NFC South: A.J. Feeley

Saints looking for third QB

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
2:04
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While repeatedly saying he’s confident Drew Brees’ contract situation will be worked out, New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Thursday the Saints likely will add a third quarterback before the start of next week’s minicamp.

The Saints have gone through the early part of their offseason workouts with Chase Daniel working with the first team and only Sean Canfield behind him. Vitt said the Saints will work out some quarterbacks in the coming days.

Assuming the Brees situation eventually gets resolved, the Saints aren’t looking for a starter. That’s a good thing because there aren’t any real starters available at this time of year. The list of available guys is basically a list of guys that could provide an extra arm for minicamp and the rest of the offseason program.

The Saints previously worked out Brian Brohm and he could be a candidate. Tyler Palko and Mark Brunell have spent time with the Saints in the past and could be possibilities. But I don’t know that the Saints would want Brunnell because he’s 41. If you’re looking for a third arm, you might as well bring in a guy that at least has the potential to blossom in your system.

Another former Saint, Jake Delhomme, remains available. But Delhomme falls into the same category as Brunell. Same for Jeff Garcia.

After that, the list of available quarterbacks isn’t any more impressive. It includes guys like Luke McCown, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller, Kevin O’Connell, Dennis Dixon, A.J. Feeley, Brian St. Pierre, Jim Sorgi and J.T. O’Sullivan.

We’ll have more from Vitt, once I get a complete transcript of his media session later this afternoon. But I’ll give you one hint about something that’s coming. Defensive end Will Smith has been getting some work at defensive tackle. I’ll be back with more on what was said on that topic.

Wrap-up: Rams 31, Saints 21

October, 30, 2011
10/30/11
4:15
PM ET

Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 31-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

What it means: I’d like to say there’s no shame in losing to a St. Louis team that came into the game winless. But I can’t. I’d like to say there’s even less shame because the Rams were using future Hall of Famer A.J. Feeley at quarterback instead of the injured Sam Bradford. But I can’t. I’d also like to say there’s no shame in not scoring an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter when you’ve got Drew Brees and a world of offensive talent going against a defense that hadn’t been stopping anybody this season. But I can’t. Quite simply, the Saints can’t afford to lose a game like this if they want to go to the Super Bowl. But they did. They could have been waltzing away with the NFC South race. Now, they’ve opened the door for Atlanta and Tampa Bay. There’s no other word to describe this one besides shameful. Well, unless you want to go with “embarrassing.’’ Take your pick.

Stat of the day: The Saints were held scoreless in the first half. That’s the first time that’s happened to them since a 2007 game against Tampa Bay.

The streak lives on: It didn't come until the final seconds, but Brees extended his streak of games with at least one touchdown pass to 35. That's the third longest streak in NFL history. Brett Favre is No. 2 at 36 games and Jonny Unitas is No. 1 at 47 games.

Prediction time: I’ll just about guarantee you Zach Strief will be back in the starting lineup at right tackle the next time the Saints take to the field. Strief’s been out with a knee injury, but was back at practice last week. The Saints might have been playing it a little cautious on Strief and they continued to start Charles Brown in his place. Brown had been doing pretty well, but not against the Rams. I saw Brown give up at least two sacks.

Mystery of the day: Yeah, I know the Saints fell behind and it’s common to abandon the running game when that happens. But the Saints never really used the running game before things got out of hand. They barely ran the trio of Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas against a St. Louis defense that had been having lots of problems stopping the run. And the Saints can’t use Mark Ingram’s absence (due to a bruised heel) as an excuse. Ivory was their leading rusher last season and Sproles and Thomas had been running well this season.

What’s next: The Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome. The Bucs beat the Saints in Tampa in early October and I’m sure there is some residual anger among the New Orleans players and coaches. Throw in the natural anger of the embarrassing loss to St. Louis and the Saints should be very motivated for the Bucs. If they’re not, they’ve got real problems.

