NFC South: Ahmad Black

Looking at playing time: Defense

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
2:30
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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.
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' players are running up a tab on ownership.

The Bucs already have ensured that the Glazer family will remit at least $50,000 to the NFL. As part of the NFL’s policy to “promote player safety by encouraging clubs to teach proper techniques and to correct improper and dangerous play by their players,’’ teams now are required to pay a fine if their players ring up too many fines for on-field actions.

The league keeps a tab starting with the first preseason game and running through each team’s last game. If a club’s total of on-field fines reaches $105,000, the team is required to remit $50,000 to the NFL. If a team’s season total reaches $157,500, the club shall remit an additional $25,000 and must match any subsequent fines for the remainder of the season.

Not all fines are revealed. But we know that Bucs safety Dashon Goldson was fined $100,000 for a hit on Darren Sproles in Week 2, which came on the heels of a $30,000 fine for a hit on Jeff Cumberland in Week 1. Safety Ahmad Black was fined $21,000 for a Week 2 hit, and linebacker Lavonte David was fined $7,875 for a Week 1 hit.

That means the Bucs have compiled at least $158,875 in individual fines. Under the policy, the maximum calculation for any fine is $50,000 (Goldson’s $100,000 fine falls into that category). That means the Bucs’ tab currently stands is at least $108,875 in the NFL's eyes.

At the end of the season, ownership will be writing a check for at least $50,000, and that number may grow if the Bucs keep piling up fines.

Brees takes tough stance on Bucs' hits

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
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METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees didn’t pull any punches when asked about the shots his teammates took last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- making it clear that he felt safeties Dashon Goldson and Ahmad Black crossed the line with their vicious hits to the heads of tailback Darren Sproles and tight end Jimmy Graham.

Brees
Brees didn’t bring up the subject on his own, but he answered bluntly when asked about Goldson’s one-game suspension being overturned Wednesday.

"He’s had a lot of those," Brees said of Goldson, who was instead fined $100,000 after his latest illegal hit on Sproles. "He certainly has no regard for the rules in the middle. He's going after guys' heads. You can see it. So obviously $100,000 is a pretty hefty fine. And I’m sure if it continues to happen it’ll be even greater punishment than that."

Brees later added:

"It's hard when you're coming off a game where that was one of our guys that he was going after on more than one occasion -- and obviously the hit on Jimmy, which wasn't him. It was another one of their guys. But it was obvious that they were going at his head, so I've got no sympathy for that. …

"I know it's tough playing the safety position in the middle. Things happen fast. But then again, there's some instances where you can see it was pretty obvious a guy was going at another guy's head. And that happened on at least two occasions in our game."

Tampa Bay blogger Pat Yasinskas has some comments from Goldson here.

Dashon Goldson needs to tone it down

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
6:48
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TAMPA, Fla. -- As it turns out, Dashon Goldson's greatest strength might be his biggest weakness.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Goldson as a free agent largely because of his reputation as a big hitter. There’s no doubt Tampa Bay needed to be a little more physical in the defensive backfield after ranking last in the league in pass defense last year.

But Goldson went a little too far. Goldson has been suspended without pay (that comes to $265,000) for one game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on New Orleans running back Darren Sproles, according to Adam Schefter.

There’s no doubt that the fact that this is Goldson’s 15th personal foul since 2010 had a lot to do with the severity of his discipline. Goldson was fined $30,000 for a similar hit in the season opener against the New York Jets.

There’s a very fine line between being aggressive and going overboard with hits. This hit and the one against the Jets didn’t seem intentional. But Goldson needs to realize the NFL is enforcing different rules in an era when concussions have been a major issue. Five or 10 years ago, Goldson wouldn’t have been suspended or even fined. But times have changed and Goldson has to change.

His suspension is a big blow to the Bucs as they go up against New England quarterback Tom Brady. Ahmad Black is a competent backup, but he’s not nearly on Goldson’s level. When Goldson comes back, he needs to tone things down a bit because any more big hits could cost him a lot more than one game.

Surveying the Buccaneers' roster

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
8:00
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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
8/30/13
3:15
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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.

