NFC South: depth chart

The Atlanta Falcons have put out their first unofficial depth chart of the preseason and it contains no major surprises.

Perhaps the most notable thing on there is that rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant is listed with the first team. Trufant, the team’s first-round draft pick, is listed ahead of fellow rookie Robert Alford and veteran Robert McClain.

The other notable item on defense is that Kroy Biermann is listed as a starting defensive end. But Biermann has spent a large part of camp working at outside linebacker. Cliff Matthews and Jonathan Massaquoi are listed as the top two backups at defensive end.

On offense, right tackle might be the position where things are the most competitive. Mike Johnson is listed with the first team and Lamar Holmes is No. 2 on the depth chart.
The New Orleans Saints have put out their first unofficial depth chart in their media release for Friday night’s preseason opener. Let’s run through the positions where the competition is closest.

Charles Brown is listed as the No. 1 left tackle. Jason Smith is with the second team and Terron Armstead with the third team. But I think this competition remains very wide open and the preseason games will determine a lot.

With wide receiver Marques Colston still sidelined with an injury, the Saints are listing Joe Morgan as the starter opposite Lance Moore. That’s a sign Morgan has the inside track to be the third receiver once Colston returns.

The defensive line features Kenyon Coleman and Cameron Jordan as the first-team ends with Brodrick Bunkley at tackle. But I think Akiem Hicks still has a shot to start at defensive end and rookie John Jenkins could start at defensive tackle.

The Saints are listing first-round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro as a third-team safety. I think this is just a gesture of courtesy for the veterans. Vaccaro will be getting lots of playing time.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Friday marked a rite of summer at One Buccaneer Place. For the first time this season, we have a depth chart.

It’s officially unofficial, but it’s a starting point. Unlike the regular season, this depth chart is a guesstimate by the media relations staff and isn’t coming straight from the coaching staff.

There are no major surprises, but there are a few things worth noting.

Let’s start with the quarterbacks, because they always draw the most interest. As you would expect, Josh Freeman is listed as the starter. But rookie Mike Glennon is ahead of veteran Dan Orlovsky. I think that’s clearly a sign of things to come.

The rest of Tampa Bay’s rookies are being brought along slowly, at least according to the depth chart. Cornerback Johnthan Banks is listed on the second team, behind Leonard Johnson. Defensive tackle Akeem Spence is listed second behind Gary Gibson. In both cases, I think that’s just a courtesy to the veterans. I think Spence and Banks have very real chances to be starters on opening day.

Other positions of interest include strongside linebacker, where Dekoda Watson is listed ahead of Jonathan Casillas; right tackle, where Demar Dotson is ahead of Gabe Carimi; and tight end, where Luke Stocker, who has been sidelined by injury, is listed ahead of Tom Crabtree.

In other news from Friday's practice, coach Greg Schiano said Banks and receiver Mike Williams have strained hamstrings. Schiano said Williams could return as early as Saturday, but Banks likely will miss a few days.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolina Panthers put out their first depth chart Tuesday afternoon. Let me emphasize this is an unofficial depth chart, but there are several things that jump out at me.

Let’s start with one thing that’s very atypical for the Panthers, who generally are the most conservative team in the NFC South when it comes to such matters. The Panthers are listing rookie Amini Silatolu as the No. 1 left guard. That probably will be the case come opening day, but the Panthers generally don’t list rookies as starters on their first preseason depth chart. Instead, they give veterans every benefit of the doubt. But I think this is a pretty good sign that the Panthers aren’t really counting on veterans like Mike Pollak or Bruce Campbell to start. I’d say an injury is about the only thing that would prevent Silatolu from being the starter when the regular season opens.

But the flip side of this is that the Panthers are listing first-round draft choice Luke Kuechly as the No. 2 weak-side linebacker behind veteran Thomas Davis. Kuechly has been working with the first team throughout training camp. This one purely is a courtesy to Davis, who is trying to come back from his third torn ACL. Kuechly is pretty much guaranteed a starting job in the regular season.

Another item worth noting is that Derek Anderson is listed as the No. 2 quarterback behind Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen is No. 3. Coach Ron Rivera was asked after Tuesday’s practice if Anderson was the backup and the coach didn’t hesitate to affirm that. It looks like Clausen, who started as a rookie in 2010, is looking at another season of being the third quarterback.

The Panthers are listing Sherrod Martin as their starting free safety and that could end up being the case in the regular season. But all indications out of Carolina’s camp are that Martin is very much in competition with free-agent addition Haruki Nakamura for the starting job.

