By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 16, 2002
This is a weekly update compiled by Times NFL writer Darrell Fry on the Bucs' new opponents in the NFC South:
CAROLINA: The Panthers have been experimenting with rookie defensive end Julius Peppers at various positions.
First, coaches tried to decide if he would be more effective at right end or left. They tried him at outside linebacker and inside, and he impressed at both.
Peppers' speed and pass-rushing skills will be maximized by rushing him from different positions, giving opposing blockers fits trying to decide where Peppers is coming from next.
NEW ORLEANS: The Saints continue to lose quality players, largely for salary-cap reasons.
The latest departure is linebacker Keith Mitchell, whose release reportedly will save $3.85-million in cap room during the next two seasons.
That's the good news.
The bad news is Mitchell, who made the 2000 Pro Bowl team, is the team's fourth Pro Bowl player to leave. Others were offensive tackle William Roaf, defensive tackle La'Roi Glover and defensive end Joe Johnson.
The Saints have made little progress in signing quality free agents to replace the departed stars. Their next likely signing? Would you believe Dirk Johnson, a rookie who has led NFL Europe in punting average?
ATLANTA: The Falcons held a minicamp last week and quarterback Michael Vick reportedly looked decent, but not dazzling. Apparently his passes were a tad off. Even he noticed: "I think I'll throw better as we go along and move into training camp."
In preparation for Vick's first season as starter, the team has simplified the playbook, making the terminology easier to understand. And it's doing wonders for Vick's confidence: "I'm just so comfortable in the huddle. Last year with all the hieroglyphics, it was crazy, man."
What does former Bucs, now Falcons, running back Warrick Dunn think? "To not want to come here and be a part of it would be crazy. I think the way they want to utilize him suits my style -- spreading the field."
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.
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