Even though we are far from the start of the season, it is never too early to predict who will be at the helm of the teams in arguably the NFL’s weakest division this coming season.
These four teams have been battling inconsistent-quarterback play, injuries, and ever-changing head coaches. However, three of the four teams believe they have their answer at Quarterback, while the other doesn’t know where to start after losing an all-time great to retirement.
Predicting QB1 in the NFC South
Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Ridder
The Atlanta Falcons look to move forward with second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder. The former University of Cincinnati quarterback looks to be the one to win the job, as there is little to no competition around him. The Falcons released then-starter Marcus Mariota to show more faith in Ridder.
The team added Bijan Robinson in this year’s draft to jumpstart the running game, and the offense still has playmakers in Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Ridder went 2-2 across four games started, with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. This year, Ridder will be able to operate in an offense tailored to his skill set. Hopefully, he can produce. Teammates have supported this move for the organization and, as far as we can see, believe in Ridder.
Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young
Currently, the starter is veteran Andy Dalton, who the Carolina Panthers brought in from the New Orleans Saints. However, Dalton understands that the organization’s future is this year’s number one draft pick, Bryce Young. The Panthers signed Dalton to a two-year deal as they intend to have Dalton help the rookie adjust to the play style of the NFL.
Fans should expect Young to showcase his ability in the preseason, and he will be starting come Week 1 of the NFL season. This new offense boasts Miles Sanders, Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, and Hayden Hurst, all brought in during free agency. The Panthers also drafted Johnathan Mingo, a 6’2″ speedster from Ole Miss, in the second round of this year’s draft. Young has the weapons and talent to take this team to the top of the NFC South.
New Orleans Saints: Derek Carr
After being released by the Las Vegas Raiders, quarterback Derek Carr headed to New Orleans on a four-year deal. He will presumably be QB1 ahead of Jameis Winston and rookie Jake Haener. In addition, Carr takes over an offense starring Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave, and (hopefully) Michael Thomas.
More importantly, Carr finally has some help defensively, something he didn’t while with the Raiders. The Saints QB1 situation has improved after dealing with a duo between Winston and now-Panther, Andy Dalton. Carr has lofty expectations as he takes the reins of an offense with many productive playmakers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Baker Mayfield
I expect a competitive quarterback battle during training camp that could extend into the preseason. Although, I believe the starter, at least for the beginning, will be Baker Mayfield, former Ram, Panther, and Brown. He has the most experience and did have a few productive games last year as a member of the Panthers and Rams.
However, Tampa Bay did little to improve this offseason but still has playmakers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. They also signed running back Chase Edmonds to pair up with Rachaad White after they decided not to re-sign Leonard Fournette. This offense has a plethora of weapons that whichever quarterback wins the starting position will have at their disposal.
The decision as to who will lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a trickier selection as the question remains. Between the two quarterbacks, who will be able to take control of a once unstoppable offense that won a Super Bowl just two years ago?
The NFC South has historically been near the bottom of the league since it was created in 2002. Although there have been some bright spots, all four teams have been to a Super Bowl since 2002, and two have won at least once. This year, Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans seem confident in their quarterback rooms. Tampa Bay looks like the odd man out after Brady’s retirement leaves them with a depleted room.
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