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

• What does the future hold for quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones? With huge caps hits if released or even traded, most assume the duo is a lock to return to Atlanta in 2021.

But new head coach Arthur Smith recently told PFT.com that decisions on the two standouts have not been made.

“No decision with personnel has been made right now,” Smith said. “It’s just so early. We’re just not going to make any snap judgments. There is a long process. We’ve got to get in here with staffs. We’ve got to go through every guy on this roster. And we’re gonna take our time. There’s no decision that has to be made today. It’s not Matt and Julio, it’s every player on this roster.”

Team owner Arthur Blank also commented recently.

“I love Matt, much like I love Dan [Quinn], I love Thomas [Dimitroff],” Blank said. “Matt’s been a franchise leader for us. A great quarterback. One of the leading quarterbacks in the last 13 years in the NFL. So I hope he’s gonna be part of our plans going forward. But that will be a decision that I won’t make.”

Bucs DBs coach Jon Hoke - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DBs coach Jon Hoke – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

• The Falcons introduced new head coach Arthur Smith last week, and Smith has now begun assembling his staff in Atlanta and includes a name familiar to Bucs fans. The Falcons made the hiring of Jon Hoke as secondary coach official this week.

Hoke has coached in the NFL for 16 seasons, but most recently was the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Maryland. Prior to that he was the Bucs’ secondary coach for three seasons (2016-2018).

Besides Hoke, Smith has added Ted Monachino as outside linebackers coach, Gary Emanuel as defensive line coach, Frank Bush will be the  linebackers coach Steve Hoffman as a senior assistant, Justin Peelle will coach tight ends and Matt Pees as a defensive assistant.

Other hires include offensive assistant Danny Breyer who will remain with the team in the same capacity, offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford and Charles London as quarterbacks coach.

Carolina Panthers

• Since the end of the season, reports are the Panthers would explore possibly replacing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. With Deshaun Watson and now Matthew Stafford on the trade market, new GM Scott Fitterer said all options are on the table and the Panthers would be “in on every deal.”

What that means for Bridgewater, who joined the team as a free agent last spring, is unknown, but for now Fitterer is still getting adjusted to his new team.

Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater and HC Matt Rhule
Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater and HC Matt Rhule – Photo by: USA Today


• The Panthers made two hires official recently, announcing Sean Ryan as quarterbacks coach and Tony Sparano Jr. as assistant offensive line coach. Ryan will replace Jake Peetz who is now the offensive coordinator at LSU, and Sparano Jr. takes over for Marcus Satterfield, hired as the offensive coordinator at South Carolina.

• Longtime standout and former Panthers great tight end Greg Olsen has announced his retirement. Olsen spent nine seasons with the Panthers after playing four seasons with Chicago after the Bears drafted him in the first round of the 2007 draft. Olsen had 24 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown in 11 games for the Seahawks this past season.

During his long NFL career, Olson had 742 catches for 8,683 yards, and 60 touchdowns. He ranks third in Panthers history in catches and receiving yards.

New Orleans Saints

• While there has been no official word on the future of quarterback Drew Brees, all indications seem to point toward retirement for the Saints’ signal caller. Neither Brees nor head coach Sean Payton wanted to comment on the subject following the team’s divisional playoff loss to the Buccaneers last week, but Payton was recently asked about the future of the position.

• The Saints team we saw over the last few years is changing, not just with different players, but also with some new coaches. The Saints already lost Dan Campbell to the Lions, where he was hired to be their head coach, but on the offensive side of the ball things will also look different from the sidelines. The Chargers have added Joe Lombardi to serve as the their offensive coordinator after spending the last five years as the Saints’ quarterbacks coach.

Besides Campbell and Lombardi, the Saints lost defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn to the Lions, where he will serve as Campbell’s defensive coordinator.

• One coaching loss that seemed imminent last week didn’t happen, as defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen appeared to be heading to LSU to become the school’s defensive coordinator.

But after reports came out that LSU would bring Nielsen aboard, a clause in his contract blocked the move. Instead Nielsen and the Saints agreed to a three-year extension and added the title of assistant head coach.

Last Thursday, Payton talked about the situation.

“We’re outstanding,” Payton told team’s website. “We’re fantastic, fired up that he’s returning. Every once in a while in this business, you have talented people and you work with, you work hard and they have other opportunities and then every once in a while, you go into recruiting mode. He’s someone that very soon, you’re going to see as a head coach at the NFL level. He’s extremely talented, and I’m fired up that he’s returning. And I’m fired up that he’s signed on for three more years.”

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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, the beach and family time.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 mark@pewterreport.com