NFC South: Brandon McDonald

Looking at Bucs' defensive snaps

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

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

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

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

Around the NFC South

December, 12, 2012
Time for a run through the Wednesday morning headlines from around the NFC South:


Mark Bradley makes an excellent point when he writes that the fact the Falcons already have clinched the NFC South title essentially puts them into another preseason. But the Falcons can’t afford to look at it that way. They still need to wrap up the No. 1 seed throughout the NFC playoffs, and they need to build some momentum as they head into the playoffs.


The team placed safety Haruki Nakamura on injured reserve. That gives the Panthers 16 players who are out for the season. That’s two short of last season's franchise record.


Jeffri Chadiha writes that coach Sean Payton is the person most responsible for the whole bounty scandal. I’d put former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams up there, too. But Chadiha’s point is that Payton’s arrogance set a tone in which an unhealthy culture grew out of control, and I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment of this sordid affair.

Jonathan Vilma has until Wednesday afternoon to decide if he wants to continue with his defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Vilma’s attorney said Tuesday that his client plans to continue with the suit, but we’ll see what happens in the next few hours.


Just in time for Christmas, the Bucs announced they’re cutting prices on about 35 percent of their seats for next season. The team also said prices won’t increase for the other seats. Smart move by a team that’s only had the local television blackout lifted for two home games this season.

Cornerback Brandon McDonald, who was with the team earlier in the season, was re-signed. McDonald should provide some depth after Myron Lewis was placed on injured reserve.

Transaction Tuesday in the NFC South

November, 6, 2012
We’ve got a few minor transactions that have come out around the division in the last little bit.

None quite rose to the level of an individual post, so let's throw them all together and go through them:

Bucs made right move on Aqib Talib

November, 1, 2012
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded away their best cornerback Thursday, which may sound like a risky move.

But I’ll go ahead right now and cast a vote for Mark Dominik for general manager of the year simply for getting something via trade in return for the troubled Aqib Talib. The Bucs also sent their seventh-round pick along with Talib to the Patriots and said their compensation is New England's fourth-round pick in 2013, which is about three rounds higher than I would have expected. Dominik deserves praise for getting anything in exchange for this guy.

[+] EnlargeAqib Talib
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireTampa Bay dealt cornerback Aqib Talib to the Patriots in a deadline deal on Thursday.
Heck, Talib isn’t even eligible to play for the Patriots right away. He still has one game left on his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. In a statement released by the Bucs when the suspension was announced, Talib said he took Adderall without a prescription.

There also has been a Fox Sports report that Tampa Bay’s other starting cornerback, Eric Wright, soon will face a similar suspension for using the same substance. If that’s true, it may seem risky to go ahead and trade Talib, but it’s not.

This was a move that was long overdue. And, even though coach Greg Schiano previously said Talib would be back with the Bucs after the suspension, you knew it wouldn’t be for long. Talib’s contract is scheduled to end at the end of the season and I’m pretty sure the Bucs simply would have let him walk into free agency.

From the moment the Bucs hired Schiano, you knew he and Talib were the oddest couple since Oscar Madison and Felix Unger. When Kellen Winslow and Tanard Jackson quickly were shown the door, I was surprised Talib wasn’t with them.

This is a guy the Bucs put up with way too much trouble from in the past. Jon Gruden and Raheem Morris let Talib run amok because he had some talent. But Schiano isn’t Gruden or Morris.

He’s a coach who doesn’t put up with off-field problems. And Talib was a constant problem. He had a well-publicized incident with a cab driver, some altercations with teammates and was charged with assault with a deadly weapon in Texas, although the charges were later dropped.

At times, Talib would give the media the old song and dance about how he’d grown up and matured. But then he’d turn right around and do something immature. Talib had such difficulty managing his anger, I once saw him come very close to getting into a physical altercation with a member of the local media.

The Bucs might have to rely on young guys like Leonard Johnson, Brandon McDonald and Myron Lewis at cornerback in the short term, especially if Wright does face a suspension.

But the Bucs will be better off in the long run without Talib. Even if they had kept him just for the remainder of this season, there’s a pretty good chance they would have faced another headache or two along the way.

This way, the Bucs got rid of a headache and got something in return. That’s a win. Let's see how well Talib and New England coach Bill Belichick get along.

By the way, I now have dropped my dysfunction rating on the Bucs in this earlier column from 35 percent to 25 percent, in light of the Talib trade.

