Most Intriguing Players in the NFC South for 2019

Russell S. Baxter

Most Intriguing Players in the NFC South for 2019

By Julie Voigt and Russell S. Baxter (VIBE)

Special to Pro Football Guru

Five down, three to go.

Welcome back to the latest work by the team of “Voigt Julie” and “Yours Truly.” With the 2019 NFL regular season roughly two and half months away, it’s a division-by-division look at each club’s most intriguing player. It started with the AFC East, where the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have won a league-record 10 straight division titles. Then onto the NFC East, where the Dallas Cowboys are coming off capturing their third division title since 2014.

A year ago, the Baltimore Ravens won six of their final seven games to overcome a 4-5 start and win the AFC North for the first time since 2012. This past season, the Chicago Bears won the NFC North for the first time since 2010 as new head coach Matt Nagy’s club finished 12-4. As for the AFC South, the Houston Texans opened 0-3 and the Indianapolis Colts started 1-5 this past season and both reached the playoffs.

So what about the NFC South? In 2017, the division sent three teams to the playoffs. A year ago, only the New Orleans Saints boasted a winning record as Sean Payton’s club finished as the top seed in the NFC.

Here’s Part 6 of the series (teams are in order of 2018 finish):

New Orleans Saints

TE Jared Cook

BE: The team has been searching for a threat at tight end since making the surprising decision to deal Jimmy Graham (now with the Green Bay Packers) to Seattle in 2015. Cook spent the past two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and a year set career highs in catches (68), receiving yards (896) and touchdown grabs (6) on his way to his first Pro Bowl. It’s another target for the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader in quarterback Drew Brees.

Atlanta Falcons

DE Adrian Clayborn

VI: As we all know, defense wins championships. And Clayborn did win a ring with the New England Patriots in 2018. But he comes off a season in which he played 14 games and recorded a career-low 2.5 sacks for the eventual Super Bowl champions. As he heads back to Atlanta, it will be interesting to see if he can recapture the form that led to a career-best 9.5 sacks in ’17. And could his return to Atlanta be the difference as the Falcons look to rebound after a disappointing year on defense?

Carolina Panthers

DT Gerald McCoy

BE: At times it appeared that the six-time Pro Bowler would be headed to either Cleveland or Baltimore. But the nine-year pro brings 54.5 sacks to a team that has spent time trying to keep him away from Cam Newton the last eight seasons. McCoy looks to bolster a pass rush that managed only 35 sacks a season ago and a defensive unit that wasn’t its usual sturdy self in 2018.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

RB Ronald Jones

VI: Under the command of new head coach Bruce Arians, the club is hoping this second-year running back can make a difference. The 2018 second-round pick (via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk) explains that he’s added a little bulk this offseason. “I’ve put on a lot of pounds of muscle. I’ve been training with my guy, eating four or five meals a day, protein shakes right after workouts. I’m bigger.” So will a new look by Jones and a revamped coaching staff result in improvement for Jones and the NFL’s 29th-ranked running game from a season ago?

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