NFC South: Antwan Applewhite

Reviewing NFC South free agents

March, 7, 2013
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We’ve shown you the lists of potential NFC South free agents before. But let’s do it again because there have been some minor moves and the free-agency period is getting ready to start Tuesday.

Here’s the list of potential free agents for all four NFC South teams:

Atlanta Falcons. Tony Gonzalez, Brent Grimes, Sam Baker, William Moore, Will Svitek, Mike Cox, Todd McClure, Luke McCown, Christopher Owens, Mike Peterson, Garrett Reynolds, Lawrence Sidbury and Vance Walker all can become unrestricted free agents. Michael Palmer can become a restricted free agent.

Carolina Panthers. The potential unrestricted free agents are Derek Anderson, Antwan Applewhite, Gary Barnidge, Dwan Edwards, Ben Hartsock, Sherrod Martin, Captain Munnerlyn, Louis Murphy and Mike Pollak. Richie Brockel can become an exclusive-rights free agent. Andre Neblett, Nate Ness and Jason Phillips are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

New Orleans Saints. Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Casillas, Chase Daniel, Sedrick Ellis, Devery Henderson, Ramon Humber, Elbert Mack, Turk McBride, Will Robinson, Courtney Roby and Scott Shanle can become unrestricted free agents. Brian De La Puente, Justin Drescher, Junior Galette and Chris Ivory are scheduled to become restricted free agents. Eric Olsen and Michael Higgins can become exclusive-rights free agents.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ronde Barber, Dallas Clark, Michael Bennett, E.J. Biggers, Andrew Economos, Roy Miller, Roscoe Parrish, Sammie Stroughter and Jeremy Trueblood can become unrestricted free agents. LeGarrette Blount, Jacob Cutrera, Corvey Irvin and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

Looking at Panthers' defensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
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As I’ve been running through playing-time numbers for the 2012 season, I’ve been highlighting the guys who played huge amounts. But, in this post about Carolina’s defense, we’re going to go in the opposite direction.

Injuries were a big story for Carolina, which had 1,051 defensive snaps. But the Panthers were without some key components for most of those snaps. Due to injuries, linebacker Jon Beason was limited to 24.93 percent of the snaps, cornerback Chris Gamble participated in only 26.64 percent of the snaps and defensive tackle Ron Edwards was limited to 29.97 percent.

Here’s the complete breakdown of playing-time percentage for Carolina’s defense:

Looking at Carolina's free agents

February, 11, 2013
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Let’s continue our look at the NFC South’s potential free agents with the Carolina Panthers.

The bad news is the Panthers don’t have the salary-cap room to re-sign many of their own free agents. The good news is it’s unlikely they’ll have a strong desire to keep many of those guys.

Their potential unrestricted free agents are quarterback Derek Anderson, defensive end Antwan Applewhite, tight end Gary Barnidge, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, tight end Ben Hartsock, safety Sherrod Martin, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, receiver Louis Murphy, guard Mike Pollak and linebacker Jordan Senn. Fullback/tight end Richie Brockel can become an exclusive-rights frree agent and defensive tackle Andre Neblett, safety Nate Ness and linebacker Jason Phillips are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

There’s not a single name on that list that the Panthers have to keep, although there are several role players that could have increased because the team is going to have to part with several veteran starters to get under the salary cap.

Applewhite, Edwards and Munnerlyn are likely to be the top targets for retention. But Munnerlyn, who the Panthers prefer to use only against slot receivers, believes he can be an every-down corner and may try to find a team that will use him as a full-time starter.

Martin is a former starter, but his career might be better off with a fresh start elsewhere. Anderson has been a veteran backup for Cam Newton the last two years, but I don’t think re-signing him is a high priority. The Panthers also have Jimmy Clausen under contract and, by now, he should know the offense as well as Anderson.

Bucs, Falcons make most of injuries

December, 4, 2012
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When a team’s season goes bad, one common response is to point to injuries.

Sometimes that holds merit and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t have to look any further than the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to see that.

