NFC South: Brady Quinn
Any time there’s talk of movement at the quarterback position, people tend to get excited. But, as I look at the crop of free-agent quarterbacks, I can feel my pulse slow. Aside from Joe Flacco, who is not going to get out of Baltimore, there’s absolutely nothing to get excited about.
Byron Leftwich? Josh Johnson? Luke McCown? Bruce Gradkowski?
They’ve all cycled through Tampa Bay once, and the Bucs don’t need to take a step back.
Matt Leinart? Brady Quinn? David Carr?
They’re all busts, high draft picks that have turned out to be nothing more than backups.
Is there any potential free agent out there that really would be much of an upgrade over current backup Dan Orlovsky?
The only two guys I’m seeing that intrigue me (just a little) are Jason Campbell and Matt Moore. I thought Campbell never really got a fair shake in his Washington days. Moore’s not going to wow anyone. But when he’s had the chance to play in Miami and Carolina, he’s shown some intangibles. Given the right circumstances, I think Campbell and Moore would at least have a shot at succeeding if they ended up as a starter.
There’s no doubt the current list of free agents will grow as teams release players before the start of free agency. And there could be some decent quarterbacks available via trade (Alex Smith?). The draft also is an option, but this isn’t the best year to be looking for a quarterback.
This will play out in time, and like I said, the pool could get deeper. But, for right now, the Bucs might as well hang onto Orlovsky.
Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 27-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday:
What it means: The Panthers fall to 3-9, and this one isn’t going to help coach Ron Rivera’s job security. Carolina lost to a team that had won only one game this season. That ended an opportunity for Rivera to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since Weeks 15 and 16 of last year. Rivera said it’s been made clear to him by owner Jerry Richardson that he needs to finish the season on an upswing to have a chance to keep his job. But Carolina flubbed a chance to get on a bit of a roll. Barring some dramatic turnaround to finish the season, it seems likely the Panthers will be looking for a new coach after the season.
No defense: The Panthers came in knowing they were facing a good running back in Jamaal Charles. But they weren’t able to slow Charles down at all. More importantly, the Panthers made quarterback Brady Quinn, who entered the game without a touchdown pass this season, look like a Pro Bowler. Carolina’s defense simply couldn’t get Kansas City’s offense off the field. The Chiefs dominated in time of possession, largely due to lengthy touchdown drives in the second and third quarters. The Chiefs ended up holding the ball for 37:13.
All for nothing: Quarterback Cam Newton threw three touchdown passes and ran for 78 yards and didn’t make any major mistakes. Newton and the offense probably could have scored a lot more points if the defense had been able to give them more time with the ball.
Worst drop of the season: Newton easily could have had a fourth touchdown pass. A wide-open Brandon LaFell dropped a sure touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Amazing stat of the day: The Panthers now have lost all 13 coin tosses (12 at the start of games and once for overtime) this season. Carolina even tried a new approach on this one, asking fans to vote on whether to call heads or tails on Facebook. It didn’t make any difference.
What’s next: The Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.
At halftime, they trail the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-14. Kansas City scored a touchdown on the final play of the second quarter. But the Panthers led for most of the first half. Cam Newton and the offense have put together a couple of impressive touchdown drives.
But Carolina’s defense did not have a great first half. The Panthers have had trouble stopping running back Jamaal Charles and they’re making quarterback Brady Quinn look like the model of efficiency. The Panthers also have had problems with penalties and safety Sherrod Martin and defensive lineman Frank Alexander have left the game with injuries.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the Panthers in the comments section below. I'll be back with a wrap-up soon after the game ends.
In this radio interview, receiver Roddy White has some fun with tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has said he probably will retire after this season. White seems to think Gonzalez has at least another year left in the tank. That’s pretty conceivable after Gonzalez went out and caught 13 passes against the Redskins on Sunday.
Linebacker Stephen Nicholas was held out of Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury. If Nicholas can’t play Sunday against Oakland, the Falcons likely would turn to veteran Mike Peterson.
With the Panthers on a bye week and a bad season getting worse with the loss of center Ryan Kalil, it might be time to take a look at this Insider post in which Mel Kiper Jr. has his Big Board for the 2013 draft. I’m thinking defensive tackle Star Lotulelei sounds like a possible fit for the Panthers.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Nakia Hogan writes about how young defensive ends Martez Wilson and Junior Galette stepped up in the victory over the Chargers. With it now looking like Will Smith will have to serve his four-game suspension after all, Wilson and Galette could take on bigger roles. I’m also thinking that, despite all the criticism defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has taken early in his tenure, he could be starting to develop two pretty good young pass-rushers.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
With Matt Cassel going through the league’s protocol for a concussion, the Bucs could see Brady Quinn as Kansas City’s starting quarterback on Sunday. I’m not sure it really matters which quarterback the Chiefs use. The Bucs have a bigger concern and that’s stopping running back Jamaal Charles.
