NFC South Q&A: Who is the best newcomer in the division?
Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: Defensive tackle Dontari Poe, Carolina. A two-time Pro Bowler who last played for the Falcons, Poe will make a strong impact for the Panthers. Poe played his role with the Falcons last season by eating up blocks and stuffing the run. He’s capable of doing more, and sharp-minded Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington is a master of getting the most out of his defensive linemen with his background as a defensive line coach. Poe’s arrival helps soften the loss of Star Lotulelei to the Buffalo Bills. With the return of future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers, the emergence of pass-rusher Mario Addison and the presence of always intimidating Kawann Short, the Panthers have the characters to dominate up front.
David Newton, Carolina Panthers reporter: Receiver D.J. Moore, Panthers. This comes down to a wide receiver. Atlanta selected Alabama’s Calvin Ridley in the first round two picks after the Panthers went with Moore. Both are going to be impact players, but Moore will have a bigger impact on a group of receivers that has been overhauled with the exception of Devin Funchess. Throw his speed, ability to create separation and run-after-the-catch ability into the mix with Funchess and Torrey Smith, and Moore is going to create problems for opponents that Carolina simply couldn’t create a year ago.
Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, Buccaneers. This was a big year for bold moves to acquire edge rushers in the NFC South. The Saints made a huge trade in the draft when they moved up 13 spots in Round 1 to select Marcus Davenport — a raw, small-school defensive end with tantalizing upside. But they can only hope Davenport develops into the same type of player Pierre-Paul has been over the past eight seasons after he himself was a raw first-round pick from Central Florida in 2010. The Buccaneers traded a third-round pick to acquire Pierre-Paul from the New York Giants, and they’ll absorb the remaining three years and $39.5 million of his contract. The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder is no longer playing at his peak level at age 29, but he still had 8.5 sacks for the Giants last season. The Bucs felt it was worth the hefty cost to help put more pressure on NFC South quarterbacks Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan. Beefing up the pass rush was so important to the Bucs that they also signed another top free-agent edge rusher — Vinny Curry.
Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: I think Bucs’ first-round draft pick Vita Vea is the most intriguing newcomer. At 6-foot-4, 347 pounds, you’d think he was nothing more than a space-eater up the middle, taking on double-teams to free up Gerald McCoy. But if you pop in Vea’s tape from college, he’s a monster who is always in the backfield, and he’s really, really athletic for his size. “That dude, in college, was dictating the game,” Bucs offensive line coach George Warhop said. “I remember one play, I think it was against Washington State, they threw a screen to the receiver to the right, and he’s down the field and you see this big body about 30 yards downfield making the play. That was him. I’m like, ‘He [weighs] 300-whatever doing that. That’s really impressive.'”