At least at the moment, the Panthers lead the division with 13 players on injured reserve. They are linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Ron Edwards, cornerback Chris Gamble, center Ryan Kalil, defensive end Thomas Keiser, cornerback Nate Ness, linebacker Kenny Onatolu, receiver Kealoha Pilares, guard Mike Pollak, safety Sherrod Martin, defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite, running back Tauren Poole and tackle Lee Ziemba.

The Buccaneers are right behind them with 10 players on injured reserve. They are receiver Arrelious Benn, linebacker Quincy Black, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, safety Cody Grimm, guard Davin Joseph, guard Carl Nicks, tight end Danny Noble, receiver Sammie Stroughter, tackle Jeremy Trueblood and offensive lineman Desmond Wynn.

Beason, Edwards, Gamble and Kalil were starters and Pilares was the kick returner. No doubt those injuries have hurt the Panthers.

But, guess what? Tampa Bay’s injury situation is virtually the same. Black, Clayborn, Joseph and Nicks were starters and Benn was returning kicks before he went down.

The difference is Tampa Bay has used its next-man-up philosophy, especially on the offensive line, and fared pretty well. The Panthers are 3-9 and I’ve got a hunch their record might be pretty close to the same even if all the injured guys were healthy.

Injuries matter but they’re not a cover-it-all excuse. We can look to the other two NFC South teams for proof of that. The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints each have eight players on injured reserve.

Atlanta’s injured players are fullback Bradie Ewing, tight end Tommy Gallarda, receiver Kerry Meier, tight end Adam Nissley, guard Garrett Reynolds, safety Shann Schillinger and tackle Will Svitek.

New Orleans’ injured reserve list includes linebacker Chris Chamberlain, receiver Chris Givens, tackle Bryce Harris, tackle Marcel Jones, defensive end Greg Romeus, guard Andrew Tiller, receiver Nick Toon and tackle Fenuki Tupou.

Grimes was a starter for the Falcons and Ewing might have been. Reynolds was starting up until his injury, but I think there’s a chance the Falcons still might have put rookie Peter Konz into the lineup. Chamberlain might have been a full-time starter for the Saints, but none of the rest of their injured guys would have been key players.

You could make a case the Falcons were hit harder than the Saints by injuries. But the Falcons are 11-1 and the Saints are 5-7.
Time to check in on the most significant injuries for Sunday’s game involving NFC South teams.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) will be a game-time decision, according to assistant head coach Joe Vitt. But Graham seemed to progress as the week went on and I think there’s a decent chance he’ll play Sunday at Denver. Vitt also said linebacker David Hawthorne (hamstring) will be a game-time decision. Hawthorne missed a lot more practice time than Graham, so it might be another week before we see him.

Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson (hip) is listed as probable. He’s going to have to play a lot because backup Antwan Applewhite (knee) is out and Thomas Keiser (elbow) is doubtful.

The Falcons declared receiver Harry Douglas (ankle/knee) will be out for Sunday’s game at Philadelphia. That means the Falcons will have to turn to either Drew Davis or Kevin Cone as their third receiver. Right guard Garrett Reynolds (back) is listed as questionable. That could clear the way for rookie Peter Konz to get his first start.

Jon Beason to play against Falcons

September, 30, 2012
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ATLANTA -- Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason, who was listed as questionable with knee and shoulder injuries, will be active for Sunday’s game with the Atlanta Falcons.

The biggest item of note on Carolina’s list of inactives is that rookie receiver/return man Joe Adams will not play. Adams muffed a punt and fumbled on a kickoff return last week. Kealoha Pilares is expected to handle kickoff returns and Armanti Edwards is likely to handle punt returns.

Carolina’s other inactives are Jimmy Clausen, D.J. Campbell, Bruce Campbell, Mike Pollak, Antwan Applewhite and Frank Kearse.

As expected, Atlanta fullback Lousaka Polite, cornerback Chris Owens, tight end Michael Palmer and running back Antone Smith are inactive due to injuries. The other inactives for the Falcons are Dominique Davis, Lamar Holmes and Jonathan Massaquoi.

