NFC South: Arrelious Benn

Bucs need to hit on draft picks

April, 30, 2014
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It’s been well documented that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently have only one player they selected in the 2009 and 2010 drafts on their roster.

That’s defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. But guys like Josh Freeman, Arrelious Benn and Brian Price are long gone from Tampa Bay. The failure of so many draft picks is one of the reasons former coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik are gone and why the Bucs have been so active in free agency this year.

“Is it hard to make up and is it a hindrance?’’ coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday. “That’s probably one of the reasons why [general manager] Jason [Licht] and I are both here right now, so that’s just a part of it.’’

Despite all of the movement in free agency, Smith said the team’s plan is to build through the draft.

“Our plan is for us to do better on the draft and make that our foundation,’’ Smith said.

Although they’ve brought in a lot of veterans, the Bucs expect their first-round draft pick (No. 7 overall) to play right away.

“As a general rule, the seventh pick, you want them to play fairly soon,’’ Smith said. “There’s no rebuilding around here. We’re trying to put together a roster to be able to win as quick as we possibly can. The seventh pick normally plays fairly soon.”

Bucs load up defensive backfield

April, 26, 2013
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Johnathan BanksSpruce DerdenThorpe award winner Johnathan Banks is the latest addition to the Bucs' defensive backfield.

TAMPA, Fla. -- When your pass defense (almost all by itself) sinks an entire season, there’s only one thing to do. You go overboard to fix it.

That’s the approach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed Friday night as they drafted Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks in the second round (43rd overall). That comes a little less than a week after the Bucs pulled off a huge trade to get cornerback Darrelle Revis, not very long after they restructured Eric Wright's contract to keep the cornerback around and only a little more than a month after the they signed free-agent safety Dashon Goldson.

Call it double dipping or triple dipping or whatever you want. The bottom line is, at least on paper, the Bucs have a much better secondary than they did last season. As dramatic as their approach is, it really isn’t that surprising.

General manager Mark Dominik has shown a tendency to lock in on one area and hit it several times over in the past. In 2009, Dominik used draft picks on wide receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams. In 2010, the position of choice was defensive tackle with the Bucs taking Gerald McCoy and Brian Price with their first two draft picks.

In 2011, the Bucs used their first two picks on defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. This time around, the Bucs got Goldson and Revis in advance and followed that by doubling down on Banks, the winner of last season’s Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.

“We’ve increased our size, physicality and ball skills,” Dominik said.

The days of relying on the likes of journeyman E.J. Biggers and undrafted free agent Leonard Johnson to go against NFC South receivers like Roddy White, Julio Jones, Steve Smith and Marques Colston are over over.

With Revis, the Bucs might have the best cornerback on the planet, if his surgically repaired knee is fully healthy. In Wright, the Bucs have a reclamation project. He was signed to a big free-agent contract last offseason, but served a four-game suspension last season and wasn’t that great when he did play. But Wright took a massive cut in pay and the Bucs still believe he can be a factor.

In Banks, 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, the Bucs have added a big physical cornerback. Banks’ draft stock tumbled because he ran a slow time in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but the Bucs don’t think that’s indicative of his real quickness.

“You never felt that because he has such good length and ball skills,’’ Dominik said. “We felt like when you watch the tape, it’s not the same as he ran at the combine.”

Dominik and coach Greg Schiano weren’t ready to say exactly how they plan to use their cornerbacks.

“That all comes as part of the competition,” Schiano said. “You let it play out.”

But it’s not too hard to see how this is going to play out. Revis is automatically a starter. It really doesn’t matter if Banks or Wright is the other starter. When the Bucs go to the nickel package, which will be often, Banks is a natural on the outside and Wright is best suited to move inside and line up on slot receivers.

Speaking of sorting things out, it still remains to be seen what happens with veteran safety/cornerback Ronde Barber. Back at the start of the offseason, it looked like the Bucs needed Barber to return for another season.

But the free safety spot he played last season is now occupied by Goldson. The top three cornerbacks are now set. Will Barber come back as a third safety or a fourth cornerback? Dominik said Friday night the Bucs still would like Barber to return, but it remains unclear what role he would have.