NFC South evening update

October, 24, 2012
Time for a look at the day's top headlines from around the division:


There was a time when the matchup between Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick and his former team would have been a huge story. But, as Michael Cunningham writes, it’s more like a footnote now. Vick hasn’t played for the Falcons since 2006. Matt Ryan’s been Atlanta’s quarterback since 2008. The NFL is a league where time moves quickly. Vick never will be forgotten in Atlanta, but Vick, the Falcons and fans have moved on.

A lot of critics have been saying the Falcons haven’t beaten a good team. That’s about to change. It’s not like the Falcons are about to face the four best teams in the league, but Mark Bradley points out that Philadelphia, Dallas, New Orleans and Arizona are better than what the Falcons already have faced.

Coach Mike Smith said defensive tackle Corey Peters is progressing as he works to return from a foot injury. But Smith said Peters isn't in football shape. If he's not in football shape on Wednesday, I don't know that he'll be there Sunday. It might be another week before Peters plays.


As we told you earlier, it looked like linebacker Jon Beason was headed for injured reserve. That now is official, according to coach Ron Rivera. Rookie Luke Kuechly has played middle linebacker as Beason was banged up in recent weeks and will continue in that role.

Scott Fowler writes that quarterback Cam Newton was more open than usual when meeting with the media Wednesday. Among the topics of conversation, Newton explained why he’s not a fan of Twitter and also said he wished he had done more on the field to keep general manager Marty Hurney from getting fired.


Although the NFL Players Association is asking former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to recuse himself as the hearing officer for next week’s appeals in the player suspensions in the bounty saga, Andrew Brandt writes that Tagliabue might be the best option for the players. Although Goodell and Tagliabue are close, Brandt points out that they are different in some ways. He also points out that Tagliabue no longer is an NFL employee, which basically is another way of saying the former commissioner is his own man and isn’t going to be a puppet.

Sunday will mark Joe Vitt’s first game as the interim coach. It also will be a family reunion. Denver quarterback Adam Case is married to Vitt’s daughter.

There was some good news on the injury front. Tight end Jimmy Graham, who missed Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, practiced on a limited basis. Vitt said Graham fared well in practice. Fantasy football players: Keep monitoring Graham as the week goes on, but I think there’s a pretty good chance you might want to put him back in your lineup.


Cornerback Brandon McDonald (ankle) is the only player listed as anything worse than probable on the injury report for Thursday night’s game against Minnesota

Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen presents a challenge for any left tackle. But Dory LeBlanc points out that Tampa Bay’s Donald Penn has fared pretty well against Allen in the past.

Wrap-up: Giants 41, Buccaneers 34

September, 16, 2012
Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 41-34 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

What it means: I’m not a big believer in moral victories, but what the Bucs did Sunday came about as close to that as possible. They went on the road and took the defending Super Bowl champions right down to the wire. They blew a big lead, but showed plenty of character by rallying to tie the game late on a touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Mike Williams. I look at the Bucs and see a team that definitely is way better than last season. But this one showed they haven’t turned the corner yet. They’re a .500 team right now.

What I liked: A defense that intercepted Eli Manning three times (Mason Foster, Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright each had a pick) in the first half.

What I didn’t like: A defense that, when all was said and done, allowed Manning to throw for 510 yards and three touchdowns. You can win a lot of games when you're scoring 34 points, but not too many when your defense is giving up 41 points.

Free agents paying off: So far, it looks like Tampa Bay’s decision to spend big money in free agency was a wise one. Wright had the big interception and the Bucs finally have given Freeman a true No. 1 wide receiver. Vincent Jackson had five catches for 128 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown.

What’s next: The Bucs travel to Dallas next Sunday to play the Cowboys.

