NFC South: Aaron Stecker

In another sign that Atlanta running back Michael Turner is going to miss some time, the Falcons just announced the signing of running back Aaron Stecker.

He had been with the team for several weeks, but was released Saturday when the Falcons elevated receiver Troy Bergeron from the practice squad. On Monday night, Bergeron was released to make room for Stecker. Bergeron likely will be added back to the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers.

Turner is dealing with an ankle sprain and top backup Jerious Norwood has been out five games with a hip injury. That left the Falcons with Jason Snelling as their only healthy running back after Turner was injured in the first half of Sunday’s game.

Team officials are optimistic Norwood may be able to return soon. But even if Norwood returns this week, the Falcons still needed some more depth at running back because it seems likely Turner will miss at least one game.

Falcons still sorting through WRs

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
10:39
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Atlanta’s wide receiver situation is still very much up in the air.

Although there has been a report that Michael Jenkins will play, that’s not definite yet, a source just said. The Falcons are hoping Jenkins, who’s been fighting a virus for several days, will be able to play. But they’re waiting until about 11:30 a.m. to make a final decision. Fellow starter Roddy White, who has been dealing with a knee injury, will play, the source said.

Veteran backup receiver Brian Finneran will not play. The Falcons added some insurance at receiver Saturday night when they elevated Troy Bergeron from the practice squad. They also released running back Aaron Steccker.

Mailbag: Atlanta Falcons edition

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
6:45
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

The Atlanta Falcons are the final stop on our tour of team-by-team mailbags.

Neil in Columbus, Ga. writes: With Thomas Dimitroff absolutely killing his 1st draft with the Falcons with the selections of Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, Curtis Lofton, Harry Douglas, Kroy Biermann and Thomas DeCoud, us Falcons fans were hoping for one heckuva encore! But alas both top selections are out for the year and everyone else the Falcons drafted either have been non-contributors to this point or flat out didn't even make the roster! What did Dimitroff do that was so successful his 1st year, but so horrendous his 2nd? Thanks!

Pat Yasinskas: Well, I think there are a few differences between last year and this year. First and foremost, the Falcons already had a pretty good roster this year and didn’t need a whole bunch of immediate contributors like they did last year. Yes, they were counting on top two picks Peria Jerry and William Moore playing big roles. They got hurt and that’s part of football. I think both those guys will come back and be good players in the future. Finally, I think it’s also worth a reminder that the Falcons were positioned a lot lower in the draft this year. It’s a little easier to hit on picks when your choice is third in each round, rather than in the 20s.


Ellis in Longwood, FL writes: I'm on the Atlanta Falcons message boards a lot and what I don't get is why we(as the fans) are so quick to react when the Falcons have a bad game. And then say Matt Ryan isn't that great as a QB. The guy has a bad game and its attacks on him left and right saying he has lost it or something to that effect. If I'm not mistaken all QBs (even the mighty Tom Brady or Drew Brees) have a few bad games even now and then. I don't get why people lose faith in the Falcons after one game. Were still 4-2 and still have a lot of football left to play.

Pat Yasinskas: I think that’s just the nature of a lot of football fans in a world where instant gratification is so important. A guy can be a hero one week and a bum the next. If you want to hear some real quarterback bashing, ask Carolina fans about Jake Delhomme. Ryan is an excellent young quarterback. Yes, he had a rough game against Dallas. But I think a lot of the blame can fall on the lack of protection he received and the disappearance of the running game. Ryan will be fine in the long run.


Jeff in Charleston, SC writes: Hey Pat. The Falcons' backfield and running game is in horrible shape this year. Aaron Stecker will be a nice change-of-pace back while Jerious Norwood is out for a bit it seems, but what are some more long-term answers? If Michael Turner keeps slumping is he in danger of losing his job to Jason Snelling?

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think the Falcons are ready to pull the plug on Turner just yet. The guy was fantastic last year. But he’s been ordinary, or less, this year. Not sure how much of that falls on Turner and how much on the offensive line. I think the coaches will stick with Turner for the time being. But, if he continues to struggle, you could see Snelling take his place. I like what I’ve seen out of Snelling so far.


