Training Camp Preview: NFC South

Wed Jul 27 10:52am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Related photo caption below

Thomas continues to battle injury


This is the seventh in a series of training camp previews. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.

Falcons

The Falcons will be without longtime quarterback Matt Ryan for the first time in a long time. So the big storyline of this camp will be the quarterback spot. Marcus Mariota is expected to take over but rookie Desmond Ridder could also be in the mix. Either way, a new player will be at the helm at the most important position on the team. There will be plenty of pressure on this new player. Atlanta holds their training camp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Ga.

Position battle: The Falcons have a lot of openings at receiver this year. Calvin Ridley is suspended for the entire season, leaving a huge hole at the position. The team drafted Drake London to serve a big role, but after him, it is Bryan Edwards, Olamide Zaccheaus, Auden Tate and Damiere Byrd are the top candidates to start opposite London. This is a wide open battle with a lot of similar options looking to start. 

Injury watch: Calvin Ridley has been indefinitely suspended through the conclusion of the 2022 season for gambling. He can appeal the suspension, though, so that is something to watch going forward. There is a slight chance he could get the suspension reduced because his gambling offense seems pretty minor. We might get more clarity on it all before camp is out. This is a situation to watch. 

Saints

New Orleans is another team that will be without a franchise staple at quarterback for the first time in several season. Drew Brees hung it up, leaving Jameis Winston as the new quarterback for the team. Winston will have a lot of pressure on him, taking over for one of the best quarterbacks of all time. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in New Orleans. Winston and his teammates train at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, La. 

Position battle: The Saints gave Adam Trautman a shot to start much of last year but he wasn’t great in that role. He should get first shot again this year, but won’t be handed anything. He will need to earn that job. Juwan Johnson and Taysom Hill should be the top competition for Trautman. We should get a better idea of this position battle as camp practices get underway and preseason games get started. 

Injury watch: Michael Thomas didn’t play at all last year as he continued to be slowed by an ankle injury. He played just seven games the previous year. He is going to open camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start, which is not a great start for Thomas. The Saints don’t expect him to be on that list long, though. He should be practicing before long. Either way, his health is one to watch. If healthy and playing like his old self, Thomas can be an elite fantasy player. 

Panthers

The Panthers had a disappointing season last year, mainly because of inconsistent quarterback play and injury. Those should be the big issues to watch in camp for the Panthers. The Panthers will have a two quarterbacks batting it out to start. And Christian McCaffrey is healthy for now, but his injury issues the last few seasons really slowed the entire offense. It is essential for McCaffrey to be healthy if the Panthers hope to have a successful season. The Panthers hold their training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. 

Position battle: As mentioned, the Panthers will have quarterback battle on their hands this camp. Baker Mayfield is a heavy favorite to win, but the Panthers want him to earn the job. He will need to hold off Sam Darnold, who disappointed with his chances last year. Darnold will need to take a big step forward this year if he hopes to beat out Mayfield. 

Injury watch: Christian McCaffrey might be the most important player on the Panthers. Unfortunately, he has played just 10 games the past two seasons. He has battled various injuries, which is a big concern for potential fantasy owners. McCaffrey has the potential to be the top fantasy player in the game if he is able to play a full season. That is a big “if” after his last two years, though. 

Bucs

The Bucs likely get one more year out of Tom Brady, hoping to make another run at the Super Bowl. Tampa certainly has the pieces on both sides of the ball to win it all. Much of season might depend on Brady. If he can still keep performing at his usual level, this team will be tough to beat once again. Does Brady still have it in him at age 45, though? That is the question. Brady and company will start their quest for another Super Bowl at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa, Fla.

Position battle: Rob Gronkowski decided to retire once again, giving the Bucs an opening at their staring tight end spot. There are three candidates to start, including Kyle Rudolph, Cameron Brate and Cade Otton. Rudolph seems the most likely candidate to start, but his lack of production the last few years is a bit of a concern. He will need to show well in camp and preseason action to hold off the other two candidates. 

Injury watch: Chris Godwin suffered a torn ACL late last season, putting the start of his season this year in jeopardy. Godwin is making great progress from his injury, though, and is not even being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list as camp opens. This is a great sign for Godwin. The Bucs still might be cautious with their star receiver, though, bringing him along slowly early in the year. It is no sure thing he is in the lineup Week 1. 

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

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