“When Ronde reaches out, we’ll have a conversation and we’ll talk through that,” Dominik said.

The Barber situation will play out. If he returns, he’ll be in some sort of backup role.

The Bucs are set with Revis, Banks and Wright at cornerback. They’re set with Goldson and Mark Barron, last year’s first-round pick, at safety.

Over the past six weeks, the Bucs have gone to great extremes to make sure they no longer have the league’s worst secondary.
Although they don’t currently have a first-round pick after trading it as part of the Darrelle Revis deal, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still will hold their draft party at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night.

According to the team, Revis, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Josh Freeman, Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn will attend. The team also says there will be an “on-field presentation’’ at 7 p.m. Other festivities also are planned.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if the biggest event comes very late in the night. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Buccaneers trade back into the latter stages of the first round.

One thing we’ve learned about general manager Mark Dominik is he’s a creature of habit. He drafted receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn in the same year and took defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in the same draft.

Dominik set a precedent for trading into the first round last year. After taking Barron with the seventh overall pick, he traded back into the first round to get Martin.

It could happen again. The Bucs currently have seven picks. If you look at the trade value chart, they could package their second-round pick (No. 43) and third-round pick (No. 73) and get to somewhere in the bottom five or six picks in the first round.

Dominik acknowledged Monday that he at least has thought about scenarios where he would consider getting back into the first round.

One other thing to keep in mind: When Dominik drafted Martin last year, he explained that part of the reason he made the deal was because players that are drafted in the first round can be given five-year deals, while anyone after the first round can’t get anything more than a four-year deal.

That’s important to Dominik.

That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a trade to get back into the first round.

Today in NFC South history

April, 15, 2013
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On this date in 2010, Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik sat down for a pre-draft chat with the local media.

All around the league, those sessions are as generic as possible. General managers aren’t going to tell you who they’re going to draft and they only speak in vague terms. But Dominik did say one thing of note that day.

“If this draft doesn’t succeed, I won’t either," Dominik said.

I think Dominik was talking about the long term and the long term is approaching for Dominik. He’s been Tampa Bay’s general manager since 2009 and the Bucs haven’t made the playoffs. I wouldn’t say he’s on the hot seat right now, but he could get there if this season doesn’t go well.

And Dominik’s 2010 statement is ringing true. He needs a good season from the class of 2010. He also could use some help from the players from the 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 drafts.

But he was talking about the class of 2010 that day, so let’s stick with that. That class included Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Arrelious Benn, Myron Lewis, Mike Williams, Brent Bowden, Cody Grimm, Dekoda Watson and Erik Lorig.

Six of those nine players are still with the team, which isn’t a bad ratio. But Price and Benn were second-round picks and they’re no longer with the team, which doesn’t reflect well.

McCoy and Williams have become very good players. Lorig, who was drafted as a defensive end, has turned out to be a solid fullback. Lewis, Grimm and Watson are role players at best.

Dominik’s statement rings more true today than it did three years ago. He needs a big year from the class of 2010 to succeed.

He needs McCoy to have another Pro Bowl year (and stay healthy). He needs Williams to turn in another big year opposite Vincent Jackson. And he needs Lorig to keep clearing the way for tailback Doug Martin. It wouldn’t hurt if Lewis, Grimm and Watson can’t contribute a little.

As I said before, Dominik also could use some help from his other draft classes. But if the class of 2010 succeeds this year, Dominik also has a good chance at success.
We conclude our look at which picks each team holds in the 2013 draft with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
  • First round: No. 13
  • Second round: No. 43
  • Third round: No. 73
  • Fourth round: No. 112 and No. 126 (acquired from New England in Aqib Talib trade)
  • Fifth round: No. 147
  • Sixth round: No. 181 and No. 196 (acquired in trade of Arrelious Benn)
  • Seventh round: No pick (was sent to Philadelphia as part of Benn trade)

Bucs unload Arrelious Benn

March, 15, 2013
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to be the NFC South’s most active team this offseason.

