NFC South: Dwight Freeney
John Manasso throws out the possibility of defensive end Kroy Biermann getting some playing time at outside linebacker, particularly when the Falcons use a 3-4 set. The coaching staff hasn’t mentioned anything about this yet. But it makes plenty of sense. Biermann is very versatile and could bring the threat of a pass rush from an outside linebacker spot.
Cam Newton said he’s not envious that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick took the spotlight off him. Instead, Newton said the success of the other young quarterbacks helps to motivate him. Newton is as talented as any of those guys. If the Panthers can figure out the right way to use him, Newton will be back in the spotlight in a hurry.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
In this lengthy feature on rookie John Jenkins, Larry Holder points out that the defensive tackle’s weight has fluctuated to as high as 360 pounds. Coach Sean Payton already has said he wants Jenkins to play at about 340 pounds. That could provide a very nice anchor to the middle of the Saints’ new 3-4 scheme.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The big news here, of course, is that defensive back Ronde Barber has decided to retire. But, in other news, Mark Cook reports that the Bucs are not interested in veteran defensive ends Dwight Freeney or John Abraham. I think there was a lot of wishful thinking about those two from fans. But bringing in veterans doesn’t fit the Bucs’ profile, especially at defensive end where they have high draft picks invested in Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers.
Strategy: Atlanta's philosophy is to keep its core together. Still, the Falcons are usually good for one or two significant moves per offseason. There is a bit of salary-cap room to work with and more could be created with some contract restructures. The Falcons have several areas of need, most notably at defensive end and running back. It would be difficult for Atlanta to get a top-notch pass rusher with the 30th overall pick in the draft. That's why I suspect the Falcons could make a splash move to bring in someone such as a Cliff Avril, Dwight Freeney or Osi Umenyiora.
Cap status: The Panthers had to work like crazy just to get under the salary cap. They're already facing salary-cap nightmares for 2014, so I wouldn't expect a big spending spree.
Strategy: This is Dave Gettleman's first free-agency period as a general manager, so we don't know his tendencies. But the cap situation assures that he won't be making a bunch of huge signings. Still, the Panthers have more needs than they'll be able to fill in the draft, so they may have to dabble a bit in free agency. They might not be able to get a top-notch cornerback in the middle of the first round of the draft. They need a No. 1 cornerback after releasing Chris Gamble, so they may have to look for one in free agency.
Cap status: The Saints spent the past few weeks digging out from a cap mess, so they don't have a lot of room to work with.
Strategy: Even with the cap situation, it has never been the style of general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton to be complacent. They'll be creative and aggressive in free agency. They have to retool a defense that was the worst in the league last year and they're switching to a 3-4 scheme. They need players that can fit that scheme, particularly a pass rusher or two. They also could use some help in the secondary. The Saint also may be in the market for a left tackle if they're unable to prevent Jermon Bushrod from leaving via free agency.
Cap status: The Bucs are the one team in the division that doesn't have to worry much about the cap. They're entering free agency with more than $30 million in cap room.
Strategy: The Bucs have major needs at cornerback, and I'm expecting them to do something dramatic, whether it's trading for Darrelle Revis or signing a significant free agent. The Bucs could even end up trying to get two starting cornerbacks out of free agency. And it won't stop at cornerback. The Bucs also could use help at tight end, slot receiver, outside linebacker and depth on the defensive line.
Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week's topic: Who should be the primary target (including trades) for each team when free agency begins?
Atlanta Falcons. After releasing veteran John Abraham, the team is without an elite pass-rusher. That’s why the Falcons should make Cliff Avril their top target in free agency. Sitting near the end of the first round, they’re not likely to land an impact pass-rusher in the draft. They have to bring in someone from the outside, and Avril is the closest thing there is to a sure thing. At 26, Avril still is very much in his prime. He won’t be inexpensive, and the Falcons have made it clear their priority is to re-sign their own free agents. But there aren’t many other places to turn for a pass-rusher, so this is one spot where the Falcons can devote some money.
Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have a glaring need at cornerback. Josh Norman and Josh Thomas can be role players, but they’re not No. 1 cornerbacks. That’s why the Panthers should go after San Diego free agent Antoine Cason. Ron Rivera knows him from their time together with the Chargers, and Rivera has a history of bringing in players from San Diego. Cason, 26, already is good but could become even better. Put him behind a pass rush anchored by Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, and Cason could become a star.