Makes plenty of sense because some guys flash early and then disappear. Other guys take a while to bloom.
But now that the statute of limitations on the 2009 draft has expired, let's go ahead and start the judging. That draft featured three quarterbacks in the first round -- Matthew Stafford at No. 1 overall to Detroit, Mark Sanchez at No. 5 to the New York Jets and Josh Freeman at No. 17 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sanchez flashed quickly, starting right away and taking the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, but a quarter of the way into his third season, one thing has become very clear.
“Sanchez is a distant third to those other two guys," said Tony Softli, who worked in the personnel departments of the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams.
The Jets are off to a 2-2 start and Sanchez has put up anemic numbers (six touchdowns, five interceptions and 1,005 passing yards).
“He's holding that team back now," said Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson, who previously worked in Cleveland's front office. “People say I'm a Sanchez hater now. But the funny thing is, I liked him the best of the three before that draft because I thought he had 'it.' When he went to the Jets, I stopped liking him so much because I don't think he has the physical ability to play in the kind of weather you get in New York."
But Sanchez had to be doing something right to get to those two AFC Championship Games, didn't he?
“Sanchez fell into a situation where he came to a team that had a good running game and good receivers," Softli said. “He just had to manage a game, and now things seem to have changed. I don't think he's a guy that can win on his own and win big. Can he develop into that? Probably yes. But he's not there yet."
Funny, but Stafford and Freeman, who started much more slowly, have soared right past Sanchez. Freeman, who showed lots of promise in a 2010 season that was his first as the full-time starter, has the Bucs sitting at 3-1 and tied with the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South. Stafford, who dealt with injuries in his first two seasons, is healthy and that's a major reason the Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980.
So who's the best quarterback from the Class of 2009?
“You're splitting hairs on that one because they're both the kind of guys you want to build a franchise around," Williamson said. “There are probably six elite quarterbacks in the league right now and Stafford and Freeman can get there. I'd take them over guys like Michael Vick, Tony Romo and Eli Manning. I love them both, but I'd say Stafford right now. Stafford might throw the ball better than anyone in the league other than Aaron Rodgers. He's got velocity, he's on target and he can do it with people all over him. I take him because he's a little more pin-point than Freeman."
Softli's high on Stafford as well, but said he thinks Freeman is the best of the Class of 2009.
“Josh has freakish size and athletic ability," Softli said. “But, in the 15 years, I said in interviews and meetings with quarterback prospects, Sam Bradford was the smartest guy I ever saw and Josh was a very close second. I mean, Matt Ryan, Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco are in my top five in that department, but Josh and Sam were clearly above them. So much of playing quarterback is about intelligence. That's why I'm going with Freeman. He's got more fourth-quarter comebacks. He's also a runner, a great leader and he's remained healthy throughout. His will to win is absolutely exceptional."
Sounds like we might have to bend that rule of thumb a bit and give Stafford and Freeman a little more time to sort things out before claiming a winner from the Class of 2009.
The future and current quarterbacks of the Carolina Panthers (or is it already the current and past quarterbacks?) got together for a charity event that included some other players. It's kind of ironic, because Newton and Clausen have virtually nothing else in common, and, despite the fact they’re going to be teammates, things already are setting up for them to be competitors, maybe even rivals.
You could see that building last Friday as Newton was introduced to the Charlotte media and asked what jersey number he wants to wear. At Auburn, Newton wore No. 2. Clausen picked that number when he was drafted by the Panthers last year. In the world of the NFL, the veteran usually gets to keep his number, unless some sort of financial agreement can be worked out.
Newton didn’t concede the number to Clausen and made some reference like "we’ll see." That might lead you to believe the man taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft might flex his muscle to wear No. 2.
It might not come with a bad ending for the Panthers, but you can see Clausen and Newton, two guys with entirely different backgrounds and personalities, already lining up on a collision course. The ending won’t be happy for both, because they’re playing for one job as the long-term starting quarterback.
It can only be coincidence, but the kickball game came precisely one year to the day that Clausen threw his first NFL minicamp pass and many people thought the Panthers finally had found their franchise quarterback. A year later, the Panthers turned around and drafted Newton to fill that role.