Around the NFC South

July, 21, 2012
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Let’s take a run through the headlines from around the NFC South.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter reports the Falcons recently worked out veteran tight end Daniel Graham. The Falcons have a roster spot to fill after releasing linebacker Matt Hansen on Friday night.
  • John Manasso lays out five story lines for the Falcons as they get ready to start camp. He covers the big questions at middle linebacker and left tackle but also explores what the defense will look like with new coordinator Mike Nolan and how newly-acquired cornerback Asante Samuel will fit in.
  • The Times-Picayune continues its countdown of the top 25 Saints with wide receiver Marques Colston at No. 5. Mike Triplett writes that Colston may be valued more in an offense that doesn’t spread the ball around as much as the Saints. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. But Colston also was smart enough to realize he’s in a great situation with quarterback Drew Brees. That may be a big part of the reason why Colston re-signed with the Saints instead of leaving via free agency.
  • Here’s a Barry Wilner column that recites the litany of all the offseason drama the Saints have been through. Wilner writes that the Saints could have trouble overcoming all the adversity. That’s obviously a legitimate concern with coach Sean Payton suspended for the season. But I think the Saints still can have a successful season because they have a veteran roster that also happens to have plenty of talent.
  • In an answer to a question that came from many readers, Tampa Bay’s Aug. 22 and 23 workouts with the Patriots will not be open to the public. They come after training camp (and public workouts) ends. The Bucs and Patriots will play a preseason game at Raymond James Stadium on Aug. 24.
  • Bryan Strickland has an overview of Carolina’s situation at defensive end. Charles Johnson has 20.5 sacks over the past two seasons, but the rest of the team hasn’t been very productive in the pass rush. Greg Hardy is the incumbent as the other starter, but the Panthers likely will take long looks at Thomas Keiser, Antwan Applewhite and rookie Frank Alexander in the preseason.
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff hasn’t had a lot of salary-cap room to work with this offseason, but that hasn’t stopped him from using creative ways to maximize every penny.

While recently re-signing veteran center Todd McClure and veteran long-snapper Joe Zelenka, Dimitroff took advantage of the veteran minimum salary benefit. That’s a rule that basically was put in so that veterans aren’t priced out of the league. Zelenka’s a 12-year veteran and McClure has been in the NFL for 13 seasons. At that level of experience, the minimum salary is $925,000.

That’s the salary Zelenka and McClure will receive this season, but the benefit allows their base salary to count only $540,000 against the salary cap. McClure got a $65,000 signing bonus, so his cap figure is $605,000, even though the total cash value of his one-year contract is $990,000. Zelenka didn’t get a signing bonus so his cap figure is $540,000.

The Falcons currently have $1.66 million in cap space.

Dimitroff isn’t the only NFC South general manager taking advantage of the benefit. The Carolina Panthers' Marty Hurney used it when he recently re-signed defensive end Antwan Applewhite. As a four-year veteran, Applewhite’s minimum salary is $700,000. That’s what he’ll get, but only $540,000 of his base salary counts toward the cap. Applewhite also has a $65,000 workout bonus, which bring his cap figure up to $605,000.

In other contract and cap news, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Preston Parker has signed his exclusive-free-agent tender. He’s scheduled to make $540,000 this year. Running back LeGarrette Blount also is an exclusive-rights free agent, but has yet to sign his tender.

Update: The Bucs announced later on Wednesday that Blount has signed his tender and confirmed the Parker signing.

Panthers keep DE depth

March, 30, 2012
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The Carolina Panthers just announced they have re-signed defensive end Antwan Applewhite.

This is a move that gives the Panthers some solid depth behind Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. I’m not prepared to say this takes Carolina out of the mix for North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples if he’s available with the No. 9 pick in the draft. Coples could be a special player and the Panthers may take him, if they really like him.

But the return of Applewhite means it’s not urgent for the Panthers to get another defensive end. Applewhite made a bit of a surprising impact after being signed in October. He had 21 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble while playing in 12 games.