New Orleans Saints. There is very little cap room to work with in New Orleans, but general manager Mickey Loomis is a creative guy. He can free up enough money for the Saints to make a few moves in free agency. As the Saints switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, they can’t afford to sit still with their personnel. More than anything, they need a pass-rusher. Indianapolis defensive end/linebacker Dwight Freeney is on the market and would be a good fit here. Freeney has played on a Super Bowl champion team, and his presence could go a long way in helping new coordinator Rob Ryan rebuild the defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are in a cap position in which they can do just about anything they want. The thing they should do is trade for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Bucs are one of the few teams with the ability to take on his long-term cap ramifications. The Bucs also are desperate for help at cornerback. Adding Revis would give them a shutdown corner, and that could help a defense that ranked No. 32 against the pass last season.
They’re going to replace their top pass-rusher with another guy that can get after the quarterback. Maybe it’s Dwight Freeney. Maybe it’s a younger free agent. Or maybe it’s an early draft pick. Whatever, the Falcons have to do something dramatic from the outside here.
It’s the same with running back Michael Turner, who also was released Friday. Maybe the Falcons bring in Steven Jackson or another free agent. Perhaps they'll draft a running back. This position isn’t as important as it once was because the Falcons have become a pass-first offense and they simply need to pair someone with Jacquizz Rodgers. That running back will have to come from outside because he’s not already on the roster.
But the situation could be different at cornerback, where the Falcons released Dunta Robinson. The Falcons might already have enough in place to get by without Robinson. Of course, that’s going on the assumption they re-sign cornerback Brent Grimes. If they do, they suddenly have a true No. 1 cornerback, something they lacked after Grimes went down in the first game of last year.
They have Asante Samuel as a solid No. 2 cornerback and Robert McClain was very dependable as the No. 3 cornerback. With Grimes, Samuel and McClain, the Falcons can be just fine at cornerback.
Of course, they have to go ahead and re-sign Grimes to make it all work.
That could happen because the Falcons suddenly have decent salary-cap room. But I’m not sure Friday morning’s moves were as much about Jackson and Freeney as they are about Sam Baker, William Moore and Brent Grimes. Those are Atlanta’s top three free agents and I fully expect the Falcons to make an attempt to keep them.
But there’s another layer to these moves that can’t be ignored. That’s quarterback Matt Ryan's contract.
He’s scheduled to head into the final season of his contract. I don’t see the Falcons doing what the Ravens did with Joe Flacco last season or what the Bucs appear to be doing with Josh Freeman for this upcoming season.
I see no way the Falcons let Ryan go into the 2013 season without a long-term contract extension. The Falcons are as high as can be on Ryan and he’s happy in Atlanta. Every indication I’ve gotten is the Falcons will try to lock Ryan up for the long term some time this spring.
That’s going to take a lot of money and I’m not talking just this year. Ryan’s going to cost $15 million to $20 million a season.
Turner’s contract was going to expire after the 2013 season, so his release was just a short-term move.
But the departures of Abraham and Robinson were about much more than just 2013. Abraham had been scheduled to count $6.75 million against the 2014 salary cap.
Robinson was scheduled to count $11 million against the 2014 cap and $12.5 million against the 2015 cap. Those numbers now are off the books.
The Falcons have cleared the way to fit a massive contract for Ryan under the cap in future years.
The Atlanta Falcons are parting ways with three big-name veterans.
Adam Schefter reports the Falcons are releasing defensive end John Abraham, cornerback Dunta Robinson and running back Michael Turner. In the process, the Falcons will free up more than $16 million in cap space for this year.
Releasing Abraham frees up $5.75 million. Unloading Robinson creates $3.75 million in cap room and the Falcons avoid having to pay a $3 million roster bonus in mid-March. Releasing Turner frees up $6.4 million.
None of the moves are surprising. There had been speculation for weeks that all three players could be gone. But the actual news that they’re going makes it obvious the Falcons plan to be somewhat active in free agency, maybe even before the official start of free agency March 12. Even before the moves, the Falcons were about $4.5 million under the salary cap.
There has been talk the Falcons might be interested in defensive end Dwight Freeney. He can be signed now because he was released by Indianapolis and he would seem to be a logical replacement for Abraham.