That’s the role Clausen has been groomed for all his life, while Newton's grooming process was far less traditional.
Let’s start with Clausen. Chances are pretty good you first heard of Clausen when Sports Illustrated ran this story, titled "The Kid with the Golden Arm."
In it, the writer talks about how people viewed Clausen as the next great quarterback: "Others see the arm of John Elway, the composure of Tom Brady and the quick release of Joe Namath."
Former NFL quarterback Brian Sipe said, "I’ve never seen anyone with a quicker release than Jimmy has."
The story was written when Clausen was a junior in high school. It goes on to reveal details of his grooming -- how he worked with a private quarterbacks coach since junior high, how his brothers, Rick and Casey, made it as college quarterbacks at the University of Tennessee -- and the recruiting wars that were being fought over him.
Skip ahead a little more than a year. If you somehow hadn’t heard of Clausen by then, well, that changed. He showed up in a white limousine at the College Football Hall of Fame to announce he would attend Notre Dame. Notre Dame, the school with Charlie Weis (the man who developed Brady) and all sorts of quarterback pedigree (forget Brady Quinn, we're talking the days of Joe Montana and Joe Theismann).
Weis didn’t really win big, but Clausen had a respectable career. Although some thought he might go in the first round of last year’s draft, he slid to the second and the Panthers grabbed him. For the first time in his life, Clausen wasn’t in a position where success was assured, and it showed. Former coach John Fox -- fighting the youth movement imposed by management and throwing farewell gestures on his way out the door -- refused to play Clausen until injuries left him no choice. In the offense of Fox and coordinator Jeff Davidson, which looked like it was created for a 1950s high school team, Clausen struggled mightily and the Panthers finished 2-14.
Clausen clashed with volatile receiver Steve Smith. Media and teammates described Clausen as self-centered, aloof and not the kind of guy who commands respect in a locker room or a huddle. The Panthers swear they haven’t given up on Clausen and still think he can turn into a decent NFL quarterback.
Newton suddenly is the chosen one, and he’s coming at it on a completely different track than Clausen. At his press conference the day after the draft, Newton was engaging and cracking smile after smile.
The Panthers talked about his charismatic personality and the passionate halftime speech that sparked Auburn to a win over Alabama last season. They talked of how Newton’s teammates spoke about his leadership skills, and no one ever has questioned his physical skills. It's the kind of stuff Clausen can only dream about.
It’s not as though Newton comes with a résumé that’s empty compared to Clausen’s. Newton won a national title and a Heisman Trophy at Auburn. He won a junior college national title at Blinn College. But he played only one year at each place, and neither program ran a Notre Dame offense, the kind of offense people said made Clausen the most NFL-ready quarterback in last year’s draft.
Newton’s résumé also included a brief stop at the University of Florida, which doesn’t recruit quarterbacks from the bargain basement. But Tim Tebow already was there. Newton was involved in an incident in which a computer was stolen. There were reports of academic improprieties, reports Newton disputes. Newton left, went to Blinn, and, as he was looking to transfer back to a big-time school, things got murky.
There have been reports Newton’s father, Cecil, sought money for the rights to his son, and the NCAA is investigating the matter.
The Panthers did all sorts of homework on Newton’s background and decided that none of it suggests future problems. They put him under a microscope on and off the field and decided they loved what they saw.
If it means pushing aside the kid who grew up in a quarterback laboratory, the Panthers appear fine with that. In a best-case scenario, maybe Clausen rallies and pulls off something like Drew Brees did when he was in San Diego. Brees, at least temporarily, did a nice job of keeping Philip Rivers on the sideline.
But that’s far fetched. The Panthers didn’t draft Newton to sit, and, listening to them talk last week, you could read between the lines and see that they’d like nothing more than to open the season with their franchise quarterback as their franchise quarterback.
The labor situation could complicate things a bit. If there are no offseason workouts and a limited training camp, the Panthers might be forced to open the season with Clausen as the starter. But, seriously, how long is that going to last? Four games? Six, tops?
The smiles and relaxed atmosphere from the kickball game are over. Whenever the Panthers do get back to the practice field, Newton just has to show he’s getting a grasp of the playbook and then he’ll be the one on the playing field.
Really, it’s all about pedigree. He might have taken an unconventional route through college, but Newton’s got the upper hand now. Clausen, because he's had so much coaching already, might be as good as he's ever going to get.
Newton's the guy who has won championships and won over huddles. He's the one with potential that seems limitless. He’s the one the Panthers picked in the spot that gives him the ultimate pedigree.
