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?

Atlanta Falcons

• The Falcons, by virtue of their season finale win over the Buccaneers to finish the year, ended up in second place in the NFC South, quite an accomplishment after their dreadful 2-6 start. The “Fire Dan Quinn” watch was on, but Atlanta ended up going 6-2 down the stretch to save Quinn’s job – at least for now. Owner Arthur Blank has made it clear this offseason his expectations are the playoffs and anything short of that could spell doom for the Falcons coaching staff and front office.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn – Photo by: Getty Images

The NFL schedule was released last Thursday and the road to the playoffs won’t be an easy one for the Falcons. Atlanta has the NFL’s fifth toughest schedule based on opponents winning percentage in 2019.

Atlanta’s defense will face six of the league’s top-10 scoring offense’s in 2019 with the Buccaneers (No. 3), Saints (No. 3), Chiefs (No. 5), Cowboys (No. 6), Vikings (No. 8) and Seahawks (No. 9).

Click here to view the Falcons full schedule.

• The Falcons hope they have found their successor to Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in Temple’s Matt Hennessy, who they selected in the second round with the 70th overall pick. Reports came out this week that Hennessy was a hot commodity and the Broncos tried to move up to take him before the Falcons.


Atlanta also added cornerback A.J. Terrell in the first round and some felt it was a reach at No. 17, but apparently the Raiders were set to take the former Clemson standout at pick No. 19 had Atlanta not scooped him up. Terrell was a needed pick as the Falcons lost veteran Desmond Trufant to the Detroit Lions this offseason. Trufant was released in a salary cap move.

Carolina Panthers

• The Panthers and first-round pick, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown have already agreed to terms on a rookie contract reported to be a four-year, fully guaranteed $23.621 million deal. Brown is the first of the first-round players to sign a contract.

• The revamping of the Carolina Panthers continued last week, this time with the front office. According to Ian Rapoport, Carolina hired Pat Stewart as the new director of player personnel. Stewart was with the Eagles the past few seasons, and before that spent 10 years with the Patriots organization.

There was some talk of the Panthers hiring as assistant GM to work alongside Marty Hurney, but Joe Person of The Athletic said that wouldn’t be the case.

• Bucs fans are excited to have Tom Brady as their new quarterback, but the veteran isn’t impressing Panthers fans, at least if you are looking at secondary market ticket prices for the Bucs and Panthers match-up in the fall.

New Orleans Saints

• Saints guard Larry Warford probably knew his job was in jeopardy when New Orleans selected Cesar Ruiz put of Michigan with their first pick. And he wasn’t wrong.

Last Friday, Warford was released by the Saints and is now a free agent. Warford played three seasons for the Saints after spending the first four years of his career with the Lions. Warford, who made the Pro Bowl the last three seasons, had grown out of favor of head coach Sean Payton recently. According to reports, Warford is looking for a contract in the neighborhood of around $7 million per season and drew some initial interest from the Bears and the Texans.

• Saints receiver Austin Carr welcomed a new one-year deal with New Orleans this offseason – and also a new son, but not without some anxiousness. Carr’s wife Erica was given a mandatory Cover-19 test when admitted to the hospital to give birth and tested positive unknowingly. Fortunately their new son, Clive, also tested negative.

WR Austin Carr – Photo by: Getty Images

“So all in all, we feel blessed and thankful for the health care and all the workers who were looking out for us,” Carr said in a conference call with Saints reporters recently.  “We’re grateful for healthy mom, healthy baby. But it wasn’t the birth process that we expected.”

• While Saints fans had mixed responses to the addition of former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, they are getting a taste of Winston as the person and his giving nature.

Winston and wife Breion were in the Birmingham area last week to distribute meals to children in need at Brighton Elementary in Bessemer and McAdory High School in McCalla. Winston donated $25,000 to Kikstart Inc., a non-profit organization that provides meals to food-insecure children.

Winston has also continued to be active in the Tampa area, recently donated $30,000 to help eight small restaurants in the area that have been affected by COVID-19.

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]
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fredster

Warford would be great pick up for Bucs for 3-4 million/year, but they can’t afford 7 nor is he worth 7 million imo. Somebody will likely pay that or near it I’m sure. Free Agents get overpaid more often than not.

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Bailey71

Yes

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Dave

7 MIL per? Well that should just about end the “Bucs should sign Warford” talk. We don’t have 7 MIL lol

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Dman

Dave – I think we figure out the money. With $20m tied up in TE’s, make a change there and then restructure other contracts. A ProBowl guard doesn’t come available that often and would be an immediate upgrade to our O line. He’s 29 so could give us at least three years.

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FireLichtMovement

That would be a lot of figuring out Dman. Slightly under 5 mil in cap space with all the rookies needing to sign. Would love Warford, but it looks like it’s too much $$$.

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Dman

This will not be popular, but why carry three starting TE’s, three QB’s. Restructure some of the Big $$$ contracts for current OL. BTW, none of our OL have been Pro Bowl players. This guys is asking less $$ than all three of them.

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BigSombrero

Could Atlanta be a surprise team? They finished 6-2 down the stretch with wins over Saints, Panthers, 49ers, Jags, Bucs and Panthers. They scored 24 points or more in every game they won. They have a offensive line that’s worse than the Bucs, but added Gurley to make up for the line. I’m skeptical on his arthritic knees, but if he’s back to being 100%, that is a tough out.

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Dave

They were a surprise team, back in 2017. And it lasted until 2:05 left in the 3rd quarter of the SB. It’s been downhill since. 10-6 no playoffs, followed by 7-9 and 7-9. They’re the same team they’ve been the last 2 years. Pathetic defense, horrible OLine, horrible HC, and horrible playcalling(mainly on offense). I’m more worried about the Panthers than I am the Falcons

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BigSombrero

Lol. Falcons finished 2nd in the division last year. You’re a fool if you think they’ll wilt because ole grandad is tossin passes in the flat.