Applewhite is versatile and athletic and could even line up at linebacker. He played for Carolina coach Ron Rivera when Rivera was defensive coordinator for the Chargers and that’s part of the reason he was signed. Applewhite was re-signed because he performed even better than the Panthers expected last season. With a full offseason and training camp, Applewhite could earn even more playing time in the rotation of the defensive line.

NFC South: Free-agency primer

March, 8, 2012
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AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Atlanta Falcons

Key free agents: CB Brent Grimes (franchise tag), LB Curtis Lofton, DE John Abraham, WR Harry Douglas and C Todd McClure.

Where they stand: The Falcons put the franchise tag on Grimes but would like to sign him to a long-term contract. That would improve a salary-cap situation that’s already decent. Keeping Lofton and Douglas, who have been developed by the current coaching staff, is also likely to be a priority. Although Abraham led the team with 9.5 sacks last season, his age and salary expectations work against the possibility of his return. Unless Abraham’s price tag drops significantly, the Falcons seem likely to let him walk. McClure could opt to retire. But if he wants to play, it’s likely the Falcons would welcome him back.

What to expect: After a quick and embarrassing exit from the postseason, owner Arthur Blank made it very clear that simply making the playoffs isn’t good enough. Blank expects to contend for a Super Bowl title. The Falcons went all in last year when they traded up to draft receiver Julio Jones and paid big money to free-agent defensive end Ray Edwards. Look for them to take a similar approach this year. The Falcons are usually good for at least one major move an offseason, and this year we could see two or three. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons go hard after Houston linebacker Mario Williams because they need a pass-rusher to replace Abraham. Without a first-round pick, the Falcons also probably will use free agency to fill a big need at left tackle. There aren’t a lot of options, but tackle Marcus McNeill could be a target if he is released, as expected, by the Chargers. The Falcons could even make a play for New Orleans guard Carl Nicks. His presence would make life easier for any left tackle, and pulling him away from the Saints also would weaken a division rival.

Carolina Panthers

Key free agents: TE Jeremy Shockey, LB Dan Connor, G Geoff Hangartner, LB/DL Antwan Applewhite and QB Derek Anderson.

Where they stand: The Panthers seem to be uncertain whether Shockey plans to retire or keep playing. If he wants to play, they’d gladly take him back because he’s a nice complement to Greg Olsen. They also are likely to make a strong attempt to keep Hangartner, who did a nice job after Carolina had several guards injured last preseason. It’s similar with Applewhite, who was signed during the season and made nice contributions. But the Panthers seem prepared to let Connor test free agency because they can’t promise him playing time with Jon Beason returning from injury as the starting middle linebacker. Anderson could return, but the Panthers likely will at least explore the possibility of looking for an upgrade as Cam Newton’s backup.

What to expect: Don’t expect a lot. The Panthers had their big splurge coming out of the lockout last summer, and they’re paying the tab for that now. They will have to release players and restructure contracts just to get below the cap before free agency starts. Linebacker Thomas Davis, who is coming off his third torn ACL, is a prime candidate for release or restructure. Although the team clearly wants to improve its defense, don’t look for any major moves in free agency. The team simply doesn’t have the cap room to make any big deals. The team might sign a midlevel free agent or two, but major upgrades will have to come through the draft.

New Orleans Saints

Key free agents: QB Drew Brees (franchise tag), G Carl Nicks, WR Marques Colston, CB Tracy Porter and WR Robert Meachem.

Where they stand: The past three years have been the most peaceful and prosperous in franchise history. But the peaceful part already has ended this offseason. In addition to getting into trouble with the NFL for a bounty program, the Saints are dealing with contract issues that are beyond challenging. They used the franchise tag on Brees and that’s going to cost them around $15 million. Even if they do reach a long-term agreement with Brees, his cap figure for this year could climb above $15 million. Either way, the Saints are going to have major cap issues. They’ve already restructured the contract of defensive end Will Smith and may do the same with linebacker Jonathan Vilma or perhaps even release him and some veterans. The Saints are going to have so much cap space tied up in Brees that they’ll have a hard time keeping their other free agents. Nicks would seem to be the priority with Colston close behind. But keeping even one of them would be a victory for the Saints.