NFC South: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
10:27
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Atlanta Falcons

Potential unrestricted free agents: CB Brian Williams, WR Marty Booker, QB Chris Redman.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Jason Snelling, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, CB Brent Grimes, OL Quinn Ojinnaka, T Tyson Clabo, G Harvey Dahl.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: General manager Thomas Dimitroff repeatedly has used the phrase “fiscally responsible’’ when talking about the approach to free agency. In other words, the Falcons aren’t going to go on some wild spending spree. This organization prefers to build through the draft. But history has shown the Falcons aren’t afraid to make a strategic strike or two in free agency. They have a huge need at defensive end and that’s a tough spot to get guaranteed production from when you’ve got the No. 19 overall pick in the draft. The Falcons aren’t likely to target elite free-agent DE Julius Peppers, but you could see them make a move for another pass-rusher.

Carolina Panthers

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Julius Peppers, WR Muhsin Muhammad, QB Josh McCown, QB A.J. Feeley.

Potential restricted free agents: LB Thomas Davis, QB Matt Moore, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall, DT Louis Leonard, LB James Anderson, DT Tank Tyler, CB C.J. Wilson.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: Owner Jerry Richardson is very concerned about the uncertain labor situation and that may keep him from spending big money in free agency. The Panthers avoided a $20 million hit by not placing the franchise tag on Peppers, but that doesn’t mean all of that money is going to be used in free agency. The Panthers traditionally are a team that builds through the draft and they didn’t sign a single UFA last year. But look for at least a few smaller moves because coach John Fox has to win this year and needs to improve this roster, especially on the defensive line, at wide receiver and perhaps at quarterback.

New Orleans Saints

Potential unrestricted free agents: QB Mark Brunell, S Darren Sharper, TE Dan Campbell, TE Darnell Dinkins, DT Kendrick Clancy, LB Scott Fujita, S Pierson Prioleau, LS Jason Kyle.

Potential restricted free agents: G Jahri Evans, RB Mike Bell, RB Pierre Thomas, WR Lance Moore, TE David Thomas, T Jermon Bushrod, S Roman Harper, S Usama Young, DT Remi Ayodele, DT Anthony Hargrove, T Zach Strief, S Chris Reis, WR Courtney Roby, LB Marvin Mitchell.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: As a final-four team the Saints aren’t allowed to sign any unrestricted free agents unless they lose one of their own at a similar price tag. That’s likely to keep the Saints from being big players in free agency. But the good news is they don’t have a lot of dramatic needs. They will have to keep a protective eye on some of their restricted free agents, who may draw interest from other teams.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Potential unrestricted free agents: WR Antonio Bryant, DE Jimmy Wilkerson, S Will Allen, LB Angelo Crowell, S Jermaine Phillips.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Cadillac Williams, LB Barrett Ruud, T Donald Penn, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Bucs haven’t spent a lot of money in free agency in recent years and they’ve been sending out signals this year won’t be much different. They’re focused on the 10 draft picks they hold. But the Bucs could pull a small surprise or two. They’ve got a restless fan base and more needs than those draft picks can handle. A couple of signings in free agency could energize the fan base and help the rebuilding process. The Bucs really need a No. 1 wide receiver and they’re not truly positioned to get that in the draft.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 4, 2009
12/04/09
4:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of information about Week 13.

[+] EnlargeMatt Moore
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesNew starter Matt Moore may be in for a lot of handoffs on Sunday.
Don’t believe the hype. Back at the start of the season, I would have guessed that the Eagles at Falcons would be the game of the year for any NFC South team. Turns out, it’s not even the game of the week. Part of that’s because the Saints are chasing 16-0. But it really comes down to what’s happening (or not happening) with the Falcons and the Eagles. Michael Vick vs. Matt Ryan? It’s not happening. Ryan’s out with an injury and Chris Redman will play in his place. Vick’s nothing but a role player for the Eagles. Expect Vick to get a pretty positive response from the Atlanta fans, but this game has nothing to do with Atlanta’s franchise quarterback of the past playing against the franchise quarterback of the present.

Remember where you were in 2007? Speaking of Ryan, I was absolutely stunned to see in this week’s chat and mailbag that some Atlanta fans are writing off the second-year quarterback. Surely, you can’t be serious? That’s taking fair-weather fandom to a whole new level. Yeah, Ryan hasn’t been flawless this year, but that has more to do with the team around him than it does with him. This guy’s better than most quarterbacks in the league. One prediction here: I think Atlanta’s going to appreciate Ryan a lot more after a full game of Redman.

