NFC South: EJ Manuel

Observation Deck: Buccaneers

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
7:38
PM ET
 

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said earlier this week that he wanted to see more sacks and takeaways. Mission accomplished.

Tampa Bay’s first-team defense forced three turnovers in Saturday’s 27-14 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble by C.J. Spiller that was recovered by Mason Foster. Tampa Bay’s offense punched the ball in for a quick touchdown. Tampa Bay’s offense was far from spectacular, but the defense more than made up for it.

The defense produced a touchdown of its own. As Adrian Clayborn sacked Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel, Michael Johnson reached in and knocked the ball loose. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald picked the ball up and ran it in for a touchdown with 8:21 left in the second quarter.

All of Buffalo’s points came in the second half after Tampa Bay’s starting defense had left the game. The Bucs held a 24-0 lead at halftime.

Some other observations:
  • Tampa Bay’s offense hadn’t been putting together long drives this preseason. That finally changed late in the second quarter. The Bucs had an 11-play drive that covered 82 yards and ended with a touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Mike Evans. That shows the Bucs can sustain a drive. But it’s important to remember that we’ve seen only a very small sampling of coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. The Bucs are saving most of that for the regular season.
  • I’ve got a feeling what we saw Saturday will be repeated a lot during the regular season. The Bucs played fantastic defense and were rather ordinary (but opportunistic) on offense. That’s not flashy, but that fits Smith’s philosophy perfectly.
  • Smith said he wanted to take an early look at recently acquired defensive end Larry English. He did, putting English into the game early. He responded with two sacks. The former first-round pick by San Diego still faces an uphill battle to make the team but might be gaining ground on Da'Quan Bowers, who missed the game with a groin injury.
  • Smith said he wanted to play his starters into the third quarter. He did play his starting offense into the second half, with one notable exception. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon replaced McCown to start the third quarter. That was a smart move. With the offensive line still a work in progress, there’s no sense in exposing McCown to possible injury before the regular season starts.
  • Linebacker Jonathan Casillas did not play for the Bucs. He was held out for a disciplinary reason, according to a team official. Danny Lansanah got the start in his place and played well. Lansanah has had a strong preseason and appears to have secured a roster spot.

Double Coverage: Panthers at Bills

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
12:00
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Manuel-NewtonGetty ImagesRookie QB EJ Manuel guides rebuilding Buffalo; Cam Newton's under pressure to win now in Carolina.

Following tough home losses Sunday, the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers look to get back on track in Week 2.

This game offers an intriguing quarterback battle between Bills rookie EJ Manuel, selected 16th overall this year, and the Panthers' Cam Newton, the top overall pick in 2011.

We'll hit on that matchup and more in our weekly "Double Coverage" conversation, so let's get it started:

Mike Rodak: David, it seemed like the Bills and the Panthers opened their seasons in similar ways. Both teams faced superior opponents: The Patriots and Seahawks are near the top of the AFC and NFC, respectively, while the Bills and Panthers are bottom-dwellers in their conferences. Yet, both teams kept it close. The Bills lost by two points on a late field goal, while the Panthers kept it within five points. There is a cautious sense of optimism around the Bills locker room right now. Is that also true down in Charlotte?

David Newton: Definitely optimism, which wasn't necessarily the case a year ago. The team feels it has more of an identity, an awareness of where it can go from here. Much of that identity is based around the defense, which established itself as one of the more solid units in the league by holding the potent Seattle offense to 12 points. Wide receiver Steve Smith, whether he was trying to inspire the rest of the team or because he actually believes it, set the tone by predicting that the Panthers will face Seattle again deep in January. I still don't see Carolina as a playoff team based on what its offense showed, but there is potential.

So both teams played top opponents close and lost. Now what? Is this a must-win for both if they have any hopes of being playoff contenders?

