Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Tuesday morning. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?

Atlanta Falcons

• Bucs linebacker Shaq Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks in 2019, but a new member  of the Falcons isn’t just looking to overtake Barrett as the NFL’s top pass rusher, he wants to top Michael Strahan’s NFL record of 22.5, a mark set in 2001.

Dante Fowler Jr. spoke with the Atlanta media last week and said that was his goal in Atlanta. Fowler signed a three-year, $45 million deal in free agency this year. Fowler, a former No. 3 overall selection by the Jaguars, had a career-best 11.5 sacks in 2019 for the Rams.

New Falcons DE Dante Fowler – Photo by: Getty Images
New Falcons DE Dante Fowler Jr. – Photo by: Getty Images

The Falcons were in desperate need of pass rushing help after moving on from former first-rounder Vic Beasley this offseason, and also former Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who signed with the Browns last week.

• Atlanta almost had a bookend pass rusher to go with Fowler, but defensive end Robert Quinn chose the Bears over the Falcons. The way he did it might have been a first – he flipped a coin to decide.

“I really couldn’t make up my mind, so I had to do it the honest way,” Quinn told radio station 670 The Score. “The Bears were on the right side.”

Quinn, like Fowler posted 11.5 sacks in 2019 playing for the Cowboys.

• The Falcons finally announced the signing of running back Todd Gurley on Monday, who was released by the Rams last month. The deal is reportedly a one-year contract for $6 million. While the signing was announced by the team, it isn’t official until a physical is done, but with the COVID-19 pandemic teams have closed the facilities.

• The Falcons lost a number of defensive players this offseason and most feel the team will now look to stock up in the draft with a heavy presence on defense. With the signing of Fowler, the need for a pass rusher isn’t as big of a priority as it was a month ago, and the team could look to replace cornerback Desmond Trufant with Florida’s C.J. Henderson who is being linked to Atlanta more and more in recent mock drafts. Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons and LSU edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson are also in the mix if you tend to trust mock drafts, but Simmons is considered to be a Top 10 pick by many.

Carolina Panthers

• The Panthers are bragging on their new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, while staying quiet on the thought process beings the release on Cam Newton last month. On a recent conference call with the media, Panthers G.M. Marty Hurney shared his thoughts on Bridgwater.

“I think everybody you talk to, they talked about his leadership skills, and he’s got familiarity with [new offensive coordinator] Joe Brady’s system since Joe was down there in New Orleans with him,” Hurney said. “He’s certainly a guy who’s overcome adversity and has, really if you look at it, he’s won everywhere he’s been, so we thought he’d be a good fit for us.”

Panthers QB Cam Newton – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Panthers QB Cam Newton – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

When asked about Newton’s release, Hurney was vague.

“You have to make difficult decisions every year, and this was probably one of the most difficult. I mean, I drafted Cam,” Hurney said. “We all know everything he’s brought to the organization, both on and off the field. So it was extremely difficult.”

• While some would say Carolina is in a rebuild mode, it may be more of a transition mode, at least if you ask the organization. Despite losing a number of high-profile players this offseason including linebacker Luke Kuechly, tight end Greg Olsen and a handful of defensive starters, Carolina committed to Bridgewater for three years and $63 million. Now they may be ready to commit a chunk of cash to running back Christian McCaffrey, according to reports. It is almost certain Carolina will exercise the fifth-year option on the former Stanford standout, but according to Hurney, the team may be working on a long-term deal to lock up McCaffrey.

“Obviously, we’ve had internal discussions,” Hurney said as reported by ESPN.com. “Everybody knows what we think of Christian as a player. Other than that I can’t really say any more.”

• Carolina has a number of pressing needs especially on defense, so it is no surprise that most mock drafts have the Panthers focusing on improving that unit in this month’s NFL Draft.

Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw are two names mentioned by many as potential Panthers. Carolina lost Gerald McCoy, Mario Addison and Vernon Butler leaving the Panthers thin on the defensive line. Brown or Kinlaw would fill big voids.

New Orleans Saints

• Saints star defensive end Cameron Jordan is like a lot of Bucs fans – excited to see Tom Brady in the NFC South as a member of the Buccaneers.

Of course Jordan won’t be cheering for Brady, but instead wants to extend a “welcome” to the six-time Super Bowl champ – and not with a handshake.

“The fact that he’ll be in my division gives me more chances to hit him, hopefully,” Jordan said recently on Sirius XM Radio. “You talk about somebody whose just been known as one of the greatest of all time for all six Super Bowls that he’s won, he’s a winner. And for that to be in my conference, I’m not excited about it. At the same time, I sort of am. I would love to welcome him to the NFC South, which we’ve had the last three years.

“But we know the talent that he has. He has Mike Evans. He has (Chris) Godwin. He has O.J. Howard. They’ve got Bruce Arians now and now you’ve got Tom Brady so it’s just exciting for them to be in our conference.”

