The NFL offseason is just about wrapped up as teams are now reporting to training camp to lay the groundwork for the 2023 regular season. And if you tuned out throughout the offseason, you may have a hard time recognizing the NFC South whenever you plug back in.
Almost every team within the division has gone through some rather seismic changes. Every one of these teams will likely have a different Week 1 starting quarterback than they did a year ago and one club has an entirely new coaching staff. With all that change, there are naturally going to be a lot of questions that'll need answering as we go through camp and the preseason, which is what we'll be diving into here.
Below, check out our three burning questions for each NFC South team that will need to be answered by the time the regular season kicks off.
Who will be the starting quarterback?
With Tom Brady retired, the Buccaneers have themselves a quarterback battle over the course of camp. It'll either be former second-round pick Kyle Trask or free agent signee Baker Mayfield leading Tampa Bay into this new era. Of course, Trask does have the institutional knowledge of being with the Bucs since 2021, but he lacks experience. The 25-year-old has thrown just nine passes throughout his career.
Meanwhile, Mayfield certainly doesn't lack experience. After being the No. 1 overall pick back in 2018 with the Browns, the 28-year-old has started 69 regular season games and two playoff matchups over his career. Mayfield has struggled in recent years, however, and went 2-8 as a starter between the Panthers and Rams last season. Trask may present more upside simply because he is more of an unknown while Mayfield provides a safer floor, making this an interesting decision for head coach Todd Bowles.
Is Devin White on board?
The star linebacker reportedlythis offseason, but the Buccaneers did not oblige. Instead, the team picked up his fifth-year option which will pay him $11.7 million for the 2023 season. GM Jason Licht also said that the franchise looks "forward to more from him in the future" indicating that they still view him as a long-term piece of the puzzle. But does White -- who did attend mandatory minicamp -- feel the same way? If the former No. 5 overall pick isn't on board with the direction Tampa Bay is going and/or seeks an extension that the team isn't offering, does this situation sour? It'll certainly be worth watching.
How will the offensive line shake out?
While Brady's departure and the quarterback battle that is set to unfold will garner most of the headlines, the offensive line has seen a massive reshuffling. Donovan Smith, Shaq Mason, and Josh Wells all left this offseason and, on top of that, the club is planning to move All-Pro tackle Tristin Wirfs to the left side after beginning his career at right tackle. With Wirfs going to play at blindside tackle, 2022 second-round pick Luke Goedeke is expected to move to right tackle while rookie Cody Mauch mans one of the guard spots. Tampa Bay also has Ryan Jensen coming back at center after missing the entire regular season due to a knee injury, albeit he was activated for the Bucs playoff loss to Dallas.
That's a lot of change for an offensive line and it'll behoove Tampa Bay to have that dialed in to give whoever lines up under center the best chance to succeed.
Is Bryce Young ready to start on Day 1?
The Panthers made one of the biggest moves of the offseason by trading up to the No. 1 overall pick to select Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Given how much the club gave up to bring Young aboard, the expectation is that he'll be able to suit up and start right away. While new head coach Frank Reich has yet to announce the Panthers' Week 1 starter, Young has seemingly impressed early in his Carolina tenure. During a strong showing on the first day of OTAs, Reich even noted that Young's command was "10 out of 10." If he continues to easily assimilate into the NFL throughout camp, it won't be long before Reich likely makes his eventual starting status official.
Which of the WRs emerges?
Part of the trade that landed the Panthers the No. 1 overall pick and the right to select Young included wideout D.J. Moore. Shipping him to Chicago was part of a massive overhaul at the wide receiver position for Carolina. On top of that move, the club also signed Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark in free agency while taking Jonathan Mingo in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Panthers also have carryover Terrace Marshall Jr. in their receiver unit. With a brand new coaching staff and quarterback, it will be fascinating to see which of this new crop can step up, assimilate into the offense and gain a rapport with Young early.
Is Jaycee Horn healthy?
