NFC South: David Gettis

What to watch: Panthers-Ravens

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
11:02
AM ET
Three things to watch as the Carolina Panthers play the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN:

Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen. Newton will get his most extensive playing time of the preseason, and the Panthers hope he and the offense can get in a rhythm. Newton has led only one touchdown drive this preseason. Clausen is expected to play with the second team. That’s not a sign that Clausen has a chance to beat out Derek Anderson for the backup job. It’s more of a sign that the Panthers want to take a good look at Clausen before deciding if they want to carry two or three quarterbacks on the roster.

The receivers. Armanti Edwards, Domenik Hixon and Joe Adams aren’t expected to play due to injuries. That means more playing time for Ted Ginn Jr. and David Gettis, who are having strong preseasons and have a chance to be among the top backups at receiver.

Garry Williams. He’s been getting the first-team work at right guard since the team released veteran Geoff Hangartner. Williams needs a strong showing because it still is possible the team could bring in a veteran as other teams trim their rosters.

NFC South afternoon update

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
4:44
PM ET
Time for an afternoon run through some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Although he’s having a sensational preseason, undrafted rookie linebacker Paul Worrilow still is listed with the third team on the latest depth chart. Let’s keep in mind that depth charts are unofficial in the preseason. I think Worrilow has opened a lot of eyes and has a very good chance to make the roster as a backup and special-teams player.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Bryan Strickland takes a look at some of the areas in which the Panthers will have to make tough decisions when it comes time to trim the roster. I think the most compelling spot is at wide receiver. Starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are locks. After that, there’s a logjam of receivers that includes Armanti Edwards, Ted Ginn Jr., Domenik Hixon, Kealoha Pilares, David Gettis and Joe Adams. Ginn almost certainly sticks around due to his return ability. Edwards seems to have worked his way into the good graces of the coaching staff and is likely to stay. Gettis, who has dealt with major injuries the past two years, has had a very good preseason and could end up as the fifth receiver.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints are looking thin at linebacker with Will Herring missing practice Tuesday. Jonathan Vilma, Junior Galette and Chris Chamberlain already have missed a lot of practice time.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy takes exception to the criticism Josh Freeman has been getting recently and said the quarterback is a team leader. Some media and fans are down on Freeman, but I think he still has the confidence of his teammates, which is hugely important.

Around the NFC South

August, 17, 2013
8/17/13
10:25
AM ET
Let’s take a run through the headlines from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Running back Doug Martin was shaken up and left Friday night’s preseason game. But Martin said he passed concussion tests and could have returned to the game.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett writes that things should be kept in perspective about Friday night’s preseason win. It was only an exhibition game and it came against an Oakland team that didn’t look very good. Still, the Saints looked extremely impressive while the starters were in.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Joseph Person writes that David Gettis has put himself in the mix for the third receiver spot. Gettis has become one of the pleasant stories of the preseason. His career appeared to be nearing an end after missing most of the last two seasons with injuries. But Gettis has put himself back into serious contention for a roster spot by leading the Panthers in receiving in each of their first two preseason games.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Roddy White’s ankle sprain is minor, the team said. Still, I wouldn’t expect to see too much more of White in the preseason. He’s a veteran who knows the offense well and the most important thing is to have him at full strength for the regular-season opener.

Observation deck: Panthers-Eagles

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
10:21
PM ET

The Carolina Panthers better put in a hurry-up defense quickly.

That became apparent in Thursday night’s 14-9 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

With the defensive starters playing most of the first half, the Panthers struggled to stop Philadelphia’s fast-paced attack. The Eagles piled up 257 yards of total offense in the first half.

Carolina's defense was on its heels, reacting instead of being proactive, most of the night.

Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly’s scheme is unique, but the Panthers are going to face elements of it in the regular season. They have to play Atlanta (twice), a team that’s proficient in the no-huddle offense. They also have to face Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, a pair of quarterbacks who can make things happen with their ability to run.