On Friday, the Buccaneers traded wide receiver Arrelious Benn and a seventh-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for a sixth-round pick this year and a conditional pick in 2014.

A second-round pick in 2010, Benn never has played up to his potential. Mike Williams, a fourth-round pick in the same draft, has emerged as Tampa Bay’s No. 2 receiver. Benn had only four catches in eight games last year before suffering a season-ending injury. He also dealt with injuries as a rookie.

Also on Friday, defensive tackle Roy Miller, who started 14 games last season, signed a two-year deal with Jacksonville. The Bucs have Gerald McCoy as one starter at defensive tackle and Gary Gibson is a reliable backup. But Tampa Bay likely will have to find another defensive tackle in the draft or free agency.

Looking at Bucs' offensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
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When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55 million contract last offseason, it was clear they expected him to earn the money.

Jackson did that by instantly becoming a true No. 1 wide receiver. But he also put in plenty of time. Jackson was on the field for 93.04 percent of Tampa Bay’s 1,049 offensive plays.

The only other wide receivers with higher playing-time percentages in 2012 were Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (97.91 percent), Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (96 percent) and Atlanta’s Roddy White (93.21).

Here’s a look at the breakdown of playing-time percentage for the rest of Tampa Bay’s offense:

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.

Around the NFC South

November, 23, 2012
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First off, a reminder that there will be no NFC South chat this week. Now, let’s move onto a quick run through the headlines from around the division.

ATLANTA FALCONS

The injury news was mixed out of Thursday’s practice. Receiver Julio Jones (ankle) returned on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday’s practice. But the news wasn’t as good on linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle). Weatherspoon, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing the past three games, sat out Thursday’s practice and the team said Weatherspoon also had an undisclosed illness. All indications are that Weatherspoon’s ankle has been healing well. If he can shake the illness quickly, I think there’s a good chance he’ll make his return Sunday against Tampa Bay.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith sarcastically referred to Monday night’s game against Philadelphia as a “battle of the bads." Can’t argue with him on that. The Panthers and Eagles both are struggling mightily. I’m trying to figure out which team is more dysfunctional. I think we’ll find out an answer Monday night.

Joseph Person has a fine story on Brenda Anderson. She’s the mother of linebacker James Anderson. Brenda Anderson had brain surgery in September and is making a strong recovery.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

As the 49ers and Saints get ready to play Sunday, let’s keep in mind that Gregg Williams’ infamous speech came on the eve of last season’s playoff game against the 49ers and several San Francisco players were mentioned in unflattering ways. The 49ers aren’t saying much about Williams’ speech -- at least not publicly. But, if you believe that San Francisco won’t be using that episode as motivation, you don’t know how things work in the NFL. Coaches and players are always looking for motivation.

If injured right tackles Zach Strief and Charles Brown aren’t ready to play Sunday, the Saints say they’re comfortable with going with Bryce Harris as the starter. He stepped in during the last game and did a decent job. But that was against Oakland and San Francisco’s pass rush is a lot better than the Raiders’.

Although San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith has been medically cleared to play, Ed Werder reports that Colin Kaepernick will get the start against the Saints. After watching Kaepernick’s strong performance in his first NFL start against the Bears on Monday night, I don’t think this is particularly good news for the Saints.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The local television blackout in the Tampa Bay area won’t be lifted for Sunday’s game with Atlanta. The Bucs came up short of the 85 percent threshold of selling general-admission seats at Thursday’s deadline. The Bucs are on a four-game winning streak and very much in the playoff picture and the Falcons have the NFC’s best record. I’d like to say it’s surprising that not enough tickets were sold to lift the blackout, but I can’t honestly say I’m surprised. This just shows that even when the Bucs are playing well, other issues (the economy, the transient nature of the local population, etc.) make Tampa Bay a very difficult market.

Wide receiver Arrelious Benn was placed on injured reserve Thursday. The Bucs may miss Benn more as a kick than as a receiver because Tiquan Underwood gives them some depth behind starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Rookie running back Michael Smith could be a candidate to take Benn’s place in the return game.

