South Links: Richardson, Phillips, Vaccaro

Despite averaging just 2.9 yards per carry in 2013, Trent Richardson is penciled in as the Colts’ No. 1 running back, writes ESPN’s Mike Wells: “Richardson obviously was behind the rest of his teammates after being acquired just days before the Colts’ Week 3 game against San Francisco, but he didn’t show much progress as the season went on. He actually regressed as the season went on. Richardson has to step up to not only avoid being labeled a bust after being taken with the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, but also to help the Colts from looking like they got played by the Browns in the trade.” In exchange for Richardson, the Browns received the 26th overall pick, which they used to trade up for Johnny Manziel.

Here’s some more AFC and NFC South links:

  • Shaun Phillips is fitting in well with the Titans thanks to his veteran presence and likable personality, writes Jim Wyatt in the Tennessean. Phillips, 33, has totaled 19.5 sacks the last two seasons with the Broncos and Chargers. He signed a two-year, $5MM deal in Tennessee.
  • Second-year Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro brings unique “duality” to the secondary, writes’s Gregg Rosenthal, who identifies Vaccaro as a rising star. Vaccaro’s versatile skill set enables defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to deploy him as a safety, cornerback or linebacker. “Ryan might have asked Vaccaro to do too much as a rookie,” according to Rosenthal. “In the first half of the season, Vaccaro didn’t excel when he lined up as a deep safety. The Saints have spoken this offseason about dialing back Vaccaro’s responsibilities with Jairus Byrd in town. With Byrd taking most of the traditional “free safety” roles, Vaccaro should be freed up to play closer to the line of scrimmage. They should be the best safety tandem east of Seattle.”
  • The Panthers turned over their receiving corps this offseason. With the dust settled, first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin is joined surrounded by a few veterans and a few more unproven players vying for jobs. staff writer Max Henson provided a position preview.
  • Reid Ferrin of did the same for the Falcons receiving corps, which has significantly more star power and significantly fewer question marks.
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