NFC South: Adam Hayward

Free-agency review: Buccaneers

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
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Johnson
Most significant signing: The signing of former Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson has been the team's biggest move by far. The Bucs came into free agency looking to improve their pass rush and they accomplished that by signing Johnson. He had only 3.5 sacks last year, but had 11.5 in 2012. The hope is that Johnson can give the Bucs double-digit sacks.

Most significant loss: The beauty of this free-agency period is the Bucs didn't really have any significant free agents of their own. They did lose Dekoda Watson (Jacksonville) and Adam Hayward (Washington). Those losses took away some of their depth at linebacker. More significantly, Watson and Hayward were regulars on special teams, and the Bucs have to find players to fill their roles.

Biggest surprise: It was no surprise the Bucs released cornerback Darrelle Revis and his $16 million salary. But it was surprising that the Bucs replaced him with Alterraun Verner at such a reasonable rate (four years, $26.5 million). Verner is not on the same level as Revis, but he should fit very nicely in the Tampa 2 scheme.

What's next? The Bucs have made a lot of moves, but there is still more work to be done. That's what happens when you're coming off a 4-12 season. They need to add some speed at wide receiver and continue to solidify their offensive line.
The top two free agents (Jimmy Graham and Greg Hardy) in the NFC South have been hit with the franchise tag. But plenty of division talent is on the market -- and that doesn't even include Darren Sproles, who will be either traded or released by the Saints. The four writers who cover the NFC South (Pat Yasinskas in Tampa Bay, Mike Triplett in New Orleans, David Newton in Carolina and Vaughn McClure in Atlanta) got together and picked the top 15 free agents in the division.

1. Jimmy Graham, Saints TE: Whether he's a tight end or receiver, he has been one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL, leading the league with 36 TD catches over the past three years.

2. Greg Hardy, Panthers DE: The Panthers had no choice but to place the franchise tag on Hardy. He played both defensive end spots, tackle and dropped into coverage. He led the team in sacks and quarterback hurries.

3. Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons DT: Aging veteran Babineaux still has a knack for getting in the backfield, although he would admit his sack numbers need to be better.

[+] EnlargeZach Strief
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsZach Strief, a seventh-round pick in 2006, has spent his entire eight-year career in New Orleans.
4. Mike Mitchell, Panthers S: He brought an attitude to the league's second-ranked defense with his aggressiveness.

5. Zach Strief, Saints OT: Strief is a solid veteran starter coming off his best season to date. He's not a dominator, but versatile and experienced enough to start for just about any NFL team.

6. Brian de la Puente, Saints C: He has been another solid starter over the past three years and finished strong in 2013 after a slow start.

7. Lance Moore, Saints WR: Moore's role diminished in the Saints' offense last year, but the sure-handed slot receiver is one year removed from a 1,000-yard season and can still be an asset at age 30.

8. Malcolm Jenkins, Saints S: He is a full-time starter who shows flashes of big-play potential every year, but the former first-round pick has never consistently met lofty expectations.

9. Captain Munnerlyn, Panthers CB: He may be undersized at 5-foot-9, but he proved he could be an every-down corner for the first time in his career.

10. Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers WR: Not only did he give quarterback Cam Newton the deep threat that he needed, he led the team in kickoff and punt returns.

11. Jabari Greer, Saints CB: Greer was one of the most underrated corners in the NFL over the past five years, but now he’s 32 and recovering from a major knee injury.

12. Peria Jerry, Falcons DT: The former first-round pick hasn't lived up to expectations in part due to injury, but he has shown a few flashes.

13. Erik Lorig, Buccaneers FB: Lorig is a versatile fullback who can make an impact as a lead blocker in the running game and also has some ability as a receiver out of the backfield.

14. Bruce Campbell, Panthers OT: With the retirement of left tackle Jordan Gross there's at least an opportunity for Campbell to be in the mix for a starting position.

15. Adam Hayward, Buccaneers LB: Hayward is one of the league’s better players on special teams. He also has value as a backup because he can play inside and outside linebacker.
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: LB Adam Hayward, FB Erik Lorig, LB Jonathan Casillas and WR Tiquan Underwood.

Where they stand: The Buccaneers don't have any huge names among their own free agents, but they'd like to keep some of them as role players. Hayward is a key special-teams player and Lorig is important as the lead blocker for Doug Martin in the running game. If Casillas returns, he's a candidate to start at strongside linebacker. The major need on defense is for a pass-rusher. On offense, the team may look to overhaul its offensive line. Tight end and depth at wide receiver also are big needs.

