NFC South: Brett Basanez

NFC South mailbag

March, 13, 2010
3/13/10
4:14
PM ET
Jeff in Charleston, SC writes: Great article on Warrick Dunn and his limited partnership with the Atlanta Falcons organization. You put this whole confusing situation into perspective and gave us fans a great story about one of our all-time favorite Falcons. In your mind, what does this say about the organization that a classy, philanthropist and former player like Dunn would embark on this journey with the Falcons.

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.

Final preseason mailbag

September, 6, 2008
9/06/08
7:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

This will be the final mailbag before the start of the regular season. Your questions were great and keep them coming.

David in Charlotte writes: What do you think of Rhys Lloyd? I think if Carolina is going to be successful this year Lloyd will be a HUGE part of it. I haven't seen him kick a kickoff yet that wasn't inside the five, and he routinely plants them 5 yards deep in the endzone. The difference in opponents starting field position will be huge for the panthers D this year. Your thoughts?

Pat Yasinskas: Short kickoffs have been a problem for several years. That's why John Fox broke from tradition and sacrificed a roster spot to keep Lloyd, a kickoff specialist. I think it definitely will help in the field-position game.


Ronald in Lynchburg VA writes: I've got $100 bet on this. Do you think the Atlanta Falcons can win the NFC South? especially with the major injury questions for the other teams in the division.

Pat Yasinskas: I don't know if Virginia has a state lottery or if you're anywhere near a casino. I'd go one of those routes. Your odds are better. Or see if you can get out of the bet and save $100. Seriously, the Falcons may be better than we all expect, but that would be like a five- or six-win season. The division? Even thinking about that is a year away.


Daryl in Alberta writes: All I've heard all summer is that Moore is an up and comer and potential future starter. I've also been reading that Basanez is in that Romo-mode, unknown who has the mental attributes to surprise, a poor man Delhomme. All of a sudden your knocking them though? I dont get it chief, you gotta explain that one.

Pat Yasinskas: If I'm "knocking'' the Panthers, it's because I'm simply pointing out they went through their entire offseason at quarterback going with three guys in one direction. Then, Moore goes down with an injury and they suddenly feel the need to trade for an "experienced'' quarterback in Josh McCown. No knock on him, but he's being thrust into an offense with less than a week to learn it. They also cut Basanez with the implication being he wasn't developing in the way they thought he would. Then, because of the Moore injury, they turn right around and sign him to the practice squad. Just seems like some panicky moves from a team that seemed to be so set at quarterback. Of course, it will all be moot if Jake Delhomme stays healthy all year.


Wally in parts unknown writes: Hey Pat, You are the NFC South blogger, you have seen the teams first hand. Gene Wojciechowski recently had a predictions article where he picked the Saints 3rd in the division and said the following: "[The Saints can win the division] But none of it happens unless the Saints' offensive line (this time without center Jeff Faine, who signed a free-agent deal with the Bucs) do a little something we like to call "pass blocking." Don't get me wrong, there are valid reasons to pick the Saints third, but pass blocking is FAR from it. The Saints allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL last year while Drew Brees was throwing the ball more then anyone in the NFL. To me that translates to the Best Pass Blocking OLine in the NFL. Would you kindly report this fact to Gene. I would hate to think that an ESPN columnist of his stature was writing such articles with out a fact checker.

Pat Yasinskas: You are correct, the Saints did allow the fewest sacks in the league last year and I'll pass that on to Gene if I ever get to meet him. But I don't think all the credit should go to an offensive line that's not that dominating. Brees is helped by the fact that New Orleans rarely throws the deep ball and he's not exposed to pass rushers for long. The bread and butter of this offense is the quick passing game where rushers don't have time to get near Brees. Plus, Brees does a good job of unloading the ball before anyone can get to him.


JP in Yadkinville, NC writes: Ok ... Understand you are trying to pick a single player for a position but with the increased use of dual RB's in the same backfeild why not compare them to individual stand out's at the position. For example ... why not compare a tandem RB's from one team if they get the same production frome a dual back system???

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I was just basing it on single backs when I picked my preseason All-NFC South squad. But you bring up a good point because it's crucial to have two good backs on a team these days. I think the NFC South is primed to do that with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood in Atlanta, Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in New Orleans and Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett in Tampa Bay. I won't rank them now because I want to see how things are divided in each situation. But I'll rank them and do a post on that around midseason.


Someone who didn't include their name in Raleigh writes: Hey Pat, keep up the good work covering the NFC South. In my opinion people are being a little bit too critical of the Panthers defensive trench. The unit has played well all preseason. I know they won't come out and destroy opposing o-lines, but at the very least they can be solid enough to free up our linebacking group, which has more depth than perhaps anyone with Beason, Davis, Diggs, Johnson, Seward, and rookie Conner. If the road-graders can do that the defense should be successful in my opinion. What are your thoughts on that and also do you think the defensive playcalling will finally utilize our linebackers in the blitz more often to cover up any deficiency the line might show?

