Time for a team-by-team look at the Thursday morning headlines from around the division:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Dory LeBlanc writes that the Tampa Bay front four is looking for a performance similar to what it had against Dallas when it plays Washington this week. The Bucs did a good job putting pressure on Tony Romo, but they’re going to face a different style quarterback in Robert Griffin III. He’s a big-time running threat and stopping him won’t be easy, especially after losing defensive end Adrian Clayborn to a season-ending injury.
The Bucs will turn to veteran Roscoe Parrish as their third punt returner after Sammie Stroughter was injured and replacement Jordan Shipley struggled to field punts. Parrish had a lengthy and successful run in Buffalo. At this stage of his career, he might not be dynamic as he once was. But he should at least be able to field punts.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
With the team off to an 0-3 start, interim coach Aaron Kromer acknowledged that maybe the Saints were impacted by all the offseason distractions and didn’t prepare properly. I’m starting to think there’s some truth in that. But it’s still a bit surprising because this is a veteran team and coaching staff that should have simply been able to follow the system built by suspended coach Sean Payton.
As the regular NFL officials head back to work, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees refused to blame the replacement officials for the team’s slow start. Brees has been critical of the replacement officials, but said they were placed in a tough spot. I don’t think the whole saga was good for anyone, but I don’t think any calls by the replacement officials cost the Saints victories. The team was responsible for creating its own problems.
Former Carolina defensive tackle Terrell McClain has landed with New England. A third-round pick in 2011, McClain got lots of playing time as a rookie. But, in a mysterious move, McClain was cut in the preseason. I strongly suspect something was going on behind the scenes and the move was about more than football ability. The guy has some potential and New England coach Bill Belichick has had some success with reclamation projects in the past.
Linebacker Thomas Davis said the Panthers still believe they can make good on center Ryan Kalil’s promise of a Super Bowl championship. That may sound a little shaky after a 1-2 start. Carolina still has a lot of talent, but the Panthers better start turning things around soon if they’re even going to have a chance at the playoffs.
The Panthers are turning back to Kealoha Pilares as their main kickoff returner. That’s a good move because rookie Joe Adams had some issues with fumbles. Adams still has plenty of upside, but I think a little time on the sideline and some more work in practice might be the best thing for him at the moment.
Former Tampa Bay safety and current Fox analyst John Lynch says Atlanta safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud have gone from being “just guys’’ to taking their play to the next level. He’s right. Moore and DeCoud are off to great starts under new coordinator Mike Nolan. If they continue on their current pace, both could be candidates for the Pro Bowl.
Fullback Lousaka Polite missed Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury. This injury is worth keeping an eye on because the Falcons figure to test a Carolina run defense that hasn’t been very good on Sunday. If Polite is out, the Falcons likely will have to use running back Jason Snelling as a blocker in some situations.