As we get closer to what sounds like the end of the NFL’s labor lockout, it’s time to start thinking about some real football.
Let’s focus on the field and bring back the NFC South Stock Watch.
1. Corey Peters, defensive tackle, Atlanta Falcons. He wound up starting as a rookie last season and played fairly well. But Peters was getting playing time out of necessity because Peria Jerry wasn’t fully healthy. The Falcons used Jerry as a backup. But Jerry’s expected to be healthy and the Falcons are going to give their No. 1 pick from 2009 every chance possible to get on the field.
2. Stylez G. White, defensive end Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When you’re a starting defensive end and your team goes out and uses its first two draft picks on defensive ends, it’s generally not the sign of a bright future. White is an unrestricted free agent and the only way he’ll return to the Bucs is if he accepts a contract somewhere near the minimum and is willing to accept a backup role. But even that may be a bit of a long-shot. White’s never been a good practice player and the Bucs don’t want rookies Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers picking up his habits.
3. Jermon Bushrod, left tackle, New Orleans Saints. He’s been a starter each of the last two seasons, but the Saints know Bushrod is never going to be a top-notch left tackle. They drafted Charles Brown last year and are hoping he shows some promise in training camp. If Brown shows much of anything, he’ll start.
1. Kellen Winslow, tight end, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’ve seen Winslow a couple of times this offseason and he looks better than ever. He’s always been a workout warrior, but he seems to have taken things to extremes this year. Part of the reason for that may be that a sore knee that bothered him most of last season has healed. Winslow has spent much of his offseason in Tampa, working with quarterback Josh Freeman. They already had good chemistry, but it should be even better.
2. Harry Douglas, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons. The drafting of receiver Julio Jones was not good news for Michael Jenkins. Jones probably will replace Jenkins in the starting lineup. But Jones’ arrival is actually good news for Douglas, who was asked to fill in as a starter when Jenkins was hurt early last season. Douglas is not an every-down wide receiver. He’s perfectly suited to playing the slot. With Jones around, Douglas should be able to focus on what he does best.
3. Charles Johnson, defensive end, Carolina Panthers. There might not be an NFC South player in better position coming out of the lockout. Johnson is 25 and coming off a breakout season in which he had 11.5 sacks. He also is expected to be an unrestricted free agent. The Panthers are going to do everything possible to keep him. But other teams, perhaps even the Falcons, are going to come after Johnson hard. Wherever he ends up, Johnson will be making a lot of money.