Since 1999, 44 of the 60 players Kiper ranked in his top five were taken in the top five picks. That’s a 73.3 percent success rate and 55 of Kiper’s top five were taken among the top 10 picks. That’s 91.6 percent.
So Kiper’s usually right. But what about the few that he’s been wrong on? Well, Keith provides us with a chart of the five guys that have fallen the furthest from Kiper’s top five and the winner, who landed in the NFC South, easily set a new record.
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, the Bucs have hired the former White House PR guru to help them choose a new director of communications. Actually, Fleischer has consulted with other NFL teams, most notably the Dolphins last year, on various issues. Supposedly, they want someone who will oversee all of their PR, including the Bucs, Manchester United and their other business interests. Sounds nice in theory, but I’m sure Fleisher’s fee isn’t cheap and the type of big gun they seem to be seeking likely will have a high price tag. My first thought on all this is why are the Bucs so willing to spend money on PR when they’re not spending it on players? Jeff Kamis, who is leaving as director of communications, was very good at his job and he has an outstanding support staff. Yeah, the Bucs have been taking a PR beating, but that wasn’t because of their PR staff. It was because they were 3-13 and made a lot of questionable moves last year. No PR person could have made chicken salad out of all that. If Fleischer is as smart as I think he is, he should be telling the Bucs to go out and get a couple of wide receivers, a defensive end and a defensive tackle. Fix the football team, win some games and the positive PR will flow no matter who is handing out credentials and press releases.
Robbie in Murphy, N.C. writes: How come no one thinks that Carolina has improved? Matt Moore is an improvement over Jake Delhomme. We all have been thinking that Dan Connor should be starting for Na’il Diggs. Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu were over-rated. So we lost Julius Peppers, so what? He only showed up in about 4 games a year anyway. Nobody knows what we have in the young replacements but we all know that DeAngelo Williams was better than DeShaun Foster, yet it took 2 years for them to finally release Foster.
Pat Yasinskas: Valid points. Moore was an improvement over Delhomme late last year, but we don’t know for sure if he’s the long-term answer. I’m with you on Connor and Lewis and Kemoeatu were “just guys.’’ Peppers had to go for reasons beyond football, but you have to admit the guy could dominate a game when he wanted to and guys like that are hard to find. But I find it hard, right now, to say Carolina has improved. They haven’t added anybody and they subtracted a bunch of guys. As I’ve been saying all along, we need to see the flip side of all this. Whether it’s through the draft or free agency, the Panthers need to plug some of the holes they’ve created. If they do that, then they could end up being better than last year.
Sean in Wilmington, N.C., writes: In your most honest opinion who do you think the Panthers will bring in to compete with Matt Moore? Brady Quinn went to the Broncos after rumors of him possibly ending up in Carolina, but what about Derek Anderson?
Pat Yasinskas: Although Anderson would seem to be a logical fit for the Panthers, I haven’t heard anything to indicate they have shown any interest in him. I think there’s a good chance you could see the Panthers re-sign Josh McCown. They brought him in last year, but he got hurt. He has some experience as a starter and also has some upside.
Mack in Athens, Ga., writes: I think the Falcons are good all around on offense, There have been worse offense's that have won championships. So my question is, do you think the Falcons defense is where they need it to be to make a serious run? I do not. I think we need serious upgrades at safety, LB, and DL.
Pat Yasinskas: I think Atlanta’s defense is a work in progress. The signing of Dunta Robinson gives the Falcons a No. 1 cornerback and they now have good depth at that position. A lot of people tend to forget about defensive tackle Peria Jerry and safety William Moore. They were Atlanta’s top two draft picks last year, but they got hurt before they could make an impact. They’ll be back this year and I think the Falcons have big plans for them and they should fill some of the needs you talked about. But there still is a need to improve the pass rush with a defensive end and the Falcons also could use some help at outside linebacker. I think you’ll see both those needs addressed early in the draft.
He reportedly has agreed to a contract with Cleveland, where he could have a shot at the starting job. The Saints were planning on Delhomme visiting this weekend, but all they could offer him was a backup role behind Drew Brees.
Although Delhomme began his career with the Saints and is a Louisiana native, the chance to compete for a starting job with the Browns apparently outweighed the chance to come back home. Delhomme had been the starter in Carolina since 2003, but was released recently after a disastrous 2009 season.
Carolina plans to go with Matt Moore as the starter. But, ironically, Delhomme signing with Cleveland could give them another option. Numerous reports have said the Browns are shopping quarterback Brady Quinn for a potential trade and Carolina might have some interest.
