Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Tuesday. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?
• The Falcons are excited for their new running back weapon Todd Gurley, who was signed as a free agent this spring to replace Devonta Freeman, but don’t plan to run him into the ground this season, this according to former Bucs head coach and current Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
“I think a minimum of 15 touches and a high of ,” Koetter said to ESPN recently. “But you’ve got to realize we’ve got a lot of guys that need touches. You’re going to have 64 plays in a game on average on offense. Depending on where you’re at in the season and wear and tear, I think the low is 15 and maybe the high end 25. Some of that depends on score and where you’re at in the game. Are you ahead and running it? Are you getting in four-minute, and how are you running the ball that week? There’s a lot of factors in there. But again, the low end 15 and the high end 25.”
Over his career Gurley has averaged 20 touches per game, but injuries have limited the All-Pro running back, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams out of Georgia as of late.
• Players being added to the COVID-19 list have been a rare occurrence since NFL camps opened in late July, but the Falcons placed defensive lineman Steven Means on the list last week. Being added to the protocol doesn’t mean the person tested positive, but may have been exposed to someone who has. Means will have to quarantine for the time being.
Means was a former Bucs’ draft pick back in 2013 and has played for five NFL teams over his career.
• The Panthers joined the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints as NFC South teams who won’t have fans in the stands for at least the season opener. The Panthers released a statement on Monday.
“Despite our best efforts, we are deeply disappointed to share that you will not be with us at Bank of America Stadium on Sept. 13 when we open the season against Las Vegas,” the team said. “We will not allow an empty stadium to affect our performance on the field, but your presence gives us an undeniable edge.”
Carolina isn’t back home again until Week 4 and have yet to make a determination if fans will be allowed to attend that game or any at Bank of America Stadium. The Buccaneers haven’t made any announcement for their home opener as of yet. Tampa Bay will open the Tom Brady-home era in Week 2 at Raymond James Stadium.
• Panthers cornerback Derrek Thomas has been added to the NFL’s COVID list it was announced on Monday. Thomas was signed by the Panthers as a free agent after being originally signed the Seahawks in 2019 then by the Steelers.
• The Panthers released former Gators running back Jordan Scarlett last week after spending one season with Carolina as a fifth-round draft pick in 2019. Scarlett had just four career carries for nine yards last season. Scarlett played primarily on special teams for the Panthers last season, and ended up on injured reserve after Week 12 after having knee and ankle issues.
• Carolina made a trade on Monday, moving special teams contributor and reserve linebacker Andre Smith to the Buffalo Bills for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.
New Orleans Saints
• The Buccaneers open the season at New Orleans in two weeks and many feel the reigning NFC South champs will present Tampa Bay its’ biggest challenge of the season. But news out of New Orleans late on Monday suggest things might be a little easier for the Bucs.
Running back Alvin Kamara, who is seeking a new contract, has been missing in action, reportedly due to being unhappy with his current deal and a lack of progress on a new one. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Monday that Kamara has had three straight unexcused absences from Saints camp.
Kamara is set to make $2.133 million this year on his rookie deal.
• Saints running back Dwayne Washington joined the Falcons’ Means and the Panthers’ Thomas on the reserve/COVID list on Monday giving all three of the Bucs’ NFC South rivals one player on the list.
• Louisiana was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, and the Saints saw head coach Sean Payton go through a bout earlier this summer. Now, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune, Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson has contracted the coronavirus.
Benson, 73, is reportedly doing well in her recovery, according to Saints senior vice president of communications Greg Bensel.
• According to multiple reports last week, Saints defensive tackle Jalen Dalton will miss the entire 2020 season after sustaining a torn triceps. Dalton was signed by the Saints late last season and played his college ball at North Carolina. He joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2019.