There also has been talk the Falcons could pursue veteran running back Steven Jackson to replace Turner. That’s a possibility. But I also could see the Falcons drafting a running back and pairing him with Jacquizz Rodgers.
The release of Robinson makes it more likely the Falcons will attempt to re-sign cornerback Brent Grimes. If the Falcons keep Grimes, they’re in decent shape at cornerback with Asante Samuel and Robert McClain also on the roster.
The additional salary-cap space also gives the Falcons room to work with as they attempt to re-sign left tackle Sam Baker and safety William Moore.
Beatty’s deal sets the bar for Atlanta left tackle Sam Baker and New Orleans left tackle Jermon Bushrod. The Falcons and Saints will either give Baker and Bushrod something similar to what Beatty got, or someone else will.
If they stay in the division, Baker and Bushrod won’t be drawing middle-class salaries as they have in recent years. But Baker and Bushrod might represent the new NFC South, a division in which there will be virtually no middle class next season.
In Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina, the 2013 rosters are going to be filled with most of their players making either a lot of money or the league minimum, or close to it. Tampa Bay’s in a different situation because the Buccaneers have about $30 million in salary-cap room and can still afford some middle-class players.
Call it the price of success for the Falcons and Saints. And call it the price of some hefty (but, in some cases, questionable) contracts the Panthers have given out in recent years.
The Saints have been the division’s most successful team since 2006 and won a Super Bowl in the 2009 season. They’re paying handsomely for it now. Quarterback Drew Brees became the league’s highest-paid player last summer when he signed his new contract.
Brees has a $17.4 million salary-cap figure for this season. To put that in perspective, Brees is taking up 14.4 percent of New Orleans’ cap. Even after some fancy restructuring of five contracts, the Saints still have six players with cap figures of at least $5.75 million.
They have another nine players counting more than $3 million against the cap. That means New Orleans has most of its cap tied up in 14 players.
Aside from Jimmy Graham, Mark Ingram and Cameron Jordan, who are still on their rookie contracts, the Saints really have no middle class. The rest of their roster is filled with guys making minimum salaries or very close to the minimum -- and I doubt that’s going to change because the Saints, who are still working to get under the cap, aren’t likely to have much room to add any free agents.
That’s not a good position to be in when the Saints are trying to overhaul a defense that ranked last in the league last season, one that is moving to a 3-4 scheme. The Saints need to add some key role players; the best way to do that is with midsized contracts in free agency. Instead, if the Saints are going to improve, they’ll probably have to do most of it through the draft.
But the Saints shouldn’t feel too bad about that because the rival Falcons are in a similar situation. The Falcons have had five consecutive winning seasons using a lot of middle-class players, but their middle class is about to disappear. In addition to Baker, safety William Moore and cornerback Brent Grimes are potential free agents and are going to get big money -- in Atlanta or elsewhere. Either way, they’re not going to have middle-class salaries anymore.
Not counting those three, the Falcons already have nine players scheduled to count at least $5.2 million against the 2013 cap. They have another four who are counting more than $3.5 million against the cap. After that, there’s not much more on the roster beside guys making the minimum.
Plus, the gap between Atlanta’s "haves" and "have-nots" is only likely to get bigger. At some point this offseason, the Falcons are likely to give quarterback Matt Ryan a contract extension that should put him at least in Brees’ ballpark. If veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez returns for one more season, it’s probably going to cost the Falcons at least $5 million a year.
There’s been a lot of fan speculation about the Falcons pursuing running back Steven Jackson or defensive ends Dwight Freeney or Osi Umenyiora. The problem is, I don’t see how the Falcons can pull off any big deals, and I doubt Freeney, Umenyiora or Jackson will sign midlevel deals.
If you were a Carolina fan and you could see the Panthers’ salary-cap ledger, you’d probably cry. The Panthers have 10 players counting at least $5.7 million against the salary cap. For whatever reason (and I think there might have been some prodding from ownership), former general manager Marty Hurney spent like crazy as soon as the 2011 lockout ended.
Those deals are now getting into the time frame when they count far more against the cap than in the past. There likely will be some restructuring, but, at the moment, the Panthers have 78.04 percent of their salary cap tied up in 15 players.
After that, they’ve got a bunch of guys making somewhere near the minimum, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. At some point in the next couple of years, the Panthers are going to have to give quarterback Cam Newton a huge contract extension.
