Let's take a stroll through some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.
Atlanta’s Akeem Dent said he’s looking forward to competing with veteran Lofa Tatupu for the starting job at middle linebacker. I think the Atlanta coaching staff would be content to go with Tatupu if the safe route is the best route. But I think the coaching staff would be delighted if Dent stepped up and won the job in his second NFL season. This is a team that wants to add younger, fresher legs at a number of positions.
After struggling with some lingering symptoms following two concussions last year, tight end David Thomas is back with the New Orleans Saints. But the decision to keep playing came only after Thomas and his wife, Kassidy, spent a lot of time visiting with six neurological specialists. That was a very wise approach. Returning to football is a decision that could impact Thomas’ entire family. Everyone needed to feel comfortable that it was safe for him to return.
Although he’s making the move from cornerback to free safety, Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber said he still expects to get the chance to blitz frequently. That’s a smart idea since Barber is one of the best pass-rushing defensive backs ever, as evidenced by his 27 career sacks.
The Saints have claimed rookie receiver Derek Moye off waivers after he was released by the Miami Dolphins. The Saints already are loaded at receiver, but this guy is worth a look. At Penn State, which isn’t known for its vertical passing game, Moye showed an ability to get open deep.
New Orleans defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, a third-round pick this year, has an injury to his hand and wrist, but said he’ll be ready for the start of training camp.
Atlanta wide receiver Julio Joes said he believes he should benefit from having a full offseason program this year after the lockout kept players away from their teams until training camp last year. I think that’s true for any second-year player. But it probably is especially true for Jones. He’s a speed receiver and it’s crucial for him to have his timing down with quarterback Matt Ryan.
Although Tampa Bay’s new coaching staff is more stoic than the previous staff in general, receivers coach P.J. Fleck appears to be the exception. According to Scott Reynolds, Fleck has been quite vocal and animated during minicamp.