- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time to take a quick run through the top Thursday morning headlines from around the NFC South.
Without verbally criticizing officials, which could lead to a fine by the NFL, New Orleans coach Sean Payton questioned a call Monday night in which defensive end Will Smith was flagged for a roughing-the-passer penalty on a hit against Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Payton has a right to question that one. Replays pretty clearly showed that Smith’s helmet did not make contact with Manning.
Scott Fowler writes about former Carolina coach John Fox, kicker John Kasay and quarterback Jake Delhomme have landed on their feet. Kasay is kicking well in New Orleans, which isn’t a surprise, despite his advanced age. Delhomme just signed with Houston, after the Texans had a couple injuries at quarterback and will try to recapture some of the magic that suddenly disappeared in a playoff loss to Arizona at the end of the 2008 season. Perhaps the biggest story of all has been Fox. He suddenly has found success in Denver, while playing quarterback Tim Tebow, who might be the most unconventional quarterback the league has seen in decades. That’s one of the most ironic stories the league has league has seen in decades because Fox used to be the most conventional coach you’ve ever seen. But Fox is suddenly thriving because he’s adapted, something he never was willing to do in Carolina.
The New Orleans offensive line has not allowed quarterback Drew Brees to be sacked in the last three games. Brees is very good under any circumstances. When he isn’t being pressured at all, Brees is capable of carving up a defense.
Although Carolina linebacker Omar Gaither has returned to practice, coach Ron Rivera said Jordan Senn has earned another start on the weak side. I like the call. Senn has shown some promising signs. He also is young. Gaither is a veteran and it’s obvious he’s an average player, at best. The Panthers obviously aren’t going to the playoffs this season, so why not take an extended look at Senn?
New Orleans running back Chris Ivory was a healthy scratch Monday night, but coach Sean Payton said that doesn’t mean the Saints will use just the rotation of Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas the rest of the way. That’s the beauty of Payton’s offense. He could elect to play Ivory at any time and give him a lot of carries. That also is the beauty of having depth, something the Saints lacked at running back last season.
Atlanta’s Will Svitek has done a nice job since taking over at left tackle for an injured Sam Baker. Svitek, who previously had worked as backup at both tackle spots and at guard, said focusing on one position has made his job easier. Baker still is not fully healthy after dealing with an injured back. Don’t look for Svitek to return to a reserve role anytime soon.
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said he’s not dwelling on job security. That’s a healthy approach in his line of work. But it’s fairly obvious Morris needs to get his team off a five-game losing streak and win some games down the stretch. The Bucs already have picked up Morris’ contract option for 2012. However, lame-duck coaches are rare in the NFL. If Morris wins some late-season games and the Bucs show some promise, he likely will get a contract extension. If not, he could be fired. It just isn’t a good idea to let a coach go into a season without a contract beyond that year. Just look back at what happened with Fox in Carolina in 2010.