What to expect: The Bucs were 4-12 last season and they have a new coaching staff and general manager. That means there will be significant changes. The Bucs have $18 million in cap room, so they’re going to be active in free agency, even though they've stated their goal is to build through the draft. Look for connections to the new regime to play into free-agent signings. Return man Devin Hester and cornerback Charles Tillman played for coach Lovie Smith in Chicago and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier worked with defensive end Jared Allen in Minnesota. All of those players could be prime targets. A veteran quarterback also could be added to the mix, with Josh McCown and Michael Vick as possibilities.

Looking at playing time: Defense

January, 17, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- We previously showed you the playing time for all of Tampa Bay's offensive players. Now, it's time to do the same for the defense.

The Buccaneers had 1,059 defensive plays. Here's the breakdown of the number of plays each defensive player participated in, followed by my quick take.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Gerald McCoy 962, Adrian Clayborn 933, Akeem Spence 694, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim 602, William Gholston 312, Da'Quan Bowers 206, Gary Gibson 164, Derek Landri 123, Steven Means 77, Trevor Scott 54.

Quick take: Most teams rotate their defensive linemen to keep them fresh. But the Bucs didn't do that with McCoy and Clayborn. The theory behind that was that, even when a bit winded, they were substantially better than their backups. The rookie Gholston got a lot of playing time in the second half of the season.

LINEBACKERS: Lavonte David 1,022, Mason Foster 771, Dekoda Watson 257, Jonathan Casillas 197, Adam Hayward 187, Ka'Lial Glaud 6, Danny Lansanah 4.

Quick take: The Bucs played David as much as they possibly could because he might be the best player on the team. Some of Watson's snaps came at defensive end as the Bucs experimented with him at that position late in the season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Darrelle Revis 948, Johnthan Banks 939, Mark Barron 834, Dashon Goldson 807, Leonard Johnson 691, Keith Tandy 441, Ahmad Black 146, Kelcie McCray 101, Michael Adams 86, Danny Gorrer 83.

Quick take: Even though he wasn't 100 percent as he came back from knee surgery, the Bucs still used Revis a lot.

Looking at Buccaneers' playing time

December, 10, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- It's time for our weekly look at how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers distributed playing time.

In a 27-6 victory against the Buffalo Bills, the Bucs ran 66 offensive plays and were on the field for 67 defensive snaps. Here's a look at the individual playing time from Sunday.

OFFENSE

Donald Penn 66
Jamon Meredith 66
Demar Dotson 66
Mike Glennon 66
Tim Wright 59
Vincent Jackson 57
Jeremy Zuttah 51
Tiquan Underwood 45
Davin Joseph 43
Erik Lorig 42
Bobby Rainey 37
Ted Larsen 36
Brian Leonard 25
Chris Owusu 21
Gabe Carimi 16
Russell Shepard 14
Kyle Adams 11
Skye Dawson 7
Mike Hill 5
Spencer Larsen 2
Eric Page 1

DEFENSE

Dashon Goldson 66
Johnthan Banks 66
Mark Barron 66
Gerald McCoy 66
Darrelle Revis 66
Lavonte David 59
Leonard Johnson 58
Adrian Clayborn 56
Mason Foster 53
Akeem Spence 43
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim 39
William Gholston 23
Keith Tandy 15
Da'Quan Bowers 14
Adam Hayward 12
Steven Means 11
Derek Landri 11
Dekoda Watson 10
Danny Gorrer 1
Ka'Lial Glaud 1
Kelcie McCray 1
TAMPA, Fla. -- The health status of Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis is very much up in the air for Sunday’s game with Carolina.

Revis
Revis suffered a groin injury against Detroit. Revis, who did not practice Wednesday, declined to discuss the injury with the media. Coach Greg Schiano wouldn’t divulge details about an MRI that was performed on Revis on Monday.

“He’ll be day to day, so that should tell you it’s not real bad,’’ Schiano said. “Will he play Sunday? I don’t know. We’ve got to figure that out.’’

After Revis was injured against Detroit, rookie Johnthan Banks spent most of the rest of the game covering Calvin Johnson and did an adequate job. Schiano said the Bucs considered several options before deciding to put Banks on Johnson.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,’’ Schiano said. “As a matter of fact, we took the field thinking that we might just play right and left and whoever got him got him. Then, we got on the field and it was just a gut feeling, let’s get Johnthan on him. Johnthan, you’ve got to remember was coming off an injury [shoulder]. Johnthan had gotten banged, so it wasn’t like he had a full week of practice, either. Sometimes you get a feeling.’’