Not going to happen. There’s been a lot of talk about the Saints perhaps having a letdown against the Redskins. Hey, that’s logical. The Monday night game against New England was physically and emotionally draining and the Saints are working on a short week. But one of the subtle things that’s impressed me most about the Saints this year is their leadership. Drew Brees, Jonathan Vilma and Darren Sharper have been around the block and they’re not going to let this team have a letdown.

Moore or less? Congratulations to the Matt Moore Fan Club on getting your wish. The Carolina quarterback will get the start in place of the injured Jake Delhomme. Maybe he’ll provide the kind of offensive spark Carolina’s been missing all year and maybe he’ll surprise everyone and show he can be the long-term replacement for Delhomme. Or maybe he’ll show why he came into the league undrafted and why coach John Fox hasn’t been exactly eager to get this guy on the field. Is there an A.J. Feeley Fan Club out there?

Coaching tip to Raheem Morris. Overall, you did a nice job taking over as the defensive coordinator last week. Good for you and good for the Tampa 2. But you might want to switch over to the Tampa 8 or 9 this week -- as in put eight or nine men in the box. Just a hunch here, but Fox is playing a backup quarterback and he’s got a talented offensive backfield. I don’t think you’re going to see Moore doing much more than handing off.

Carolina RBs are active

November, 19, 2009
11/19/09
7:58
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Carolina running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who have been dealing with injuries, are active for Thursday night’s game against Miami.

The list of inactive players for Carolina includes receiver Kenneth Moore, defensive end Charles Johnson, safety Charles Godfrey, running back Mike Goodson, fullback Brad Hoover, guard Duke Robinson and defensive end Hilee Taylor. A.J. Feeley is the third quarterback.

Williams is active for Panthers

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
11:42
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – DeAngelo Williams will play for Carolina today.

The Panthers just announced their inactives and Williams, who has some sort of knee injury, is not one of them.

The Panthers made Charles Godfrey, Mike Goodson, Brad Hoover, Garry Williams, Duke Robinson, Hilee Taylor and Nick Hayden inactive. A.J. Feeley is the third quarterback.

Carolina's inactives

November, 8, 2009
11/08/09
3:17
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

NEW ORLEANS -- No surprises on Carolina’s list of inactives.

As expected, receiver Muhsin Muhammad, fullback Brad Hoover and Charles Godfrey are out with injuries. Also inactive are fullback Tony Fiammetta, guard Duke Robinson, tight end Dante Rosario and defensive tackle Nick Hayden. A.J. Feeley will be the third quarterback.

Kicker John Kasay, who was dealing with an injury this week, is active, so he presumably will handle his regular duties on kickoffs and field goals.

The Panthers said Dwayne Jarrett will start in Muhammad’s place and Sherrod Martin will fill in for Godfrey. The Panthers, however, have not announced a starting fullback.

We’ll find out who it is when the game starts, but I think you’re going to be surprised.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

Well, the drama is over in Carolina -- at least for the moment. Coach John Fox just announced he is sticking with Jake Delhomme as his starting quarterback.
 Delhomme


Fox said he still believes Delhomme gives the Panthers the best chance to win. As badly as Delhomme has played, that still might be true. Although he’s a fan favorite right now, backup Matt Moore has very little experience and isn’t all that talented. He came out of college without being drafted. Reserve A.J. Feeley joined the Panthers right after the season started and hasn’t had much time in the offense.

But the mere fact Fox was at least considering a change makes me think Sunday’s game in Arizona might be different. I’m thinking Fox is going to keep a very short leash on Delhomme. If he comes out and throws a couple of quick interceptions, Fox might go ahead and bench him in favor of Moore or Feeley.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

In the next half hour or so, coach John Fox will talk to the Carolina media and we’ll find out if he’s ready to announce if Jake Delhomme is still the starting quarterback.

Don’t be surprised if Fox drags this announcement out a bit and maybe even takes it down to game time Sunday in Arizona. Fox has said he’s considering alternatives (Matt Moore and A.J. Feeley) to Delhomme, but in a Sirius NFL Radio interview Tuesday, Fox sounded like he’s leaning toward sticking with Delhomme.