Pat Yasinskas: Carolina's defensive line was promising in the preseason. If that carries over into the regular season, this could be a great defense. But let's see that line play that way in the regular season first. Love the linebackers and, yeah, I think you'll see more blitzes, particularly from Thomas Davis.


Hammock62 in parts unknown writes: Having seen the Falcons this preseason do you think the OL is good enough to allow Ryan the time to Throw the ball deep?

Pat Yasinskas: I have no doubt Ryan can throw the deep ball, but I don't think that's going to be practical from the start. They've got rookie left tackle Sam Baker protecting Ryan's blind side and Baker's going to have some ups and downs. He's also going to get attacked by every defensive front in the league. If I were calling the shots for the Falcons, I'd stick to a short and medium passing game just to keep Ryan from getting too beat up.

Around the NFC South: Shockey's a go

September, 4, 2008
9/04/08
10:13
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Just a heads-up: I'll be part of the chat block extravaganza today at 1 p.m. ET. Now, on with the morning rounds:

PANTHERS

Quarterback Matt Moore reportedly will miss four to six weeks with his broken leg. As of this moment, the team is going with Jake Delhomme and Josh McCown on the active roster and Brett Basanez on the practice squad.

BUCCANEERS

Last year, the Bucs were one of the few teams to put any pressure on Drew Brees. They'll try to do it again Sunday in New Orleans.

SAINTS

After being brought along slowly in the preseason, tight end Jeremy Shockey wasn't listed on the injury report for Sunday.

FALCONS

Atlanta is looking at shifting defensive end Jamaal Anderson to defensive tackle on some downs to try to create more pressure up the middle.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Somebody's going to have to answer some questions on this one.

Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Matt Moore suffered a fractured left fibula in practice today. The team is saying Moore reinjured the same leg that was hurt in the preseason finale in Pittsburgh.

The fact that Moore was already back on the practice field obviously raises some medical questions. The fact the Panthers went through the entire offseason and preseason with Jake Delhomme (coming off elbow surgery), Moore and Brett Basanez as the only quarterbacks on the roster raises some questions about personnel decisions.

Those decisions already came to light last week when the Panthers suddenly decided they wanted an experienced backup for Delhomme and went out and traded for Josh McCown. They turned around and cut Basanez. After Moore's injury, they went out and signed Basanez to the practice squad.

This situation still might be in flux and the Panthers could be looking for another quarterback. In case you're wondering, Vinny Testaverde is retired and living in Tampa.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

PANTHERS

The Panthers signed five guys -- Nick Hayden, Geoff Schwartz, DeCori Birmingham, William Buchanon and Joe Fields -- to their practice squad. What's more interesting is that they did not sign quarterback Brett Basanez, who has practice-squad eligibility. Basanez, who went through the preseason as the No. 3 quarterback, became expendable after the Panthers traded a 2009 seventh-round pick for Josh McCown.

SAINTS

The Saints released part of their practice schedule for Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. As of now (and everything's subject to change because of Hurricane Gustav), the Saints will practice in Indianapolis through Friday and they have a practice scheduled for their own facility in suburban New Orleans on Saturday.

BUCCANEERS

After spending part of the preseason whispering in Brett Favre's ear, coach Jon Gruden was singing the praises of Jeff Garcia after practice Sunday.

"It's actually refreshing to have the same guy two years in a row," Gruden told the media. "We like Jeff a lot. He's had a tough offseason in regards to the calf injury. He's missed a lot of time, but he was outstanding here today. He's the strength of our offensive football team. He's a veteran signal caller and he's a great competitor. I think Brian Griese and Luke [McCown] showed that they're really capable of running the offense and they've had success in the system themselves. We are excited about the quarterback position and we'll see what happens."

Gruden also said Garcia seems to be in good health after missing much of training camp and the preseason.

"I think he's good," Gruden said. "We had Jeff and a number of players out there before the Houston game about five o'clock. We were out there about two-and-a-half hours before kickoff and I personally got to chase him around like a chicken and test his mobility. We worked him hard, really hard, all those guys. I can't speak for him, but I do think he's close to 100 percent. I think he feels a lot better."

FALCONS

Atlanta claimed defensive tackle Jason Jefferson off waivers. To make room for him, the Falcons released defensive tackle Tim Anderson. The Falcons also signed wide receiver Eric Weems, tight end Keith Zinger, offensive lineman D'Anthony Batiste, defensive end Brandon Miller and defensive backs Glenn Sharpe and Eric Brock to the practice squad.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Trading for Josh McCown was a good move by the Panthers, but it makes you wonder why they didn't go out and get a quarterback with some experience before.

