Last Word on Sports has started another new series! As we prepare for the preseason and for rosters to take shape, we look at the top performers on offense in the NFC South in 2022. This division is split right down the middle when discussing competitiveness. The Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons are currently rebuilding their rosters for the future, looking for young talent to build around. On the other side of the coin, the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to take advantage of their championship windows before they close. This exercise uses 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end) for their offensive projections.
2022 NFC South All-Division Team: The Offense
Quarterback: Tom Brady, Buccaneers
The easiest decision in this exercise is that the top signal-caller in the NFC South is Tom Brady. The Bucs are in their playoff window mainly because of Brady’s leadership and ability to consistently play as a top-five quarterback in the NFL. Brady has been playing long enough, so he can read most coverages without a second thought while also possessing the arm strength to stretch the field vertically. The other three teams in this division have not had the same fortune with their quarterback situations.
Year 23 in the league, days away from age 45.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) July 27, 2022
Running Back: Alvin Kamara, Saints
To understand Alvin Kamara’s impact on the New Orleans offense, look no further than last year’s statistics. In his 13 games, he amassed 1337 yards from scrimmage. Good for 13th in the league. Unfortunately, his luck took a turn for the worst as he will be serving a suspension for what seems to be six games for his arrest this off-season. When Kamara is on the field, he has been the archetype for the new feature back in the NFL. The Saints utilize Kamara anywhere on the field to conjure up matchup nightmares. Kamara can be lined up on the outside one-on-one against a linebacker or put in motion to give him a headstart around the edges.
Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas, Saints
Michael Thomas hasn’t had a receiving room like this in his entire career. Even in the year when he went for over 1,700 yards, his running mate was Ted Ginn, Jr. While Ginn, Jr. was an effective deep threat, the speedy Chris Olave should serve as a much more viable threat. Not to mention having to account for Jarvis Landry and his ability to run after the catch. The intermediate part of the field is left wide open for Thomas to exploit. If Winston and Thomas gel quickly, this could spell problems for the rest of the division.
Michael Thomas comeback szn 😎
— PFF (@PFF) August 2, 2022
Wide Receiver: Mike Evans, Buccaneers
This off-season has spelled a recognition of Mike Evans and his insane production despite his carousel at the quarterback position. Eight 1,000-yard seasons and counting. Expect another one this year as his running mates haven’t changed, and his legendary quarterback remains the same. Evans’ ability to get open from both the slot and outside makes him one of the more dangerous targets in the league. Not to mention his 6’5” frame and outlandish catch radius.
Slot Wide Receiver: D.J. Moore, Panthers
While it may say slot receiver, D.J. Moore has been an offensive weapon for the Panthers since he came out of Maryland. With McCaffery indisposed the last two seasons due to injury, Moore has been the focal point of the Carolina attack. Moore’s speed and body control make him one of the filthiest route runners in the division. His acceleration once he hits the open field makes him a threat near the line of scrimmage via screen passes and other quick passing game tactics.
It was tough not to put Chris Godwin here as he has been a force since he came out of Penn State in 2017. However, with the volume that Moore will see in the passing game, he should have more of an impact.
Tight End: Kyle Pitts, Falcons
The unicorn is ready for year two! Kyle Pitts will be the focal point of this positionless offense that Arthur Smith will implement. Pitts can make plays from the slot to in-line to outside. As effective as he was in his rookie year, missing Mike Ditka’s rookie yards record by 50 yards, he did not hit the end zone but once against the New York Jets in London. However, this season is shaping to be a breakout one for him. With Drake London and Cordarrelle Patterson taking some of the heat off of Pitts, he should reach the end zone more than in his rookie campaign.
Kyle Pitts against Linebackers should be illegal.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 2, 2022
Left Tackle: Donovan Smith, Buccaneers
Donovan Smith is not the best road-grater in the run game. His 69.9 PFF grade is a middle-of-the-road mark for tackles. However, his ability to keep Tom Brady upright made him one of the top pass protectors for an offense in the NFC South. Jake Matthews was close to taking this spot, but he did not have the same chops as a pass protector that Smith showed. That could be due to the quality of the running mates next to him, but Smith won the day.
Left Guard: Brady Christensen, Panthers
The fact that Christensen is still searching for his position and is still the best left guard the NFC South has to offer on offense in 2022 says a lot. Jalen Mayfield had an almost-record-breaking horrid year at the left guard position. Andrus Peat of the Saints was horrid when he played last season and is the starter this season. The Bucs signed Aaron Stinnie to the team, but Stinnie has not cemented his status as second-round pick Luke Goedke is looking to supplant him. Christensen has shown the Carolina Panthers his worth all across the line and may help Ikem Okwanu as he takes his early lumps in the NFL.
Only matter of time before Brady Christensen is a Panthers starting OT – but where?
He's played mostly RT in preseason – but that's Taylor Moton spot (#5 on @BrandonThornNFL RT ranking). I'd like to see some LT reps next week – take Cam Ervings job
Fantastic reps 1-on-1 vs Oweh pic.twitter.com/kVgsgVSuxD
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 23, 2021
Center: Bradley Bozeman, Panthers
The injury to Ryan Jensen makes the center position significantly weaker for the entire division. The addition of Bradley Bozeman is another sign of a slight rebuild to the Carolina Panthers and their offensive line. Bozeman shifted from the left guard position to center last season when he was a part of the Baltimore Ravens. The change helped Bozeman to his best year as a pro and hopefully more stability for the Panthers in the future.
Right Guard: Shaq Mason, Buccaneers
How the Patriots traded Shaq Mason to the Buccaneers in the off-season will always be a question. And for just a fifth-round pick, no less. But with the move, the Bucs solidify one of the best guards in the NFL. His pass protection is decent and is good enough to keep your offense moving in the right direction. But he is a force in the run game. He opened up lanes at will for the New England Patriots run game.
Right Tackle: Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers
The final component of this 2022 All-Division NFC South offense is one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Tristan Wirfs has solidified himself as one of the elite offensive linemen, let alone right tackles, in the NFL. According to PFF, Wirfs had a pressure rate of only 1.83% last season, a rate that led all offensive tackles. In 796 passing snaps played last season, he only allowed two sacks.