“We can’t put our head in the sand,’’ Fox said. “We’ll work this week. We’ll see what Matt and A.J. have got a little bit but, deep down inside, our options aren’t real proven. Like I said, I think we’ll see how the practice goes this week and how guys around him, and I know I say this and fans might get tired of hearing it but everybody else has got to pick up their game, too. It’s just not one guy in the passing game. I mean, you’ve got to protect. You’ve got to run good routes. You’ve got to win if it’s one-on-one. And you’ve got to make plays on the other end. You look at the good quarterbacks playing in the league, they do have help. It’s not a one-man show.”

How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch

October, 27, 2009
10/27/09
11:00
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Falling

  Delhomme
1. Jake Delhomme, quarterback, Panthers. It’s over. Sad to say because Delhomme’s done a lot for this franchise through the years and there might not be a nicer guy in the NFL. But he’s not getting the job done and Carolina’s season is quickly spinning out of control.

John Fox is scrambling for his job and that means he’ll probably turn to Matt Moore or A.J. Feeley (like either of those guys will make any difference). But Carolina clearly has to do something drastic and that means benching Delhomme.

2. Brent Grimes, Chris Houston and Chevis Jackson, cornerbacks, Falcons. We’ve known since the preseason that this was a problem spot for the Falcons. They brought in veteran Brian Williams and he briefly stabilized things. But Williams is gone for the season with an injury.

It’s time for the kids to stand on their own feet, but against the Cowboys they just kept stumbling and other teams are watching the film. Think Sean Payton might have a few ideas on how he can exploit these guys Monday night?

  Abraham
3. John Abraham, defensive end, Falcons. The effort is still there, so I’m not saying Abraham’s pulling a Julius Peppers. But maybe age is catching up to a guy who’s been an elite pass-rusher throughout his career.

Abraham’s not showing up very much and that leaves the Falcons without very much of a pass rush. That’s another reason why the cornerbacks are struggling.

Rising

  Brees
1. Drew Brees, quarterback, Saints. Brees’ stock has been at an all-time high pretty much all season, so it’s hard to make a case that it got stronger. But that’s exactly what happened Sunday against the Dolphins. Brees added to his lore in a new way.

He started off terribly, throwing three interceptions as the Saints fell behind by 21 points. Then, he rallied his team to victory. That’s the mark of a true leader. That’s the mark of an elite quarterback. All further proof that Brees deserves to be at or very near the top in discussions of elite quarterbacks.

  Sharper
2. Darren Sharper, safety, Saints. Another week, another interception return for a touchdown. It seems like this guy makes big plays every week. Has there been a better free-agent pickup than Sharper anywhere this season? I don’t think so.

At this point, Sharper has to be a strong candidate for the defensive player of the year award. Heck, he’s producing more offense than Tampa Bay’s offense.

  Freeman
3. Josh Freeman, quarterback, Buccaneers. We’re not saying his stock is soaring because of anything he did in his brief debut in London. We’re just saying it’s obvious the Bucs are ready to hand things off to their first-round draft pick.

Maybe the change can provide some sort of spark for a team that has nothing positive going for it. But don’t expect this kid to come right in and be a miracle-worker right from the start. He’s got a lousy team around him.

Panthers pulling plug on Delhomme?

October, 26, 2009
10/26/09
3:35
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

The most interesting development in the NFC South today is in Carolina, where coach John Fox said he hasn’t decided yet if Jake Delhomme will remain the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game with Arizona.

The mere fact that Fox wouldn’t say anything definitive is highly significant and I think it means a change is coming. In the past, whenever questions about staying in the lineup have come up, Fox always has answered swiftly with something like, “Jake’s our quarterback."

That didn’t happen this time and knowing Fox like I do, I think he’s at least seriously contemplating benching Delhomme and going with either Matt Moore or A.J. Feeley. Which one?

Flip a coin. Moore’s got more time in the offense, but he came into the league as an undrafted free agent for a reason. He’s not that talented and he hasn’t played very much. Feeley was picked up by the Panthers after backup Josh McCown was injured. Feeley hasn’t had a lot of time in the offense, but he has more playing experience than Moore.

The other factor at work here might be the opponent. Delhomme’s downward spiral essentially started with a playoff loss last season against Arizona. He threw five interceptions in that game and hasn’t been the same since.

Putting him out there against the Cardinals again could bring flashbacks and another disaster and that’s got to be weighing on Fox’s mind. You don’t make a decision like this lightly because, once you pull the plug on Delhomme, he’s basically done with the Panthers.