Pat Yasinskas: It was a fun story to do. I covered Dunn when he came into the league with the Bucs as a very shy and private kid. The guy I interviewed on the phone the other day was an extremely polished businessman and that was very cool for me to see. Dunn had a great career and we all know about the great things he does off the field. This move says a lot about the Falcons. Arthur Blank thinks the world of Dunn. Blank also has grown as an owner. He’s been burned in the past by some players with off-field issues, but he’s learned from that and tightened up the ship. Bringing on a guy like Dunn only makes the ship more elegant. By the way, I want to emphasize this isn’t some token role. Dunn is very serious about learning the business side of football and said he dreams of being a majority owner of a franchise someday.
Jason in Jacksonville, FL writes: Need a little help figuring out some of my fellow Carolina fans. If I recall last year about 90% of us were screaming “WE WANT (Matt) MOORE! WE WANT MOORE!’’ .Then we got Moore and he went 4-1 as a starter and only threw 1 INT. Now all I see anywhere is bring in Michael Vick, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn etc.
Pat Yasinskas: Very true. I guess the best way to put it is that’s the nature of the beast and it’s not unique among Carolina fans. Quarterback is the glamour position and the easiest thing in the world to point at. The backup always seems to be the most popular guy in town when things aren’t going well. I can remember fans screaming for Casey Weldon and Scott Milanovich when I covered the Bucs and fans yelling for Brett Basanez when I covered the Panthers. Let me assure you, John Fox and Marty Hurney aren’t basing their decisions on public opinion. They plan to at least give Moore a shot to win the job. They may bring in someone to compete with him, but it won’t be Vick.
Peter in New York writes: Now that the Falcons have addressed the CB position in Dunta Robinson and have a wealth of young talent on the defensive side of the ball, what do you rate the possibility of them drafting another offensive weapon in the first round? If a C.J. Spiller or a Dez Bryant happened to be available, will they pull the trigger?
Pat Yasinskas: It’s possible. But I think there still are needs on the defensive side, mainly at defensive end and maybe at outside linebacker. Mike Smith is a defensive coach and I think the Falcons already have pretty good weapons at the offensive skill positions. My guess is they go with defense.
Da Truth in Woodbridge, VA writes: Pat, I've been blogging in your "How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch" article. One Panther fan seems to think they and the Saints are the team to beat this year and that the Falcons did nothing to improve their defense. Even to go as far and say Dunta Robinson is not really an upgrade--just an overpaid, tackle-after-the-fact CB. Of course I'm a Falcon fan and him being a Panther fan we're both biased toward our teams. From an unbiased point of view, who do you think will be in the better position to challenge NO for the division title and the playoffs?
Pat Yasinskas: At the moment, I think the Falcons are the team most likely to challenge the Saints. I think Atlanta has improved so far this offseason. Don’t see any way you can say the same about Carolina right now. But there still is time in free agency and the draft and I’m anxious to see what Fox and Hurney have up their sleeves.
Wes in New Orleans writes: As always, you do a great job, but your note about Jake Delhomme contained a fairly noticeable factual error. Aaron Brooks' draft status was not the reason Jim Haslett was obligated to keep him at starter. He was drafted by Green Bay and was traded to New Orleans for a draft pick. His contract had much more to do with it.
Pat Yasinskas: You are absolutely correct. Thanks to you and a few other New Orleans fans for pointing out my error. I’ll go back and fix it. Brooks was Haslett’s guy and the Saints put a lot of money into him. That’s why Delhomme never really got a fair shake in his first stint with New Orleans. By the way, he was supposed to visit the Saints on Saturday, but that got delayed because of problems with his flight schedule. Delhomme now is scheduled to visit the Saints on Sunday.
Pat Yasinskas: I generally avoid speculating about players under contract to one team ending up with another team. However, I think this one is fair to at least discuss a bit because it’s been widely reported the Browns are looking to trade Quinn. I think it’s something the Panthers at least have to consider. Quinn came out of college viewed as a franchise quarterback. Things didn’t work out in Cleveland. It wasn’t all his fault and he did some good things from time to time. I think he could be a legitimate competitor to Moore for the starting job. Now, on the flip side, I also have two reasons why this might not happen. First, the Panthers have plenty of other holes and they already are without a first-round draft pick. Getting Quinn will cost at least some sort of draft pick and I think the Panthers will be hesitant to part with their remaining picks. Also, and I don’t want to be unfair to Quinn, but the whole David Carr episode might still be in the minds of John Fox and Marty Hurney. Like Carr, Quinn was a very high draft pick that didn’t work out in his first stop. I'm not saying Quinn will be a bust in his second stop like Carr. But I know Fox and Hurney still carry emotional baggage from the Carr fiasco.