NFC South evening update

September, 11, 2012
It’s the players’ day off around the NFC South, but some news and notes are still surfacing. Let’s take a run through the latest headlines:
  • With Brent Grimes lost to a season-ending injury, the Falcons are expected to work out some cornerbacks Wednesday. D. Orlando Ledbetter has a list of the veteran cornerbacks available. As you might expect the list of guys available is not that impressive at this time of year. The name that jumped out at me most was Lito Sheppard. I have no idea what he has left physically. But Shepperd was a very good cornerback earlier in his career and might be able to still give the Falcons something, just based on his wisdom. The Falcons did announce Tuesday afternoon they’ve signed cornerback Terrence Johnson, who spent last season with Indianapolis. But the Falcons may be looking for someone with more experience than Johnson.
  • The mother of former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand says she and her son will make themselves available to help Tulane player Devon Walker and his family. Walker suffered a spinal injury last weekend. LeGrand was paralyzed in a 2010 game while playing for coach Greg Schiano, who moved to Tampa Bay this year. In a symbolic gesture, the Bucs signed LeGrand as a free agent after the draft.
  • In his weekly film study, Mike Triplett writes that the New Orleans defense spent Sunday on its heels against the Redskins. We knew not to expect new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to blitz as often as Gregg Williams did. But Triplett puts out the few times the Saints blitzed early on produced disastrous results.
  • Stephen Holder points out that the fact the Bucs used recently-acquired cornerback Brandon McDonald ahead of Myron Lewis on Sunday probably does not bode well for Lewis’ future with the team. Lewis might have a tough time staying on the roster once E.J. Biggers and Anthony Gaitor return from injuries.
  • Although Tampa Bay’s rookie class is drawing rave reviews for its performance in the opener, Carolina’s is not. Bryan Strickland points out that linebacker Luke Kuechly got burned on Tampa Bay’s first touchdown drive, cornerback Josh Norman got flagged for pass interference and guard Amini Silatolu drew a couple penalties and lost some one-on-one battles.

Updated NFC South salary-cap space

September, 5, 2012
Now that we’re into the first week of the regular season, the way salary-cap figures for each team are calculated has changed.

In the offseason, only the top 51 figures count against a team’s cap. Now, every contract counts and that includes practice squad players and guys who are no longer on the roster, but are counting for outstanding pro-rated bonus money.

I just got a look at where each NFC South team stands under the cap, so let’s run through it.

The Falcons are only $1.049 million under the cap. If this team suffers a serious injury and wants to sign a replacement of any significance, it likely will have to restructure a contract or two to free up room. The Falcons are carrying a lot of “dead money,” including some that stretches back to guys who haven’t played for Atlanta since 2010. Jamaal Anderson, Michael Jenkins, Chauncey Davis and Ovie Mughelli are taking up more than $2 million in salary-cap space.

The Carolina Panthers are at $5.1 million and some of that is due to smart accounting. Former guard Travelle Wharton is costing the team $1.9 million, but the hit for this year is spread out equally for next year. The Panthers do have about $550,000 tied up in former punter Jason Baker and kicker Olindo Mare and they also lost an injury grievance to safety Nate Salley, which is costing them $440,000. The Panthers already are projected to be close to the 2013 cap and would like to carry some of this year's room over to next year.

The New Orleans Saints are $8.7 under the cap, but that’s misleading. Defensive end Will Smith's $5.1 million figure is off the books during a four-game suspension, but comes back on as soon as it’s over. Smith also could come back on the books if the NFL Players Association gets a temporary restraining order on his suspension. Jonathan Vilma's $3.3 figure isn’t counting as he serves a season-long suspension. But, like with Smith, the Saints have to keep room open for him in case he is reinstated, even if it’s only temporary.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have $14.9 million in cap space. That figure doesn’t include Wednesday’s re-signing of cornerback Brandon McDonald and the release of offensive lineman Derek Hardman, but those moves likely will have only a minor impact. The Bucs rank third in the league in cap space, but don’t call them cheap. They spent a fortune in free agency and front-loaded the contracts of Carl Nicks, Vincent Jackson and Eric Wright. I wouldn’t anticipate the Bucs using most of their remaining salary-cap space. They want to carry it over to next year because they already are projected to be close to the 2013 salary cap. Carrying over some of this year’s cap space would give the Bucs room to add a few more free agents next year.

Catching up on NFC South roster moves

September, 2, 2012
Let’s catch up on a bunch of roster moves around the NFC South.

-- The Carolina Panthers signed veteran defensive tackle Dwan Edwards and released defensive tackle Terrell McClain. Edwards was a second-round pick by Baltimore in 2004 and most recently was with Buffalo. The release of McClain comes as a bit of surprise. He was pressed into starting duty by injuries as a rookie last season and showed some promise. But the move shows the Panthers want more experience to go with veteran Ron Edwards up front.

The Panthers also signed guard Bryant Browning, receiver Lamont Bryant, defensive tackle Nate Chandler, receiver Jared Green, tight end Nelson Rosario, running back Armond Smith and guard Zack Williams to their practice squad.