He’s done a lot for this franchise through the years. But it sure looks like he’s got nothing left to give.

Mailbag: Carolina Panthers edition

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
10:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

The Carolina Panthers are the final stop in our series of team-by-team mailbags.

Jason in North Carolina writes: Hey Pat, love your writing. I'm a big panther fan and just wondering since we got our running game back and all (against possibly the worst team in NFLl) Do you think the Panthers could continue running the ball effectively throughout the season?.. Which could open up options for grumpy Steve Smith.

Pat Yasinskas: Well, as you pointed out, last week’s game was against the lowly Buccaneers. Still, it was a good sign to see DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart finally looking like they did last year. Not sure they’ll put up those kind of numbers every week, but they both are talented runners and the Panthers have talent on the offensive line. If they can move the ball on the ground anything like what they did last week, that will solve a lot of their problems.



Ronnie in Charlotte writes: Hey Pat. Do you think Jake and the offense will respond to Steve Smith like the defense and Julius Papers responded to Jon Beason. Personally, I think Smitty saw what the defense did and he figured hey If I talk about our offense (which has been offensive at times) maybe we can see results. Does Jake get back on track? This team does respond well to pressure (especially the last two weeks.)

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I expect Steve Smith to have a good game this week. When he’s frustrated or angry, he usually plays better. Plus, the Panthers usually try to soothe him over after he has one of his outbursts. I expect them to make a big effort to get him the ball against Buffalo.



Nathan in Cary, NC writes: Pat, How poorly does Jake Delhomme have to play before he gets benched? I have been a Jake supporter for a long time, but he has lost ... something. What is holding them back from playing Matt Moore? I am pretty sure even Moore (who I actually like) could do better than 65 yards and 2 INTs against Tampa's terrible pass defense.

Pat Yasinskas: Careful what you wish for. Yes, Delhomme has struggled. But I’ve seen Matt Moore in practice and I’m not sure he’s what you want to see in a game. Besides, I think the Panthers would turn to A.J. Feeley before they would turn to Moore.



Kelly in Matthews, NC writes: Just read a blip regarding rumors Smitty was possibly trade material before the deadline...can't believe we would do something that ridiculous given that he, nor Pep, are the issue with this team.

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I know the rumor was making the rounds. I didn’t acknowledge it because that’s all it was – a rumor. There was no way the Panthers would trade their best player. Marty Hurney, John Fox and Jerry Richardson have way too much invested on Smith – on many levels – to get rid of him. I know a lot of people thought his little outburst meant that he was disgruntled in Carolina. That’s not the case. He was frustrated because he’s extremely competitive and proud, but he wasn’t looking for a trade and the Panthers weren’t willing to deal him.



Alex in Johnson City, TN writes: Hello Pat, I enjoy your work. I was happy to read your article on Smith today. The majority of the media looks down on players who speak out. I'm not saying they should speak out, but I too think he is right in this case. They are in this situation because of Coach Fox.

Pat Yasinskas: Thank you. Yes, I don’t think there was anything wrong with Smith coming out and saying he didn’t feel like an asset to the team after a game in which he caught only one pass. I don’t agree with a lot of things Smith has done, but I’ll back him up on this one. He merely was letting some frustration out. In a locker room where Fox has created a lot of robots, Smith isn’t afraid to speak his mind and he was right in this case. I think this little incident will spark Smith and the Panthers – at least in the short term.

Mailbag: Carolina Panthers edition

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
8:43
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

Time for the Carolina Panthers in our series of team-by-team mailbags.

Alex in New Brunswick, N.J. writes: Here's an interesting stat for you: Panthers opponents' average yards per scoring drive this season is 34.3 (counting a return as a 0 yard scoring drive). Ironically, this makes me somewhat optimistic. I think the defense is good enough to give this team a chance if the offense can just stop turning it over so much. What do you think?

Pat Yasinskas: Sure, the Panthers theoretically could turn things around if the defense plays up to its capabilities. But I think the defense has been an even bigger disappointment than the offense this year. I mean, we knew the offense had limitations. With players like Jon Beason, Julius Peppers and Chris Gamble, a lot of people expected the defense to be great. So far, it hasn’t even been close. The defense needs to improve for this team to have any chance.