Things could have been even worse, but Carolina’s first defense was able to produce three turnovers to stop Philadelphia drives. But it’s pretty obvious the unit isn’t a finished product.

The Panthers have some work to do in getting ready for no-huddle offenses and mobile quarterbacks.

Some other quick observations on the Panthers:
  • It wasn’t all bad news for the defense. Cornerback Josh Norman had an interception on a Hail-Mary pass just before the end of the first half and cornerback Josh Thomas picked off Nick Foles early on. Veterans Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn have been getting most of the first-team work in camp, but the interceptions by Norman and Thomas might put them in the mix for starting jobs.
  • I liked the fact the Panthers gave running back DeAngelo Williams 12 carries in the first half. I thought Williams was underutilized last season. He’s an explosive player and, if given enough chances in the regular season, Williams will make things happen.
  • Defensive end Greg Hardy produced a first-half sack. But give some of the credit to rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who got good penetration on the play.
  • Wide receiver Steve Smith is 34, but still going strong, largely because he runs such great routes.
  • Rookie Kenjon Barner might have hurt his chances at claiming future playing time as a return man by muffing a third-quarter punt return.
  • With receivers Domenik Hixon, Joe Adams and Armanti Edwards sitting out due to injuries, David Gettis and Ted Ginn Jr. made the most of increased opportunities. Gettis had five catches for 82 yards and Ginn had two catches for 39 yards.

NFC South quick hits

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
4:02
PM ET
As we get ready for Thursday night’s preseason games involving the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons (I’ll be back with observations on both games soon after they end), let’s take a look at some news and notes from around the division:
  • With Mike Johnson out for the season with an injury, the Falcons are giving Lamar Holmes the first shot at the right tackle job. Holmes faces a big challenge Thursday night when he goes against Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, a pair of strong pass-rushers. If Holmes holds up well against the Ravens, he’s likely to get the nod as the starter.
  • Jonathan Jones tops his list of five players to watch in Carolina’s game with Philadelphia with wide receiver David Gettis, who appears to be competing with Joe Adams and Kealoha Pilares for the final receiver spot. Gettis, who has been plagued by injuries the past two years, showed a little burst in the preseason opener. He’ll need to continue that to secure a roster spot.
  • In this Insider piece , Matt Williamson ranks Carolina’s linebacker corps among the best in the league. Can’t argue with that, but I think you have to attach the caveat that Jon Beason and Thomas Davis need to stay healthy for this group to truly be elite.
  • With linebacker Jonathan Vilma having another knee surgery, Bradley Handwerger writes that this is an opportunity for David Hawthorne to step up. Hawthorne was signed to a decent contract last year but hasn’t done a lot for the Saints. Vilma’s age and history of knee problems leave questions about his durability. Hawthorne could put himself in line for a lot of playing time with a good performance over the next few weeks.
  • Ross Tucker writes that the comments by Carl Nicks, in which the Tampa Bay guard said he’ll have to play through pain for the rest of his career, didn’t draw as much attention as they should have. Tucker, a former player, says that toe injuries can’t be taken lightly. But Nicks and the Bucs think he still can play at a high level.

Film of the NFC South chat

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
9:36
AM ET
Let's take a look at some team-by-team highlights from Friday's NFC South chat:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Van (Georgia): Pat, do you see the Falcons increasing their search for a veteran backup QB given how Dominique Davis still struggled a bit last night?

Pat Yasinskas: Think they'll take another long look at DD next week. If he doesn't perform better, then I see them bringing in a veteran once teams start making roster cuts.

Luis (Albuquerque): Hey Pat, Liked what I saw from Matt Ryan and Co. Want to see the line get more of a push on 3rd and short, but a few more games to get that fixed. My concern is still Mobile QB's. Josh Johnson put on a clinic with his legs, continuing drives, long gainers. Any concern from you?

PY: Yep, the mobile QB thing was what I led my post with last night. They've got to get that fixed because they face several mobile QBs on this year's schedule.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Brent S (Raleigh, NC): What have you heard/seen about Shulas offense? Will it be similar to Chuds? Hopefully they will not run the read option to much.