Will in New Orleans writes: Usama Young looked great in his limited playing time as a free safety last year, and he's been torched just about every time he's lined up at corner since he's been drafted, wouldn't it make sense to make him the heir to Darren Sharper instead of moving Malcolm Jenkins?
Pat Yasinskas: If the Saints end up losing Sharper, I think Young is definitely an option. But I also think there’s a desire to get Jenkins on the field more often in his second season. Could end up being a training camp competition between these two for the starting job.
Jordan in Alto, GA writes: I've heard all the talk about Matt Ryan possibly not being as good as everyone thought he might be after his second season slump. I agree he had a little fall off but it also seemed the coaching staff went very conservative on play calling. What are the chances they open the playbook back up and let Ryan air the ball out a little more given all of the talent around Ryan for him to throw to? Also can we expect more no huddle series this fall?
Pat Yasinskas: I like, and share, your take on Ryan. I still think this guy is going to be a very good quarterback and I don’t think he was bad last season by any means. I just don’t think the coaching staff did a good job of playing to his strengths. Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey are both very bright guys and they’ve had time to process what didn’t work last season. I suspect they’ll make some adjustments to play to Ryan’s strengths. As for the no-huddle offense, we won’t really know until the season. But I thought they had great success with it in Ryan’s rookie season and need to get back to using it more often.
Will in New Port Richey, Fla. writes: Why haven't the Bucs even made a hint of interest in Brandon Marshall? The guy makes big play after big play. He can stretch the field and is a major game changer. Sure he has a small attitude problem but so did Keyshawn Johnson.
Pat Yasinskas: As far as we know, the Bucs haven’t shown interest in Marshall. But, even in age when the media covers free agency so closely, not everything going on behind the scenes comes to light. Careful, I’m not saying the Bucs are making a play for Marshall, but let’s not make the assumption that they’re just sitting still on him or another No. 1 receiver. Now, a couple of issues with the Marshall scenario: First, he would have to come in a trade and that would mean the Bucs would have to part with some of this year’s draft picks. They’re proud of the fact they’ve accumulated 10 of them and they don’t want to subtract from that number. Also, I think the baggage that comes with Marshall is a big caution flag. The Keyshawn Johnson situation was a little different because he came in to a veteran team with established leaders and things worked out in the short term. The current Bucs are not an established team and don’t have any real leaders. Bringing Marshall’s personality into that locker room could be a big mistake.
Yansen in Iowa writes: I’m assuming the Bucs are going to go with defense with the first round and they should. But what about the second round? There are a lot of good receivers this year. Can I expect a wideout in the second with either of the two picks?
Pat Yasinskas: Safe assumption on defense in the first round and I think the possibility of a receiver in the second round is very strong. A lot of experts have Jordan Shipley in the second round and Josh Freeman already has said he likes the Texas wide receiver. Also, I heard Sirius NFL Radio’s Pat Kirwan yesterday speculating that Oklahoma receiver Dez Bryant could tumble into the second round because of baggage and the fact that he hasn’t been able to run for scouts because of an injury. I’m not sure that will really happen. But, if Bryant is somehow available in the second round, I think the Bucs might be willing to ignore the baggage.
Brian in Augusta, GA writes: Pat, in a recent post you said, "Brent Grimes will compete with Brian Williams for the No. 2 cornerback spot. If he doesn’t win that, he’s probably the favorite over Christopher Owens and Chevis Jackson to be the nickel back. " Is that your opinion, or are you getting that info from the Falcons?
Pat Yasinskas: My opinion. The Falcons, and all other NFL teams, don’t tell you their starting lineup in March because they don’t know their starting lineup. I’m just saying Williams is the most experienced of the bunch the Falcons will have competing for the spot opposite Dunta Robinson. That makes him the safe choice right now. But they’re going to throw all those guys out there and see who rises up. Grimes, Owens and Jackson all have upside and the Falcons would be delighted if one of them moves ahead of Williams.
Injured starter Jake Delhomme had only one game where he threw at least three touchdowns without an interception in his last 52 regular-season starts, a span that dates back to November 2005.
By the way, Moore came out of Oregon State as an undrafted player in 2007. JaMarcus Russell, the first pick in that draft, never has had a game with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Neither have Kevin Kolb, John Beck or Drew Stanton, who were second-round picks in that draft.
Brady Quinn, the No. 22 overall pick in that draft, has had two career games where he’s thrown for three touchdowns without an interception.
