pick in 2010 who has started only eight NFL games.

 
It's definitely time for me to step up and prove I can protect Drew back there,'' Brown said.

 
Despite attempting more than 600 passes per season, Brees has been sacked an average of only 20 times during his stellar seven-year career in New Orleans.

 
Mr. Brown, you've got a lovely set of expectations.

 
Rounding out the All-Pressure group within the NFC South is Atlanta coach Mike Smith, who finally posted his first career playoff win when the Falcons rallied past Seattle after seeing a 20-point lead disappear. The following week, Atlanta bolted to a 17-0 advantage before the 49ers pulled out a 28-24 victory in the NFC title game.

 
Our players are disappointed, but not discouraged,'' Smith said after the crushing setback at the Georgia Dome.

 
Arthur Blank is not an impulsive owner, but his patience is wearing thin. Tight end Tony Gonzalez returned for a 17th season because he believes Atlanta is talented enough to win it all.

 
So, too, does Mike Smith's boss.

The Anti-Java

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#1 : May 19, 2013, 01:22:18 AM

Smith might have to win it all, to stick around.  Their window is closing fast. If they fall flat this season and don't even make the playoffs, Smitty could looking for employment elsewhere.


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nitey

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#2 : May 19, 2013, 08:40:02 AM

I wonder if Gruden might be interested in the Atlanta job if Smith falters this season? I could see it happening and it would be a perfect setup for Gruden. However, I think Gruden will end up as the Cowboy's new coach next season if they under-achieve again.

The parts are all there to make Freeman a success so long as not too many injuries hit this team. This is the year we should know what we have in Freeman.

I think Newton is going to have a hard time in Carolina. They only have one true receiving threat and they have a marginal offensive line. I see Newton being inconsistent again this year.

Osi is 31 and injuries have robbed him of some of his quickness and in the NFL just a little loss can make getting there into not getting there. I'm not sure this is the difference maker Atlanta should have gotten. Freeney would have been a better match IMO.

The Saints are going to be in trouble on both tackles as well as center. They have solid guards, but Brown has trouble with speed rushers. They are going to have to play a TE in to help or chip on the left side a lot. I honestly don't think the Saints are going to be a great offense this year. They are showing a lot of age in too many positions IMO. If they stay healthy, they could have another good year, but I think the Saints run is pretty close to over even with Brees.

As to Smith, much like Dungy, I think Blank would be a fool to let him go whether the Falcons get to the Superbowl or not. Smith is a very good coach and if the Falcons lose him they are going to regret it.

JMO.

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Dolorous Jason

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#3 : May 19, 2013, 08:44:10 AM

I wonder if Gruden might be interested in the Atlanta job if Smith falters this season?


That would be a nightmare.

What is your point? I was wrong? Ok. You win. I was wrong.

           

nitey

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#4 : May 19, 2013, 09:11:22 AM

Ah, but Java could find a new home. That could be a win-win. <grin>

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#5 : May 19, 2013, 09:42:05 AM

As long as Rich McKay has anything to do with the fowlgoons Gruden is not going there. Smith is a far superior HC anyway. He actually put together a team that is competitive year after year and his players love him. All that would go out the window with Gruden. He can't build or maintain a team, and you can forget about him bonding with his players. That's not his style.

As for Gruden going to Dallas, you can forget that. He's too much of a control freak to be able to work with Jerry Jones. I would love to see it either way. Gruden would dismantle either team, just like he did the Bucs.

Gruden is where he belongs, as part of the media. He's comfortable with it, and so is the league. Nobody wants him as their HC.

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#6 : May 19, 2013, 09:44:25 AM

Gruden would dismantle either team, just like he did the Bucs.

You must have missed the game.  Gruden dismantled the Eagles, then the Raiders to win the Super Bowl.   I wish another coach would do that again for the Bucs.   As for now, all they have is a bunch of losers who can't even make the playoffs since Gru left.


Fran Tarkenton, Hall of Fame QB said. \\\"Ive watched Freeman a lot. He just plays God-awful. Thats who you are. Its just a player being able to play or not play. Josh Freeman has proven to me that he cant play.\\\"

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#7 : May 19, 2013, 10:02:49 AM

Mike Smith isn't going anywhere... I hate the Falcons but that guy has done a great job.

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#8 : May 19, 2013, 10:11:35 AM

Gruden would dismantle either team, just like he did the Bucs.

You must have missed the game.  Gruden dismantled the Eagles, then the Raiders to win the Super Bowl.   I wish another coach would do that again for the Bucs.   As for now, all they have is a bunch of losers who can't even make the playoffs since Gru left.



I take it you were out of the country for the six years that followed the SB.

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#9 : May 19, 2013, 05:08:51 PM

Gruden has it made where he is.  Making large jack for few hours invested.

I can't see him coming back to coaching, but who knows, stranger things have happened.


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#10 : May 19, 2013, 05:13:41 PM

Smith might have to win it all, to stick around.  Their window is closing fast. If they fall flat this season and don't even make the playoffs, Smitty could looking for employment elsewhere.
their franchise QB is what 30?  It aint closing fast.  As long as you got a QB everything else is an easy fix. 


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#11 : May 19, 2013, 05:15:37 PM

Mike Smith isn't going anywhere... I hate the Falcons but that guy has done a great job.
hes averaged over 11 wins a season and won 13 games last year and went to the NFC championship.  Yeah, real hot seat candidate! 


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#12 : May 19, 2013, 05:17:53 PM

Gruden would dismantle either team, just like he did the Bucs.

You must have missed the game.  Gruden dismantled the Eagles, then the Raiders to win the Super Bowl.   I wish another coach would do that again for the Bucs.   As for now, all they have is a bunch of losers who can't even make the playoffs since Gru left.



I take it you were out of the country for the six years that followed the SB.
were you out of the country the last six games of 2012?  Schiano slurpers ain't got poop. 


The Anti-Java

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#13 : May 19, 2013, 05:20:51 PM

Mike Smith isn't going anywhere... I hate the Falcons but that guy has done a great job.
hes averaged over 11 wins a season and won 13 games last year and went to the NFC championship.  Yeah, real hot seat candidate!




Lovie had a nice season last year, but got his walking papers.  You gotta win the big games.


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PewterReportMC....
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#14 : May 19, 2013, 06:02:46 PM

Mike Smith isn't going anywhere... I hate the Falcons but that guy has done a great job.
hes averaged over 11 wins a season and won 13 games last year and went to the NFC championship.  Yeah, real hot seat candidate!

Playoffs didnt save Tony Dungy.

Playoffs every year isn't enough.
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