But Schiano’s not ready to say if Banks will defend Steve Smith if Revis isn’t ready to play against Carolina. Schiano said Revis’ situation complicates how the Bucs will game plan for the Panthers.

“There are certain matchups we’ll do with him,’’ Schiano said. “Will we do them without him? I don’t know. That’s a decision we’ll have to make.’’

In other injury news, linebacker Mason Foster, who missed the Detroit game with a concussion, returned to practice Wednesday. Linebacker Adam Hayward (leg) did not practice.

Surveying the Buccaneers' roster

September, 1, 2013
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After making their cuts Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a roster that looks a lot like what I projected Friday.

I hit on 51 of 53 roster spots. Defensive tackle Gary Gibson and offensive lineman Cody Wallace were the two guys I had making the team who didn’t make the final cut. I didn’t have tight end Tim Wright and safety Keith Tandy making the roster, but they did.

Let’s take a brief overview of the composition of Tampa Bay’s roster:

QB (3): Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Dan Orlovsky

Comment: The question is whether Glennon or Orlovsky will be the No. 2 quarterback. My thinking is the Bucs wouldn’t have held onto Orlovsky if he’s going to be No. 3.

RB (5): Doug Martin, Erik Lorig, Brian Leonard, Mike James and Peyton Hillis

Comment: Leonard, James and Hillis all looked good in the preseason. They all can be used to help keep Martin fresh.

WR (5): Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood and Eric Page

Comment: The first four were pretty much set in stone. Page made the roster mostly because he’s going to be the return man.

TE (4): Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree, Nate Byham and Tim Wright

Comment: Presumably, the Bucs kept Wright around because they expect Crabtree to miss some time with an ankle injury.

OL (8): Donald Penn, Carl Nicks, Jeremy Zuttah, Davin Joseph, Demar Dotson, Gabe Carimi, Ted Larsen and Jamon Meredith

Comment: By carrying only three backups, the Bucs appear to be optimistic that Nicks won’t miss too much time due to a staph infection.

DL (9): Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Trevor Scott, William Gholston, Steven Means, Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence and Derek Landri

Comment: McCoy, Spence and Landri are the only true defensive tackles. The Bucs must be planning to use at least one of their ends on the inside at times.

LB (6): Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Jonathan Casillas, Dekoda Watson, Najee Goode and Adam Hayward

Comment: The starters have a chance to be one of the league’s best units, and the backups aren’t bad either.

DB (10): Darrelle Revis, Johnthan Banks, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Rashaan Melvin, Michael Adams, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Ahmad Black and Keith Tandy

Comment: This should be the most improved area on the team.

Specialists (3): Rian Lindell, Andrew Economos and Michael Koenen.

Comment: Lindell is the third projected kicker the Bucs have had. Connor Barth and Lawrence Tynes both are out with injuries.

Projecting the Buccaneers roster

August, 30, 2013
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Roster cuts don’t have to be made until 6 p.m. Saturday. But let’s have a little fun in the meantime.

Let’s take a look at my best guess as to how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 53-man roster will shape up:

Quarterbacks (3): Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Dan Orlovsky

Analysis: A rough outing by Glennon in the preseason finale might have convinced the Bucs it’s best to keep Orlovsky around.

Running backs and fullbacks (5): Doug Martin, Brian Leonard, Mike James, Peyton Hillis and Erik Lorig

Analysis: Hillis is very much on the bubble. The fact he doesn't play special teams could hurt him. But he also could stick around because he has the size to be a backup for Lorig at fullback and could be a valuable short-yardage rusher.

Tight ends (3): Luke Stocker, Tom Crabtree and Nate Byham

Analysis: The Bucs may have to keep Danny Noble if Crabtree’s ankle injury is going to keep him out for an extended period.

Wide receivers (5): Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood and Eric Page

Analysis: Page has emerged as the return man and that should earn him the final roster spot.

Offensive line (9): Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Demar Dotson, Jeremy Zuttah, Gabe Carimi, Ted Larsen, Jamon Meredith and Cody Wallace

Analysis: The Bucs could carry an extra lineman if it looks like Nicks will be out for an extended period.

