Preseason Takeaways: NFC South Week 1
By Steve Moore
What are the five key takeaways from Week 1 of the NFC South preseason?
So we have football back! Well, it was back last week but does anyone actually count the Hall of Fame game?
We had no Drew Brees, no Matt Ryan and no Cam Newton in the NFC South but there was still plenty to take away from the first week of pre-season games.
1. Terry Godwin just made the team
In 1995, the Denver Broncos sixth-round pick made the team because of one crushing tackle in pre-season on special teams. Now, Terry Godwin is not going to be Terrell Davis, but the Carolina Panthers seventh-rounder may well have used special teams as a way of making the roster in Charlotte.
With the likes of Torrey Smith, Jarius Wright and Aldrick Robinson fighting for the fifth and sixth receiver spots, any rookie is going to have to use the third phase of the game to try and shift their way into the 53 for opening day.
Godwin did just that against the Bears. He had a couple of decent returns of just over twenty yards but it was the punt return just after half-time that would make the Panthers coaching staff take notice.
Facing a 10-6 deficit and needing a spark, Godwin cut to his right on a punt-return and hit the outside hole for a massive game-changing 56-yard return.
While the return game is not as important as it was before the kick-off was moved forward, someone who can flip the field like that will be very attractive to any Head Coach.
2. Falcons running back room is getting crowded
It was suggested on our preview pieces just the other week that second-year man Ito Smith might have a good chance of having a breakout year now Tevin Coleman has gone. Well he ended Week 1 potentially falling down the depth chart despite a one-yard touchdown run.
Smith ended with just seven yards on his four carries and was made to look pedestrian by the end of the night by the rest of the running-back room.
Brian Hill had a solid night with 30 yards on nine touches, including a one-yard TD of his own. He also had a couple of runs that showcased his head-down, bowling ball style running. Even Kenjon Barner had a tasty 37-yard reception when he entered the game.
Star of the night though was Qadree Ollison. He showed elusiveness and speed in the fourth-quarter as he ended the night with 51 yards on eight carries, including an impressive touchdown run. Sure, that’s fourth-quarter preseason football but it will surely be enough to see him compete for carries against higher calibre opposition earlier in games.
3. Buccaneers linebacker depth seems non-existent
Moving to the 3-4 means that the Buccaneers will need less depth at interior linebacker and after Week 1, it looks like that is a very good thing.
While Devin White looked impressive on his first showing against the Steelers, being around the ball consistently, he looked like he was desperately missing the presence of the injured Lavonte David alongside him to create more issues and give him space to make plays. Despite this, he was still able to get out like he was shot out of a cannon on one play that resulted in a sack.
Outside of White though, there was very little to write home about. Jaylen Samuels and scampering quarterback Joshua Dobbs seemed to have the freedom of the field any time they broke through the line.
Veteran Kevin Minter did manage to top the tackles charts for the Buccaneers. However, those were tackles made on the back foot as opposed to having any penetration into the Steelers backfield.
David is meant to be back from the surgery he had on a torn knee meniscus in time for Week 1 against the 49ers and on this showing, they are desperately going to need him.
4. Is this a bad year for the Saints D?
We all know that Drew Brees will throw for at least 4,000 yards, a Saints running-back will have at least 1,500 all purpose yards (Alvin Kamara) and the Saints will score an absolute ton of points. It has been that way for the Saints ever since Brees and Reggie Bush arrived and the Saints returned to the Superdome in 2006.
We also know that in that same time frame, we have had years where the defense has been league average. When that happens they rack up double digit wins and play-off appearances. However, they also have years when the defense has been truly dire and the Saints go 7-9.
While we saw no Brees and very little Kamara against the Vikings, we did see one series of all bar one of the Saints starters on the defensive side of the ball.
What we saw was extremely ugly. Kirk Cousins went a perfect 4-of-4 for 65 yards as the Vikings marched for an eight play, 81 yard touchdown drive that actually started with a holding call on the Vikings themselves. It even included Cousins having a 10-yard scramble to keep the drive alive on 3rd-and-9.
Now, the one starter missing was Cameron Jordan and he is obviously a huge game-changer for the unit but it is a worrying start for Saints fans.
5. Concentrate on your team Rivera
Just before half-time in the Panthers-Bears game we saw the rare sight of a kicker being iced in the pre-season as Rivera used a timeout immediately on the back of the Bears using one to set up a 43-yard field goal.
Unusual yes, you would certainly have to question Rivera’s priorities if he is that fussed about gaining that slim an advantage in a pre-season game. After the game though, Rivera was quoted as admitting that he ‘did it to help the Bears because they are in a kicking contest’.
Now that makes things so much worse. Yes, Rivera spent eight years playing for the Bears. Yes, it doesn’t exactly affect the Panthers hugely but why, are you considering the Bears needs when you should be concentrating on your own?