Leonard Johnson leads Bucs' pool

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
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Tampa Bay cornerback Leonard Johnson, who went undrafted but got a lot of playing time as a rookie, earned the most of any of the Buccaneers in the NFL’s 2012 performance-based pool.

Johnson earned an extra $227,000, according to league sources.

Other Tampa Bay players to earn more than $100,000 in the pool, which is designed to reward players with low base salaries who get significant playing time, were linebacker Lavonte David ($215,000), offensive lineman Ted Larsen ($203,000), defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim ($178,000), fullback Erik Lorig ($178,000), linebacker Mason Foster ($167,000), safety Ahmad Black ($164,000) receiver Mike Williams ($160,000), offensive lineman Jamon Meredith ($145,000), tight end Luke Stocker ($126,000) and offensive tackle Demar Dotson ($126,000).

Looking at Bucs' defensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
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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.

NFC South afternoon update

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
5:12
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Time for a Thursday afternoon run through the headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

For the second straight week, the Falcons will be without perhaps their best defensive player. Coach Mike Smith said linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) will miss Sunday’s game with New Orleans. The Falcons used a combination of Mike Peterson and Akeem Dent in Weatherspoon’s role against Dallas and it’s likely they’ll do the same thing against the Saints.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Although early talks about renovations to Bank of America Stadium focused on Charlotte officials, Erik Spanberg reports state officials might be willing to get involved.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Running back Darren Sproles (hand) missed another day of practice Thursday and it’s becoming increasingly likely he won’t be ready for Sunday’s game with Atlanta. Although Sproles creates unique matchup problems, the Saints have good depth at running back with Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory. Right tackle Zach Strief (groin) missed his second straight day of practice. If Strief can’t play Sunday, Charles Brown would be the likely replacement.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Greg Schiano has a reputation for being a hard-line coach. A recent anonymous poll of players around the league determined he’s the coach players would least like to play for. But Schiano also has a sense of humor and was able to laugh off the poll.

Dory LeBlanc reports that Tampa Bay’s secondary is having problems on and off the field. The Bucs have had trouble stopping the passing game. The team recently traded cornerback Aqib Talib, while he was serving a four-game suspension, there have been reports cornerback Eric Wright could face a similar suspension and safety Ahmad Black recently was cited -- but not arrested -- for marijuana possession. Safeties Ronde Barber and Mark Barron have played well, but the cornerbacks have struggled. The Bucs don’t have much choice but to go with what they already have for the rest of the season, but I think it’s pretty safe to say the team will have strong interest in cornerbacks in free agency and the draft.

Around the NFC South

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
10:12
AM ET

Time to take a look at the top Thursday morning headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Receiver Roddy White said the Falcons have the pedigree to go 16-0. I don’t know about pedigree, but I look at Atlanta’s schedule and see a December game with the Giants as the only big concern.

The Falcons aren’t feeling a lot of sympathy for the Saints and all they’re going through with the bounty scandal. That’s no surprise. These two teams don’t like each other and I’ll have more on that in a column later Thursday.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

With return man Kealoha Pilares out for the season, rookie Joe Adams is expected to get his first playing time since being benched early in the season. Adams definitely has some potential, but needs to hold onto the ball if he’s going to stay on the field.

The Panthers have lots of respect for Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, but they know the only way to slow him down is to come after him with a strong pass rush.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Right tackle Zach Strief suffered a groin injury in Monday night’s victory. If Strief can’t play Sunday, Charles Brown would start in his place.

After rushing for 48 yards on 10 carries Monday night, running back Chris Ivory said he’s still perplexed about why he didn’t get more playing time earlier in the season. I think the answer is pretty obvious. Ivory was behind Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram on the depth chart

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

There’s a lot of sudden hype about rookie running back Doug Martin, but Tom Jones writes it’s not too early to say he’s a special player. I agree. It is too early to say Martin’s headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame because he needs to show he can produce over the long haul. But Martin already has shown he’s a very good running back.

Martin Fennelly writes that coach Greg Schiano hasn’t been very consistent with discipline. He didn’t hesitate to unload Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib, but safety Ahmad Black still is playing after reportedly being cited for marijuana possession. We still don’t know all the facts about Black’s citation and he has not been arrested. Schiano’s hands might be tied until this situation plays out a little more.