This move was not prompted by the bruised shin Matt Moore suffered Thursday night. Moore didn't suffer any broken bones and he's not likely to be out too long. Well before Moore's injury, the Panthers knew they needed to have a quarterback with some experience behind starter Jake Delhomme.

Moore only has three career starts and Brett Basanez has only thrown six NFL passes. Yet the Panthers went through their entire training camp with Moore and Basanez behind Delhomme, who is coming off Tommy John elbow surgery.

They didn't touch the position in free agency. Part of that might have been because there wasn't much available, but bringing in a quarterback then would have given him time in the system. McCown, 29, won't get that luxury.

But he does give the Panthers a veteran to turn to if something happens to Delhomme. Although the Panthers like the intangibles of Basanez, the addition of McCown makes him expendable. Carolina will try to trade Basanez tonight and tomorrow. If they can't pull something off by 4 p.m., Saturday, they probably will cut Basanez.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Basanez

The Panthers are awaiting word on backup quarterback Matt Moore after he underwent further medical tests. Early indications are he has a bruised shin. There's now an update and the Panthers are saying Moore doesn't have any broken bones. They're also saying Moore will be "day-to-day''. However, in the lingo of coach John Fox that could mean Moore's back on the practice field in a day or in three months.

This situation is cause for concern, but not panic. If Moore is out for any period of time, the Panthers might not be as bad off as some think. A lot of people forget about Brett Basanez, but the Panthers haven't. Although he missed last season with an injury, Basanez is as well-versed in Carolina's offense as anyone, including starter Jake Delhomme.

Basanez is the classic "gym rat'' and he sat in on every quarterbacks meeting last year and spends more time at the facility than any other player. He may not have great size or physical skills, but he has intangibles. Basanez might not be that much of a drop off from Moore.

Depending on Moore's medical verdict, the Panthers may have to go out and get another quarterback. But I don't see them doing anything overly dramatic. If Moore is going to be out for the short term, I can see the Panthers trying to talk Vinny Testaverde out of retirement or signing some other veteran to have as insurance.

If Moore is out for a while, Testaverde's not the answer because last year showed he can't hold up for a long stretch. The Panthers learned a lesson from that. Obviously, they're hoping Delhomme stays healthy all year and they never have to play a backup.

But, if Basanez has to fill the backup role, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If Moore is out for the entire season or a large chunk of it, look for the Panthers to bring in a young quarterback that's cut off someone else's roster and use him as the No. 3 behind Delhomme and Basanez.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas 

BUCCANEERS 

After a quiet training camp, second-round pick Dexter Jackson probably earned the top return job with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown against Houston.

FALCONS

Receiver Brian Finneran, who's trying to make the team after two years of injuries, helped his cause by catching a touchdown pass.

SAINTS

Deuce McAllister and Mike McKenzie put to rest any lingering questions about their health with strong performances in the preseason finale.

PANTHERS

The early word on backup quarterback Matt Moore is that he has a shin bruise. But more tests will be performed today. If Moore's out for any period of time, Brett Basanez will be elevated to the No. 2 job behind Jake Delhomme.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Saints and Panthers made some moves today in anticipation of tomorrow's deadline for cutting rosters to 75 players, but there weren't any surprises.

The Saints released fullback Kevin Dudley, receiver Todd Blythe, center Rob Hunt, safety Curome Cox and punter Waylon Prather. The Panthers placed receiver Jason Carter on the injured reserve list and released quarterback Lester Ricard, cornerback Curtis DeLoatch, defensive end Casper Brinkley and tight end Chris Conklin.

Not much exciting there, so let's go ahead and take a look at one interesting question for each NFC South team as the cut to 53 players comes this weekend.

SAINTS

Who will be the kicker? The Saints have a big choice to make between veteran Martin Gramatica and rookie Taylor Mehlhaff. Gramatica's made some big kicks in the past and has lots of experience. But he hasn't always been consistent and he doesn't have a big leg. Mehlhaff does have a big leg, but has never kicked in the NFL.

BUCS

What quarterbacks stay? After going through much of the offseason with six quarterbacks on the roster and making a run at Brett Favre, the Bucs are down to a mere five quarterbacks. Mercifully, that number finally has to dwindle. The question is if they'll carry three or four quarterbacks. Throw Chris Simms out because he'll either be cut or traded. That leaves Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and rookie Josh Johnson. Garcia's safe and Griese should be, too. It's tough to carry four quarterbacks and the Bucs may have to decide between McCown and Johnson. Then again, Jon Gruden's love for quarterbacks means it's possible the Bucs could pluck one -- or two -- off the waiver wire.