There’s no room for middle-class players in Carolina. Or Atlanta. Or New Orleans.
If the Panthers, Falcons and Saints are going to get better, they’ll have to do it through the draft.
D. Orlando Ledbetter writes about how the Falcons will continue to build through the draft. He also mentions that the Falcons have had internal discussions about possibly pursuing free agents Osi Umenyiora and Dwight Freeney. The Falcons aren’t likely to have enough salary-cap room to be big players in free agency, and their main focus will be on improving through the draft. Still, general manager Thomas Dimitroff usually pulls off one or two moves a year from the outside. Freeney and Umenyiora could be possibilities, but the Falcons could have their eye on someone else.
A recurrent theme has developed out of coach Ron Rivera. He keeps saying he wants to bring in players that can help quarterback Cam Newton and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly be successful. Nothing wrong with that, because Carolina's previous two first-round picks are looking like core players. To help Newton improve, the Panthers could add some depth at wide receiver. A big defensive tackle might allow Kuechly to roam more freely. But that help almost certainly will have to come through the draft, because the Panthers aren’t going to have enough cap room to do much of anything in free agency.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Mike Triplett ranks the Saints’ defensive players heading into 2013. I don’t think it’s a real good sign that Roman Harper is No. 5, Will Smith is No. 6 and Jonathan Vilma is No. 9. These are high-priced guys with a lot of mileage. Their salaries and their value to the team don't match up. I know there have been reports that the Saints want to restructure the contracts of Smith and Vilma. But I think there is still a chance they could be among the veterans released as the Saints work to get under the salary cap.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Coach Greg Schiano said he got much more out of this year’s combine. That makes sense. Last year, Schiano was a first-time NFL head coach and had only been hired a few weeks before. I think it’s safe to assume a lot of things will be easier for Schiano the second time around.
It’s a slow news day because most of the NFL world is in transit to the scouting combine. But White stepped up to fill the void.
On his verified Twitter account, White tweeted Wednesday afternoon that he’d like to see defensive end Dwight Freeney in a Falcons’ uniform next season.
If coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff aren’t already considering Freeney, maybe they should listen to White.
After playing for the Indianapolis Colts since 2002, Freeney recently was released, making him an instant free agent. The Falcons could use a pass-rusher to complement John Abraham.
Freeney is 33, so he’s not a long-term solution. But the Falcons are in a position where they don’t have to always think about the long term. They’re a team that seems on the cusp of something really great, and adding Freeney for a season or two might get them to where they want to go.
Atlanta Falcons. This team has been trying for years to add another quality pass-rusher besides John Abraham and nothing has worked out well. That’s why I could see Freeney as a possibility. He is 32, so he’s not a long-term answer. But the Falcons haven’t been shy about bringing in veterans in the past. Still, I don’t think the Falcons will try to pounce on Freeney immediately. They’d be wise to wait a bit and see what else might come available. I don’t see Woodson landing in Atlanta. The Falcons might be in the market for a cornerback, depending on what happens with Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, but Woodson’s not a cornerback anymore. He moved to safety last season. Assuming the Falcons can keep William Moore from leaving as a free agent, they’re set at safety.
Carolina Panthers. We really don’t know yet if new general manager Dave Gettleman is willing to bring in veterans or if he wants to put his stamp on this team with youth. But, even if Gettleman is open to bringing in older players, his hands are tied due to the team’s salary-cap situation.
New Orleans Saints. The Saints also are tight against the salary cap, but they have more wiggle room than Carolina. The Saints have shown a past willingness to bring in veterans, but they’ll have to come at the right price this season. Adding Woodson would be a lot like what the Saints did in 2009 when they brought in Darren Sharper. I don’t know that Freeney would be a great fit in the 3-4 scheme the Saints are switching to. He may be too small to play defensive end in that system and I’m not sure he could make the switch to outside linebacker at this point in his career.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs like to talk about building through the draft. But they’ve been known to make some isolated exceptions (see last year’s signing of tight end Dallas Clark). But I don’t expect the Bucs to jump into immediate pursuit of Freeney or Woodson. If they can re-sign defensive end Michael Bennett, they’re pretty well set at defensive end. The Bucs are still waiting to hear if safety Ronde Barber is going to retire or play another year. If he retires, Woodson could become a possibility, but my guess is the Bucs would want to go with someone younger.