Time for the Carolina Panthers in our series of team-by-team mailbags.
Alex in New Brunswick, N.J. writes: Here's an interesting stat for you: Panthers opponents' average yards per scoring drive this season is 34.3 (counting a return as a 0 yard scoring drive). Ironically, this makes me somewhat optimistic. I think the defense is good enough to give this team a chance if the offense can just stop turning it over so much. What do you think?
Pat Yasinskas: Sure, the Panthers theoretically could turn things around if the defense plays up to its capabilities. But I think the defense has been an even bigger disappointment than the offense this year. I mean, we knew the offense had limitations. With players like Jon Beason, Julius Peppers and Chris Gamble, a lot of people expected the defense to be great. So far, it hasn’t even been close. The defense needs to improve for this team to have any chance.
Malcolm in Blacksburg, S.C. writes: I was at the Carolina/Redskins game and looking down on the formation really brought something to my attention. I didn't realize how much the defense leaned to Steve Smith's side. I heard about the double teams and could see them when I watched on television. But seeing it live was appalling. Does Moose have nothing left? Can we get Smitty some help?!?
Pat Yasinskas: Good observation. It’s been that way for several years with teams loading up on Smith. Muhsin Muhammad doesn’t have the speed to really scare a defense and that allows opponents to load up on Smith. Amazingly, he still can put up big numbers. But it sure would be nice if he had someone to take some of the attention away. The Panthers have tried with the likes of Dwayne Jarrett and Keary Colbert, but they haven’t been able to find a receiver who can beat out the aging Muhammad.
Jeremy in Wilmington, N.C. writes: Hey Pat, first I would like to say you do a great job on the articles/updates on the NFC South teams. Now to business, I am a Panthers fan (Yes, tough times right now) and would like to know what do you think the organization is going to do in terms of getting a QB of the future? This talk of Quinn possibly leaving Cleveland sounds interesting, but I doubt the Panthers would do anything until post-season, after signing Feeley and all. We all know that Jake is not our future (I thought that was proven last year) so any thoughts?P.S. I still have faith in Jake for this season, he has been throwing much better lately...
Pat Yasinskas: The Panthers aren’t going to trade for Brady Quinn. They’re in the middle of their season and John Fox is fighting for his job. He’s going to ride Jake Delhomme because that’s his best shot at winning. Bringing in a quarterback from outside at this point makes no sense because the quarterback wouldn’t be ready. If Delhomme gets hurt or gets yanked from the lineup, A.J. Feeley would be the replacement. Now, after this season, I’m sure the Panthers will either draft or go out and sign a quarterback – no matter if Fox or someone else is coaching the team.
Rob in Charlotte writes: DeAngelo Williams may not be off to the start many of us expected, but in actuality, his numbers through four games this year are slightly better than his numbers through for games in 2008. While his newly developed "Deshaun Fosteritus" is a concern as far as ball security goes, I don't think it's a sign of his falling stock. Against the Eagles, we were never in a position to run the ball due to being behind early, and Jake's miscues, and against the Cowboys he never really got a chance to get going with only 11 carries. I fully expect this week against the Bucs will be a coming out party for our entire offense, especially for Williams and our embarrassed offensive line. Keep up the good work.
Pat Yasinskas: Rob, yes, it’s true that Williams’ numbers for the first four games this year aren’t off from the first four last year. But my comment was meant to reflect what Williams has done so far this year hasn’t even been close to what we came to expect from him as he ran wild late in the season last year. I expected him to pick up where he left off last year and so did the Panthers. He hasn’t done that, but there still is plenty of time for him to get on track.
TAMPA, Fla. -- There could be even another element to the quarterback situation for the Buccaneers.
The team could be looking to trade one of its quarterbacks for a draft pick. Coach Raheem Morris wouldn't confirm an NFL.com report that the Bucs are shopping three of their quarterbacks for a trade, but he didn't deny it either.
"Oh, man, they're Nostradamus," Morris said when asked about the report. "Everybody in this league, all 32 teams around this time start calling front offices. I can't control who calls us. Everybody's interested in everybody's roster and everybody's looking to nit-pick off everybody's roster. Everybody has talent and you're trying to accumulate the best talent on your football team. That's just all that talk is what that is."
But it makes total sense for the Bucs to at least try to find out what the market value might be for Byron Leftwich, Luke McCown or Josh Johnson. They're not about to let go of rookie Josh Freeman, who they call their franchise quarterback.