Malcolm in Blacksburg, S.C. writes: I was at the Carolina/Redskins game and looking down on the formation really brought something to my attention. I didn't realize how much the defense leaned to Steve Smith's side. I heard about the double teams and could see them when I watched on television. But seeing it live was appalling. Does Moose have nothing left? Can we get Smitty some help?!?

Pat Yasinskas: Good observation. It’s been that way for several years with teams loading up on Smith. Muhsin Muhammad doesn’t have the speed to really scare a defense and that allows opponents to load up on Smith. Amazingly, he still can put up big numbers. But it sure would be nice if he had someone to take some of the attention away. The Panthers have tried with the likes of Dwayne Jarrett and Keary Colbert, but they haven’t been able to find a receiver who can beat out the aging Muhammad.



Jeremy in Wilmington, N.C. writes: Hey Pat, first I would like to say you do a great job on the articles/updates on the NFC South teams. Now to business, I am a Panthers fan (Yes, tough times right now) and would like to know what do you think the organization is going to do in terms of getting a QB of the future? This talk of Quinn possibly leaving Cleveland sounds interesting, but I doubt the Panthers would do anything until post-season, after signing Feeley and all. We all know that Jake is not our future (I thought that was proven last year) so any thoughts?P.S. I still have faith in Jake for this season, he has been throwing much better lately...

Pat Yasinskas: The Panthers aren’t going to trade for Brady Quinn. They’re in the middle of their season and John Fox is fighting for his job. He’s going to ride Jake Delhomme because that’s his best shot at winning. Bringing in a quarterback from outside at this point makes no sense because the quarterback wouldn’t be ready. If Delhomme gets hurt or gets yanked from the lineup, A.J. Feeley would be the replacement. Now, after this season, I’m sure the Panthers will either draft or go out and sign a quarterback – no matter if Fox or someone else is coaching the team.



Rob in Charlotte writes: DeAngelo Williams may not be off to the start many of us expected, but in actuality, his numbers through four games this year are slightly better than his numbers through for games in 2008. While his newly developed "Deshaun Fosteritus" is a concern as far as ball security goes, I don't think it's a sign of his falling stock. Against the Eagles, we were never in a position to run the ball due to being behind early, and Jake's miscues, and against the Cowboys he never really got a chance to get going with only 11 carries. I fully expect this week against the Bucs will be a coming out party for our entire offense, especially for Williams and our embarrassed offensive line. Keep up the good work.

Pat Yasinskas: Rob, yes, it’s true that Williams’ numbers for the first four games this year aren’t off from the first four last year. But my comment was meant to reflect what Williams has done so far this year hasn’t even been close to what we came to expect from him as he ran wild late in the season last year. I expected him to pick up where he left off last year and so did the Panthers. He hasn’t done that, but there still is plenty of time for him to get on track.

Fox still sticking with Delhomme

September, 30, 2009
9/30/09
1:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


Carolina coach John Fox is usually among the league’s worst quotes. But he showed Wednesday it doesn’t have to be that way.

Fox was actually colorful when he told the media Jake Delhomme still is the starting quarterback.

"I didn’t think that was a question, but if that needs to be clarified, yes with a capital Y," Fox said.

Say what you want about Fox being too stubborn or too loyal to Delhomme. At this point, Delhomme remains the only quarterback on the roster who can right Carolina’s season. The Panthers are headed into their bye and this would be the perfect time to make a switch if they though another quarterback could do better.

They don’t. A.J. Feeley still is learning the offense and Matt Moore is only a last resort. The Panthers may get to their last resort at some point, but they’re not there yet.

 
 AP Photo/John Amis
 The Carolina defense did little on Sunday to slow down the Falcons.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- For those who came looking for Jake Delhomme's obituary, it's not here.

After a 0-2 start, Delhomme's the best thing the Panthers have going for them right now. If they're going to climb out of this hole, post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history and make the playoffs, it will be because of Delhomme.

His 308 passing yards in Sunday's loss to the Falcons showed Delhomme's career is far from over.

"This league is not about moral victories," Delhomme said.

No, it's not, and the Panthers are in a tough spot. Modern history has shown there's about a 13 percent chance of a team making the playoffs after a 0-2 start. I put Carolina's chances a little better than that. I put them a lot higher than last week.

