I was starting to pack for Vegas but I decided I would much rather spend my time writing about football. Packing is by far the worst part of going on trips, but the time spent in Vegas is going to be undoubtedly epic. When looking at the NFC South, you immediately think of the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans is an absolute powerhouse, and Atlanta is on the cusp of becoming a great team. All the while, Cam Newton had a meteoric rise into the NFL and turned the Carolina Panthers around in a flash. The Buccaneers took a huge back slide and fired their Head Coach Raheem Morris, who won Coach of the Year last year, leaving their future very much up in the air.
New Orleans–This offense runs like a well-oiled machine. They literally have no needs on the offensive side of the ball. They have three offensive lineman going to the pro bowl, a top 3 quarterback in the NFL, a stable of running backs, a solid group of receivers headed by Marques Colston, and lest we forget, an absolute STUD at tight end in Jimmy Graham. The defensive side of the ball relies heavily on the Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams to dial-up blitzes at the appropriate time, and the man does it early and often. That being said, this is where they have to fill their needs. This team got burned badly in the secondary and was ranked 30th in the NFL in passing yards given up (NFL.com stats). They are in dire need of a number 1 corner after Malcolm Jenkins was unable to do the job and moved to safety where he has been far more effective. They drafted Patrick Robinson, out of Florida State, two years ago, and the jury is still out as to whether he is the man for the job or not. For my money, you could give him another year and wait until a later round in the draft to take a chance on a corner, but it is a spot that they will certainly give a look to. They also need to add another defensive tackle and an outside linebacker. Jonathan Vilma is a stud at middle linebacker, and while Shaun Rogers is still dominant at the nose position, they need to consider starting to replace the 32-year-old. Bottom line, this team lost 3 games with the 30th ranked pass defense; they don’t have any truly pressing needs.
Atlanta Falcons–The Falcons made big moves at the NFL Draft last year, trading up to draft Julio Jones, and so I would not expect any major moves from them again this year. While I think this team has a great offense in the making, the defense badly needs a safety or two to help shore up the secondary. With no first round pick this year due to the Jones trade, I would fully expect them to take the best available safety in the second round. From here I think that the Falcons need to draft a strong side linebacker to start him with Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton, both of whom are two of the most productive linebackers in the game. Their third and final need that I would look for them to address would be to add another starter at defensive end to play opposite John Abraham. Abraham is an absolute beast on the line, but he needs help. He had 9 sacks this year and the players in second for sacks on the Falcons with 4 sacks were Weatherspoon and Lawrence Sidbury, a sign to me that they need to look to add to that defensive line (ESPN.com stats). If this team can fix the defense and find a new coordinator to replace Mike Mularky, who is now head coach of the Jaguars, they could return to their dominance that they showed in 2010.
Carolina Panthers–It is evident that the Panthers proved everyone wrong with drafting Cam Newton. He rewrote the record book for rookie quarterbacks and was purely awesome. The only thing left to do is get this man some help. He has a great one-two punch in the backfield with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, along with a solid front-line and a revitalized Steve Smith. But, he needs a second receiver to play opposite of Smith to help give him more options; guys like Legedu Naanee are just not going to cut it. With that being said, this team should take all defensive players in the draft. They were ranked 24th in passing yards against and 25th in rushing yards against (ESPN.com stats). They need to add a weak side linebacker, a defensive tackle and a defensive end. Charles Johnson is dominant on the defensive line, but he cannot do things himself. Getting more playmakers around him and strong side linebacker James Anderson will help this defense immensely. With a defense in place, the Panthers could be a dangerous team to watch out for in the very near future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers–This franchise took a major step in the wrong direction this year. They went from a playoff contender in 2010 to a 4-12 team this year. The Buccaneers defense was atrocious this year, where they ranked 21st in passing yards against and dead last in rushing yards against (ESPN.com stats). They have spent their last two first round picks on defensive lineman and I would not expect them to continue to go in this direction. They do however need linebackers. They need guys who can jump up and support the defensive lineman in stopping the run game. I think two outside linebackers are their biggest needs. On top of this, they need a cornerback to replace Aqib Talib, who has not returned to his dominant form that he had last year, after some off the field incidents this past summer. That being said, they need to get Josh Freeman help on the offensive side of the ball and get him a second receiver to throw to. Preston Parker and Arrelious Benn have been good, but in order to take this team to the next level, they need someone who will help their offense be great. The Buccaneers are a team that I was surprised to see such a backwards slide, but they are in serious need of some defensive players. And until they fix the defense and get Josh Freeman to stop throwing interceptions, look for this team to remain at the bottom of the barrel in the NFC South next year.