But that's likely in the future. For now, it appears the Bucs will open the season with either Leftwich or McCown as their starter. They're about even at this point and a potential trade could play into Morris' decision, although the Bucs likely would be able to get only a late-round pick (at best) for any of their quarterbacks.
Leftwich, a former starter in Jacksonville, probably has more trade value because of his experience. McCown has only seven starts. Johnson, a second-year pro, has yet to play in an NFL game and probably wouldn't bring much in a trade.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The Carolina Panthers, who I visited in camp earlier this week, are next in our series of team-by-team mailbags.
Rob in Houston writes: Pat, I just saw on the ESPN News side that the Browns have released defensive takle Shaun Smith. With the injury to Kemo, the Panthers could really use someone like a Shaun Smith to fill the gap, but I see two hurdles. Although he hasn't had a huge list of problems, the guy has had some off-field issues. Is it bad enough that Hurney (and Richardson) would steer clear of the guy? Also, I'm not sure what his market value is right now, but do the Panthers even have the cap space to bring in a guy like that? Just curious to know your thoughts on this situation?
Pat Yasinskas: The questions about Carolina's potential interest in Shaun Smith are coming into the mailbag at a very fast pace. I would expect nothing less because this is a very legitimate question. With Maake Kemoeatu out for the season, let's be real honest and say the Panthers are desperate for defensive tackle help. Nick Hayden can be a role player and rookie Corvey Irvin has some potential, but the Panthers don't want to have to count on either one in a starting role. They're going to look at all options and I think Smith is the first of many. I think it's a safe bet that coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney will at least discuss Smith. Yes, it's very true that owner Jerry Richardson usually stays clear of guys who have been in trouble and Smith reportedly punched Brady Quinn. But desperate times call for desperate measures and the Panthers may consider bending their rules a bit. Keep in mind, they've kept receiver Steve Smith around and he's had at least three reported altercations with teammates. Now, Steve Smith is a much better player than Shaun Smith. But the Panthers have to consider this one and figure out if the risk is worth the potential reward.
Rob in Australia writes: Are you expecting the Panthers to sign an established DT?
Pat Yasinskas: Absolutely. If it's not Shaun Smith, it will be someone else. Can't really speculate on guys presently on other rosters, but there will be some experienced defensive tackles coming available from other teams. The Panthers have to bring in one or maybe even two tackles with some experience because what they have right now isn't good enough.
Corey in Charlotte writes: Hi Pat,Kemoeatu is obviously a huge loss for the Panthers. Replacing a 350 pound man is pretty much impossible. However, would it not be fair to say that in Meeks new pass rush crazy D-line scheme Maake was already the odd man out? Could the scheme change make this transition easier for Carolina then losing him a year ago would have been?
Pat Yasinskas: That brings up an interesting point. In the system of new coordinator Ron Meeks, it's not quite as critical to have the wide-body run-stuffer as it was in the past. Meeks likes defensive tackles who can bring some push in the middle. That aside, I still think the Panthers need to bring in at least one plus-size defensive tackle. In the NFC South, you'll get pushed all around if you've got a couple of lightweights in the middle.
Pat Yasinskas: I think you can expect to see Charles Godfrey build on a decent rookie season at free safety. Yes, he had ups and downs last season, but that's going to happen with any rookie. I think the key to Godfrey's production will depend on what happens up front. If the Panthers can deliver a consistent pass rush, that's going to create opportunities for a free safety to make plays. As far as Sherrod Martin, it's early. But he looks the part and the Panthers are working on coaching him up. They want him to be their nickelback and appear to be counting on a quick progression because journeyman Dante Wesley is their only other option for that spot.
Michael in Al Uldeid, Quatar, writes: I know the NFL is all about injuries, injuries can plague any NFL team. With that put out there, what happens if Delhomme is injured again and has to sit out the rest of the season. What would the Panthers do with that situation because I really think they do not have a backup plan to this? Yes Matt Moore came in after Testeverde and won a couple but with this tough schedule are the Panthers just going to grin and say well that is that?
Pat Yasinskas: Good question because it raises an issue not a lot of people like to talk about. Quite simply, John Fox might not be able to survive if something happens to Delhomme and his team struggles. He got his free pass after Delhomme was hurt in 2007 and his hand-picked successor, David Carr, flopped miserably. But you can't get away with that twice and the minds that call the shots in Carolina believe they're prepared for this scenario. They brought in Josh McCown last year and he has some experience and a lot of similarities to Delhomme. The people I talk to in Carolina believe McCown could step in and there wouldn't be much drop off. They could be right. But, then again, these are the same people who once felt secure going with Carr as the backup.