- Although he’s working as a special assistant to Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano and collecting severance pay from the University of North Carolina, Butch Davis said he would like to get back into coaching one day. I think it could happen. In fact, I still don’t completely understand why Davis didn’t simply skip what’s left of the severance package and join Tampa Bay’s staff as defensive coordinator.
- Charlie Campbell speculates the Colts could look to trade defensive end Dwight Freeney before the season and mentions the Saints and Falcons as possible landing spots. I think both teams could use pass-rush help. But I’d scratch the Falcons because they don’t have enough cap room to take on Freeney’s current deal or even a restructured contract. The Saints? Well, that could be a different story. As we reported earlier Wednesday, they suddenly have some cap room to work with.
- Here’s an item that suggests Atlanta linebacker Stephen Nicholas could be a salary-cap casualty in the preseason. Sorry, but I don’t see it. The Falcons are planning on starting Nicholas at outside linebacker opposite Sean Weatherspoon. Nicholas never has been a big playmaker, but he’s athletic and the Falcons want athleticism out of their linebackers.
- Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is helping Make-A-Wish Georgia launch a fundraising campaign.
- Although the rest of the Buccaneers don’t report to training camp until next week, the rookies (except for unsigned first-round pick Mark Barron) reported Wednesday. League rules prevent the rookies from doing anything in real depth, but getting them in a routine should help by the time the veterans arrive.
- It’s perhaps the slowest time of the year, so Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy and receiver Steve Smith are talking about how fast they drive their cars. The good news is they’ll have lots more to talk about once they report to training camp in just over a week.
“My thing is, at the end of my career, I want to play 15 years and be a Hall of Famer and be one of the greats,’’ the left tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said.
“He loves to talk and talks about nothing all the time,’’ said New Orleans defensive end Will Smith, who will line up against Penn on Sunday in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome. “He’s a nice guy. I know him off the field. But on the field, he just loves to talk about anything. He loves to self-promote himself.’’
In an interview with Sirius NFL Radio several weeks ago, Smith said Penn “talks as much as wide receivers,’’ who are commonly known as big talkers. Smith said Penn can be anywhere from funny to entertaining to annoying on the field. The topics can change, but the talk never stops, said Smith, who has been playing against Penn for five seasons.
“He’s made big strides as a player,’’ Smith said. “But he’s always been a talker.’’
Penn doesn’t deny any of that. He said he feeds off talking to opponents throughout a game.
“One of the things is, if you’re going to talk you’ve got to back it up,’’ Penn said. “I’ve been lucky enough to back it up.’’
That may sound a little like the self-promotion Smith talked about. But the thing is Penn doesn’t have to do all the promoting on his own these days.
"You can make an argument that Donald Penn is the best left tackle in football right now,'' former Pro Bowl tackle and current Westwood One Radio analyst Tony Boselli recently told The Tampa Tribune. "He's athletic, he's powerful, he's a good run blocker and an even better pass blocker.''
“A very solid left tackle,’’ said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “They don’t give him a lot of help and he doesn’t really need it. People like to say you have to find a left tackle in the top 10 in the draft. But Penn is proof that you can get a good one outside of the top 10. Heck, the Bucs got him for nothing and that almost never happens with left tackles.’’
It wouldn’t be far off to say that Penn came out of nowhere. But the fact is he came out of Utah State. He had a shot at being drafted, but tore up his knee on the first play of the Hula Bowl in his final season. He showed up at the scouting combine, but was unable to work out.
“After that, I just fell off the map,’’ Penn said.
He went through the 2006 draft without being chosen. He later signed with the Minnesota Vikings and landed on their practice squad. The Bucs signed Penn off Minnesota’s practice squad later that season, thinking they were getting a guy who could be a career backup.
But it wasn’t long before Penn talked – and worked – his way into a starting role. He began the 2007 season projected as a backup for veteran Luke Petitgout, who the Bucs had brought in from the New York Giants.
“I was always telling Petitgout I was going to take his job,’’ Penn said.
Pretty soon, that’s exactly what Penn did. Petitgout started four games in 2007 before getting injured. Penn started 12 games that season and hasn’t missed a start since.
“Once I got that opportunity, I tried to do my best to not let it get taken away from me,’’ Penn said. “You don’t know when you’re going to get an opportunity like that again.’’