More shuffling at WR for Buccaneers

September, 21, 2012
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The revolving door at wide receiver continues for the Buccaneers.

The team just announced it has placed receiver Sammie Stroughter on injured reserve and signed receiver Chris Owusu.

That comes in a week in which the team signed receivers Tiquan Underwood and Jordan Shipley and released Preston Parker. Stroughter was used as a backup receiver and punt returner in the first two games, but suffered a foot injury.

Owusu comes from San Diego’s practice squad after spending the preseason with San Francisco. Owusu was an undrafted free agent out of Stanford this year.

The Bucs are set with Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson as their starters and are hoping Arrelious Benn can stay healthy and be the third receiver, but the Bucs need some of the new guys to step up and provide depth.

Buccaneers shuffling wide receivers

September, 20, 2012
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to fiddle with their wide receiver corps.

The team just announced it has re-signed Tiquan Underwood and released Preston Parker.

That comes on the heels of the Bucs signing Jordan Shipley. Coach Greg Schiano has indicated that Sammie Stroughter’s foot injury could keep the receiver out for a substantial period.

With Underwood and Shipley, the Bucs appear to be attempting to beef up their depth behind Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn.

Underwood, who played for Schiano at Rutgers, was with the Bucs in the preseason and gave a strong showing. Many were surprised when he was released. Underwood showed some big-play capability and the Bucs could use some of that from someone other than Jackson.

Around the NFC South

September, 14, 2012
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Time for a Friday morning look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Wide receiver Arrelious Benn is expected to play Sunday after missing the opener and the preseason with a sprained knee. A second-round pick in 2010, Benn’s career has been limited by injuries. But there clearly is some talent here. Benn may have to prove himself at first to start climbing the depth chart, but, if he can stay healthy, it shouldn’t take him long to become the No. 3 receiver after Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

Eric LeGrand, the paralyzed former Rutgers player who was signed by the Bucs after the draft, will be at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. LeGrand has maintained a close relationship with Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano and, even though he officially was released before training camp started, has maintained a presence around the Bucs.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said that the New Orleans receivers did not do a good job of getting separation in the season opener. That would help explain why Drew Brees wasn’t as accurate as we’re used to seeing him. But there’s no guarantee that will be fixed immediately. The Saints may have to play young receiver Joe Morgan and newly signed veteran Greg Camarillo extensively this week because Devery Henderson is dealing with a concussion.

Cornerback Jabari Greer is expected to make his return Sunday after sports hernia surgery. Greer has been out for over a month and, under ideal circumstances, the Saints probably would ease him back into the lineup. But with cornerback Johnny Patrick dealing with an injury, that might not be an option. Greer might have to play the entire game.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

In two meetings with Brees last season, the Carolina defense gave up 748 passing yards and seven touchdowns. The Panthers showed some signs in the opener that their defense might be improved from last year. But Brees and the Saints should provide a much stronger offensive challenge than Tampa Bay did.

Center Ryan Kalil took out a newspaper ad, promising a Super Bowl victory, prior to the season. Now, coach Ron Rivera has outfitted his players with T-shirts that say, “I have Ryan Kalil’s back." Nothing wrong with using every motivational tactic you can come up with.

ATLANTA FALCONS

In his time as a coordinator and head coach, Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is 1-6 against Peyton Manning. No shame in that. A lot of coaches have poor records against Manning. But Nolan certainly has experience with Manning. He’s got defensive talent to work with this time and simply slowing Manning might be enough because Atlanta has an offense that should score points.

Jeff Schultz writes that if the loss of cornerback Brent Grimes to a season-ending injury is enough to derail the Falcons’ Super Bowl dream, they weren’t going anyway. He’s right. Grimes was an important player, but not the most important player on the defense. Teams are going to have injuries and the ones that can compensate for them are the teams that will succeed.

Checking injuries that matter most

September, 7, 2012
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Obviously, I’ve been a little tied up with the news that the player suspensions in the New Orleans bounty drama have been overturned, at least temporarily. But Friday afternoon is usually the time when I give you updates on the division’s most significant injuries.

