As we enter mandatory mini-camps, we can start to look at how the rosters will look for the coming season. Starting on defence, and particularly the secondary, isn’t a strong point for the NFC South as three of the bottom seven teams in terms of passing yards allowed in 2018 are in the division. So let’s break them down from worst to first:
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have upgraded their secondary through the draft, adding Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards, as well as linebacker phenom Devin White who will reduce the pressure on the secondary in coverage. Tampa have got a lot younger and more talented, now Vernon Hargreaves and Justin Evans need to step up and lead the unit.
The addition of Todd Bowles as Defensive Coordinator will help them improve from day one but the Bucs allowed over 4000 yards through the air and 464 points (31st) so will need to make a big step to help the team be competitive.
3. New Orleans Saints
Let’s put all the cards on the table, the Saints allowed the most passing yards in the division, over 4300, which was fourth worst in the league. Who can forget Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for 419 yards in a 48-40 win over the Saints in the Superdome to open last season? That being said, the Saints played a lot of garbage time with teams passing to get back into the game against the 13-3 division winners, and while the Bucs allowed second most points of anyone last season, the Saints ranked 14th. New Orleans added a couple of Safeties in Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Saquan Hampton to add depth to the unit. Marshon Lattimore and Vonn Bell are the main performers for the Saints meanwhile Eli Apple, PJ and Marcus Williams will need to step up for the Saints to get over their final hurdle. The talent is there, but DC Dennis Allen and DB Coach Aaron Glenn are yet to knit it all together successfully.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Despite allowing sixth most passing yards in the league in 2018, the Falcons rank second among NFC South secondaries. Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller arrive from the draft to add depth, though they are unlikely to start early in 2019. Desmond Trufant is the main difference maker among the group but Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen can also make plays. Ultimately though, it is a surprise the Falcons didn’t add talent on the backend this offseason.
1. Carolina Panthers
Unsurprisingly the division’s best defence has the best secondary, though the Panthers didn’t make the top half of the league in terms of passing yards and points allowed in 2018. No backend help was added in the draft, though they did add formidable pass rush talent in Brian Burns and Christian Miller to relieve pressure on the secondary. The key was resigning Eric Reid, who leads the unit, with support from James Bradberry and Ross Cockrell. Ultimately, expect a lot of passing success against the weak secondaries in the NFC South.