The talk of Penn as one of the league’s best tackles didn’t start right away. It’s really just started to heat up in the last year or so. That coincides roughly with the timeline of when the Bucs made a big commitment to a guy who wasn’t even drafted. At the start of training camp in 2010, the Bucs gave Penn a six-year, $48 million contract.
They paid him like a big-time left tackle. The contract might have changed the perception of Penn around the league, but he said he never viewed himself as anything less.
“I’ve always thought of myself in those terms,’’ Penn said. “You need to think of yourself in those terms to be a great player. You have to have confidence. Thinking of yourself as the best, that’s the most confidence you can have. I always knew I was good. I just needed a shot.’’
Penn’s become the most steady force on Tampa Bay’s offensive line. In a season in which the 4-3 Bucs have been up and down, Penn has been perhaps the team’s most consistent player.
In one three-game stretch, Penn had the task of blocking Atlanta’s John Abraham, Minnesota’s Jared Allen and Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney. He gave up only one sack (to Allen) and Penn’s been getting a lot of praise from around the league.
“I’m going up against the best every week and I don’t get nearly as much help as most tackles do,’’ Penn said. “I appreciate finally getting the notoriety. Tampa is not a big media center, so you don’t get as much attention. But I’ve been doing it for five years now and I’ve been doing it well. It feels good to finally get some recognition for it.’’
But one Pro Bowl and a few nice comments don’t add up to the Hall of Fame career Penn talks about and he knows that.
“That’s my goal,’’ Penn said. “I’m a long way away from it, but that’s what I’m trying to reach. That’s why I’m working so hard and playing so good because I want to get there. I want to be known as the best left tackle in the game when it’s all said and done.’’
Yeah, that’s all down the road. But it no longer seems as impossible as it did when Penn was a practice-squad player. Maybe if he keeps talking big and playing the way he has recently, he just might meet his goal.
The Bucs don’t have anything all that significant. Linebacker Quincy Black (ankle) is listed as questionable, but participated fully in Saturday’s practice. Tight end Kellen Winslow (knee) is probable and participated on a limited basis in practice after sitting out Thursday and Friday. Backup quarterback Josh Johnson, who suddenly appeared on the injury report with an ankle issue this week, is listed as probable and practiced. The Bucs ruled out backup offensive lineman James Lee (ankle) and receiver Sammie Stroughter (foot).
The Colts have a pretty lengthy and significant injury list, starting with quarterback Peyton Manning, who hasn’t played this season because of a neck injury and won’t play against Tampa Bay. Quarterback Kerry Collins, who’s been starting in Manning’s place, is listed as questionable after suffering a concussion last week. Collins hasn’t practiced all week and the Colts have said they’re prepared to start Curtis Painter.
The Colts listed defensive end Dwight Freeney (ankle) as questionable, but he fully participated in practice Friday and Saturday.
- Saints kicker Garrett Hartley talks about his three big field goals in the win over the Colts. Hartley talks about having the confidence to make the kicks.
- Saints center Jonathan Goodwin talks about how it feels to win the Super Bowl, saying it's one of the most amazing moments in his life. Goodwin talks about the great success the Saints' offensive line had protecting QB Drew Brees.
- NFL on FOX analyst Brian Billick talks about how the Saints dominated the second quarter and then made the huge call to start the second half with an onside kick. Billick also address the different looks the Saints defense showed Colts QB Peyton Manning.
- ESPN NFL analyst Cris Carter talks about the new defensive wrinkles the Saints kept putting into the game in the second half and how that affected Colts QB Peyton Manning. Carter breaks down the key interception that sealed the win for the Saints.
- ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth talks about the great job the Saints' offensive line did protecting QB Drew Brees. Schlereth says it was a courageous effort by Colts DE Dwight Freeney but he wasn't as good in the second half.
- ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski breaks down the performances of Saints QB Drew Brees. Plus, Jaworski says Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had a great game plan and his team executed it to perfection.
- Hall of Famer and ESPN NFL analyst Mike Ditka says the hero for the Saints is head coach Sean Payton, who had the complete vision and who took less money to bring in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
- ESPN NFL analyst Herman Edwards talks about the adjustments the Saints were able to make and the great job they did all game tackling. Edwards says a turning point in the game was the Colts' three and out after stopping the Saints at the goal line.