So, let’s take care of that now.

Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday. Stewart hasn’t practiced, but he ran on the side Friday and was able to cut. Coach Ron Rivera is holding out some optimism that Stewart will be able to play against the Buccaneers. If he can’t, it likely means an increased workload for DeAngelo Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert could get some time at tailback.

Tampa Bay receiver Arrelious Benn (knee) fully participated in practice Friday and is listed as questionable. Cornerbacks E.J. Biggers (foot) and Anthony Gaitor (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis and are doubtful. That could mean some playing time for Myron Lewis.

Atlanta’s injury report is very light. Cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring) and running back Jason Snelling practiced fully on Friday and are listed as probable.

New Orleans receiver Marques Colston (foot), linebackers Curtis Lofton (ankle) and David Hawthorne (left knee), cornerback Jabari Greer (sports hernia) are listed as questionable. Since Adrian Arrington missed much of the preseason, I’d expect him to be out Sunday. But Lofton and Hawthorne practiced fully Friday and both have said they expect to play in the opener against the Redskins. Greer and Colston practiced on a limited basis, but seem to be on track to play Sunday.

NFC South Stock Watch

September, 4, 2012
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Welcome to the first 2012 edition of Stock Watch. We usually have three players falling and three rising. But, since this is the start of the season and there’s a lot to work with, we’re going to expand each category to five -- for this week only.

FALLING

Ted Larsen, guard, Buccaneers. He still may end up as the starting right guard, but the Bucs aren’t handing anything to Larsen. Although Larsen appeared to be the first guy in line when Davin Joseph went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Bucs have been bringing in guys that were released off the street for a look.

Jason Snelling, running back, Falcons. He missed part of the preseason with an injury, but that’s only a small part of why Snelling’s stock is falling. The bigger factor is the Falcons are very serious about using second-year pro Jacquizz Rodgers as their No. 2 back behind Michael Turner. Snelling still may get a few reps at tailback, but I doubt he’ll get many touches there. He also seems destined for duty as the backup fullback.

[+] EnlargeKellen Winslow
John Rieger/US PresswireThis TD catch in Kansas City was one of the few bright spots for Kellen Winslow during the preseason in Seattle.
Kellen Winslow, tight end, formerly with the Bucs and Seahawks. The Bucs traded Winslow to Seattle near the start of camp. The deal was conditional and could have earned the Bucs as much as a sixth-round pick if Winslow played well. It could have earned them a seventh-round pick if Winslow simply made the roster. He did neither, so the Bucs aren’t getting anything in return. The Bucs parted with Winslow in the first place because he wasn’t coach Greg Schiano’s kind of guy. I’d imagine Schiano is even less of a Winslow fan now that the tight end has cost him a draft pick.

Nick Toon, wide receiver, Saints. He’ll spend his rookie season on injured reserve. It’s strange, but New Orleans has a bit of a history with young receivers getting hurt at the start of their careers. It happened with Robert Meachem and he wasn’t much of a factor his first few seasons. It happened with Adrian Arrington and just now might be getting his first real chance to contribute.

Garrett Reynolds or Peter Konz, guards, Falcons. These two have been competing for the starting job at right guard throughout the preseason. The Falcons still haven’t named a starter and I don’t take that as a good sign. If either Reynolds or Konz was running away with the job, I think we already would have gotten an announcement. I think what it’s coming down to is the Falcons are deciding if they’d rather guy with a converted college center that might be having more trouble adjusting than they expected or if they’d rather stay with a guy that was mediocre as the starter last year.

RISING

Travaris Cadet, running back, Saints. He led the NFL in rushing with 246 yards during the preseason. Yeah, preseason stats don’t matter. But Cadet was so impressive that he absolutely forced the Saints, who already had Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, to keep him on the roster. It’s a little tough to get touches for five running backs, but the Saints already were pretty good at distributing the ball. Now, they just need to add one more guy to the equation.

Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. Again, preseason stats don’t matter, but the Falcons led the NFL by averaging 280.2 passing yards in their four exhibition games. Yeah, undrafted rookie Dominique Davis was responsible for a chunk of those yards. But when Ryan did play, he looked as sharp as he ever has. Ryan’s always been focused and he has a fantastic supporting cast. I’m not having much trouble picturing a big season out of Ryan.

Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator, Saints. Although he wasn’t chosen as the interim-interim head coach, Spagnuolo obviously is carrying a lot of clout right now. The Saints made a late roster move that had Spagnuolo’s finger prints all over it. Cornerback Elbert Mack had a nice preseason and initially appeared to have made the team. But the Saints claimed cornerback Jerome Murray off waivers and released Mack. Murphy played for Spagnuolo in St. Louis, so it’s pretty safe to assume he went to the front office, said he wanted his guy and was granted his wish.

Armanti Edwards, receiver/return man. Panthers. A lot of people didn’t think Edwards would make the roster and I was one of them. But Edwards still is with the Panthers, even though they have depth at receiver and plenty of options in the return game. The Panthers didn’t keep Edwards just to have an Appalachian State product on their roster. They sort of did that the last two years as they kept hoping Edwards would develop into something. They’re at a point in their development where every roster spot is precious, so you have to believe Edwards is in their plans.

Arrelious Benn, receiver, Tampa Bay. He missed most of the preseason with an injury and just returned to practice this week. But the Bucs must have a pretty good feeling that Benn is close to being ready to be their third receiver after Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. They released Tiquan Underwood, who had a very nice preseason and kept Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter as their only other backups at receiver. I didn’t see anything special from Parker or Stroughter in the preseason and they might have made the roster mainly because they can contribute on special teams. Benn still may have a little work to do to get back into shape, but I don’t think it will be long before he’s established as the third receiver.

Around the NFC South

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
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A look at the top Monday morning headlines from around the NFC South:

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

General manger Mickey Loomis begins his eight-game suspension Monday. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt also starts a six-game suspension and defensive end Will Smith begins a four-game suspension. Aaron Kromer will coach the team in Vitt’s absence. Director of pro scouting Ryan Pace will lead the front office during Loomis’ absence.

After cutting down to 53 players, the New Orleans Saints tweaked their roster Sunday. They claimed cornerback Jerome Murphy off waivers from the St. Louis Rams and released cornerback Elbert Mack. This one is not a huge surprise. Although Mack did some good things in the preseason, Murphy played for New Orleans defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo with the Rams.

Check out this photo of a Louisiana man rescuing a framed Drew Brees jersey from his flooded home.

ATLANTA FALCONS

The last time the Falcons faced the Chiefs, who they’ll open the season against Sunday, was in 2008. At that time, Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez was with the Chiefs. It also was the third game Matt Ryan started at quarterback for the Falcons, who won that game, 38-14.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said that veteran defensive end John Abraham again will be on a snap count. The Falcons did that last year to help keep the veteran fresh.

The Falcons filled out their practice squad by signing tight end Chase Coffman, safety Mark LeGree and linebacker Pat Schiller.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Captains Jon Beason and Steve Smith returned to practice Sunday after missing significant time. Smith missed two weeks with a foot infection. Beason missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury. Both are expected to play in Sunday’s opener with Tampa Bay. Running back Jonathan Stewart remains out with an ankle injury and his condition is expected to be evaluated later in the week.

Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, who is coming back from his third torn ACL, says he plans to play at a high level. It might seem difficult to imagine Davis being the player he was before the injuries, but I wouldn’t bet against this guy.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Tampa Bay receiver Arrelious Benn, who had been out with an injury since the first day of training camp, returned to practice over the weekend and said he hopes to be ready for the season opener with Carolina. I don’t know if it will happen immediately, but it shouldn’t be too long before Benn is the third receiver behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

With it looking like a very strong possibility that the NFL will be using replacement referees to start the season, several of the Bucs say they have concerns. Cornerback Ronde Barber said the replacement refs are not incompetent, but aren’t used to working on the NFL level. In a league that says its first priority is the safety of the players, I don’t know that going with replacement refs is the best way to keep everyone safe.

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