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NFC SOUTH

Feb. 11, 2013
Feb. 11, 2013

Table of Contents
Feb. 11, 2013

GOLF PLUS
THE MAIL
LEADING OFF
2013 SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS
NFL 2013 OFF-SEASON PREVIEW
Departments

NFC SOUTH

By Text by Don Banks

PROBLEM STAT

This is an article from the Feb. 11, 2013 issue

24 Combined first downs and touchdowns allowed within the primary coverage of FS Mark Barron, third highest among safeties.

SOLUTION

That number is unacceptable but shouldn't be held entirely against Barron, the No. 7 pick in 2012. The secondary, ranked last in the NFL, suffered from the midseason losses of CBs Aqib Talib (traded to the Patriots) and Eric Wright (injury and suspension); the poor play of their replacements, Leonard Johnson and practice player LeQuan Lewis; and SS Ronde Barber's slow decline. To remedy this, the Bucs could trade down in the first round and double dip among prospects like Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State), Xavier Rhodes (Florida State) and David Amerson (N.C. State), or go after possible free agents Sean Smith (Dolphins) or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Eagles).

AND THEN?

Add a tight end like Jared Cook or Dustin Keller to diversify the passing game.... Re-sign free-agent defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Roy Miller.

PROBLEM STAT

2.7 Tackle attempts for each missed tackle by Asante Samuel, worst among CBs (minimum: 25% of team's snaps).

SOLUTION

The Falcons don't have a ton of cap room, but they should get out the checkbook to keep CB Brent Grimes, whose torn right Achilles last season forced Samuel to play a bigger role. With Grimes back, Samuel shouldn't be so exposed.

AND THEN?

Improve a pass rush that finished 28th in sacks (29) by signing DE Michael Bennett if the Bucs let him go.... Find a reliable tight end to run intermediate routes and serve as a red-zone target—though there's no replacement for the retiring Tony Gonzalez.... Realize RB Jacquizz Rodgers has more to offer than Michael Turner.

PROBLEM STAT

127 Tackles missed by Panthers defenders, fourth most in the NFL.

SOLUTION

Outscore opponents. After overspending on linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, then failing to invest in quality assistants for coach Ron Rivera, this D is DOA (unless it can figure out a way to clone Luke Kuechly). Carolina allowed the third-most plays of 20 yards or more last season.

AND THEN?

Trade down from the 14th pick and use a second-rounder on Kentucky guard Larry Warford, a powerful blocker who could ignite the running game.... Bring in a veteran QB—say, Matt Moore or Tarvaris Jackson—who can show Cam Newton how to lead.

PROBLEM STAT

7 Interceptions thrown by Drew Brees on deep-pass attempts (20 yards or more), most in the league.

SOLUTION

With Sean Payton returning from his yearlong suspension, expect Brees to force fewer throws. The coach is known for constantly reminding his QB to check down and take what the defense gives him.

AND THEN?

Draft a corner to light a fire under Patrick Robinson, who gave up a league-high 1,071 yards while in primary coverage.... Take a flier on a speedster—either in free agency or the draft—and give him kick-return duties. The Saints had the second-worst average starting field position (24-yard line).... Don't worry about Jimmy Graham, whose 15 drops led all tight ends. He'll bounce back.

PHOTOMARK LOMOGLIO/ICON SMI (BARRON)PHOTOMICHAEL SULLIVAN/CAL SPORT MEDIA (GRIMES)PHOTOTOM DIPACE (KUECHLY)PHOTOBILL FRAKES (ROBINSON)PHOTO