PANTHERS

How many quarterbacks will they keep? Coach John Fox and General Manager Marty Hurney have shown a willingness in the past to go with only two quarterbacks and Jake Delhomme and Matt Moore are automatic. That leaves Brett Basanez on the bubble. But recent history may be on his side. The Panthers had to play musical quarterbacks last season because of injuries and ineptitude and that didn't work out well. Basanez is a guy the Panthers like and they'd be wise to hang onto him because he has some upside. Besides, if they cut Basanez and have another injury at quarterback, who are the going to call? Vinny Testaverde?

FALCONS

Will veteran receiver Brian Finneran stick? He's trying to make a comeback after suffering major knee injuries the last two years and Finneran is making the most of his opportunity. He seems to have moved ahead of Laurent Robinson for the No. 4 receiver spot. Robinson seemed ticketed for a starting job at the start of camp, but has fallen out of favor. Finneran's durability remains a question, but his ability to contribute on special teams could help his stock.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Peter King wrote recently about the possibility of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick playing in the new United Football League, which is scheduled to begin play in 2009. In some ways, the logic makes a lot of sense. Vick is supposed to be released from prison in July 2009 and it's likely he'll be suspended by the NFL, maybe even permanently. An NFL suspension also would prevent Vick from playing in the Canadian Football League.

That leaves the UFL, which will begin play around the time Vick is expected to be released from prison. UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue told King the chances of Vick signing with a UFL team are 98 percent.

I can see why Huyghue might want Vick. He'd be a big name for a new league that needs hype and money after failing to make a planned launch this year because of financial issues. I knew Huyghue in his days as a personnel executive for the Jacksonville Jaguars and when he was an agent for NFL players and he's a smart and shrewd businessman. Vick could bring attention to and sell tickets for the UFL.

But Huyghue also is a decent and ethical guy, and I have to wonder if he's thought this scenario out thoroughly. The attention that would come with Vick wouldn't be all positive. In fact, it might be overwhelmingly negative. If Vick joins a team, you can count on animal-rights activists picketing stadiums and organizing boycotts. Vick could do more harm than good for an upstart league.

It's more than ironic that Huyghue made the comments to King while the commissioner was scouting Carolina Panthers third quarterback Brett Basanez, who might be one of those guys who just needs some playing time to get his career going. Basanez is about as different from Vick as you can get.

Basanez isn't a super athlete, but he's got moxie and is known by his teammates as the biggest gym rat at Bank of America Stadium. Basanez is exactly the kind of guy I'd want to sign for my team. Basanez is the kind of guy fans would love because he's a miniature Brett Favre (before the un-retirement) and his down-to-earth personality and sense of humor would play well with fans and media.

But, then again, this isn't a fair world. A commissioner or owner of a new team is going to look at Vick's arm and legs, remember what he was and get blinded by the possibilities -- even if it ends up destroying the team or the league.

Big night for backup quarterbacks

August, 9, 2008
8/09/08
12:49
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas.

The Falcons, Bucs and Panthers all start their preseason schedules tonight and each team has major questions at quarterback. Here's a look.

FALCONS

Chris Redman will start, but that may be nothing more than a courtesy to the veteran. The real story here is rookie Matt Ryan. The Falcons are going to use the preseason to decide if they should throw Ryan into the starting lineup immediately. They pretty much know what they have in Redman, but this will be Ryan's first look under game conditions. This game also is important for Joey Harrington and D.J. Shockley, who are battling for the No. 3 job.

PANTHERS

This will be Jake Delhomme's first game action in more than 10 months. All indications are he's fine after having Tommy John elbow surgery. He's looked good in camp and said his elbow feels better than it has in several seasons. Don't expect Delhomme to play very long tonight because the Panthers don't want to overwork him and they want to take long looks at Matt Moore and Brett Basanez. Moore has the lead in the backup battle after a strong showing at the end of last year, but Basanez remains in the mix.

BUCCANEERS

There will be a lot of scouts in Miami tonight because the rest of the league will be keeping an eye on Tampa Bay's quarterbacks, particularly Chris Simms and Brian Griese, who could be available for trade. Luke McCown will start because Jeff Garcia's out with an injury and Brett Favre landed with the Jets. The Bucs want to take a look at McCown, who could end up as the No. 2 quarterback. But they may not play him too long because they want to give the rest of the league a look at Simms and Griese. Simms might get the most playing time because the Bucs want to show everyone else he's healthy. Rookie Josh Johnson could get some snaps late, but the Bucs are more concerned with showcasing Simms and Griese.

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