What to expect: General manager Mickey Loomis always has been aggressive and daring, and he might have to be even more creative than usual because of the cap situation. The Saints simply aren’t the type of team to sit still. They had flaws exposed in a playoff loss to San Francisco, and they’re asking new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to fix their defense. The problem there is a lot of the current personnel doesn’t fit all that well in Spagnuolo’s scheme. Loomis needs to find a way to get at least one more pass-rusher up front and needs to add an athletic linebacker or two. He also may have to fill more needs if the Saints lose as many free agents as most expect. This team lacks a first-round pick in the draft, so Loomis will have to make some big moves when it comes to releasing players or restructuring contracts just to give the Saints a shot at being a little bit active in free agency.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key free agents: K Connor Barth (franchise tag), CB Ronde Barber, RB Earnest Graham, LB Geno Hayes, S Sean Jones, DE Michael Bennett (restricted) and RB LeGarrette Blount (exclusive rights).

Where they stand: The Bucs begin coach Greg Schiano’s tenure in a unique situation. They’ve got a ton of cap room and need improvement in lots of areas. But they’ll deal with what they have between now and the start of free agency. A decision on Barber probably will come very soon. Schiano has indicated he’d like the veteran back, but Barber could choose to retire, which also would create a major need at cornerback. That position also could be an issue later in March when starting cornerback Aqib Talib is scheduled for trial on an assault charge. Talib could go to prison or face a suspension from the NFL, but his fate will be unknown at the start of free agency. Hayes didn’t have a great season last year, but he has upside, and the new staff might want to keep him. The Bucs are likely to let Graham walk because of his age. A return by Jones is possible at a reasonable salary, but the Bucs still need to look to upgrade at safety.

What to expect: The exact amount will depend on how many of their free agents are brought back, but the Bucs are likely to have somewhere around $50 million in cap space at the start of free agency and that will put them near the top of the league. After barely dipping into free agency last year, the Bucs were able to carry over extra cap room, and general manager Mark Dominik has publicly said the team plans to be more active in free agency. But fans need to keep that in perspective. The Bucs aren’t going to suddenly return to the days when Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen regularly shelled out money for big-name players in their 30s. The Bucs started a youth movement three years ago, and there are some parts in place. Now, it’s time for them to supplement those parts. They’ll be active in free agency, but they’ll be focusing on players still in their 20s. They’ll also be focusing on improving the supporting cast of quarterback Josh Freeman, who they believe can become great. Look for them to add a speed receiver, perhaps someone like Mario Manningham (Giants) or Eddie Royal (Broncos). The Bucs also want to improve at running back, where Blount is a one-dimensional power runner. They could look for a pass-catching specialist or opt to look for a complete back who could even replace Blount as the starter. On defense, the Bucs probably will try to upgrade at linebacker. If Barber and/or Talib aren’t back, the Bucs will have to make a move or two at cornerback and probably wouldn’t hesitate to pay big money to someone such as Cortland Finnegan (Titans).

Around the NFC South

February, 20, 2012
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Time for a look at the top Monday morning headlines from around the division.

The Falcons reportedly have begun preliminary negotiations with some of their 17 prospective free agents. I think it’s pretty safe to assume cornerback Brent Grimes and linebacker Curtis Lofton are at the top of the list. What isn’t as clear is what the Falcons will do with defensive end John Abraham. He’s near the end of his career and the Falcons have to decide if they want to bring their top pass rusher back.

The Panthers made a minor signing, adding defensive end Jyles Tucker, who sat out last season. But Tucker previously played for Carolina coach Ron Rivera in San Diego. The Panthers have had decent luck previously when they’ve signed one of Rivera’s former players. They picked up defensive end/linebacker Antwan Applewhite last season and he wound up being a solid contributor.

New Orleans, which hasn’t hosted a Super Bowl since 2002, already is gearing up to host next year’s event.

Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber reportedly is recovering well from a fractured forearm, but has yet to decide if he wants to retire or continue playing.

