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?
• The Falcons have taken a page out of the Buccaneers’ diversity playbook, announcing they have added two females to their scouting department. Atlanta hired Kjahna O and Shelly Harvey as full-time employee in the personnel department according to The Athletic.
Bruce Arians, when hired in 2019, added Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar, making Tampa Bay the first NFL team with two female coaches on staff.
• Former Lions star wide receiver and Georgia Tech star Calvin Johnson recently was a guest on a podcast and said he was hoping he would’ve been drafted by his hometown team the Falcons in the 2007 NFL Draft.
“Sitting there leading up to the draft, I am like shoot, boy I hope I go to Atlanta,” Johnson said during an interview with Glover Quin on The DB Room. “Played my high school ball, played my college ball right here and then, playing in the NFL right here. That would be the best little thing ever. OK, Atlanta got No. 7. I might not be there. I hope they trade up to get me.”
The Falcons didn’t move up to the No. 2 spot, and the rest as they say is history.
Atlanta ended up drafting defensive end Jamaal Anderson, who played four seasons with the Falcons and tallied just 4.5 sacks and 105 combined tackles. Johnson ended up with 731 career catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns in his time with the Lions.
Who knows what happens if the Falcons did move up and take their hometown star. He would have been teamed up with All-Pro Julio Jones and maybe Johnson doesn’t retire as early as he did in 2015 after just nine seasons in the league.
• With a new coaching staff comes a roster makeover in many cases, and for the Panthers that was no exception this spring. A big part of their new look will be on the defensive side of the ball where they used all of their draft picks to build a better defense. One of those was safety Jeremy Chinn. But Chinn said recently, don’t paint him into a positional corner.
“I wouldn’t even give myself a position,” Chinn told the team’s website. “I think I’m just a defensive weapon. I think I’m just a threat. They’ve showed me that they want me doing a lot. Just from meetings with me going back and forth between different positions and learning so many positions, and learning what guys are doing all around me from the D-line, to the backend, to the corners, and everything. So I think prioritizing my knowledge as far as what everyone is doing, I think that’ll open up a lot of positions for me that I’ll actually be able to play.”
The Panthers defense was ranked 24th in total yards last season, giving up an average of 375 yards per game.
• The love affair for new Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgwater continued over the last week with NFL Network’s Stacey Dales heaping praise on the former Viking and Saints quarterback.
“He has a gravitational personality,” Dales said. “He is magnetizing. If you are around Teddy Bridgewater, you feel that energy. This team has felt it.
“He has an ability – Matt Rhule said – to read people and read situations. He’s figuring out who to trust and ultimately, Rhule said he believes Bridgewater is a guy this team will go to battle for.”
New Orleans Saints
• The compliments for the Bucs adding Tom Brady at quarterback continue to flow from the Saints. This week defensive coordinator Dennis Allen told the team’s website that facing Brady twice this year will present some problems.
“It’s certainly a huge challenge for us,” Allen said. “I think it’s a challenge for us opening up the season and playing these guys because you really have a couple of things that you’re looking at. There’s the study that we’ve got to do of Tom in New England and the things that he was doing there as well as studying Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich, their offense, their philosophy and then trying to merge those two together to find out or see exactly what we’re going to get to open the season. That’ll be a challenge. That will be difficult for us to deal with, but it is a challenge that we are excited about.”
Whether the praise is genuine or the Saints are just putting on a good face doesn’t really matter as the two teams will open the season in New Orleans. This is setting up to be one of the best rivalries in the NFL.
• New Orleans gambled and traded a future first-round pick to take defensive end Marcus Davenport in 2018 and are still waiting to see if it will pan out. Davenport was having a solid season in 2019 before a Lisfranc injury ended his year prematurely. Defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen recently said it’s time to see more from the former first rounder.
“Every time I talk to him, he’s saying all the right things, he’s doing the right things,” Nielsen told NOLA.com. “It’s Year Three. Yep, we expect more from him, as we do with everybody else. I’m excited to start working with Marcus, but there is some growth and there’s some things that we’ve just got to do a little bit better and we’ll work on that.”