Bucs RT Demar Dotson
Cam Jordan and Demar Dotson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

• New Orleans has reached a deal to bring back cornerback P.J. Williams. The terms were reported to be one-year, $2 million for the upcoming season.

• The Saints thought they lost cornerback Eli Apple to the Raiders when free agency began last month, but news came out recently that the two did not officially come to an agreement and Apple is available again as a free agent. Apple was a first-round pick in 2016 and was traded to the Saints in 2018.

• COVID-19 has hit Louisiana hard, in particular New Orleans. Last month it was revealed that head coach Sean Payton had contracted the virus but has since recovered, but former Saints kicker Tom Dempsey has passed away from the virus at the age of 73. Dempsey was best known for holding the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in 1969 that stood for decades.

• Cornerback or wide receiver seems to be the two positions the Saints may look to draft in the first round later this month – at least according to several mock drafts.

Wide receivers Denzel Mims (Baylor) and Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State) are two names that have been popping up frequently as of late if the Saints go offense. Defensively, cornerbacks Clemson’s Trevon Diggs and Virginia’s Bryce Hall have emerged as possible picks for New Orleans.

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]

13
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
5 Comment threads
8 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
6 Comment authors
DaveBigSombreroSpitfire40 yrs fan, 7 double digit win seasons, feels like 30 double digit losing seasons & 1 SB. Go yucksdrdneast Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
DerLutz
Member
DerLutz

I like CMC but paying a RB especially if he is under contract for some years, is not smart today. So I would like to see the panther doing it 😀 Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Spitfire
Member
Spitfire

All 3 of these teams are full of a bunch of a holes, especially the Saints. Too soon people forget that just a few years ago they were paying each other to injure opponents. I hope with their salary cap troubles that they crash and burn this year. I love Fowler getting 11.5 sacks last year Starting full time thinking he’s gonna break 22.5 And Jordan or whatever his name is on the Saints wanting to welcome Brady. I hope Brady side steps his rush and he snaps his ankle. I’ll be glad when Brees leaves but I’d Love to… Read more »

BigSombrero
Member
BigSombrero

They have holes, for sure. They are all pretty solid in key areas on offense though…QB, RB, WR, K. Defense is a different story, but I like the Bucs chances to compete. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

BigSombrero
Member
BigSombrero

Carolina drafted Mccaffery in the first round and now are trying to sign him long term? Why? Next gen stats rated him the same as Ezekial Elliott and Jonathan Taylor – 98 out of 100. They should just draft someone in the 3rd or 4th round like the experts say. RBs are all the same. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

drdneast
Member
drdneast

Nobody loses McCoy, let alone misses him when he is gone. They just show him the door. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

BigSombrero
Member
BigSombrero

McCoy has sucked for years. Cowboys made a mistake signing him and I love it. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

drdneast
Member
drdneast

McCaferty is a great player but he will probably be all used up by his fifth year under the Panthers scheme. I heard where 60 percent of the Panthers plays ran through him last year. That’s a lot of wear and tear on the tires. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

BigSombrero
Member
BigSombrero

I’ll count my chickens when they hatch on that one. McCaffery has been explosive and hasn’t taken many hits. He’s not a flash in the pan. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Dave
Member
Dave

You’re not seriously trying to suggest that all RB’s are the same, and a team would be better off letting CMC go, and drafting a 3rd or 4th round RB instead are you? Because if we had him last year to take pressure off Jameis, we’re a playoff team. No 2 ways about it Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

BigSombrero
Member
BigSombrero

No Dave. I was being sarcastic. Most fans on here think running backs should never be drafted in the first round. Instead they want whichever OT falls to the Bucs at 14, as if that will help more than the best RB in the draft. I will take Barkley over RoJo every day of the week. In this draft, I will take Taylor over Akers every day of the week. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Dave
Member
Dave

Ok gotcha. I agree RB’s are devalued. No doubt. However, in the same sense, you have to join the other teams as far as that’s concerned. Just because we know that RB’s are devalued, doesn’t mean we should go against what the other 31 teams do and draft a RB that’s projected to go anywhere from 25-60, at 14. Besides, I just don’t agree with your assessment of Taylor either. I do agree he’s the best back in this draft. And if he’s there at 45, I’d absolutely take him. But if he’s not, I’d gladly take Dobbins or wait… Read more »

40+yrs fan, 7 double digit win seasons, feels like 30+ double digit losing seasons & 1 SB. Go yucks
Member
40+yrs fan, 7 double digit win seasons, feels like 30+ double digit losing seasons & 1 SB. Go yucks

On paper we look the like we should go 6-1. Which should translate to the field with Brady & current team leaders. The Saints window has closed. They are good but we are better. Better Defense & QB. Can’t wait. Hopefully fans can attend @ some point during the season. GO BUCS. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

Spitfire
Member
Spitfire

New Uniforms look good! I’m glad they did the all Pewter Color Rush! I just wish they did the White Helmet, then it would have been perfect! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...