Adam in Baton Rouge writes: Pat, what are the chances that the Falcons signed Stecker, because they are playing the Saints this week? Seems a little convenient to me.

Pat Yasinskas: Well, it’s not the first time someone has signed a player just in time to go against his former team. I’m sure Stecker has spent some time with Atlanta’s defensive coaches and shed some light on the Saints’ play book. But I’m not sure that really will matter much. The Falcons still have to go out and stop Brees and the New Orleans offense and that’s not easy under any circumstances.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

The Falcons just made it official and announced the signing of running back Aaron Stecker, which we reported earlier Tuesday. The team also announced a few other moves.

To create a roster spot for Stecker, the Falcons placed rookie safety William Moore on the injured reserve list. Initially thought to be a candidate to start right away, Moore began having injury problems in training camp and hasn’t been a factor.

The Falcons also added cornerback Glenn Sharpe and safety Eric Brock to the practice squad.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

As I reported earlier on our news side, the Atlanta Falcons have added running back/return man Aaron Stecker.

Not sure exactly what the implications of this roster move are, but I think it’s safe to assume the Falcons believe either backup running back/return man Jerious Norwood or fullback Ovie Mughelli will be out for an extended period. Or maybe even both of them will be out for a while.

Norwood and Mughelli both sat out Sunday’s game in Dallas and that left the Falcons thin on backfield depth. Jason Snelling had to serve as the top backup to Michael Turner at running back and Verron Haynes at fullback.

Adding Stecker gives the Falcons a lot more flexibility in the backfield and another option in the return game.

Refresher on free-agent lists

February, 12, 2009
2/12/09
1:44
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Another quiet day in the NFC South so far, but that could always change this afternoon as teams get ready for the start of free agency. Speaking of that, I've been getting a lot of people asking for lists of free agents.

I did team-by-team breakdowns back in January but decided to run the lists for all four NFC South teams here just to refresh everybody. Keep in mind, these are the guys who are prospective free agents at the end of the month and things could always change with teams re-signing their own players or using the franchise tag.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Michael Boley, defensive end Chauncey Davis, cornerback Domonique Foxworth, tackle Wayne Gandy, linebacker Tony Gilbert, defensive tackle Grady Jackson, defensive tackle Jason Jefferson, punter Michael Koenen, safety Lawyer Milloy, tight end Justin Peelle and linebacker Coy Wire.

Restricted free agents: Tackle Tyson Clabo, guard Harvey Dahl, safety Jamaal Fudge and center Ben Wilkerson.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Donte' Curry, tackle Jordan Gross, offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner, return man Mark Jones, long-snapper Jason Kyle, tackle Frank Omiyale, defensive end Julius Peppers, linebacker Adam Seward and defensive tackle Darwin Walker.

Restricted free agents: Defensive tackle Gary Gibson, tight end Jeff King, safety Nate Salley and linebacker James Anderson.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Unrestricted free agents: Cornerback Aaron Glenn, quarterback Joey Harrington, receiver Devery Henderson, defensive tackle Antwan Lake, guard Matt Lehr, running back Aaron Stecker, tackle Jon Stinchcomb and linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Restricted free agents: Guard Jahri Evans, receiver Lance Moore, receiver Courtney Roby, defensive tackle Montavious Stanley and offensive lineman Zach Strief.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Unrestricted free agents: Wide receiver Antonio Bryant, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, defensive end Kevin Carter, receiver Michael Clayton, quarterback Jeff Garcia, receiver Cortez Hankton, defensive tackle Jovan Haye, safety Jermaine Phillips, defensive tackle Ryan Sims and tight end Jerramy Stevens.

Restricted free agent: Tackle Donald Penn.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

We continue our team-by-team look at potential free agents with the New Orleans Saints.

 Vilma

Unrestricted free agents: Cornerback Aaron Glenn, quarterback Joey Harrington, receiver Devery Henderson, defensive tackle Antwan Lake, guard Matt Lehr, running back Aaron Stecker, tackle Jon Stinchcomb and linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Restricted free agents: Guard Jahri Evans, receiver Lance Moore, receiver Courtney Roby, defensive tackle Montavious Stanley and offensive lineman Zach Strief.

