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, 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.
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.
Broncos tried to trade up for Matt Hennessy before Falcons drafted him https://t.co/nBQhumyO64
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 5, 2020
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.
• 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.
What about Bucs road games in 2020? The most expensive ticket easily looks to be Bucs-Raiders in Las Vegas, drawing $300+ per ticket on secondary market. Cheapest for the rest?
at Broncos $178
at Saints $174
at Bears $159
at Falcons $96
at Giants $95
at Panthers $77
at Lions $76
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) May 9, 2020
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.
“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.