NFC South: 2014 NFL roster analysis

Most significant move: The team released Eric Page, who handled the return duties last year. This is a pretty clear sign that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go with undrafted rookie Solomon Patton as their primary return man. Page was reliable but unspectacular. Patton has the potential to be more explosive.

Surprise, surprise: Most fans thought wide receiver Tommy Streeter would make it to the final cut and maybe even make the roster. That's because Streeter had flashed promise early in camp and caught a touchdown pass in the first preseason game. But Streeter’s shot at a roster spot was doomed because he didn’t have the tools or experience to play regularly on special teams.

What’s next: The Bucs have to trim their roster to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.

Bucs' cuts: Released OT Matt Patchan, OT J.B. Shugarts, CB Deveron Carr, WR Tommy Streeter, LS Jeremy Cain, DT Euclid Cummings, G Jace Daniels, WR Skye Dawson, OL Jason Foster, DE Ryne Giddins, G R.J. Mattes, WR Eric Page, DE Chaz Sutton, QB Alex Tanney and FB Ian Thompson. Placed CB Danny Gorrer on injured reserve. Claimed CB Marc Anthony and G Jeremiah Warren off waivers.
Most significant move: Releasing linebacker Victor Butler was a small surprise, but a huge shame. I was one of many analysts who thought the pass-rush specialist could have a huge impact when he joined the New Orleans Saints last year, following defensive coordinator Rob Ryan from Dallas. Unfortunately, Butler missed all of last season with a torn ACL, then he missed three weeks of training camp this year with an ankle injury. In the meantime, the Saints continued to develop two other breakout pass-rushers in Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette. Hopefully Butler can get healthy and get another opportunity somewhere, because he’s an energetic, well-liked guy who showed a ton of promise before the injuries.

One-year wonders: I was equally surprised to see the Saints release second-year linebacker Kevin Reddick, who had been a mainstay on all of their special teams units last season and this preseason. But it goes to show how much depth the Saints have at linebacker. This probably guarantees that guys such as Keyunta Dawson and Kyle Knox will make the team and maybe open up a spot for undrafted rookie Kasim Edebali. ... Cornerback Rod Sweeting also got cut after spending all of last season on the roster as an undrafted rookie. And 2013 sixth-round pick Rufus Johnson Jr. got waived as well -- less surprising after both had fallen behind in the pecking order throughout the summer.

What’s next: Two of the most compelling battles that will be decided by week’s end are at backup quarterback (Luke McCown vs. Ryan Griffin) and kicker (Shayne Graham vs. Derek Dimke). It’s starting to look more and more like McCown will win the backup job. If that happens, the Saints will probably keep three quarterbacks since they like Griffin’s long-term potential. ... I don’t anticipate any more veteran surprises, but you can never rule them out. If I had to make my final roster projection right now, I’d have four guys battling for the last three spots (McCown, Edebali, safety Marcus Ball and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick).

Saints' cuts: LB Victor Butler, LB Kevin Reddick, DE Rufus Johnson Jr., CB Rod Sweeting, S Ty Zimmerman, DE George Uko, WR Andy Tanner (injured), QB Logan Kilgore, TE Travis Beckum, OT Manase Foketi, OT Ty Nsekhe (injured).
Most significant move: Carolina thought so much of wide receiver Tiquan Underwood in free agency that it gave him a two-year deal that included a $300,000 signing bonus. The hope was he would replace Ted Ginn Jr. as the speed receiver and possibly double as a return specialist. It never happened. Underwood continued to show the inconsistencies as a receiver that have plagued him throughout his career. For every good catch he made in practice, he had at least one drop, and he was cut for the ninth time in his career.

Wild card: Wide receiver Marvin McNutt was mentioned as a young player the Panthers wanted to get a good look at when they released Steve Smith in March. He never was a factor in being among the top six. Kealoha Pilares was listed as the No. 1 kickoff returner halfway through training camp in Spartanburg, but he never did anything as a receiver to justify wasting a spot on the roster.

What's next: You'd think the Panthers would scour the waiver wires looking for a return specialist who also can play wide receiver. Not so quick. Coach Ron Rivera says he likes undrafted rookie Philly Brown as a returner and sees potential in the former Ohio State star as a receiver. Brown has the speed the Panthers were looking for in Underwood, and he'll cost a lot less. That being said, I still wouldn't be surprised to see the Panthers take a shot at somebody when final cuts are made.

Panthers moves: Released -- WR Tiquan Underwood, WR Toney Clemons, P Jordan Gay, DT Linden Gaydosh, DE Alex Hall, T Oscar Johnson, WR Marvin McNutt, LB Anthony Morales, WR Kealoha Pilares, DE Craig Roh. PUP -- WR De'Andre Presley. IR -- QB Matt Blanchard, TE D.C. Jefferson, C Kevin Matthews.

 
Most significant move: The most eye-opening move had nothing to do with a player getting released. It was offensive lineman Mike Johnson being placed on injured reserve after suffering a foot injury during Saturday night's preseason loss to Tennessee. Johnson was on IR last season and made his way back. He was used as the extra tackle against the Titans, then suffered the foot injury. Maybe he had a chance to make the 53-man for depth following Sam Baker's season-ending knee injury, but Johnson was on the bubble and struggling in practice.

Wild card: Again, there were no real surprises, but you thought maybe undrafted quarterback Jeff Mathews would get a longer look in the final preseason game Thursday night. Instead, he was let go. The Falcons liked his size (6-foot-4) and his intelligence coming out of Cornell. Mathews seemed to be at least a top practice-squad candidate, but maybe not anymore. The Falcons are likely to keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, so maybe they want to get one more look at the Sean Renfree-T.J. Yates battle, although Renfree seems to have the backup job behind Matt Ryan.

What’s next: The Falcons have some interesting decisions to make after facing the Jacksonville Jaguars in the final preseason game. They have to determine how many receivers they want to keep with undrafted rookies Geraldo Boldewijn and Bernard Reedy trying to make a final push. They have to decide how many defensive backs they want to keep. And they have to keep in mind depth concerns at linebacker and along the offensive line. Some other players to keep an eye on in terms of fighting for jobs include safety Sean Baker, outside linebacker Tyler Starr and defensive tackle Travian Robertson.

Falcons moves: IR: OL Mike Johnson (foot), LB Marquis Spruill (ACL); PUP: WR Drew Davis (foot), S Zeke Motta (neck); Released: S Tyrell Johnson; Waived: DE Theo Agnew, LB Brenden Daley, LB Darin Drakeford, S Devonta Glover-Wright, WR Julian Jones, QB Jeff Mathews, LB Walker May, RB Jerome Smith, WR Tramaine Thompson, TE Brian Wozniak.

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NFC SOUTH SCOREBOARD

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