NFC South afternoon update

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
4:56
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Time for a look at some odds and ends from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

In an anonymous league-wide poll by The Sporting News, players voted Greg Schiano as the coach they would least like to play for. Yeah, Schiano is hard-nosed, but I think his reputation precedes him around the league. The guys who actually do play for him aren’t complaining. That’s largely because the Bucs are faring pretty well. As long as the on-field results are positive, I don’t think you’re going to see a mutiny in Tampa Bay’s locker room.

Speaking of Schiano and discipline, the coach said he had “candid conversations’’ with safety Ahmad Black, who reportedly was cited for -- but not officially arrested -- marijuana possession. Schiano said he took internal action. But the NFL could discipline Black if it’s determined he violated the personal conduct policy.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Although Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram are getting most of the credit for New Orleans suddenly having a running game, Mike Triplett points out in his weekly film study that the offensive line, the tight ends and running game coordinator Aaron Kromer all played a role in the success against Philadelphia. But let’s keep in mind the Eagles are a team in disarray and recently changed defensive coordinators. We’ll get a better read on New Orleans’ running game on Sunday when the Saints face an Atlanta run defense that’s been pretty good in its past few games.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

As you might expect, Denver coach John Fox said he’s not getting too sentimental about his return to Charlotte, where he spent nine seasons coaching the Panthers. Fox said Sunday’s game is merely a “business trip." I have no doubt that’s how Fox is approaching this game, for the most part. But Fox is a man with pride and his time in Carolina didn’t end well. I think that might give him a little extra incentive on this one.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Here’s yet another story about the Falcons and the whole “respect’’ thing. Funny, but I think this is more a creation of fans and media than anything. Tight end Tony Gonzalez seems to be the only player willing to say the Falcons aren’t getting as much national attention as they deserve. I’m not sure what he wants because it sure seems like the Falcons are getting plenty of attention. Besides, I know most of coach Mike Smith’s sayings by heart and I’m almost sure one of them is, “You earn respect. Do your job and the respect will come.’’ Or something pretty close to that.

Around the NFC South

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
10:27
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Let’s take a Friday morning run through the top headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Jay Adams writes that Kevin Cone might have pushed himself ahead of the pack for the final receiver spot with a 49-yard touchdown catch Thursday night. But Adams says not to write off Tim Toone and James Rodgers. They can contribute on special teams and that’s going to factor heavily into the Falcons’ decision.

Coach Mike Smith’s decision to sit many of his veteran starters in the final preseason game makes lots of sense. He knows what his veterans can do and believes it’s more important to make sure his team is as healthy as possible for the regular-season opener.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Ron Green Jr. writes that the final roster spot at wide receiver may come down to Seyi Ajirotutu and Armanti Edwards. If Edwards is released, it would be another sign that Carolina’s 2010 draft class was far from the best in league history. Brandon LaFell and Greg Hardy are starters, but Eric Norwood already is out of Carolina, receiver David Gettis and cornerback Brandon Hogan have been hurt most of their careers and quarterback Jimmy Clausen might have trouble staying on the roster. Oh, and don’t forget about the great pick that was Tony Pike.

I know some Carolina fans are thinking the Panthers should go out and get another kicker after Justin Medlock missed two field goal attempts in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. But the folks at Carolina Huddle bring up a good point -- Heinz Field is not an easy place to kick. Medlock’s misses were from 56 and 50 yards. The 50-yarder would have tied the record for longest field goal by an NFL player at that stadium.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett has an overview of the biggest question facing the Saints on cut-down day -- do they keep undrafted rookie running back Travaris Cadet? He’s had an outstanding preseason, but keeping him likely means the Saints would have to carry an extra running back and sacrifice a spot at some other position. The Saints have a history of being creative with their roster. If they're as sold on Cadet as fans seem to be, they’ll make room for him.