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FireLichtMovement

Lol ole grandad… just got a vision of an old man in a wide brimmed hat getting up off his rocking chair to toss ’round the ole pigskin with the whippersnappers.

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bucoffmatey

I always worry about Atlanta. Julio burns us every single game, and somehow we can never stop whoever is catching out of the backfield. They just have our number. People sometimes forget that Matt Ryan was the league MVP in 2016. They may have had some hiccups since 2:05 in the 3rd, but they are still a dangerous team imo.

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BigSombrero

You’re right to worry. The Falcons are no pushover. If they played in Tom Brady’s old division, they’d be considered favorites to win it.

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FireLichtMovement

Atlanta tried plugging holes with less talented players such as Hurst for Hooper, and Gurley for Freeman. I wouldnt call Gurley less talented than Freeman, but he’s very injury prone. They always look like the surprise team, until they’re not.

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BigSombrero

Less talented? The key players are still around. Hurst and Gurley are upgrades to Hooper and Freeman. The defense got upgraded in a big way too.

Don’t be surprised if these guys split with high flying Tompa.

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FireLichtMovement

In no way is Hurst an upgrade to Hooper lol. NO WAY… Name one metric Hurst is better than Hooper. I’ll wait. Did you find it? I’ll save you the read. Hooper is clearly superior. 2 time Pro Bowler that can catch and block. Ridiculous comparison. Gurley is only better if he stays on the field, and that may be suspect, when he lost his job in LA. Good job trying to drum up conversation BS, but the Falcons are AT BEST 8-8. Dan Quinn will lose his job and be looking for work next offseason. Maybe they’ll promote Koetter… Read more »

BigSombrero

Hooper couldn’t block shit. Hurst comes from smash mouth central Baltimore. Add in a healthy and well rested Todd Gurley who is getting a homecoming and the Falcon offense looks to be efficient and very difficult to defend.

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FireLichtMovement

Hooper could block shit. Not only is he the better receiver, with better hands and route running skills, but he is a very good blocker. He had a down year by his own standards run blocking, but he has great run blocking seasons on his resume and is an excellent pass protector. Hooper is better than Hurst by a country mile. The Falcons got fleeced, sending a 2nd rounder and another pick for the Ravens backup TE. They panicked. Gurley has talent, but he didnt look like the same back who put up 2093 combimed rushing and receiving yards in… Read more »

Spitfire

Just because another team was set to take a player behind the team that did, does not mean it wasn’t still a reach to take the player. Especially when the team that was gonna pick him is the freakin Raiders.

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awwdembucs

Warford would be a very good signing for the Bucs.

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Shouldn’t we ask Tom?

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danielob

I can’t see the Falcons winning more then 8 games with their depleated defense, they will have to outscore their opponents to hit 50%. Same with the Panthers, there is a reason they drafted all defense, even with all the draft picks it takes awhile for it all to gel on Defense, Bridgewater sure gives them some stability however. 7-8 wins seems realistic. Saints sure are the ones to beat, obviously, we will have to get in shoot-outs like when Fitzgerald did a few seasons ago, should be must see TV. Warford would be a great pick up for us,… Read more »

Dave

100% agree dude. And I completely agree on Jameis. Regardless of what people think of him as a QB, the guys a class act and he’s been doing a ton of stuff for the community since day 1. He’s constantly giving back. Whether it’s money, camps for kids, etc..

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bucoffmatey

Let’s not be so quick to put Winston on a pedastal and forget all about his off field transgressions. Donations to needy organizations do not erase crab legs, rape accusation, and groping accusation. He was troubled and now he’s trying to make up for it. But please don’t call him a class act, and don’t sell puppies to Michael Vick. Just sayin’.

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danielob

Yeah, Winston has admittedly made mistakes as a young man, almost all of us do, his were very public and not excusable, but he doesn’t have to do what he does for the community, alot of athletes don’t. he does, and alot, so good for him. I don’t put too many athletes on a pedastal, they’re human and will let you down. Except for Warrick Dunn, of course, one of my favorite Bucs.

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IDGABuc

Why in the hell do people always bring up the crab legs w/ the rape & groping accusations/incident??! He was a starting CFB QB who used his fame to get a deal worked out for free seafood they were going to toss, from what I heard/read. Yet people act like stealing food is on par w/ rape when they bring it up every time they talk about his past transgressions &/or alleged crimes. It’s crazy! If that was the only thing he’d ever been accused of people would’ve forgiven & forgotten it by now. If you are thinking it shows… Read more »

Our division to lose, the other 3 teams can’t get out of their own way. Saint’s won’t make playoffs as the wheels fall off after blown playoff chances in recent years. GO BUCS

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What?? Saints can’t get out of their own way???

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Dman

We should go after Warford. Figure out the money.

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Spitfire

The Saints are the same team minus a few players, Falcons are the same team plus a RB (maybe) but minus some very important players, Panthers are a new team who kind of improved at QB but otherwise are not impressive. At least we are basically the same team with a HOFer QB and TE added and a young Defense with a year under their belt. Anything can obviously happen when the season comes around, especially this season, but I at least like our chances at being the team that improves the most. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

drdneast

If Warford is an All Pro and making $7 million a year it makes you wonder why Ali Marpet, who is not an All Pro, is making $10 million a year.
Players agents must lick their chops when they see that hayseed Licht sit down at a negotiating table.

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Makski13

Warford doesn’t make 7 million a year, that is what he is asking for. The Saints cut him because he was making 12 Mil, which, by the way, was 2 Mil more than Marpet. Also, he signed his deal earlier than Marpet, so that is why his number is even smaller.

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