Defensive line (10): Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence, Adrian Clayborn, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Da’Quan Bowers, Gary Gibson, Trevor Scott, William Gholston, Steven Means and Derek Landri

Analysis: The last few spots are very competitive and the Bucs could look to bring in a defensive tackle from the waiver wire.

Linebackers (6): Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Dekoda Watson, Jonathan Casillas, Adam Hayward and Najee Goode

This position is pretty clear-cut unless the Bucs bring in someone off waivers.

Defensive backs (9): Darrelle Revis, Johnthan Banks, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Michael Adams, Rashaan Melvin and Ahmad Black.

Analysis: Melvin is very much on the bubble.

Specialists (3): Michael Koenen, Andrew Economos and Rian Lindell.

Analysis: Kicker Lawrence Tynes still is recovering from a staph infection and could end up on injured reserve.

All throughout the preseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been waiting for quarterback Josh Freeman and the first-team offense to get into a rhythm.

They’re still waiting.

Freeman, who played deep into the third quarter, was far from effective Saturday night in his longest stint of the preseason. He completed 6 of 16 passes for 59 yards in the Bucs' 17-16 victory against the Miami Dolphins.

Sacks, penalties, dropped passes, a lost fumble and inaccurate throws were the story for Freeman and the first unit. The only touchdown by the first team came on a Brian Leonard run after the special teams gave the Bucs good field position when a punt bounced off a Miami blocker.

I never like to read too much into what happens. But I think the Bucs should be concerned about Freeman and the offense.

Some other quick observations on the Bucs:
  • Despite Freeman's struggles, I don't think it's time to declare a quarterback controversy in Tampa Bay just yet. Rookie backup Mike Glennon did lead the Bucs to the game-winning touchdown after safety Sean Baker handed them good field position with a long return of a fumble recovery. But Glennon didn't have a good night overall.
  • The punt team came up with two turnovers that were converted into 10 points. Adam Hayward recovered two Miami fumbles.
  • The unsung story of the night was defensive end Trevor Scott, who recently was signed by the Bucs. Scott was in on three sacks. The Bucs haven’t been thrilled with the development of Da’Quan Bowers, and Scott could end up moving ahead of him.
  • Guard Davin Joseph, who is coming off a major knee injury, made his first appearance of the preseason. Gabe Carimi started at the other guard position in place of Carl Nicks, who is out with a staph infection.
  • Running back Doug Martin sat out, and that gave Leonard more playing time. Leonard continued to look good. He could end up as the top backup to Martin. The Bucs brought in veteran Peyton Hillis, but Leonard and rookie Mike James appear to be ahead of Hillis on the depth chart.
  • Kicker Rian Lindell, who was signed this week, made a 38-yard field goal.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence appears to have locked up a starting spot. He had several tackles for loss against the run.
  • Tampa Bay’s first-team defense gave up some yardage but tightened up twice and made the Dolphins settle for two field goals.
With free agency slowing to a trickle, here’s how I see the projected starting lineup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into the NFL draft:

OFFENSE

WR Vincent Jackson

LT Donald Penn

LG Carl Nicks

C Jeremy Zuttah

G Davin Joseph

T Demar Dotson

TE Luke Stocker

WR Mike Williams

QB Josh Freeman

RB Doug Martin

FB Erik Lorig

DEFENSE

DE Adrian Clayborn

DT Derek Landri

DT Gerald McCoy

DE Da'Quan Bowers

OLB Lavonte David

MLB Mason Foster

OLB Adam Hayward

CB Eric Wright

CB Leonard Johnson

SS Mark Barron

FS Dashon Goldson

Notes: There’s a good chance the Bucs could bring a pass-catching tight end or re-sign Dallas Clark. By the time training camp rolls around, Hayward could have a challenger in place for the starting job. The situation at cornerback is very tentative. It’s unclear if Wright will remain with the team, and the Bucs could trade for Darrelle Revis.

Looking at Bucs' defensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
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The knock on Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in his first two seasons was that he couldn’t stay on the field.

Arm injuries ended each of McCoy’s first two seasons prematurely and there was talk the former No. 3 overall draft choice was a bust.

Funny, but McCoy, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl, barely came off the field in 2012. He took part in 939 of Tampa Bay’s 1,078 defensive plays. McCoy’s 87.11 playing-time percentage ranked second among all NFL defensive tackles. Only San Francisco’s Ray McDonald had a higher percentage (90.85).

