Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Preseason: Players to Watch (NFC South)

New Orleans Saints: LB Curtis Lofton: What...a...MESS! The recent bounty charges have suspended two current Saints defenders; linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith. No doubt this defense will struggle in 2012, but the organization went out and acquired linebacker Curtis Lofton. While playing for Atlanta, Lofton managed 492 total tackles, 142 of those came in 2011 (5th in the league). It will be difficult for Lofton to replace the three-time pro-bowler in Jonathan Vilma, so it will be important for him to play his best football yet. Hopefully, he will start 2012 on a high note by doing well in his four preseason games.

Curtis Lofton (Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire)
Atlanta Falcons: CB Asante Samuel: The Atlanta Falcons ranked 20th overall in passing yards allowed last season, so they went out and signed Asante Samuel. Problem solved, right? Sure, Samuel has made a name for himself in the National Football League, but the star is showing sings of aging. Since his extraordinary 2006 season with the Patriots (10 interceptions, 65 tackles, 24 putdowns), Samuel's stats have dipped, where last season was quite possibly the worst of his career. The 31-year old has been lucky injury wise, even though he has played just three complete seasons. Will his age catch up with him, or is Samuel going to lead the Falcon's defense back into the top ten?

Carolina Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly: In my opinion the single most talented defender to come out of last April's draft, Luke Kuechly has high expectations on this Carolina Panthers defense. His accomplished college career (ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, First-team All-American) got him drafted 12 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by Carolina. The Panthers defense struggled immensely last year, so drafting a linebacker helps there defense in almost every category. Kuechly is one of the favorites to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, and it all starts with his first few games in the NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Josh Freeman: The worst defense of 2011 was awarded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and newly drafted safety Mark Barron won't be able to fix all of their problems. This means head coach Greg Schiano will have to rely heavily on their offense. However, if the 2011 Josh Freeman were to show up instead of the one we saw in 2010, the Bucs will be eyeing yet another season below the .500 mark. It was rumored the quarterback might be traded in 2012, so where he plays next season relies on how he plays in 2012. 

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