Here are several whispers we've been hearing from around the NFC South:
• Buccaneers starting OLBs Quincy Black and Geno Hayes are not playing as well as the team had hoped they would. Part of the reason they haven't taken another step after solid showings last season has to do with the poor play of the defensive line, but even with a lack of help from the front four, we're told the team thinks the 'backers can play better.
• The Falcons have established some consistency on their coaching staff and on the roster since head coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff took over in 2008. While the vast majority of Atlanta's players were on the team last season, Falcons RB Michael Turner said the group seems more focused this year. "(We have) a pretty good opportunity to do something special," Turner told PFW. "We got to keep working hard every week."
• It looked like WR Devin Thomas would get an opportunity to quickly make an impact with the Panthers and prove to the Redskins that they made a bad decision by letting him go earlier this season, but he hasn't been active in a game since signing with Carolina Oct. 11. With rookie WRs David Gettis and Brandon LaFell showing signs of improvement, he could have a hard time working his way into the rotation.
• GM Mark Dominik said the play or rookie OG Ted Larsen and C Jeff Faine's progress while recovering from a quadriceps injury played a part in the decision to let first-string OG Keydrick Vincent go on Oct. 29. Don't be surprised if other Bucs veterans have their roles reduced as the season moves forward, as Tampa Bay is clearly looking to give its young talent opportunities to play more.