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Eyeing the Enemy: Up and Coming Competition in NFC South

Just over a month from training camps beginning to kickoff. Teams are assessing personnel and seeing changes that can be made in training camp. Young players such as rookies and 2nd-3rd year players are looking to make their move and be bigger contributors for their respective teams. I want to explore a few players from each NFC South team that the New Orleans Saints will have to be ready for.

The Carolina Panthers are definitely looking to cause trouble with two young wide receivers to help Cam Newton and Christian McCaffery. If DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel meet expectations they can be problem for defenses; but nothing the Saints defensive backfield can’t handle. DJ Moore was a 1st round pick who runs violently after the catch. He checked most of the boxes in the draft process. Curtis was an electric Percy Harvin type guy out of Ohio St. He is a ‘get the ball into his type hands and watch the magic happen’ type of guy. Both can make life easier for Cam Newton, maybe a female reporter will ask him about their routes.

Jumping from Carolina for Tampa Bay to look at running back Ronald Jones & wide receiver Chris Godwin. Ronald Jones came to the team as a round 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft from Southern Cal. He had high expectations but did not live up to them in his rookie year which is to be expected with any rookie. He has a nose for the end zone with more actual game speed as opposed to 40 time speed. The new coaching staff appears love him and may be able to get more out of him. Chris Godwin is a 3rd round pick out a Penn State from a couple years back. He keeps getting buzz in the offseason and shows periodic flashes in the regular season. Plenty of Allen Robinson comparison has been tossed around for him. If he puts it together Eli Apple will have to be ready for him since Marshon Lattimore may spend more time with Mike Evans.

Saving the worst for last lets dive into the Atlanta Falcons team. I would say Calvin Ridley but that may be too easy. He broke out his rookie year and will probably make another step this year. Austin Hooper is someone who I could see become a more well known player. He took a huge step last year bringing in 71 receptions. He left more to be desired in terms of yard per catch with 9.3 resulting in 660 yards on the year. The volume and opportunity is there for him to take the next step. With Dirk Koetter returning as the offensive coordinator from Tampa Bay could also help as he has been know to get good production out of tight ends in his scheme. Julio and Calvin Ridley will get more attention allowing Hooper to fly more under the radar.

All 32 teams are working year in and year out to improve overall as teams. As players regress, new ones will be looking to rise up (hate that I used that phrase #28-3). With that said, there will be new players trying to make themselves household names as they fight to win and justify receiving a big contract in the next couple of years. It’s the Saint’s job to be prepared for whomever may come to light.

Follow Colin on Twitter @CBelyeu