Here’s a look at the rest of the playing-time percentages for Tampa Bay’s defensive players.

Altercation a bad sign for Bucs

December, 17, 2012
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Amid the rubble of Tampa Bay’s 41-0 loss to New Orleans on Sunday, there was a bizarre moment that indicated the Bucs could have even more problems than their losing streak.

Linebacker Adam Hayward and assistant coach Bryan Cox had a verbal altercation that quickly turned into a physical one in the second quarter and the two had to be separated.

“I’m not happy about it but I do know it’s been resolved,” coach Greg Schiano said. “I think you chalk it up to heat of the moment. Guys are very passionate. Adam is a very passionate player, Coach Cox is a passionate coach. I know they’re very close. I think it’s more of a family spat in a frustrating time than anything that I’m deeply concerned about.

“I know they’ve already smoothed that over. But again, it’s not what a football team that I’m the head coach of [does]. It’s been addressed, it will be addressed and we’ll move forward from it. But it need not happen again.”

It’s true that Hayward is an emotional player. Cox was known for being emotional when he played in the NFL. Although Schiano said the situation has been dealt with, you have to at least wonder if the Bucs are experiencing internal problems.

I don’t think things are out of control the way they were last year when Raheem Morris was the coach and players did as they pleased. But Schiano has brought a style of coaching that is the exact opposite of what Morris used. Schiano runs a very tight ship and his players are asked to follow a stringent set of rules.

That appeared to be a good thing as the Bucs got off to a 6-4 start. It’s easy for players to buy into anything when a team is winning.

But the Bucs now are 6-8 and the incident between Hayward and Cox makes you wonder if Schiano’s ways are starting to wear on the players.

Resilient Falcons have chance to soar

December, 6, 2012
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Mike SmithJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsCoach Mike Smith and the Falcons likely won't quiet their critics until they have postseason success.

Somewhere in the process -- and I can’t put my finger on exactly where -- Mike Smith changed buzzwords.

The coach of the Atlanta Falcons still is about as predictable as a Mike Mularkey offense. But “the process" Smith talked so much about in his first four seasons has seemed to disappear from his vocabulary this season.

In its place, Smith is using the word “resilient" as often as Mularkey used to call runs up the middle for Michael Turner.

“You reflect back on the 12 games that we’ve played and one of the things you realize is that we’re a resilient team," Smith told the local media Monday.

I chuckled a bit when I first read the quote. That’s only because I’ve heard Smith use “resilient," “resilience" or “resiliency" after just about every Atlanta game I've been to this year. By unofficial count, he has used some variation of the word multiple times in the same news conference on more than one occasion.

Hurry up and print the “Resilient Birds" T-shirts. They’ll be a big seller for the holidays.

But in a season in which die-hard fans and skeptics alike have been waiting for the Falcons to develop a true identity, maybe they already have. Maybe the best and worst thing you can say about the Falcons is that they are a resilient team.

That might not be flashy, but there’s nothing wrong with being resilient.

That has been a big part of the reason the Falcons, who play at Carolina on Sunday, are 11-1 and already have clinched the NFC South title.

Yeah, I know fans like to nitpick because the Falcons haven’t really put together a complete game and blown an opponent out of the stadium. Skeptics get on the Falcons for the same reason.

Count Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy among the critics. On Wednesday, he said the Falcons aren’t as good as their record. Tampa Bay’s Adam Hayward and Donald Penn have made a similar claim. So have various members of the New Orleans Saints.

I get Hardy’s point. The Panthers took the Falcons down to the wire in the Georgia Dome early in the season. Atlanta won 30-28 in a game the Panthers had every chance to win.

That has been the story with a lot of Atlanta’s games this season. The Falcons seem to let even the weakest opponents (see the Arizona Cardinals) hang in there right until the end and then do just enough to get the win. That beats the alternative.

It has to be frustrating for fans, and it’s understandable that opponents walk away with the impression the Falcons really aren’t that good. I’ve thought the same thing at times.

But the more I think about the Falcons, the more I’m convinced they really are good. A team can be lucky here and there. But when at team is lucky week after week, that’s no accident. When a team repeatedly wins close games in the NFL, it's doing something right.

The Falcons have done plenty of things right. They just haven’t done them all at once. In the past two games, the defense has carried Atlanta. The Falcons picked off New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees five times in the last outing and held Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin to 50 rushing yards the week before.