-- The New Orleans Saints claimed safety Rafael Bush off waivers from the Denver Broncos and waived safety Jonathon Amaya. Isa Abdul-Quddus emerged as New Orleans' top backup safety and Amaya wasn’t much more than a special-teams player. Amaya’s claim to fame was that he came as part of the Reggie Bush trade in 2011.

-- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed running back D.J. Ware and released cornerback Brandon McDonald. The Bucs already seemed set at running back with Doug Martin, LeGarrette Blount and Michael Smith. Ware has history with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan from their time together in New York. Makes you wonder if the Bucs might be looking to trade Blount.

The Bucs signed defensive tackle Corvey Irvin guard Julian Vandervelde and guard/center Cody Walllace. They also released defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry and Cody Wallace. The fact that the Bucs still are bringing in guards is a strong sign they haven’t made a firm decision on how they’ll replace Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph, who suffered a season-ending injury.

-- The Falcons signed receiver Drew Davis, tackle Bryce Harris, receiver Marcus Jackson, cornerback Peyton Thompson and defensive tackle Micanor Regis to their practice squad.

NFC South evening update

August, 20, 2012
Let’s make a quick swoop through some NFC South headlines on a day when much of the news involves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Tampa Bay reportedly claimed receiver Jordan Shipley off waivers from Cincinnati. The Bucs are taking a bit of a leap here. Shipley hasn’t been the same since tearing his ACL. If he can somehow get his speed back, he could be a good fit as a slot receiver. If Shipley doesn’t have anything left, it’s not like the Bucs paid a big price for him.
  • Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn, who had been out with a calf injury, returned to practice Monday. Coach Greg Schiano said there may have been a silver lining to Penn’s injury. I get his point. Penn is a big guy and, in past seasons, he didn’t appear to be in consistently great shape. Penn spent all of training camp working on his conditioning and that may help him hold up better in the regular season.
  • Amazingly, running back LeGarrette Blount was back at practice Monday and worked with no limitations. Blount suffered a groin injury in Friday’s preseason game. At first, the injury appeared serious, but Blount didn’t miss any time.
  • The Bucs stepped slightly out of character Monday, signing veteran cornerback Brandon McDonald. This team usually goes with youth. McDonald has some experience as a starter. I think the Bucs are set with Eric Wright and Aqib Talib as their starters, but E.J. Biggers and Anthony Gaitor have been banged up. If they’re not ready by the start of the regular season, McDonald could have a shot at a roster spot.
  • With injuries to linebackers Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain, New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt said the team’s pro personnel people will keep an eye on what’s available. Translation: The Saints will be signing a linebacker or two before long.
  • Carolina coach Ron Rivera said linebacker Thomas Davis could play in the next preseason game. Davis is trying to recover from his third torn ACL. Ordinarily, I’m in favor of being extremely cautious with injured players in the preseason. But Davis’ case is different. He’s had plenty of time to heal and the Panthers need to find out if he has anything left.
  • Atlanta coach Mike Smith announced backup left tackle Will Svitek will miss the season with an arm injury. That leaves rookie Lamar Holmes as the top backup behind Sam Baker. I think that means there’s a chance the Falcons could keep an eye out for backup tackles as other teams begin trimming their rosters.

Brees was best between numbers

December, 5, 2011
NEW ORLEANS – Drew Brees was at his best when throwing between the numbers in Sunday night’s 31-17 victory against the Detroit Lions.

That was probably by design because the Lions were without injured defensive backs Louis Delmas, Chris Houston and Brandon McDonald.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brees completed 15 of 18 attempts (83.3) between the numbers. He averaged 12.9 yards on those attempts and threw three touchdowns without an interception.

In Weeks 1 through 12, Brees had completed 71.7 percent of his throws between the numbers and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt while throwing 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Chris Ivory inactive for Saints

December, 4, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -- Running back Chris Ivory is inactive for Sunday night’s game against the Detroit Lions.

Ivory is healthy, but the Saints made him inactive last week as well. They’ve been using Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and rookie Mark Ingram in a backfield rotation.

Also inactive for the Saints are receiver Adrian Arrington, cornerback Johnny Patrick, linebacker Martez Wilson, lineman Will Robinson, defensive end Turk McBride and tight end Michael Higgins.

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who had been out with a knee injury, is active and is expected to start.

The inactives for Detroit are safety Louis Delmas, defensive back Chris Houston, quarterback Drew Stanton, defensive end Lawrence Jackson, guard Leonard Davis, running back Aaron Brown and cornerback Brandon McDonald are inactive.