PY: Think it will be similar to what they did the last eight games or so of last season. Think there will be less read option.

AP (Charlotte): Which is more likely in Carolina? Armanti Edwards finally putting it together with the lights on this year or David Gettis recreating his rookie success?

PY: Shocked I'm saying this, but I'll go with Edwards.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

ramon (mexico city): yeah sure. i have one...why are my saints front office not looking for an outside verteran option at QB..Seneca Wallace? Luke McCown? I mean, god forbid but if Brees goes down...i see neither of them carrying the complex Peyton offense.

PY: They went with Chase Daniel as backup the last few years. McCown and Wallace are better than Daniel ever was.

Daniel (Nashville): How did Hicks look when you were in NOLA for training camp? Do you think he will end up benefiting the most with Coleman out for the year?

PY: Thought Hicks looked very good. Saw him make some nice plays against the run and swatted down a couple of passes. I think he'll start in Coleman's place.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Darin (Louisville, Ky): Hey Pat. If Hillis can stay healthy, u think the Bucs could have the best RB tandom in the division?

PY: Not sure they'd be looking to use Hillis in tandem. More like insurance. They want Martin to be a work horse.

David (Raleigh): Mike Glennon looked pretty decent last night for the Bucs. Will he start at some point this year?

PY: Didn't think he looked good enough that we'd be getting this question already. Freeman would have to really bomb for Glennon to start this year.

Here’s the complete transcript of Friday’s NFC South chat.

Observation deck: Bears-Panthers

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
11:03
PM ET

The muddled cornerback situation for the Carolina Panthers might be clearing up.

Second-year pro Josh Norman, who is competing with Drayton Florence, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Thomas for a starting job recorded two interceptions in Friday night’s 24-17 victory against the Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium.

Norman intercepted Jay Cutler on Chicago’s first offensive play of the night to set up a quick touchdown. Norman also had an interception that he returned 60 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Florence and Munnerlyn had been getting most of the first-team work in camp. But Norman certainly made his case for a starting job Friday night.

Some other observations on the Panthers:

We saw the two sides of quarterback Cam Newton in some very limited playing time. He threw a great touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell on a drag route. But Newton also forced a ball into coverage and had it intercepted and returned 51 yards for a touchdown.

Rookie fullback Michael Zordich suffered a knee injury on a first-quarter kickoff. Zordich is fighting for a roster spot and the injury looked serious.

Joe Adams, who had the punt return job taken away from him last year, might have gotten some redemption with a 23-yard punt return in the first quarter.

Charles Johnson got credit for a sack, but he got plenty of help from rookie Kawann Short, who got a good push. Short looked good on several other plays.

Rookie running back Kenjon Barner got a lot of playing time and did some good things. But Barner lost a fumble. That’s not going to help him gain the trust of the coaching staff. Adams lost his job last year because he couldn’t hold onto the football and the fumble could haunt Barner.

David Gettis had a couple of nice catches. But I think Gettis faces an uphill battle to make the roster. He’s behind Armanti Edwards and Ted Ginn Jr. on the depth chart and both of those receivers made several plays Thursday night. Edwards and Ginn also have return ability and Gettis does not.

Tight end Brandon Williams had a nice catch to set up a touchdown. He came to camp as a long shot to make the roster, but he might end up sticking around.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- When the Carolina Panthers end a training camp practice, there’s a universal yell from the fans.

“Cam!" they shriek.

It’s an attempt to get quarterback Cam Newton to come sign autographs. It’s also a reminder that Newton’s popularity is greater than that of the 89 other players in camp combined.

“Imagine what it would be like if we win," a team employee said on a recent day while fans yelled Newton’s name.

Yeah, imagine the frenzy around Newton if the Panthers produced a winning season in his third year. That’s pretty much the objective, because coach Ron Rivera needs to win to keep his job, and this franchise hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2008 season. And it’s mostly up to Newton, who is somewhat a polarizing figure, to make it happen.

