Let’s take a run through the latest headlines from around the NFC South:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
No surprise here. Sunday’s game between the Bucs and St. Louis Rams won’t be televised locally. The Bucs have had the blackout lifted for only two home games this year.
St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford says the Bucs use more blitzes from their secondary than any team he’s seen this year. But the downside of that is that Tampa Bay often leaves its inexperienced cornerbacks in one-on-one situations with no safety help.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Bradley Handwerger writes that rookie defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is showing he belongs in the NFL. There was some doubt about that because Hicks played his college football in Canada. But Hicks has been getting more and more playing time as the season has gone on and could be in line for a starting job next season.
Running back Pierre Thomas was added to the injury report Thursday with a knee injury. But there was some positive news as right tackle Zach Strief practiced (on a limited basis) for the first time since suffering an ankle injury Dec. 9.
Jeff Duncan reports that the Saints are expected to hold a private workout for Chad Jones. The former LSU safety is attempting to make a comeback after being seriously injured in a 2010 car accident.
Nobody is sure what the future holds in Carolina. But coach Ron Rivera indicated he thinks rookie Luke Kuechly is best suited to play middle linebacker and injured veteran Jon Beason has the skills to play outside. If Rivera sticks around and Beason survives an expected salary-cap purge, the Panthers likely will put Beason outside and keep Kuechly in the middle next season.
D. Orlando Ledbetter speculates that the Falcons could switch punt returners in the postseason. Dominique Franks has handled that duty most of the season and been unspectacular. Wide receiver Harry Douglas returned punts earlier in his career and showed some explosiveness.
Safety William Moore (hamstring) missed another day of practice. It’s looking like Chris Hope will get another start in Moore’s place. On the positive side, receiver Roddy White (knee) returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday’s session.