Around the NFC South

Let’s take a morning run through some odds and ends from around the division:


D. Orlando Ledbetter continues his countdown of the top 25 Falcons with linebacker Stephen Nicholas at No. 14. Nicholas isn’t a fan favorite in Atlanta after having trouble covering tight ends in the playoffs. But Nicholas might not have been completely healthy in the postseason. He needs to bounce back in training camp to remain an every-down linebacker.


Warren Sapp, who doesn’t always have nice things to say about people, sang the praises of offensive coordinator Mike Shula. The two were together in Tampa Bay, where Shula often was criticized for being too conservative. But Shula never had a quarterback like Cam Newton to work with when he was with the Bucs.


Running back Mark Ingram comes in at No. 16 on the team website’s list of 25 reasons to get excited about training camp. Ingram hasn’t put up big numbers in his first two seasons. Although the backfield remains crowded with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, I think the Saints will make a concerted effort to get Ingram more carries this season.


Mark Cook writes that the contract extension signed by Detroit’s Matthew Stafford could set the parameters for a potential new deal for Josh Freeman (assuming Freeman has a strong season). Freeman and Stafford have similar career numbers, but Stafford has taken the Lions to the playoffs while the Bucs haven’t been to the postseason with Freeman. The bottom line here is that Freeman needs to take the Bucs to the playoffs (or at least very close to that) to get a new deal in Tampa Bay.