The guy is an attention magnet. He’s beloved by Carolina fans but is often bashed by the national media. Presumably, the negativity stems from episodes in which he pouted when things were going badly, and critics have questioned his leadership skills.

But those who know Newton best say what you see isn’t what you get. They say Newton is ready to take the Panthers to the playoffs.

“The thing that I really admire about Cam is, even through all the adversity and even through all of the stuff the media has tried to create that’s not true about him, he’s done a really good job of weathering those storms," Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil said. “His self-evaluation is phenomenal. He’s approached many guys and said, 'Look, I know I don’t do a great job with this or that,' and he’s the first one to tell you that he’s working on it and he’s going to do his best to make sure bad things don’t happen again. I’ve been around guys that are too prideful to ever say that or make an effort to do that.

“I’ve played around guys who will tell you, 'This is who I am, take it or leave it. I really don’t care what you think of me.' Cam’s not like that. That’s something that I really respect out of him, and that’s going to help not only with his teammates, but with himself."

Those who have spent the most time around Newton say the quarterback has grown immensely and is more than ready to be a leader.

“People have talked about him handling the ups and the downs," said offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who worked as quarterbacks coach during Newton’s first two seasons. “We all hate to lose. You don’t ever want to get used to losing and justifying and saying, 'That’s OK, we can get them next week.' You want them to burn inside, but on the outside you have to manage that. It’s not golf. You’re not by yourself. You’ve got 10 other guys that feel just as bad as you do, so channel that feeling and get the most of not just yourself, but get the most out of those other guys. That’s what leadership is in my opinion."

If Newton can get the most out of himself and his teammates, the Panthers will be in the playoffs. And the Newton critics finally will be silenced.

"He's had the best first two seasons of any quarterback," general manager Dave Gettleman said. “The elephant in the room is the win-loss record. Now, it's time to win."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeRon Rivera
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonRon Rivera and Carolina finished strong last season, and hope that momentum carries into this fall.
1. Ron Rivera needs to make the playoffs. Rivera needs to win, and he needs to do it quickly. The Panthers have gotten off to dismal starts in each of his first two seasons. Owner Jerry Richardson spent several days after last season debating whether he should keep Rivera.

Richardson ultimately decided that the team’s strong finish last season was a sign that Rivera had the Panthers pointed in the right direction. But Richardson is running out of patience.

Anything less than a playoff berth probably won’t be enough for Rivera to keep his job.

2. The offense needs to find an identity. Newton is talented in so many different ways that the Panthers haven’t figured out how to use him properly. That task is now up to Shula as he takes over the offense.

I think Shula has a chance to be one of this season’s success stories. In his previous stint as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator in the late 1990s, Shula was bashed for being too conservative. But he didn’t have very talented personnel. He also was under instructions from coach Tony Dungy to keep things conservative.

Shula is too smart to be conservative in Carolina. He has a rare talent in Newton and good skill-position players such as DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen. I can’t see Carolina’s offense being boring.

3. The secondary can make this defense great. On paper, Carolina’s front seven is as good as any in the league. But some very large questions remain in a secondary that wasn’t very good last season.

Free safety Charles Godfrey is the only sure thing. Because of salary-cap issues, the Panthers weren’t able to bring in any big names to patch up the secondary and settled for several midlevel free agents. But I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw out of the secondary during my visit to camp.

Mike Mitchell looks like he can fit nicely at strong safety. Captain Munnerlyn and Drayton Florence aren’t household names, but they’re smart veteran cornerbacks and they seem to have the edge on youngsters Josh Norman and Josh Thomas. Still, it remains to be seen how this secondary will match up in a division that includes wide receivers such as Roddy White, Julio Jones, Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The way the team finished last season showed that the players have bought into Rivera. It also showed he’s grown as a coach. The Panthers made major changes to their offensive scheme after the dismal start and wound up winning five of their final six games.