"It couldn't get any worse than last week offensively," Delhomme said in reference to a season-opening loss to Philadelphia in which he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.

Delhomme's right on every count. It couldn't get any worse than last week and there are no moral victories. But there's at least hope because the Panthers have signs of life from their quarterback. That's reason enough to cling to some hope for this season.

Remember, Delhomme's the guy who took the Panthers to their only Super Bowl and, at times, he has been able to work some magic. There might still be some in him.
 
 Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
 Jake Delhomme bounced back from a rough opener to throw for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception.


The Panthers are going to need it because A.J. Feeley and Matt Moore aren't capable of coming in and rallying this team from their 13 percent shot at the postseason. If Delhomme had come into Atlanta and thrown a bunch more interceptions, it would have meant the end of their quarterback and the end of their season.

Now there's still hope. But it's very clear the Panthers have much bigger problems than Delhomme. But those, in theory, are at least fixable.

The real problems with this team are on defense and that's the good news. Coach John Fox is supposed to be some sort of defensive guru or wizard and you've got names like Jon Beason and Julius Peppers on that side of the ball.

As a matter of fact, I'm sitting in the Georgia Dome press box right now and there's something red out there. Did Peppers, who's collecting more than $1 million for each game, leave his heart on the field again? No, wait, it's just the red in the Falcons' logo. Peppers turned in a two-tackle, no-sack game and I think I saw him almost get near Matt Ryan once.

The Panthers need their franchise player to be their franchise player. Delhomme's not supposed to be a superstar. He's supposed to be a game manager, and he was actually more than that against the Falcons as he completed 25 of 41 passes with one touchdown and one late interception that really wasn't his fault.
Week 2 Coverage
• Seifert: Favre managing the game
• Kuharsky: Dissecting Houston's win
• Mosley: Giants ruin Cowboys' party
• Graham: Jets follow through on talk
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If you want culprits for Carolina's slow start, point at Peppers, Fox and the defense. Point straight at the defense.

"We've got to get off the field on third downs," cornerback Richard Marshall said.

We already knew Ryan was pretty darn good. But the Panthers might have made him look prematurely great. Ryan threw three touchdown passes in the first half for the first time in his life, and starting at the 6:09 mark of the second quarter he put together a string of 13 consecutive completions.

The Panthers countered that with a very respectable 440 yards of total offense, thanks mostly to Delhomme and Steve Smith (eight catches for 131 yards) and a decent day from running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

But Fox teams aren't supposed to win with offense. They're supposed to win with ball control, but mostly defense, and it's pretty clear the defense isn't doing its part. And this wasn't just Sunday. You could see this defense starting to slide the second half of last season and, let's face it, the Panthers did nothing to fix that.

They let most of their defensive staff (headed by Mike Trgovac, who wasn't half as bad of a coordinator as you think) walk and those guys might have been the smart ones. The Panthers spent their offseason and just about all of their salary-cap money forcing Peppers, who wanted to leave and hasn't ever been a model of consistent excellence, to stay.

Then, for salary-cap reasons, they let cornerback Ken Lucas, who had some moxie, walk. Then they sat back and bragged about how they had 21 of 22 starters back from a 12-4 team, and the sad part is most of us just bought that.

Big mistake by us and a bigger mistake by the Panthers.

They didn't sign a single free agent (because Peppers was eating up so much of the salary cap) and that tore into their depth. When defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu went down on the first day of training camp, it shouldn't have been a disaster. Kemoeatu is, at best, a very ordinary player, although a very large one. But the Panthers didn't have another run-stuffer on their roster.

They were forced to open the season with second-year pro Nick Hayden in a starting role, and when he was injured last week, they turned to Louis Leonard (or is it Leonard Louis?) as this week's starter. Leonard got hurt near the end of the Atlanta game and it didn't look good.

Next man up? Ra'Shon "Sunny" Harris. I've got a feeling it's not going to be too sunny in Dallas, where the Panthers play next Monday night.

"We played better this week," Fox said. "We just didn't play well enough to win."

Fox is right. The Panthers were much better at quarterback -- and all across the offense -- against the Falcons.

The Panthers should win a lot of games with what Delhomme gave them Sunday. But that's only if their defense shows up at some point this season.

"We're 0-2 right now, but we've still got a long season," Marshall said.

It could get a lot longer if the defense keeps this up.

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