Among all the divisions in the NFL, the NFC South had the biggest transformation of their teams. Each team added key players in key positions that needed to be addressed from the previous season. These are positions that either limited teams from appearing in the NFC Playoffs or kept them from continuing their run. The New Orleans Saints were the winners of the NFC South but even they had key weaknesses on their team. This off-season, each team added high-volume offensive players to their roster. Every team in the NFC South will rely on their offensive playmakers in a highly competitive division. There will be significant weaknesses that were not resolved during the 2020 free agency or the 2020 NFL Draft that could derail their season. Here are the biggest weaknesses for all teams in the NFC South.
Biggest NFC South Team Weaknesses in 2020
Atlanta Falcons – Lack of Pass Rush
Much like the past numerous seasons, the lack of a significant pass rush has plagued the Falcons’ defense. Last season, the Falcons accounted for 28 sacks, which were tied for 29th in the league. Atlanta did not do much to address their pass rush especially after losing two of their top three pass rushers. Outside linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. (eight sacks) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (four sacks) are both gone via free agency. Their top returning sackers are second-team All-Pro defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (7.5 sacks) and defensive end Takkarist McKinley (3.5).
The Falcons did not address their problem in the 2020 NFL Draft by drafting Auburn Tigers defensive end Marlon Davidson as they will transition him to a defensive tackle. The sole action they’ve taken for their pass rush is acquiring former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. Fowler is coming off his best season this past season by accounting for 16 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. If McKinley continues to underwhelm expectations, it will only be Fowler and Garrett creating the pass rush.
Carolina Panthers – Lack of Solid Pass Protection
Last season, the Carolina Panthers were tied for first in the league in sacks allowed (58). This made them one of the worst offensive line units in the league as their quarterback Cam Newton was facing constant pressure and hits. During the off-season, the Panthers traded their Pro Bowl-caliber Trai Turner to the Los Angeles Chargers for two-time Pro Bowl tackle Russell Okung. Last season, Okung only played in six games this past season for the Chargers. Okung has not played a full season in his career since his only season with the Denver Broncos.
The Panthers needed to solve an answer of their edge protectors with their starters being young. Okung will bring experience and more reliability in their pass protection. The Panthers spent all seven selections of the 2020 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball. Among one of the position units on the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line still needed to be adjusted. The Panthers allowed a total of 75 hurries all season long from the opposing defense. Even if Okung plays back to his Pro Bowl standard in 2017, the rest of the offensive line might struggle with Teddy Bridgewater as their new starting quarterback.
New Orleans Saints – Depth and Efficiency From Linebackers
Through the past couple of seasons, the New Orleans Saints have established themselves as a team with a solid defense. Last season, the Saints were ranked 13th in the league in points allowed per game (21.3) because of their stout defensive line. The weakest areas of their defense were their secondary, outside of Marshon Lattimore, and their health and consistency of their linebackers. During the off-season, the Saints re-signed Janoris Jenkins, signed Deatrick Nichols, and cut loose Eli Apple. The Saints drafted Wisconsin Badgers outside linebacker Zack Baun in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Saints lost their starting outside linebacker A.J. Klein to the Buffalo Bills. Last season, Klein accounted for 69 total tackles (third-highest on the team). Their other outside linebacker in Alex Anzalone suffered a season-ending shoulder injury early in the season. Manti Te’o and Craig Robertson underperformed last season. While the defense was more efficient in stopping the run last season, the Saints’ defense gave up 2,801 total passing yards. This was the sixth-most allowed passing yards from wide receivers by a defense despite the Saints being ranked 20th in pass defense (241.8 passing yards per game). Their linebackers will need the remaining off-season for their linebackers to get more efficient in defending the passing game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Stopping the Opposing Passing Offense
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the team with the biggest transformation this NFL off-season. Tampa Bay took the time to address the biggest issues on their team on the offensive side of the ball. The only major measures that the Buccaneers addressed on the defensive side of the ball is acquiring two veteran defensive ends in Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul. Tampa Bay drafted a gifted tackler in Minnesota Golden Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay didn’t acquire a consistent defensive back in free agency. Last season, Tampa Bay’s defense ranked 30th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (270.1).
The Buccaneers have a solid starting cornerback in Carlton Davis, who accumulated 60 total tackles, 54 solo tackles, and 19 pass deflections. Outside of Davis, there is not a clear contributor for the Buccaneers’ secondary to make them an average defense. Last season, the Buccaneers allowed the most passing yards by the opposing offense’s wide receiver with 3,176 yards. The Bucs don’t have much time for them to acquire a reliable cornerback before the start of training camp.