Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Wednesday. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?
• Atlanta has the No. 4 overall pick in this month’s NFL Draft – at least for now – and is still deciding what direction it will head. New general manager Terry Fontenot wants to explore quarterbacks while head coach Arthur Smith thinks Matt Ryan is fine for now and even next season or beyond. Despite some internal conflict initially, reports this week say the two have reached common ground on what they’d like to do with their first-round pick. And according to reports they will be attending Justin Field’s second pro day, maybe giving a clue the direction they are heading.
“That’s critical because that’s a position that regardless of where you are at your starter — we’re so excited about Matt Ryan, but we have to evaluate every one of these quarterbacks,” Fontenot said. “Not just for now, when you think big picture, if you have an opportunity — for example Trevor Lawrence, when you have an opportunity to see that player in person throw, then you have to take advantage of that. Even if you’re not going to have the opportunity at him this year, you don’t know what’s going to happen three, four, five years from now in the future. So you want to take advantage of that in-person exposure.”
• Former Browns, Bears and Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel is calling it quits after seven seasons. Gabriel announced on his Twitter account he had decided to hang it up and thanked his fans. The former undrafted free agent sat out last season due to COVID concerns.
• The Falcons are adding another tight end to the team, announcing on Tuesday that they’ve signed Ryan Becker. Becker spent training camp with the Cardinals prior to being cut.
• Count ESPN’s Mel Kiper as one who thinks the Falcons draft a QB in first round, just not with the fourth overall pick.
North Dakota State QB Trey Lance – Photo by: USA Today
“So new general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith move down two spots, add extra assets for a rebuilding team and still get a franchise quarterback,” Kiper said. “The 20-year-old Lance is green — he started just 17 games in college, all against FCS competition. The Falcons can let him sit behind Matt Ryan for at least a season. And here’s a list Lance will join (courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information): Since the 2006 draft, six quarterbacks with fewer than 20 college starts have been taken in the first round: Mitchell Trubisky (13), Cam Newton (14), Dwayne Haskins (14), Mark Sanchez (16), Kyler Murray (17) and Ryan Tannehill (19). There is some risk involved in picking a young, unproven quarterback this high.”
• The Falcons weren”t the only NFC South team represented at Justin Field’s second pro day. Head coach Matt Rhule attended the first one last month. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady will attend the second one.
The Panthers traded for former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold last week but that doesn’t mean a quarterback pick isn’t on the table later this month.
“We’ll look at anything and everything,” Rhule said to ESPN.com. “We recognize maybe there are positions we’d like to address in the draft, either via draft-day trades, post-draft trades or in the draft. I do think with the eighth pick you take the best available player. Now, if two guys are close, you take the guy that fits your need as well.”
Panthers HC Matt Rhule – Photo by: USA Today
• Darnold was introduced to the Carolina media and its fans on Monday in a press conference. He said he has not spoken to 2020 starter Teddy Bridgewater yet.
“I’ve always admired Teddy,” Darnold said. “Being with him in New York, we became close friends there. We would talk every now and then. I haven’t talked to him since the trade went down, but I’m looking forward to that interaction and I’m looking forward to competing with him.”
• Carolina is still adding players even as the draft approaches, announcing this week they have signed defensive end Frank Herron and defensive tackle P.J. Johnson to one-year deals. NFL Network’s Ian Rapport reports the Panthers are signing fullback Mikey Daniel.
• Another big signing by the Panthers over the past week addressed a need in the secondary.
Bouye, a former Pro Bowler with the Jaguars, recorded six interceptions and 18 passes breakups in 2017.
New Orleans Saints
• Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will battle to succeed Drew Brees under center this fall. Or at least that is what most people expect. However head coach Sean Payton reportedly was “kicking the tires” on Sam Darnold prior to Carolina trading for the former No. 3 overall draft pick last week, Mike Lombardi revealed recently on a podcast.
“They’re kicking tires. They were in the Sam Darnold market, too,” Lombardi said. “They were in the Sam Darnold market too. They’re kicking the tires on everything. Like I think what Sean Payton’s doing is exactly what you have to do. It’s what Matt Rhule’s doing too. Just throw as many against the wall as you can, and figure out which one will stick.”
• The Saints are rebuilding their roster after a number of offseason moves got the team under the salary cap. But the roster isn’t the only thing in New Orleans getting rebuilt. The SuperDome is getting a major facelift ahead of the building hosting the Super Bowl in 2025. However the renovation is going to take longer than expected after losing $75 million in revenue in 2020 due to canceled events last year because of COVID.
• Former King of Queens star, Kevin James, will portray Payton in a new Netflix film. Peter King reported that the movie is based on Payton serving as an assistant on his son’s sixth-grade team. The film will take place while Payton was suspended by the NFL in 2012 due to the “Bountygate” scandal.