Teams can start using the franchise tag Monday and the deadline is March 5. The prime candidates for the tag in the NFC South are New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and guard Carl Nicks and Atlanta's Grimes and Lofton.

Brees and wife Brittany are expecting a third son, the quarterback said.

Panthers: First look at free agency

January, 31, 2012
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Let’s continue our NFC South look ahead to free agency with the Carolina Panthers.

We'll take a look at Carolina’s potential free agents. They’re all unrestricted unless noted as restricted free agents or exclusive-rights free agents.

Quarterback Derek Anderson, linebacker/defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite, offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau, linebacker Dan Connor, linebacker Omar Gaither, cornerback Cletis Gordon, offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner, long-snapper J.J. Jansen, receiver Legedu Naanee, linebacker Jordan Senn, tight end Jeremy Shockey, receiver Seyi Ajirotutu (exclusive rights), tight end Richie Brockel (exclusive rights), cornerback R.J. Stanford (exclusive rights), linebacker Thomas Williams (exclusive rights), linebacker Jason Phillips (restricted) and guard Geoff Schwartz (restricted).

There’s not a single guy on that list that the Panthers absolutely have to have back. That's good because the Panthers are going to be tight against the salary cap. But there are several players they’re likely to have interest in retaining at the right price. They liked what Senn and Applewhite showed in 2011. Shockey seemed to fit well in tandem with Greg Olsen and could return for a one-year contract. The offensive line is in pretty good shape, but the Panthers likely will keep either Schwartz or Hangartner as a starting guard.

NFC South players not signed for 2012

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
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A lot can change between now and the start of free agency and I sure don’t see any way the New Orleans Saints let quarterback/King Drew Brees walk away. I also think there’s a pretty good chance tight end Tony Gonzalez can return to the Atlanta Falcons if he chooses. Same for cornerback Ronde Barber with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and maybe even Jeremy Shockey with the Carolina Panthers.

But all we know about those guys at the moment is they’re not under contract for 2012. We’ll do much more on free agency as it gets closer but I’ve got the complete list of every NFC South player presently not under contract for 2012.

I’ll list them by team here and we’ll only go with the guys who have at least four years of service and can become unrestricted free agents. We’ll deal with restricted and exclusive-rights free agents at another time.

Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez, tight end; Reggie Kelly, tight end; Todd McClure, center; Mike Peterson, linebacker; John Abraham, defensive end; Joe Zelenka, long-snapper; Chris Redman, quarterback; Kirk Chambers, offensive line; Kelvin Hayden, cornerback; Brett Romberg, offensive line; James Sanders, safety; Jason Snelling, running back; Kroy Biermann, defensive end; Thomas DeCoud, safety; Harry Douglas, receiver; Brent Grimes, cornerback; Curtis Lofton, linebacker; Eric Weems, receiver.

Carolina Panthers: Jeremy Shockey, tight end; Reggie Wells, offensive line; Derek Anderson, quarterback; Geoff Hangartner, center/guard; Omar Gaither, linebacker; Cletis Gordon, cornerback; Legedu Naanee, receiver; Antwan Applewhite, linebacker; Mackenzy Beranadeau, offensive line; Dan Connor, linebacker; J.J. Jansen, long-snapper; Jerome Felton, fullback; Jordan Senn, linebacker.

New Orleans Saints: John Kasay, kicker; Drew Brees, quarterback; Shaun Rogers, defensive tackle; John Gilmore, tight end; Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle; Marques Colston, receiver; Pat McQuistan, offensive line; Courtney Roby, receiver; Leigh Torrence, cornerback; Jeff Charleston, defensive end; Turk McBride, defensive end; Robert Meachem, receiver; Jo-Lonn Dunbar, linebacker; Carl Nicks, guard; Tracy Porter, cornerback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronde Barber, cornerback; Earnest Graham, running back; Sean Jones, safety; Connor Barth, kicker; Geno Hayes, linebacker; Josh Johnson, quarterback; James Lee, offensive line; Corey Lynch, safety; Elbert Mack, cornerback; Frank Okam, defensive tackle; Micheal Spurlock, receiver; Jeremy Zuttah, offensive line.