Overview: The Saints already are projected to be almost $5 million over the cap and that means even keeping their own free agents might be a challenge. But there are several who they have to find a way to keep and the list starts with Vilma. He's their best player on defense and new coordinator Gregg Williams has said he wants to build the defense around Vilma. The Saints will make sure he stays and then move on to the rest of their players.

Stinchcomb is an adequate right tackle and keeping him is also a goal. Henderson is coming off a decent season and the Saints would like to keep him, but there is some depth in the receiving corps so they won't pay him big money. Stecker and Lake also are role players the Saints would like to keep around.

Evans and Moore are restricted free agents, but both are very good and some other teams could be willing to make offers for them.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Shockey

Jeremy Shockey, who was supposed to be the missing link in New Orleans' offense, will finish the season without a touchdown.

Coach Sean Payton said Friday that Shockey will miss Sunday's game against Carolina because of a sprained ankle. That means Shockey will finish the season with 50 catches for 483 yards while appearing in 12 games. Those aren't anywhere close to the numbers the Saints envisioned when they traded for Shockey on the eve of training camp.

Injuries played a big role in holding back Shockey's production. He missed three games because of a sports hernia and later said the injury limited his effectiveness at the start of the season.

New Orleans' offense could suffer another setback Sunday. Pierre Thomas, who has been the team's feature back in recent weeks, is questionable because of back and wrist injuries. If Thomas can't play, the Saints don't have many other options at running back with Reggie Bush and Aaron Stecker on the injured reserve list.

Deuce McAllister, who has played only a limited role most of the season, likely would be the starter. Mike Bell, who the Saints picked up late in the season, likely would be the backup.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Barring an unlikely run to the playoffs, Deuce McAllister's season is over. But his four-game suspension for using a banned substance brings to light a bigger question.

 
 AP Photo/Alex Brandon
 Judging by his reduced role this season, Deuce McAllister may have played his last game for the Saints.

Is McAllister's time with the New Orleans Saints over?

It sure looks like that's the leading scenario and that may make for a sad ending for a guy who arguably has been the best and most popular player in franchise history. But it's hard to see this playing out any other way.

Let's face the facts, long before the possibility of the suspension came on the horizon, McAllister already was facing a reduced role. He barely was used at the start of the season.

The man who used to be the heart and soul of New Orleans' running game saw his carries get taken away by Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas and even Aaron Stecker, before he got hurt. McAllister has played only a minimal role all season and it's hard to imagine him being in the Saints' plans for the future.

McAllister is going to turn 30 in a few weeks and he's had two major knee injuries. Sure, the Saints need someone who can run between the tackles, but they would have used McAllister more if they thought he still could do that. The Saints are going to have to go out and look for that type of runner -- to complement Bush -- in the offseason.

At the same time, McAllister and the Saints probably will part ways. Maybe McAllister will retire or maybe he'll be released and try to catch on with another team. Either way, this isn't the ideal way for a figure like McAllister to leave a franchise he's been the symbol of for so long.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

There's a sudden flurry of roster moves in the NFC South. Here's a look:

BUCCANEERS
As expected, the Bucs placed Earnest Graham (ankle) and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) on the injured reserve list. They filled their roster spots by signing running back Noah Herron and linebacker Matt McCoy, who was with the team earlier in the season.

FALCONS
Atlanta made a minor tweak to its roster, elevating receiver Eric Weems from the practice squad and releasing rookie defensive end Brandon Miller. Don't be surprised if Miller ends up back on the practice squad.

SAINTS
As reported last night, the Saints signed running back Mike Bell and put running back Aaron Stecker on the injured reserve list. One other move to add -- the Saints signed fullback Darian Barnes, who could get immediate playing time with Mike Karney hurt.

More patchwork for the Saints

November, 18, 2008
11/18/08
8:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

If you're expecting Mike Bell to be a savior for the New Orleans Saints, think again.

Bell
The Saints signed the running back Tuesday as they placed running back Aaron Stecker on the injured reserve list.

Reggie Bush still hasn't played since knee surgery and there's a possibility veteran Deuce McAllister could be suspended soon for reportedly testing positive for a banned substance in a water pill.

