Time for a stroll through the Wednesday afternoon headlines from around the division:
D. Orlando Ledbetter has a list of five position battles to watch as the Falcons get ready for Thursday night’s preseason game. He tops it with the right guard spot, where Garrett Reynolds started the opener. But you have to believe the Falcons want to give rookie Peter Konz a look with the first team and that almost certainly has to come in the second or third preseason game.
On the surface, the game with Cincinnati isn’t a marquee matchup. But there is one significant matchup within the game. It will be the first NFL meeting between second-year receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Green. Preseason football can be dull, but these two guys have the ability to make it entertaining.
Sixth-round draft pick Charles Mitchell is showing he can play both safety positions, which can only help his chances of making the roster.
Linebacker Jon Beason, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury recently, said the plan is for him to return for the Aug. 26 game preseason game with the Jets. Look, I know Beason is anxious to get back on the field after missing most of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. But, if I’m the Panthers, I’m not letting Beason play in a game until the regular-season opener. The Panthers already know what Beason can do. It’s far more important to have him at full strength for the regular season than to have him out there working on his timing for a few plays in a preseason game.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins said he’s praying for interceptions after going through last season without a pick. I think things are going to work out just fine for Jenkins. He has the physical skills and the instincts. Now that he’s getting a chance to be a true centerfielder in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, he should have plenty of opportunities for interceptions.
The Carolina Panthers previously announced enhanced security measures for the season. The Saints have joined them. All fans entering the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this season will have to pass through metal detectors.
Jonathan Casillas may be keeping himself in the mix for the starting job at weak-side linebacker. Casillas has intercepted a Drew Brees pass in two straight practices. That’s going to help his chances. But the real key for Casillas will be staying healthy, something he has struggled with throughout his career.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs wrapped up the training-camp portion of coach Greg Schiano’s first preseason. Schiano said he was pleased with how hard his team worked in camp. Schiano is a guy that’s always looking for effort, so I’d say it sounds like the Bucs had a successful camp.
Guard Davin Joseph said the Bucs have backs that can be “home-run hitters" in rookie Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount. They’re going to at least have to hit some singles and doubles if the Bucs are going to move up from ranking 30th in the run game last year.
Top draft choice Mark Barron missed the preseason opener with a toe injury, but he expects to make his NFL debut Friday night.