Around the NFC South

Time for our morning run through the headlines from around the division.


Coach Mike Smith said quarterback Matt Ryan is a better athlete than people give him credit for. I agree with that. Ryan may not have top-end speed, but he can get a first down when needed. His throwing arm is much better than most people give him credit for.

Speaking of Ryan, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter says he’s one of the league’s top 10 quarterbacks. I don’t think that’s off base.

D. Orlando Ledbetter writes that the Falcons have some competition at wide receiver beyond Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas. It appears Kerry Meier, Kevin Cone and Drew Davis are in the mix for the fourth and fifth receiver spots.


Ryan Jones writes that a federal judge might not issue a ruling on Jonathan Vilma’s request for an injunction to stop his suspension until Aug. 10. Vilma already had his hearing on the matter and is awaiting a ruling. But the same judge also is scheduled to hear a the NFL’s request to dismiss Vilma’s filings that same day.

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo still is getting to know his players and their abilities. But he’s experimenting a bit and one thing he’s trying out is moving defensive end Cameron Jordan to defensive tackle on third down. That might be a bad idea since the Saints don’t seem to have any interior players who are capable of generating much of a pass rush.

The Saints are switching up their practice schedule this week. They went late in the afternoon at the start of camp, but they’re moving to early-morning sessions this week. The Saints ran into some heavy storms and extreme heat when they were on the afternoon schedule.


Offensive tackle Jordan Gross, who has been with the Panthers since 2003, said he’s never seen a Carolina player draw more attention than quarterback Cam Newton. But Gross said Newton still acts like “one of the guys."

Add Panthers owner Jerry Richardson to the list of people who approve of center Ryan Kalil taking out a newspaper ad to promise a Super Bowl win. Richardson described the gesture as “pretty cool."


With a couple of cornerbacks banged up, local product Leonard Johnson has been stepping up and making some plays. If that continues, he could put himself in the mix for a roster spot.

The diet that helped quarterback Josh Freeman drop about 20 pounds in the offseason was pretty simple. Freeman said he dropped the weight mostly by eliminating fast food from his diet.