That could leave the Saints with Pierre Thomas and Bell as they try to stay in the playoff race. If you look at Bell's numbers from 2006 -- he ran for 677 yards and eight touchdowns with Denver -- you might get excited.

But get back to reality here. Bell might be able to contribute a bit, but there are reasons why he had only six carries last year, why he couldn't make Houston's roster this preseason and why he was still available in late November.

He's a very ordinary runner and he'll be joining a team that doesn't really run the ball.

 
 Chris Graythen/Getty Images
 "Whatever I have to do to help this team win, that's what I'm going to have to do,'' Deuce McAllister said after Thursday's practice.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

COLNEY, England -- Sean Payton won't say it. Deuce McAllister won't either. So let's just cut to the chase.

More than ever -- even more than in the good old days -- the New Orleans Saints need McAllister.

Payton's a football coach and he's making sure he doesn't give away his strategy. McAllister's a smart and seasoned player and he's not going to give away what the coach won't. But just look at the facts and it's pretty obvious what's going to happen Sunday.

With their season pretty much on the line, the Saints play the San Diego Chargers at London's Wembley Stadium. There's a good chance the field will be muddy and rain and wind may be factors. That doesn't bode well for quarterback Drew Brees and an offense that's lived by the pass all season.

The Saints need to run the ball and they'll be without running back Reggie Bush, who's not really a running back. Bush is back in New Orleans recovering from knee surgery. If you've followed the Saints' strange season so far, you know that Payton talked to McAllister early
in the season and told the veteran the Saints would need him at some point.

That time is now.

At least for one day -- at least until they get through the bye, get back to playing in domes and get Bush back -- New Orleans needs McAllister, 29, to be what he was a few years ago. That's a power runner who can handle 20 or 25 carries, or at least something close to that.

"Whatever I have to do to help this team win, that's what I'm going to have to do,'' McAllister said after Thursday's practice at Arsenal Football Club's practice facility. (UPDATE: McAllister made news Friday, reportedly testing positive under the NFL's steroid policy as a result of taking water pills to lose weight.)

That's as much as you're going to get out of McAllister, no matter how many different ways you ask him if he'll be back in the starting lineup or if he'd like more carries than he's been getting this season.

McAllister's always been a humble team player, even though he's one of the best players in franchise history.

He's stayed quiet and polite through a confusing season in which he's had only 50 carries for 208 yards. He didn't get a single carry in Week 1 or Week 3 as he began a comeback from his second major knee injury since 2005.

New Orleans fans screamed for him to get more playing time, but he didn't. With McAllister standing on the sidelines early in the season, Payton talked to the veteran and told him not to get his spirits down. McAllister, the franchise's all-time leading rusher, seemed to be back in the team's plans when he got 20 carries and produced 73 yards in a Week 4 victory against San Francisco.

But he's only averaged about nine carries in the three games since. Maybe it was all part of Payton's plan. There's no way the coach could know Bush would go down in the middle of the Carolina game and be unavailable for at least a few weeks.

But Payton knew all along the game in England, where the weather can be nasty this time of year, was coming. Plus, Payton knew the Saints, at some point, were going to have to grind out some yards and control the clock. Bush, an outside runner and threat as a receiver, isn't the kind of back who can do that.

Maybe Payton was playing it slowly with McAllister's knee and targeting big things for him in this game -- and the second half of the season -- all along.

"I think they were definitely being cautious," McAllister said. "It's always a long season and you never know what's going to happen. At some point you're going to have to deal with some circumstances and that's what we're trying to overcome."

The Saints have plenty to overcome. After one of the league's busiest offseasons (they overhauled their defense and traded for tight end Jeremy Shockey), they're 3-4 and, arguably, one of the league's most disappointing teams. As brilliant as Brees and the passing game have been, the Saints may need a whole different game plan if the field isn't
a fast track.

Reserves Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker also could play roles in the running game, but they're just role players. What the Saints need is the 232-pound McAllister running like he did in 2006, when he ran for 1,057 yards, and like he did in 2002 through 2004, when he recorded three straight 1,000-yard seasons.

"Deuce is a man,'' linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "When he runs the ball, you see him run over linebackers and defensive linemen. From minicamp to training camp to now, you see him running better and running harder. If you didn't know he had the surgery, you wouldn't know now that he had it.''

