NFC South Final Report Card

Although both the high-flying Falcons and Panthers fell short of their goals in the playoffs, their efforts went a very long way toward establishing the NFC South as the most competitive, up and coming division in the National Football Conference.

NFC South

Pre-season Mid-season Final

1 - New Orleans 1 - Carolina 1 – Carolina

2 - Carolina 2 - New Orleans 2 – Atlanta

3 - Tampa Bay 3 - Tampa Bay 3 – Tampa Bay

4 - Atlanta 4 - Atlanta 4 – New Orleans

NFC South Final Report Card

TEAM: New Orleans Saints

OFFENSE B+ B+

DEFENSE D+ D

SPEC. TEAMS C+ C

COACHING C+ D+

FRONT OFFICE C- D-

SCOUTING D D-

OVERALL D D

STRENGTH QB LB OL

WEAKNESS CB DS RB

OFF. MVP Drew Brees

DEF. MVP Jonathan Vilma

TOP ROOKIE Sedrick Ellis

2009 Prognosis Slight improvement

Comments: The Saints offensive particularly at home are as lethal a unit as there is in the game today. Even without a significant running game and a receiving unit with no legitimate deep receiving threat, Drew Brees showed he could put points on the board from literally any place on the field. It's officially over for running back Deuce McAllister. His replacement over the past three years Reggie Bush has never shown a propensity for running the football between the tackles and although he does catch the football well I just didn't see much in the way of magic in space.

Defensively the Saints played poorly, particularly in the secondary. Up front rookie Sedrick Ellis missed time due to injury, but did some impressive things. Outside defenders Charles Grant and Will Smith are excellent football players, but I didn't think they played to near their potential in 08. Former Jet Jonathan Vilma really played well in his first season with the Saints, but the rest of the units play was to say the least uneven.

Head coach is Sean Payton is considered one of the top young coaches in the game, but in retrospect the club has not performed well during his tenure in "The Big Easy."

The Saints front office from top to bottom is unimpressive. General Manager Mickey Loomis is the classic bean-counter with virtually no football background. Scouting director Rick Reiprish is an experienced hand, but the scouting staff is woefully inexperienced.

At best the Saints are a solid mid-level club, but in my humble opinion lack the leadership to make a significant move in the division in 2009.

TEAM: Carolina Panthers

OFFENSE B- A-

DEFENSE B- B

SPEC. TEAMS B- B-

COACHING B+ A-

FRONT OFFICE C C

SCOUTING C+ B-

OVERALL C B+

STRENGTH RB WR LB

WEAKNESS OG OT TE

OFF. MVP Steve Smith

DEF. MVP Jon Beason

TOP ROOKIE Jonathan Stewart

2009 Prognosis Same

Comments: Wow, what a great season it turned out to be for the Carolina Panthers. The keys to their success was the lethal combination of running back DeAngelo Williams, quarterback Jake Delhomme, veteran place kicker John Kasay and one of the top three receivers in professional football, Steve Smith.

Defensively the unit played well throughout the season, but are clearly marginal at the right defensive tackle position where former Rams top selection Damione Lewis leads the way. Charles Godfrey started at the free safety position as a rookie, but his play was in my opinion uneven.

General manager Marty Hurney a former sportswriter. His background and expertise in the area of player personnel has been questioned on more than one occasion. Former Chief and Chargers scout Don Gregory is a very competent college scouting director and scouts Pete Russell, Ryan Cowden and Jeff Beathard are all highly respected veteran scouts.

TEAM: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

OFFENSE C- C-

DEFENSE C D

SPEC. TEAMS C C-

COACHING C- D+

FRONT OFFICE D D-

SCOUTING C- D

OVERALL C- D+

STRENGTH RB DL DS

WEAKNESS OT DL TE

OFF. MVP Earnest Graham

DEF. MVP Barrett Ruud

TOP ROOKIE Aqib Talib

2009 Prognosis Desending

Comments: During the second half of the 2008 season, the bubble finally burst on the Buccaneers. Offensively both Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese were both adequate, but neither appears to be the long time answer at the position. The running game playing most of the year without Cadillac Williams, figured to stumble, but I was impressed with the work of hard running Earnest Graham, Michael Bennett and the ageless Warrick Dunn. The wide receiving group also played surprisingly well, but there is little depth behind starters Michael Clayton and Antonio Bryant. The offensive line is in my opinion marginal.

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Defensively the Buccaneers due to age and injury wilted down the stretch., Linebackers Barrett Ruud and veteran Derrick Brooks are excellent football player but in order to compete in this competitive NFC South division, virtually the entire unit will have to be revamped.

Say what you want about head coach Jon Gruden, but during his entire NFL coaching career he had just two losing seasons. He will be missed, particularly since new head man Raheem Morris' coaching background is rather thin.

I could be wrong, but given their age, injuries, a lack of quality personnel at some key positions and inexperience at the coaching level, I just don't see a very bright immediate future for this football club. Time will tell, but I believe the Glazer family will live to regret their decision to dismiss both coach Jon Gruden and GM Bruce Allen.

TEAM: Atlanta Falcons

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OFFENSE B-

DEFENSE C+

SPEC. TEAMS B-

COACHING A-

FRONT OFFICE B+

SCOUTING B-

OVERALL B+

STRENGTH RB, DE, WR, QB

WEAKNESS DS, OG, DC, LB

OFF. MVP Michael Turner

DEF. MVP John Abraham

TOP ROOKIE Matt Ryan

2009 Prognosis Slight improvement

Comments: The 2008 Falcons were clearly the biggest surprise of the NFL regular season. The key to the team's success offensively was running back Michael Turner, receiver Roddy White and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, but let us not forget the work of the offensive line led by veteran coach Paul Boudreau.

Defensively ends John Abraham and Jamaal Anderson are talented players at different stages of their development, as are the linebacking duo of veteran Keith Brooking and rookie Curtis Lofton. The Secondary played far better than expected.

Mike Smith certainly is a very solid candidate for NFL Coach of The Year. He has assembled a very creditable staff of teachers who did an excellent job of transforming this club in just one season.

The quarterback gives them something to build upon, but don't look for this club to sneak up on anyone next season.


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