The final preseason game and trimming the roster will be among the last acts of assistant head coach Joe Vitt, at least for a while. Vitt is scheduled to begin his six-game suspension Monday. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will step into the role as temporary coach. Vitt got emotional Thursday night, when discussing his suspension. That’s understandable. Vitt is an emotional guy to begin with and, as he has said repeatedly, coaching football is the only job he’s had as an adult.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Teams don’t have to announce the moves they made to get their roster down to 53 players until 9 p.m. ET on Friday night and my guess is official word won’t come from most NFC South teams until right around that time. But the Bucs reportedly already have told running back Mossis Madu he’s been released. This is not a huge shock. Madu got some playing time last season and wasn’t bad this preseason. But the Bucs already are set at running back. They invested draft picks in Doug Martin and Michael Smith and they also have LeGarrette Blount.

Roy Cummings writes about how former starting safety Cody Grimm appears to be on the roster bubble. Grimm’s had injury problems in his first two seasons and the Bucs used a first-round draft pick on Mark Barron and have moved veteran cornerback Ronde Barber to safety. Ahmad Black also has emerged this preseason. Grimm’s situation is tenuous, but I’ve got a hunch he may stick because he brings some of the intangibles coach Greg Schiano mentions when he talks about “Buccaneer Men."

NFC South evening update

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
6:00
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Let's take a look at some news and notes from around the NFC South:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Although it’s obvious the Bucs are going with Doug Martin as their starting running back to open the season, coach Greg Schiano said the competition will continue if LeGarrette Blount outperforms the rookie. Here’s the reality: The Bucs drafted Martin to be their starter and he then went out and solidified his position during training camp and the preseason. Blount’s going to get some playing time and carries, but, unless Martin really struggles in the preseason, the depth chart isn’t going to change.

Mark Cook has a list of five defensive players that could be on Tampa Bay’s roster bubble. He leads it off with safety Cody Grimm, who has been a starter in the past. Grimm also has been a fan favorite and it’s not going to go over well if he doesn’t make the team. But that’s how the NFL world works and Ahmad Black, Larry Asante and Keith Tandy might be ahead of Grimm in the pecking order.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett has a column on James Nagoaka. Maybe you never have heard of Nagoaka, but he’s played a tremendously important role as the Saints’ director of operations. Nagoaka handles logistics. Every team has someone like this, but Nagoaka probably has faced more challenges than his peers. He’s the guy who made all the arrangements to get the Saints out of New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Isaac and he’s handled several evacuations in the past.

Although he’s suspended for the first three games, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, a former member of the Saints, said he’s optimistic he’ll play in the season opener. If that does indeed happen, it’s probably really good news for the Saints. Fujita has joined with current New Orleans players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith in an attempt to get a temporary restraining order on their suspensions. I’m not sure how Vilma’s knee is these days, but, given the injuries the Saints have had at linebacker recently, they’d be thrilled if Vilma somehow is cleared to play. It also wouldn’t hurt if defensive end Will Smith is able to play at the start of the season.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Here’s an interesting fact I wish I had known about running back Lyndon Rowells before he was released by the Panthers. Rowells was a record-setting Lumberjack.

Bryan Strickland has a look at the fantasy values of Carolina’s offensive players and says quarterback Cam Newton is a steal if you can get him in the third round. Too bad a friend of mine didn’t read this item before her draft. In a league where points are weighted heavily toward quarterbacks, she took Newton at No. 4 overall. I think that might have been a wee bit early.

ATLANTA FALCONS

In the Mike Smith/Thomas Dimitroff era, 29 of their 32 draft picks have made the regular roster or the practice squad. But D. Orlando Ledbetter makes a good point as he writes that some members of this year’s draft class may have a hard time sticking around. The Falcons like what they’ve got. That’s why they kept their own players in free agency and didn’t pursue a lot from outside. They also were without a first-round pick this year and, as a playoff team, were pretty low in the draft order.

It looks like someone finally has gotten to the bottom of the mysterious foot injury that will keep defensive tackle Corey Peters out for at least the first six games. Coach Mike Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Peters suffered a stress fracture in his foot while working out on his own prior to the start of the team’s offseason program.

Around the NFC South

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
9:45
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A look at the Tuesday morning headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

At first, there were signs that undrafted rookie Dominique Davis could push John Parker Wilson for the third quarterback job. Now, there’s speculation he could move ahead of Chris Redman as the backup. I think that’s a little premature. Davis has a lot of upside and could end up as the backup down the road. But, if something happens to Matt Ryan, I think the Falcons would feel much safer leaving the team in the hands of Redman for the short term.

