Thursday, July 12, 2018
NFC South Q&A: Who will be the division’s MVP?
Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: All the uproar regarding wide receiver Julio Jones and his contract situation has the potential to affect the Falcons negatively. But one can bet a solution will be found before the start of the season, meaning Jones will be a happy camper. When healthy, Jones is arguably the most dominant receiving threat in the league with his combination of size and speed. Although everyone wants to dissect how Jones working out with NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens could be a bad thing, what if Jones picks up something from Owens that elevates his game to yet another level? There has been talk in the past of Jones becoming the NFL’s first-ever 2,000-yard receiver. Wouldn’t this be a great time for Jones to have a career year in yards and touchdowns and silence all those who doubted his contract stance?
David Newton, Carolina Panthers reporter: Jones. Adding rookie Calvin Ridley to the mix will make it tough for opponents to consistently double up on Jones. Get Jones more touchdowns (only three last season and nine over the past two) to go along with what should be a fifth straight season of more than 1,400 yards receiving, and it’ll be hard to deny him the MVP in a division that has three MVP-caliber quarterbacks — Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. Of course, if Jones has a huge season, Ryan likely will as well, so it could come down to one of them.
Mie Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: Defensive end Cameron Jordan, Saints. I could make a strong case for several Saints here — including Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Marshon Lattimore, not to mention NFC South rivals like Newton, Ryan, Jones and Mike Evans. And let’s face it, if this was a real award it would probably go to one of the quarterbacks. But I’m going with Jordan, because I’m picking the Saints to win the division and because I still feel like he was the most overlooked key to their success last season — despite being named a first-team All-Pro for the first time. Jordan’s 2017 season was spectacular, with what he called a “triple-double” (13 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 11 passes defensed — not to mention an interception for a touchdown). The only other NFL player to post a triple-double over the past decade is J.J. Watt.
Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter: All the pieces are in place for Brees to have an MVP-caliber season. He’s 1,496 yards from breaking Peyton Manning’s 71,940 career-passing record, and he’ll continue to thrive with Thomas, who’s coming off a Pro Bowl year. Plus, the screen game is thriving with Kamara, which allows Brees to continue getting rid of the ball quickly. The Saints also feature one of the best offensive lines in the league and arguably the best offensive line in the NFC South. He’ll remain upright and protected as long as he’s playing behind center Max Unger.