McAllister and the Saints have been patient for half a season. They can't afford to stay that way any longer. Lose this game and they'll be 3-5 and the season will be pretty much lost. Win it and they'll be .500 heading into the bye and they'll still be in the NFC South race.

The best chance for that happening is if the Saints run McAllister a lot Sunday. He's sat quietly and been nothing more than a role player for six games. Even if it's only for one game, the Saints have to put the ball in the hands of the man who used to be their best player and hope
he can fill that role once again.

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd

The Saints' offense a couple weeks ago looked like an unstoppable force. Coach Sean Payton was at the height of his play-calling brilliance, Reggie Bush finally was living up to his draft status and Drew Brees was putting up MVP numbers. With wide receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey due to return from injuries, New Orleans appeared ready to dismantle defenses across the league -- starting with Carolina's on Sunday.

But it never happened. The Panthers didn't dominate Brees and his teammates, but they contained the Saints -- and that was enough. New Orleans did cough up two turnovers, but the line kept Brees pretty clean (one sack) and the offense finished with respectable totals of 343 yards and 17 first downs. So, how exactly did Carolina hold perhaps the league's most explosive offense to just seven points? Just as important, how do future opponents keep all of New Orleans' weapons under wraps?

First, let's be clear: Every team has its own strengths and weaknesses, so there is no single "best" way to slow the Saints' offense. Not everyone can pull it off like the Panthers, whose versatile secondary allowed them to mix in a lot of Cover 4 coverage concepts. The strategy allowed Carolina to get one or both safeties involved in run support when necessary, while remaining sound in coverage on the back end. But without cornerbacks Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall, who are able to match up in man coverage on the perimeter, the Panthers wouldn't have had the flexibility to make it work so effectively.

Still, Carolina's performance gives defenses the beginning of a blueprint to follow against New Orleans: use mostly sub packages, be prepared to play sideline to sideline, squeeze Brees' passing windows, disrupt routes, be physical and disciplined. Opponents must engage in a cat-and-mouse game to keep Brees guessing because he is so good at reading defenses and coverages before the snap. An opposing coordinator must mix up the schemes used against Brees.

A defense's personnel and philosophy will be determining factors when choosing schemes. Some combination of front-four pressure, physical coverage within that five-yard contact zone and deep-safety help seems to be the way to slow the Saints. Cover 2, man-under two-deep and Cover 4 have the potential to provide those ingredients. Man coverage concepts shouldn't be ignored -- again, mixing things up is key -- but a defense must keep one or both safeties in the hole. One of the greatest strengths of this offense is its run-after-the-catch production, so defenders need to be in position to bring down a receiver immediately after the ball arrives.

With Reggie Bush expected to miss 2-4 weeks after knee surgery, the Saints' offense becomes less dynamic. Defenses should be able to line up with base personnel more often and figure to have simpler reads. But the above blueprint still applies, especially because Aaron Stecker is versatile enough to play a "Bush Lite" role in the offense. In the end, the best strategy for beating the Saints -- play smart, be physical and sustain drives on offense to keep Brees and the offense on the sideline -- is just plain good football.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It happened very quietly, but the Saints may have just gotten hit by another major injury.

The team just announced running back/return man Reggie Bush has left the game and will not return because of a knee injury. The nature and extent of the injury isn't known. If Bush is out for any extended period, it's going to have a big impact on the offense. Deuce McAllister, who the Saints have brought along slowly in his return from knee injury, would likely get more playing time.

But the Saints probably don't want McAllister handling too big a role and reserves Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker could get some carries.

Saints looking for RB insurance

July, 26, 2008
7/26/08
6:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas.

The Saints must be worried about the swelling in Deuce McAllister's knee, which caused the running back to sit out Saturday morning's practice (he returned for the afternoon session). They made a strong play for LaMont Jordan before he chose to sign with New England, according to a league source.

The Saints made a better financial offer than the Patriots, but the source said Jordan chose New England because he wanted to be with a Super Bowl contender.

New Orleans has Reggie Bush, Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas on the roster, but none of those three is a proven feature back. Even if McAllister's knee holds up, the Saints would be wise to continue to search for some insurance.

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