Jacquizz Rodgers never returned a kickoff in college. But it looks as if he’ll fill that role for the Falcons this season. Makes sense, because Rodgers is one of the team’s fastest players and has the potential to deliver long returns.

The Falcons, who had only one fight throughout training camp, had two scuffles break out Monday.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

After spending the entire offseason working to improve the defense, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he still is concerned about an inability to get offenses off the field on third downs. He’s got two preseason games left to fix that.

It might not be the flashiest of positions, but the battle for the punting job might be the most intense competition in Carolina’s preseason. Veteran Nick Harris and rookie Brad Nortman are the candidates, and they’ve been even so far. Punting was a problem last season, and the Panthers want to upgrade over Jason Baker, who was let go after last season.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Bradley Handwerger writes that having to make a trade for veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud so late in the preseason was less than ideal, but it was the best move the Saints could make after suffering three significant injuries at linebacker. Ruud is a long way removed from the days when he was a top middle linebacker in Tampa Bay, but he’s smart enough to come in and run the defense in the absence of Curtis Lofton. With Ruud in the middle, the Saints will look to start him along with Scott Shanle and Jonathan Casillas until Lofton and David Hawthorne are healthy enough to return.

Former New Orleans special-teams star Steve Gleason said comments he made to HBO’s “Real Sports’’ have been misinterpreted by the media. Preview material of the episode, which is scheduled to air Tuesday night, have touted Gleason as being surprised that no one reacted to former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ speech the night before last season’s playoff loss to San Francisco. Gleason now says he wasn’t questioning the lack of a reaction by players and coaches. He says he was surprised others in his immediate group, and not with the team, didn’t seem to react when Williams made the comments.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

With the New England Patriots coming to town for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday, the Buccaneers are healthier than they’ve been most of the preseason. Running back LeGarrette Blount, left tackle Donald Penn, cornerback Aqib Talib and tight end Luke Stocker, who all have been banged up, are expected to be ready to practice against the Patriots.

Safety Ahmad Black is making a strong case for a roster spot. Ronde Barber and Mark Barron are set as the starters, so Black will have to climb over the likes of Cody Grimm, Larry Asante, Tramain Thomas and Keith Tandy.

Observation deck: Titans-Buccaneers

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
10:42
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Some quick thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 30-7 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Friday night at Raymond James Stadium:
  • I don’t want to speculate too much on LeGarrette Blount's injury, but it’s a pretty major concern any time a running back suffers what appears to be an injury to the knee or leg. Blount went down with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first half. He stayed on the ground for a long time and the medical staff appeared to be looking at his left leg or knee. Blount eventually left the sideline and went to the locker room, presumably for further testing. Blount had a strong training camp and had gotten the start in each of the first two preseason games. Blount appeared to have a shot at keeping his starting job or at least get serious playing time in tandem with rookie Doug Martin. But, if Blount’s injury is serious, Martin might have to be a do-it all running back. Rookie Michael Smith, Mossis Madu and De'Anthony Curtis would be candidates for backup duty if Blount is out for an extended period.
  • I’ll let you know if coach Greg Schiano has any update on Blount’s injury in his post-game press conference. But I’m guessing it might be a day or two before we know anything for sure.
  • Tampa Bay’s run defense, especially on the second level, struggled. The Titans ran for 123 yards in the first half and Chris Johnson seemed to stroll into the end zone on both of his touchdown runs.
  • Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck combined to throw for just 37 yards in the first half. Give Tampa Bay’s pass defense some credit for that. But Locker might have helped the Bucs look good as he completed just 4 of 11 passes for 21 yards while getting the start.
  • Safety Ahmad Black had Tampa Bay’s biggest defensive play of the night. He intercepted a Locker pass and returned it 29 yards to the Tennessee 2-yard line. Two plays later, Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams with a touchdown pass.
  • Freeman had an unspectacular outing. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 21 yards before giving way to Dan Orlovsky.
  • I’d say depth on the offensive line is an issue. Orlovsky was sacked four times. Mobility is not his strength, but Orlovsky didn't have a chance most of the time.

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