If the Panthers can carry over that momentum, anything is possible. This is a team that’s been down for a while. But there are plenty of players with elite talent on this roster. This isn’t a team that is building from scratch. This is a team that simply is looking to turn a corner.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

[+] EnlargeJon Beason
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsTo reach their goals, the Panthers could use a healthy season from linebacker Jon Beason.
Linebacker Jon Beason and Stewart have been unable to practice so far as they attempt to come back from injuries. Both are extremely talented players. But their injury histories are troubling.

It remains to be seen if Beason and Stewart can get back to being anywhere close to the players they once were.

OBSERVATION DECK
  • A lot of people rip on Carolina’s receiving corps and say it has no depth beyond Smith. I have to disagree with that after watching the Panthers in camp. I think Brandon LaFell is a much better No. 2 receiver than he gets credit for. I also think reclamation project Ted Ginn Jr. might pay off because he has elite speed, and Domenik Hixon gives the Panthers a steady veteran backup.
  • That new-found depth at wide receiver doesn’t bode well for David Gettis. I know he’s a fan favorite because he had a nice rookie season in 2010. But injuries have limited Gettis to only two games over the past two seasons. I don’t know whether Gettis still is dealing with injuries, but I watched him in camp and he didn’t look much like he did as a rookie.
  • Sixth-round draft pick Kenjon Barner is going to have an impact on this team in some way. The backfield is crowded, and the Panthers have plenty of other options in the return game. But Barner has explosive quickness, and I think the Panthers will find a way to get him on the field.
  • Even though he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since the 2010 season, I think defensive tackle Colin Cole has a shot at making the roster. Cole is massive and can be a nice backup run-stuffer to rookie Star Lotulelei.
  • Maybe it’s a smokescreen, but I don’t think I saw a read-option play the entire time I was at Carolina’s camp.
  • Despite their salary-cap limitations, I think the Panthers made an excellent move by signing free-agent linebacker Chase Blackburn. Beason and Thomas Davis have a history of injuries. Blackburn has starting experience and can play all three linebacker positions.
  • I’m not sure the Panthers are sold on their depth on the offensive line. They’re taking a look at some young backups now, but I think they could look to add a veteran or two.
Bryan Strickland’s overview on Carolina’s situation at wide receiver got me thinking about just how deep the Panthers are at this position.

Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are set as the starters. But, after that, I see six guys competing for what likely will be four roster spots.

Let’s take a look at the candidates:

Domenik Hixon. Brought in as a free agent, his experience and ties to general manager Dave Gettleman could make Hixon the favorite to claim the No. 3 receiver spot. But he’ll face plenty of competition.

Ted Ginn Jr. Another free-agent pickup, who is likely to handle at least some return duties. Ginn had a great offseason and sparked hopes that he can win the No. 3 receiver job. Ginn has elite speed. But the real test will come in training camp and the preseason. Ginn has looked great in shorts before, but hasn’t always produced in the regular season.

Armanti Edwards. This former college quarterback struggled in adjusting to wide receiver, but there were signs in the offseason program Edwards may be catching onto the position. He also has ability in the return game, but needs to use camp and the preseason to show he can contribute as a receiver in order to earn a roster spot.

David Gettis. He missed almost all of the past two seasons with injuries after showing some promise as a rookie in 2010. The coaching staff doesn’t have high expectations for Gettis, but he could put himself back into good graces if he’s healthy and has a strong showing in camp and the preseason games.

Kealoha Pilares. He’s another guy with return skills. But, if he’s going to stick on the roster, Pilares needs to show he can contribute at least a little bit as a wide receiver.