Rodak: I think it’s more of a must-win for Carolina. You look at the NFC South, and it’s stacked. If the Panthers want a shot at a wild-card spot, they might need to finish ahead of either Atlanta or New Orleans, and that’s a tall task. The Bills are in a weaker division, where an 0-2 start could have less of an impact. But still, not a good sign for Buffalo if it drops its first two, both at home.

The Bills spent a first-round pick this season on a quarterback in Manuel. The Panthers selected a quarterback, Newton, first overall in 2011. He’s now entering his third season. How does the team (and fans) feel about Newton’s development?

Newton: Agreed, it's much more of a must-win game for Carolina. An 0-2 start after getting out of the gate 1-6 a year ago will have the vultures swarming for coach Ron Rivera. It will have the critics pounding on Newton. As new general manager Dave Gettleman said before the season, it's time for Newton to win. Buffalo can write this off as a rebuilding season with a rookie quarterback; Carolina can't do that with Newton. I said before the season the Panthers had to start no worse than 2-1 to have a chance to be successful. The Seattle loss, as close as they came to pulling it out, wasn't unexpected. Sunday's is one of those winnable road games they can't afford to lose. There aren't many out there.

So what do you see this game coming down to?

Rodak: I think the Bills will need a better game out of C.J. Spiller. If he can get it going -- the Patriots shut him down Sunday, holding him to less than 3 yards per carry and per catch -- it opens up the Bills offense and gives Manuel a chance to take more shots downfield. The Panthers held the Seahawks to just 70 yards rushing and have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL, so it won’t be easy. If Spiller has another quiet day, not only will it upset his fantasy owners, but it will also be tough for the Bills to win.

What about for the Panthers?

Newton: It's going to come down to the Carolina offensive line and whether it can establish the run as well as New England did in Week 1 against the Bills. Right guard Garry Williams is gone for the year with an ACL/MCL tear. His replacement, Chris Scott, played well against Seattle. But Scott started on the left side, where Amini Silatolu was out with a hamstring injury. Silatolu is expected back this week, so if he holds up, the Panthers should be OK. But Carolina has to run effectively to make the offense under new coordinator Mike Shula click.

NFC South links: EJ Manuel eyes Panthers

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
11:45
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Atlanta Falcons
The team is in talks with the state of Georgia over the level of public financing for a new $1 billion stadium, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports -- with Gov. Nathan Deal saying he wants the figure to be lower than the $300 million upon which the team previously agreed with the state convention authority.

"Everything is designed to go out there and win. We had our chances. Just a few plays here and there,” said Falcons' third-year linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who tells team website reporter Daniel Cox that he's already preparing for next season.

Carolina Panthers
Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel told the Charlotte Observer that he "would be a good fit" as backup for quarterback Cam Newton; Derek Anderson, Newton's understudy in 2012, is a free agent and could follow former Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to Cleveland.

Former Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner is on the verge of a deal to become the Arizona Cardinals' defensive line coach, he tells the Rock Hill Herald.

New Orleans Saints
Saints players including linebacker Curtis Lofton and kicker Garrett Hartley passed out gifts and posed for photos at spots around New Orleans as part of a charity campaign pegged to the city's celebration of hosting its 10th Super Bowl.

Sean Payton is relying on "closure," as the Times-Picayune reports the coach's top priority during his first visit with the media was to clearly try to put the bounty controversy in the rearview mirror.

San Diego-based Integrated Sports Marketing, the promoter being sued by Drew Brees’ charitable foundation, says it was Brees -- not the firm -- that failed to meet obligations involving the quarterback’s signature celebrity golf tournament, reports the Union-Tribune.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs brass gathered in Mobile, Ala., ahead of Saturday's Senior Bowl has been focused on defensive backs, but, after star cornerbacks Dee Milliner of Alabama and Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State, pickings are slim -- which means the team might need to get creative, the Tampa Tribune notes.

Officials in the Bucs' ticket office have been contacting season-ticket holders to inquire if they would move their seats. Jose Patino Girona of The Tampa Bay Tribune explains the reason why.

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