NFC South Stock Watch

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Aqib Talib, cornerback, Buccaneers. He was called for a costly personal foul in the final minutes. Talib’s had problems controlling his emotions throughout his career and that doesn’t seem to be improving. The Bucs have gone out of their way with Talib because he is a rare physical talent. But their efforts have rarely been rewarded this season. In the past, Talib’s physical talent often outweighed his mistakes. This season, that hasn’t been the case.

2. Raheem Morris, coach, Buccaneers. His team has been wildly inconsistent all season. One week, the Bucs go out and play great against the Saints. The next, they’re flat as can be against the Bears. Tampa Bay is a very young team and inconsistency should be expected. But it’s ultimately up to the head coach to get his team to play with consistency. The Bucs haven’t shown any progress in this area.

3. Sam Baker, left tackle, Falcons. He sat out with a back injury. Will Svitek filled in and did not allow a sack to Kyle Vanden Bosch. Baker’s been shaky most of the season. It will be interesting to see what the Falcons do at left tackle coming out of their bye week.

RISING

[+] EnlargePete Carmichael
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireOffensive coordinator Pete Carmichael had a very successful debut as the Saints' playcaller.
1. Pete Carmichael, offensive coordinator, Saints. With Sean Payton nursing his injured leg up in the press box, Carmichael got to call the plays for the entire game for the first time in his career. He obviously did pretty well as the Saints scored on their first nine possessions. Carmichael has kept a low profile and he’s a quiet guy. But he’s known and respected throughout the league. It looks like he’ll continue calling the plays for some time. That should only raise his profile and his name could start coming up in some conversations about head-coaching jobs.

2. Antwan Applewhite, defensive lineman, Panthers. This guy was a late pickup for the Panthers after they suffered a number of injuries on the defense. Coach Ron Rivera had history with Applewhite in San Diego. But this guy is contributing much more than you’d expect from a guy who was signed off the street just a few weeks ago. Against the Redskins, Applewhite had a sack, forced a fumble and made five tackles.

3. Corey Peters, defensive tackle, Falcons. The second-year pro has quietly been Atlanta’s best defensive lineman. He was stout against the run last season, but his skills as a pass-rusher have improved this year. That showed through Sunday when he came up with a third-quarter sack that stalled a Detroit drive and forced the Lions to kick a field goal.

Around the NFC South

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
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Time for a look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.

Although rookie Mark Ingram had 17 carries Sunday and Pierre Thomas had just six, coach Sean Payton said there’s no set formula for dividing the carries between the running backs. Payton said the way the game unfolds determines that. Against Jacksonville, the Saints faced a lot of short-yardage situations and the Saints use Ingram more in the short-yardage game.

Carolina receiver Steve Smith appears happier than he has seemed in recent years, according to Jordan Gross, who has played with Smith in college and with the Panthers. Smith has reason to be happy. With Cam Newton, he has a quarterback who can get him the ball and Smith is putting up the kind of numbers he did earlier in his career.

Broadcaster Rodney Harrison, a former player, picks the Packers to beat the Falcons on Sunday night. Can’t really argue with his logic based on last season’s playoff game and the way the Falcons have started this season. But I’ve got a hunch we might see Atlanta start to put things together this week.

Before the playoff loss to the Packers, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan won his two head-to-head meetings with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Ryan said he used the playoff loss as motivation throughout the offseason.

The Panthers continue to tweak their roster. They signed defensive end Antwan Applewhite and claimed safety Jermale Hines off waivers from the Colts. Applewhite played for San Diego when Carolina coach Ron Rivera was with the Chargers.

Tampa Bay’s coaching staff was happy with the play of Corey Lynch and Larry Asante, who shared playing time at safety after the Bucs lost Cody Grimm to injury for the rest of the season.

Tampa Bay’s investments in the front four during the last two drafts seem to be paying off. The Bucs have allowed only 92 rushing yards in the last two games. The Bucs already have 10 sacks after recording 10 all of last season.

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