Joe Adams. The Panthers wanted him to be their primary return man as a rookie last season, but he lost that job after struggling early. The potential to be an explosive return man is still there. But, like Pilares, Adams also needs to show he can contribute as a receiver to have a shot at staying on the roster.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Some random observations and thoughts out of the Carolina Panthers’ minicamp:
  • Coach Ron Rivera was vague on this topic, but I get the sense that there’s a good chance running back Jonathan Stewart, who is recovering from surgery on both ankles, might not be ready to go at the start of training camp.
  • I don’t think the Panthers will scrap the read-option completely, but I came away with a strong sense they’ll be leaning much more heavily to a traditional running game. I think that’s a wonderful thing. Let Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert truly be running backs, and let Cam Newton be a true quarterback. Let him use his mobility when receivers aren’t open and plays are breaking down. But don’t ask your quarterback to be your leading rusher.
  • Speaking of running backs, rookie Kenjon Barner seems to have plenty of explosiveness and speed. The Panthers might have to figure out a way to get him into the backfield rotation.
  • After starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, the Panthers are going to have some very intriguing competition for the other receiver spots. Free-agent pickup Ted Ginn Jr. stood out during minicamp. Ginn has great speed, and I saw him catch several deep passes from Newton. I also thought Armanti Edwards, a former college quarterback, finally looked comfortable at receiver. But Ginn and Edwards will be competing with Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and David Gettis in training camp for playing time and roster spots.
  • Speaking of Ginn, the Panthers have plenty of options in the return game. But I get the sense that what they ideally would like to do is have Ginn handle both punt and kickoff returns.
  • Safety Robert Lester was signed as an undrafted free agent, but it’s obvious the Panthers are very high on what he has shown so far. There have been times when Lester has gotten some work with the first team.
  • I wish I could give you a clear picture of the situation at cornerback. But I can’t, and that’s mainly because the Panthers still don’t have a clear picture. Captain Munnerlyn hasn’t participated in minicamp as he recovers from an injury. The Panthers were giving a bunch of different cornerbacks work with the first team. I didn’t see any of them really stand out, and that means the competition will continue into training camp.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If there was a star of the Carolina Panthers' minicamp in Thursday afternoon’s session, it was Ted Ginn Jr.

On two different occasions, Ginn used his speed to get open and catch deep balls from Cam Newton.

“That’s kind of part of the reason he’s here coach Ron Rivera said. “Obviously, with his speed, we know he can blow the top off the covers and he’s showing. He’s going. I think he’s going to help us with some of the complimentary reps that we’ll have."

It’s ironic, but what Ginn flashed Tuesday must have been something similar to what the Miami Dolphins envisioned back in 2007 when they used a first-round pick on Ginn. But Ginn never materialized into a consistent threat in three seasons in Miami. He then spent the past three seasons in San Francisco, where he barely was used as a receiver, but was the primary return man for the 49ers.

But the Panthers are hoping that maybe a fresh start might re-launch Ginn’s career as a wide receiver. He’s going to get a chance to compete with Domenik Hixon, Joe Adams, Kealoha Pilares, David Gettis and Armanti Edwards for the third receiver spot.

If Tuesday’s practice was any indication, Ginn might have the early lead because his speed looked tantalizing.

“A 5-yard pass could turn into a 25- or 30-yard gain before you know it," Rivera said.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I’ll be heading out shortly to watch the Carolina Panthers open their minicamp.

Let’s take a look at five things I’ll be keeping a close eye on:

Cam Newton. For whatever reason, the quarterback is a magnet for scrutiny. I saw some signs of maturity the second half of last season and I’m curious to see if Newton is continuing to progress.

Mike Shula’s playbook. Shula replaced Rob Chudzinski as offensive coordinator. I’m thinking there’s a good chance Shula learned from what Chudzinski did last season. Early on, the Panthers were leaning heavily on Newton and the read option and not really using their running backs. The Panthers started 2-8. Then, they went to a more traditional running game and finished the season strong. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are talented running backs. The Panthers need to use them and let Newton be a quarterback.

Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. The Panthers used their first two draft picks on these two defensive tackles. I thought that was a great move because the Panthers have struggled in this area for far too long. Lotulelei is a classic run-stuffer and Short has the potential to bring an interior pass rush. If these guys are anywhere near as good as advertised, Carolina’s defense has a chance to be very good.

