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NFC South season preview

New Orleans Saints

2009 record: 13-3

Whether the defending Super Bowl champion can repeat remains to be seen. After Thursday's 14-9 win over the Vikings, they appear to have a good chance at winning another division title, with QB Drew Brees, above, leading an offense that cracked 500 points last season (510). The question will be on defense, as it'll be difficult for the Saints to be as opportunistic as last year (39 takeaways, 26 interceptions), which helped mask their 26th-ranked pass defense. The secondary will have to step up because it'll be without All-Pro FS Darren Sharper for at least part of the season as he recovers from microfracture knee surgery.

Atlanta Falcons

2009 record: 9-7

QB Matt Ryan should continue to get better, entering his third NFL season. But what the Falcons need is for RB Michael Turner to look more like he did in 2008 (1,699 yards, 17 TDs) than last year (871 yards), when he missed five games with a high ankle sprain. Atlanta could use a bounceback season from DE John Abraham, whose production fell from 16½ sacks in 2008 to 5½ in 2009. After all, the Falcons' 28 sacks ranked 26th in the NFL last season, and they'll need more pressure if they want to stop Drew Brees & Co. Acquiring free agent CB Dunta Robinson, above, from the Texans should help, considering the caliber of receivers they'll face.

Carolina Panthers

2009 record: 8-8

The Panthers boast arguably the top running back tandem in the NFL in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams (just ask the Bucs). Each reached 1,100 yards in 2009, taking advantage of a solid offensive line. And Carolina will need to run the ball to keep pressure off young QB Matt Moore, above, who was a pleasant surprise last season (4-1 as a starter) but, with just 16 career NFL games, is still a bit unproven. Other than veteran WR Steve Smith, the Panthers don't have many potent weapons in the passing game. In an offseason that featured plenty of changes, including the end of the Jake Delhomme era, the Panthers lost one of their top defensive playmakers in DE Julius Peppers, who signed with the Bears.

Offense

WR Marques Colston

LT Jermon Bushrod

LG Carl Nicks

C Jonathan Goodwin

RG Jahri Evans

RT Jonathan Stinchcomb

TE Jeremy Shockey

WR Devery Henderson

QB Drew Brees

RB Reggie Bush

FB Heath Evans

Defense

LDE Alex Brown

DT Sedrick Ellis

DT Remi Ayodele

RDE Will Smith

OLB Scott Shanle

MLB Jonathan Vilma

OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar

LCB Jabari Greer

RCB Tracy Porter

SS Roman Harper

FS Malcolm Jenkins

Offense

WR Roddy White

LT Sam Baker

LG Justin Blalock

C Todd McClure

RG Harvey Dahl

RT Tyson Clabo

TE Tony Gonzalez

WR Michael Jenkins

QB Matt Ryan

RB Michael Turner

FB Ovie Mughelli

Defense

LDE Kroy Biermann

DT Trey Lewis

DT Peria Jerry

RDE John Abraham

OLB Sean Weatherspoon

MLB Curtis Lofton

OLB Mike Peterson

LCB Brent Grimes

RCB Dunta Robinson

SS Erik Coleman

FS Thomas DeCoud

Offense

WR Steve Smith

LT Jordan Gross

LG Travelle Wharton

C Ryan Kalil

RG Mackenzy Bernadeau

RT Jeff Otah

TE Jeff King

WR Dwayne Jarrett

QB Matt Moore

RB DeAngelo Williams

FB Tony Fiammetta

Defense

LDE Charles Johnson

DT Ed Johnson

DT Louis Leonard

RDE Tyler Brayton

OLB James Anderson

MLB Dan Connor

OLB Jon Beason

LCB Chris Gamble

RCB Richard Marshall

SS Charles Godfrey

FS Sherrod Martin

NFC South season preview 09/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 5:35pm]
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