NFC South preseason player grades, Week 2


Preseason football is here -- and while wins and losses mean nothing, individual performances can mean everything. As the preseason slate progresses, Bucky Brooks will be assessing the performances of notable players, handing out grades to provide context for the prior week's on-field action.

Below, find report cards for one key player from each NFC South team following Week 2's preseason action.


ATLANTA FALCONS: De'Vondre Campbell, linebacker. The Falcons could enter the season featuring a pair of rookie starters at linebacker, with second-round pick Deion Jones and fourth-round pick Campbell playing like mad men on the second level. While most observers assumed Jones would crack the starting lineup, the rapid ascension of Campbell has been a bit of a surprise. The ultra-explosive athlete has all of the physical tools to be an exceptional weak-side defender, but his instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills are what have earned rave reviews from Falcons officials. Campbell put those traits on display against the Browns on Thursday in a two-tackle effort that also featured a pass break-up and a lot of activity near the line of scrimmage. If he continues to fly around and put big hits on runners in the hole, Campbell will team with Jones to give the Falcons a nice 1-2 punch on the second level. GRADE: B

CAROLINA PANTHERS: Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver. The return of the Panthers' WR1 after a season lost to an ACL tear should help the passing game become more explosive in 2016. Benjamin, who made one catch for 5 yards in the preseason opener, continued to show no ill effects from his knee injury on the way to snagging two receptions for 29 yards against the Titans on Saturday. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound pass catcher used his superior size-strength combination to pull in a pair of Bang-8s from Cam Newton. Benjamin plucked the balls in a crowd and didn't show any hesitation venturing between the hashes with multiple defenders around. He still needs a little more time to work through the rust of a lengthy layoff, but Benjamin will make the Panthers a scarier offense to face this season. GRADE: B

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: P.J. Williams, cornerback. There weren't many bright spots in the Saints' loss to the Texans on Saturday, but the impressive play of Williams on the island should encourage team officials that the former third-round pick is ready to fill the CB1 role in the back end after missing 2015 with a hamstring injury. Williams challenged Texans receivers at every turn, exhibiting terrific feet, hips and hands in press and zone coverage. Although he gave up a touchdown to Will Fuller on a fade, the second-year pro got his hands on a couple of balls, including an end-zone pick of Brock Osweiler in the second quarter. If Williams can continue to make strides under the tutelage of former Pro Bowl CB and current Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn, he could be one of the league's biggest surprises as a first-year starter. GRADE: A-

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Roberto Aguayo, kicker. The Buccaneers' second-round pick was supposed to be money from inside the 40, based on his nearly flawless college résumé, but Aguayo is having a tough time putting the ball through the uprights as a pro. After missing a PAT a week ago, the rookie misfired on a pair of field-goal tries from reasonable distances (32 yards and 49 yards) against the Jaguars on Saturday. Given how much the team invested in Aguayo's services (the high pick, plus a four-year contract guaranteeing $1.5 million), the Buccaneers need their rookie kicker to find his confidence and rhythm before the regular season starts. GRADE: F



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