Early in the season, Matt Ryan and the passing game carried the Falcons. At times, even Turner and a running game that’s not what it once was have been responsible for the Falcons closing in on the No. 1 NFC seed in the playoffs.

No, the Falcons haven’t been dominant this season. But look around the league and tell me who has. I don’t see a dominant team out there.

What I do see is an Atlanta team that has won 11 of 12 games. Salute (don't bash) the Falcons for that.

“We don’t blink," Smith said. “We focus on the next play. When you do that, you’re going to have a chance to be successful.”

The Falcons have been very successful. But everyone knows the true measure of Atlanta’s success will be the postseason. Everyone knows that although the Falcons have won a lot of regular-season games since the arrival of Smith and Ryan in 2008, they have yet to win a postseason game.

It’s easy to flash back to the 2010 season -- when the Falcons went 13-3, had the No. 1 seed and were beaten at home by the Green Bay Packers -- and say this team is headed for a similar fate. But it doesn’t have to end that way for the Falcons.

Remember, even a creature of habit such as Smith can change buzzwords.

“We’re just starting the fourth quarter of the season, and there is going to be a lot of things happening over these last four weeks,’’ Smith said. “It’ll be fun for the teams involved. It ought to be fun for the fans and it’s going to be fun for the coaches. Football in December, it can’t get any better.”

Yeah, actually it can get better. If Smith still is using the word “resilient" in January, it might mean the Falcons have a chance to play into February.

NFC South evening update

November, 26, 2012
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It’s a little difficult to type as I deal with the goose bumps that come from the anticipation of Monday night’s showdown between Carolina and Philadelphia. But I’ll try to get through it.

Before we start talking Panthers and Eagles, let’s take a run through some other odds and ends from around the division.
  • Earlier Monday we saw some quotes from Tampa Bay offensive tackle Donald Penn that probably will end up in the Atlanta Falcons’ locker room when the two teams play in late December. Well, it turns out the Falcons might need to get a bigger bulletin board. Tampa Bay linebacker Adam Hayward told Ira Kaufman, “Their record says they're 10-1, but they're not a 10-1 team," among other things.
  • Good news for former Carolina defensive back Mike Minter, who truly was one of the classiest guys ever to pass through the NFC South. Minter will be the new football coach at Campbell University, according to Tom Sorensen. Minter had been working as the special teams coach at Liberty, and I have no doubt he’s ready to run his own program.
  • Miami defensive back Jonathan Amaya isn’t in the NFC South. But I see two division connections in this story about Amaya reportedly choking a cab driver. First off, Amaya previously was with the Saints. He came as part of the Reggie Bush trade, but later was released. Second, former Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib pretty much set the precedent for incidents with cab drivers.
  • Mark Bradley has a nice summation of Atlanta’s situation at running back. He says it’s too early to say for sure if Jacquizz Rodgers is ready to take over as Atlanta’s feature back, but it’s nice to know there’s an alternative to Michael Turner. The Falcons obviously are giving Rodgers more playing time and more carries. I’d expect things to keep moving in that direction as long as Rodgers continues to produce.
  • Larry Holder reports that New Orleans defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley will not face a suspension after he was ejected for kicking a San Francisco player on Sunday. But Bunkley still could face a fine from the NFL.

NFC South afternoon update

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
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Time for an afternoon run through the top news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, could be ready to return Sunday against Arizona. Weatherspoon didn’t practice Wednesday, but coach Mike Smith indicated there’s a chance he could get some practice time Thursday. That’s the good news. The bad news is that wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) did not practice. Smith said Jones’ status will be evaluated again Thursday, but his injury could be one reason why the Falcons signed receiver Tim Toone on Tuesday night.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Although his first stint with the Panthers was marred by some off-field problems, offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges said he’s calmed down now. Bridges, who previously played for the Panthers from 2006 through 2008, was re-signed Wednesday and become an immediate starter at right guard, a position where the Panthers have had some problems. Defensive end Thomas Keiser was placed on injured reserve to open the roster spot for Bridges.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Although running back Darren Sproles (hand) returned to practice Wednesday, right tackle Zach Strief (groin) sat out. It’s beginning to look like Charles Brown will get another start at right tackle.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

With strongside linebacker Quincy Black out for the rest of the season, coach Greg Schiano said the team likely will go with Adam Hayward as his replacement. That makes the most sense because Hayward has more experience than rookie Najee Goode and Jacob Cutrera. Hayward also has shown some flashes as a backup and on special teams.

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