The defensive backfield. The Panthers didn’t make any big moves here and that was somewhat surprising. But general manger Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera know a lot more about football than I do. They must be confident that some of their mid-level free agents and some guys that were already on the roster can play.

The cluster at wide receiver. The Panthers have loaded up their depth behind starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. They brought in free agents Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn Jr. to compete with Kealoha Pilares, Armanti Edwards, David Gettis and Joe Adams. That should create some competition and competition usually prompts someone to step up their game.

I'll be back with more on the Panthers after they finish their morning practice and interview session.

NFC South offseason Stock Watch

April, 8, 2013
4/08/13
10:00
AM ET
RISING

Lamar Holmes, Falcons. Don’t rule out the possibility of the Falcons bringing in someone to play right tackle in the draft or as a free agent. But at the moment, Holmes appears to be the player most likely to start at right tackle. Holmes barely played as a rookie. But he was a third-round draft choice last year and the Falcons may believe it’s time to get him on the field.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers. Here’s an early fantasy tip: Draft this guy very early. He had a very strong rookie season and there’s no reason to expect a sophomore slump. In fact, Martin’s numbers should only get better with Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks returning from injuries.

Roman Harper, Saints. New Orleans fans might not want to hear this, but all indications are the Saints are sticking with Harper at strong safety. If they weren’t it’s likely they would have released him by now or at least asked him to take a cut in pay. Only the Saints know what they have planned for Harper. But the fact that he still is around is a pretty good indication that new coordinator Rob Ryan has plans for Harper. That likely means the Saints will let Harper play to his strengths -- helping against the run and being used as a blitzer -- and not being asked to do too much in coverage.

FALLING

LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers. There have been multiple reports that the Bucs are shopping Blount. But the fact the word is out there and that the Bucs have no apparent plans to give Blount a larger role will make it difficult to trade him. Interested teams may just wait because the Bucs may end up releasing him.

Stephen Nicholas, Falcons. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Falcons bring in an outside linebacker fairly early in the draft. Nicholas’ flaws got exposed in the postseason and it might be time to look for an upgrade.

Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and Armanti Edwards. The signings of Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn Jr. show the Panthers can’t be very high on Pilares, Adams or Edwards as receivers or return men. If David Gettis is healthy, Pilares, Adams and Edwards might be battling for one roster spot in training camp.

Around the NFC South

April, 6, 2013
4/06/13
10:45
AM ET
Time for a look at the top headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter has his projection of what the depth chart looks like at the moment. He has Lamar Holmes as the starting right tackle. It’s entirely possible Holmes could end up in that spot for the regular season. But Mike Johnson also is a possibility. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Falcons add another tackle in the draft.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Scott Fowler writes that he thinks newly acquired Domenik Hixon will win the third receiver spot. There’s going to be a lot of competition there. But one guy that’s easy to overlook is David Gettis, who has had some injury problems. If Gettis can get back to full strength, he’ll have a shot to be the third receiver.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Larry Holder throws out some names of free agents the Saints still could pursue. He mentions three candidates (Tyson Clabo, Jared Gaither and Max Starks) for the vacant spot at left tackle. The issue here is money. The Saints have very little cap space. Unless they can get one of those guys at a bargain rate, they’ll have to draft a left tackle.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

There’s been a lot of speculation out there about the relationship between coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman. Scott Reynolds sums it up better than I’ve seen anyone else do it as he writes that Schiano “likes’’ but does not “love’’ Freeman. There were moments last season when Freeman looked great and other moments when he didn’t look good at all. Freeman needs to play well consistently if he’s going to gain the “love’’ of his head coach and earn a long-term contract.

Looking at Panthers' offensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
11:03
AM ET
Carolina veteran left tackle Jordan Gross showed no signs of wearing down in 2012. Gross appeared in all but four of the Panthers’ 1,030 offensive plays.

Gross was on the field for a team-high 99.61 percent of the offensive snaps.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the breakdown of percentage of offensive playing time for the Panthers. (You might want to pay close attention to how little the Panthers used high-paid running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.)

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