When he's on the field, Jaycee Horn has already proven to be a star cornerback who should be able to help anchor Carolina's secondary. However, Horn consistently being available on a weekly basis hasn't been something the Panthers have enjoyed since drafting the South Carolina product No. 8 overall in 2021. Horn has played just 16 games over his first two years in the league and missed the bulk of OTAs and all of minicamp due to an injury to his left foot/ankle. The team did say back in early June that he is expected to be ready to go for training camp, but keeping him healthy is going to be a main objective if Carolina wants to seriously push for a division title.
Will Alvin Kamara be suspended?
This one is essentially out of New Orleans' hands, but worth monitoring regardless. Kamara recently pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge stemming from a prior altercation that occurred in Las Vegas hours after the 2022 Pro Bowl. He had his felony charge dismissed as a result of the no-contest plea and will have to do community service while also paying $100,000 to the victim for medical bills. While the legal aspect of this altercation does seem to be behind Kamara, the Saints back is still subject to punishment by the NFL under the league's personal conduct policy.
If he were to be suspended for any period of time, that would turn the Saints backfield on its head. So, it could be beneficial for the club to give free agent signee Jamaal Williams and third-round rookie Kendre Miller some added reps throughout camp so they are fully up to speed in the event they need to step into a bigger workload.
Is Michael Thomas healthy?
This does feel like an evergreen topic, right? After a record-setting season in 2019, things have gone downhill dramatically for Michael Thomas. The Saints wideout has played in just 10 games over the past three seasons, including three games last year before going down with a toe injury. Thomas, who underwent offseason surgery to repair the toe, said back in early June that he would be ready to go when New Orleans opens up training camp, so there is some optimism that he'll be able to contribute. Of course, staying healthy is what Thomas and the Saints will be aiming for. If he can do that and come close to the player he was before all the injuries, he forms a nice receiver duo with second-year wideout Chris Olave.
Will a change of scenery do Derek Carr good?
There's a new quarterback on Bourbon St. after the Saints were able to ink Derek Carr to a four-year, $150 million deal this offseason. As Carr makes the transition to New Orleans, it begs the question as to what type of quarterback the Saints are getting in the ex-Raider. Will this change of scenery reinvigorate him in a similar fashion to what happened with Matthew Stafford in L.A. or Tom Brady in Tampa (albeit minus the Lombardi Trophy expectations)? Or is he going to trend in the wrong direction and prove Las Vegas right for moving on from him? Training camp could set the tone for what's the come in New Orleans under center.
Is Desmond Ridder ready to seize the opportunity?
Desmond Ridder is coming into training camp as the presumptive QB1, setting the stage for the 2022 third-round pick's first season as the full-time starter. The Falcons were 2-2 in Ridder's four starts to end last season. While a .500 record doesn't exactly get Falcons fans jumping out of their seats, he did show promise as his passer rating improved in each of those four starts. That includes a regular season finale where he threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns with a 108.2 passer rating in a 30-17 win over the Bucs. Ridder has the opportunity to solidify himself as Atlanta's franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future if he has a productive season, so setting a strong foundation over the course of camp is imperative. Either that or veteran backup Taylor Heinicke comes in and the Falcons find themselves in QB disarray.
Is Kyle Pitts primed for a bounce-back season?
It was a disappointing year for tight end Kyle Pitts no matter which way you slice it. After a thousand-yard receiving season as a rookie, the former first-round pick was nearly a non-factor within the Falcons offense, averaging just 35.6 yards per game and catching less than half (47.5%) of his targets. On top of the subpar play, Pitts suffered a season-ending MCL injury in Week 11 that cut his sophomore campaign short. Naturally, his health will be one of the key storylines early in camp, but the tight end did recently post a workout video to his Instagram which showed him moving well. If healthy, Pitts does have himself a new quarterback delivering him the football, which could set the stage for a bounce-back season.
Who will start opposite A.J. Terrell?
The Falcons used a chunk of their cap space this offseason on the defensive side of the ball. One of the more interesting roster battles that will unfold during training camp resides in the secondary, specifically the starting job opposite of A.J. Terrell. Veteran corner Mike Hughes signed with the team back in March and the Falcons also traded for former Lions first-round pick Jeff Okudah this offseason as well. They will duke it out for the starting job along with fourth-round rookie Clark Phillips III and 2022 carryovers Darren Hall and Cornell Armstrong.