Since we're coming off our podcast discussing the NFC South, it seemed like a good time to piggyback on some of the topics previously discussed. Last year was a subpar performance across the board for the division. Aside from the Falcons carrying the torch the conference championship, the Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers all finished 7-9 and failed to meet any ridiculous expectations that might have been set prior to the season.
Now approaching 2013, all four teams have at least attempted to improve. A few Pro Bowl candidates showed up, and the rookies coming in have constantly been talked up.
While we can exchange pleasantries about each roster, which NFC South team can claim the title of most improved from 2012? Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated just released his division preview, so I took his key additions from all four teams and examined who came out on top.
Signed: RB Steven Jackson, DE Osi Umenyiora; drafted CB Desmond Trufant, CB Robert Alford, DE Malliciah Goodman, TE Levine Toilolo
The Falcons, much to the dismay of a large part of the fanbase, didn't make too many moves this offseason. Signing Umenyiora was basically a lateral move in my mind. John Abraham steps out, he steps in. Not much of a difference. Jackson is a huge boost for the ground game, but the rest of the additions are up in the air.
Trufant and Alford are promising rookies. However, you're asking a lot out of one of them (likely Trufant) to start from Day 1 on the outside. Goodman and the unmentioned Stansly Maponga come in as projects with potential, but again, we're theorizing they'll live up to their potential.
Biggest loss: Brent Grimes. Tyson Clabo's departure was tough to cope with as well. Having a rookie corner starting, though, leaves the secondary up in the air to an extent.
Signed: RB Brian Leonard, WR Kevin Ogletree, TE Tom Crabtree, DT Derek Landri, OLB Jonathan Casillas, S Dashon Goldson; traded for OT Gabe Carimi, CB Darrelle Revis; drafted CB Johnthan Banks, QB Mike Glennon, DT Akeem Spence, DE William Gholston
Revis locks down one side of the field, assuming he's back to normal after surgery. Goldson became a two-time Pro Bowler with San Francisco. How does he adjust to a new team with far fewer stars on defense? And Ogletree no just kidding lol he's terrible. The secondary needed major revamping, and that's what the organization attempted to fix. If healthy, it could pay off.
Biggest loss: LeGarrette Blount. They have no rushing attack at all now. [EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS A JOKE BECAUSE THEY HAVE DOUG MARTIN AND HE IS REALLY GOOD AT FOOTBALL] Michael Bennett hurts, too, I suppose.
Signed: WR Ted Ginn Jr., WR Domenik Hixon, LB Chase Blackburn, CB Drayton Florence, S Mike Mitchell; drafted DT Star Lotulelei, DT Kawann Short, G Edmund Kugbila, LB A.J. Klein, RB Kenjon Barner; promoted Mike Shula to OC
Lotulelei was a steal at No. 14 in the draft, and along with Short, the center of Carolina's defensive line is starting to look intimidating. Hixon is a viable No. 3 receiver. Florence isn't really someone to worry about anymore. And thank the Lord the Panthers added another running back. That ground game looked depleted prior to Barner's arrival.
Biggest loss: Losing Jason Phillips and James Anderson makes me wonder what a linebacking corps is anymore.
Signed: TE Benjamin Watson, OT Jason Smith, DE Kenyon Coleman, OLB Victor Butler, CB Chris Carr, CB Keenan Lewis; drafted S Kenny Vaccaro, OT Terron Armstead, NT John Jenkins, WR Kenny Stills; hired DC Rob Ryan
Lewis and Vaccaro are much-needed additions to the secondary. Carr would've been if it was still 2010. The Saints have already been dealt a blow from the injury bug, as Butler is out for the year.
Biggest loss: Jermon Bushrod. Who is playing left tackle now? But really?
Tampa Bay, probably. Sure, Revis is coming off an ACL injury. But he seems to be coming along fine after surgery. (Of course, when do we ever hear negative reports?) When 100 percent, he's the best corner in the league. The Bucs are basically eliminating an opposing No. 1 wideout every game. We can all agree that's a nice pickup.
Add in Goldson and Banks, and their secondary is starting to turn around, fast. All four NFC South teams still need work. The Bucs are by no means gunning for the division title now, because Josh Freeman is still their quarterback. But they vastly improved the worst part of their team (and the NFL for that matter).
Which team would you say improved the most heading into 2013?