I’ve also been told that the Panthers view the punter and kicker jobs as serious competitions. They’re listing veteran Olindo Mare No. 1 and Justin Medlock No. 2 at kicker and Nick Harris as the No. 1 punter with rookie Brad Nortman as No. 2. But the order at both spots could change, depending on what happens in the preseason games.

Around the NFC South

May, 4, 2012
Time for a look at the Friday morning headlines from around the NFC South.

D. Orlando Ledbetter has an updated post-draft depth chart for the Atlanta Falcons. He takes a fairly conservative approach, which isn’t out of character for the Falcons, and doesn’t project any rookies as starters. But I think rookie Peter Konz has a decent chance to start somewhere in the middle of the offensive line.

New Orleans Saints fans have floated a lot of conspiracy theories since news of the Saints’ bounty program broke. Most of them imply the Saints did nothing wrong and point the blame at other people. But Jeff Duncan asks a couple of very good questions: What if what the NFL says is all true? What if the Saints really did run a three-year bounty program and repeatedly covered it up? As unpleasant as it might be to accept, that certainly seems plausible and it might be time to accept reality. The organization, coaches and front office already filed appeals and didn’t get any relief. The players can still appeal, but that might not make any difference. It might be time to start moving forward from this.

San Jose State receiver Michael Avila has been invited for a tryout with the Carolina Panthers during their upcoming rookie camp. Avila is a product of Seaside High School in California. Carolina coach Ron Rivera also is a Seaside graduate.

The Atlanta Falcons, led by owner Arthur Blank, went to work to try to help a troubled inner-city neighborhood.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, already pretty deep at defensive tackle, have added another one. They’ve signed Gary Gibson, who previously was a backup with St. Louis and Carolina. More importantly, Gibson played for Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers.
After ending last season on a 10-game losing streak, no team needed more out of the NFL draft than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On the surface, it looks like they got at least three starters in safety Mark Barron, running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David. Add them to key free-agent pickups Carl Nicks, Eric Wright and Vincent Jackson and Tampa Bay should have a very different look come September. Let’s take a look at what I suspect at the moment will be Tampa Bay’s starting lineup.

  • RB Doug Martin (LeGarrette Blount will get some carries, but Martin’s an all-purpose back)
  • WR Vincent Jackson
  • LG Carl Nicks
  • DT Brian Price (Amobi Okoye will factor heavily in rotation and could start if injury woes continue for McCoy and Price)
  • OLB Lavonte David
  • CB Eric Wright (Aqib Talib could factor in, but his future is uncertain)
  • SS Mark Barron

Projecting Falcons starters

May, 1, 2012
The Atlanta Falcons have had the quietest offseason of any NFC South team. But that doesn't mean they won't have some changes in their starting lineup.

Now that the NFL draft is over, let's take a look at my best guess at what Atlanta's starting lineup will look like in September.

  • LT Sam Baker (or someone not yet on the roster)
  • RG Peter Konz (unless he ends up playing center)

Projecting Saints starters

May, 1, 2012
Now, that the NFL draft is over, let’s have some fun. Let’s start looking ahead to next season with team-by-team looks at what I project as the opening day lineups for each of the four NFC South teams.

Let’s start with the New Orleans Saints, who might not have any rookies open the season as starters because they didn’t have a draft pick until the third round. Also, let’s keep in mind that the Saints could be dealing with some suspensions from their bounty program. We won’t speculate on possible suspensions. We’ll just go with the depth chart as I see it now and I’ll throw in comments where there could be competition.


Looking at Panthers' depth chart

September, 6, 2011
Here’s a new one. The Carolina Panthers just released their “unofficial’’ depth chart for Sunday’s game at Arizona and they’re listing two starters at tight end and no fullback.

Is the media relations staff really giving away the formation for the first play of the Ron Rivera era? I doubt it.

But the Panthers are listing both Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey as starting tight ends. There’s no starting fullback listed and running back DeAngelo Williams is listed as Carolina’s lone starter in the backfield. For the record, whenever the Panthers do use a fullback, it will be Jerome Felton, who was brought in to replace Tony Fiammetta.

Some other items of interest on Carolina’s depth chart.
  • Yes, Cam Newton is listed as the starting quarterback. We just had to say it. Again, this depth chart is unofficial, but Jimmy Clausen is listed as the No. 2 quarterback and Derek Anderson as No. 3.
  • Mackenzy Bernadeau is listed as the starter at right guard. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. The Panthers went out and grabbed veterans Max Jean-Gilles and Geoff Hangartner after injuries wiped out this position. It’s likely one of them will start.
  • Brandon LaFell is listed as the starting receiver opposite Steve Smith. That’s what the Panthers would like to happen, but nobody knows for sure if LaFell is ready to be a starter.
  • Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, a pair of rookies, are listed as the starters at defensive tackle.

