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July 10, 2009

Jimmy Espy: Falcons' rivals were busy at work, too

The Atlanta Falcons weren’t the only NFC South team making key offseason moves.

The following is a look at what the Birds’ three division opponents did and didn’t accomplish since the end of last season.



Carolina

The Panthers’ biggest success was getting left tackle Jordan Gross signed to a long contract, which allowed them to franchise star defensive end Julius Peppers, who recently signed a one-year contract.

That was huge for Carolina as Peppers is one of the most talented ends in football and the team’s only proven pass rusher.

The Panthers went after another pass rusher with their top pick in the draft. They took Florida State end Everett Brown. Brown is smallish and may wind up at linebacker, but he has a strong college pedigree.

Not so impressive was the team’s next pick, defensive back Sherrod Martin. He’ll get a look at cornerback and safety. The Panthers added depth with their third-round pick (Georgia defensive tackle Corey Irvin) and their first fourth-rounder, running back Mike Goodson. Neither is expected to start right away, but the team would love to see Irvin step up and be their third tackle.

Carolina’s second fourth-rounder may turn out to be their best pick. Don’t be surprised if fullback Tony Fiammetta quickly moves into a starting role.

For a playoff team, the Panthers went into the offseason with a lot of needs and only some were filled.

They could still use a better weapon at tight end, a talented, young wide receiver to push veteran Mushin Muhammad and as much defensive depth as they can find.

Carolina is built to pound you with the running game and they should be able to do that, but to win big they need more help at the receiving positions.

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