Looking at Saints' depth chart

August, 16, 2011
The New Orleans Saints sent out their depth chart to advance Saturday’s preseason game and there’s one interesting thing on there.

In a move you don’t often see, the Saints are listing two starters at one position. That’s right tackle, where the chart reads: “Zach Strief/Charles Brown." Both names are in bold, which is used to indicate starters.

This isn’t all that surprising though. It basically reflects exactly what coach Sean Payton said Monday when discussing the release of former starting right tackle Jon Stinchcomb. Payton said Strief and Brown would compete for the job and the depth chart seems to reflect that.

In a somewhat related noted, the game news release teams send out always includes a chart on how a team was built, listing what players came in what years. Stinchcomb, who came in 2003, had been the longest-tenured member of the Saints.

That honor now is shared by defensive end Will Smith and receiver Devery Henderson, who were drafted in 2004. Those are the only remaining players who were with the team before Payton became coach in 2006.

A couple of other notes on the depth chart. Right tackle isn’t the only spot where the Saints are listing two starters. They’re also doing it at nose tackle with Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin. Both are veteran defensive tackles who were signed by the Saints this year. This one’s not a real surprise either, but it’s not as much about competition as the right-tackle spot. In the case of Rogers and Franklin, they’ll probably rotate along with defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.

The starting outside linebackers are still listed as Scott Shanle on the weak side and Will Herring on the strong side. The Saints could open the season that way, but I think there still is competition at those spots. Jonathan Casillas, who is listed as Shanle’s backup, had a very strong performance in the preseason opener and Clint Ingram, who is listed behind Herring, has history with coordinator Gregg Williams from their days together in Jacksonville.

One other quick note on the Saints. They signed running back Patrick Cobbs on Tuesday. Running backs Chris Ivory and Joique Bell are currently injured. Cobbs previously has been with the Dolphins and Steelers and has made his mark mostly as a special-teams player.
The Carolina Panthers just released their first depth chart. They say it’s unofficial and I think that part is accurate.

They’re listing Jimmy Clausen as the starting quarterback ahead of Cam Newton. I don’t think that’s going to be the case when the regular season arrives, as long as Newton plays reasonably well in the preseason. The rookie might not be experienced, but he has way more upside than Clausen.

Let’s take a look at the depth chart, and we’re only going two deep.


Looking at Tampa Bay's depth chart

August, 9, 2011
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the latest NFC South team to release an initial depth chart. I’m not seeing any major surprises, but it’s worth noting that rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn and rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster already are listed as starters.

Here’s a look at the depth chart the Bucs put out and we’re only going two deep.


Looking at Saints depth chart

August, 8, 2011
METARIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints just put out their first unofficial depth chart. It included a few surprises, highlighted by the fact the Saints aren’t trying to hide anything.

They have veteran Olin Kreutz ahead of Matt Tennant at center. That’s a bit refreshing because that’s the way the Saints intend to go. But, the flip side is they have rookie Mark Ingram as the No. 3 running back behind Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. I will be shocked if Ingram is not the starter, or at least the feature back, by opening day.

[+] EnlargeSaints running back Mark Ingram
Derick E. Hingle/US PRESSWIRESaints rookie running back Mark Ingram is listed No. 3 on the depth chart.
Nothing shocking on the defense, although I’m not sure veterans Scott Shanle and Danny Clark will hold off challenges at outside linebacker. And I also think rookie defensive end Cameron Jordan on the third team is something that won’t happen. Also, nice job by the Saints p.r. department for not listing Tracy Porter as a starting cornerback. He probably will end up in that role, but he’s recovering from an injury and Patrick Robinson is getting his reps these days.

I'll be out at practice at Tuesday, but in the meantime, let’s take a run through the depth chart the Saints sent out and we’ll only go two deep.


Looking at Atlanta's depth chart

August, 8, 2011
The Atlanta Falcons just released their first depth chart of the preseason and we hope to bring you the same from the other NFC South teams over the next day or two.

Can’t say there are any real big surprises. As expected, the Falcons aren’t playing the “humor-the-veterans’’ game with rookie receiver Julio Jones. They’re listing him as a starter. The other item of note on offense is that Garrett Reynolds is listed first in the guard position that came open when Harvey Dahl left as a free agent.

On defense, key free-agent pickup Ray Edwards is listed as a starter. Corey Peters is still listed as a starter at defensive tackle, but I think the Falcons are hoping Peria Jerry will pass him by before the preseason ends.

Here’s a two-deep look at the depth chart the Falcons sent out.