NFC South: Everette Brown

Around the NFC South

April, 16, 2013
Time for a cruise through the top morning headlines from around the NFC South:


In his latest survey of mock drafts, Jay Adams writes that University of Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant seems to be the consensus pick for the Falcons. Trufant is a very logical choice, but I’m not sure he’ll be available at No. 30. I see Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor as a nice alternative.


Scott Fowler chooses the five best and worst draft classes in franchise history. The Class of 2009 (Everette Brown, Sherrod Martin, etc.) is among the worst. That class' failures went a long way in getting Marty Hurney fired as general manager.


Larry Holder reports the Saints had $1.6 million in cap space prior to agreeing to terms with backup quarterback Seneca Wallace on Monday. Wallace’s deal is likely to be worth the veteran minimum. The Saints will need to free up more cap room just to be able to sign their draft picks, and they don’t have a lot of veteran contracts left to restructure.


The Bucs began their offseason program without defensive back Ronde Barber, who still is deciding if he will retire. Coach Greg Schiano said there has been dialogue with Barber, but the veteran has yet to make a decision. If Barber is going to return for another season, I think the Bucs would like it to come by the time their offseason program moves to field work in a couple of weeks.
A look at the NFC South’s best and worst from the past five NFL drafts, one team at a time.


Best choice: Cam Newton. Any time you can get a franchise quarterback, it’s a huge plus. That’s what the Panthers got when they used the first overall pick in 2011. It hasn’t translated into a lot of wins yet, but you can see the talent all over Newton. General manager Marty Hurney was fired in 2012, but the team should be forever grateful that he broke from the team’s traditional conservative ways, realizing this is a quarterback-driven league and giving the Panthers their first true franchise quarterback.

Worst choice: Everette Brown. This was a tough call because when it comes to draft busts, Armanti Edwards is no slouch. But Brown was a tremendous slouch. Taken with the 11th pick of the second round in 2009, Brown was supposed to be a reasonable facsimile of Julius Peppers. He lasted only two seasons in Carolina and started exactly three games.

Verdict pending: Jonathan Stewart. It’s a little unusual for the jury to still be out five years into a player’s career. But that’s the case with Stewart. Taken with the 13th overall pick in 2008, Stewart has looked great at times (like 2009, when he rushed for 1,133 yards) and looked like a bust at other times (like last season, when he rushed for 336 yards and one touchdown while dealing with an assortment of injuries).
What happened with the Carolina Panthers on Monday morning is a reminder that the NFL is a cold, hard business and the win-loss record is all that really matters.

The Panthers fired general manager Marty Hurney. It was inevitable. Carolina came into the season with very high expectations but is off to a 1-5 start. The Panthers haven’t had a winning season since 2008.

Fans are getting restless, and so is team owner Jerry Richardson, a man who spent a ton of money coming out of this past summer’s lockout.

[+] EnlargeMarty Hurney
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneMarty Hurney had been the Panthers' GM since 2002.
Someone had to take the fall, and Hurney was the choice. You can question whether Hurney was the right guy to sacrifice, and some already are doing that.

“Marty wasn't the reason we are losing!" Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson said on his Twitter account. “That's bs! Unbelievable! Marty might be the realist GM that I know #InMyMind BS BS BS BS!"

You can wonder if maybe head coach Ron Rivera, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski or defensive coordinator Sean McDermott should have been ousted. At least to me, it looks as though the Panthers have a talented roster that is not being coached very well.

And you can certainly question the timing of Hurney’s firing. Does it really make sense to fire the guy who runs the personnel department after Week 7?

No, it doesn’t. The Panthers will bring in someone from outside or elevate director of pro scouting Mark Koncz, but either way, they’re not going to right the ship in the middle of the season. Any personnel moves that can help this team will have to come in the offseason.

But this wasn’t just a football move. It went much deeper than that.

To understand what I mean by that, you have to know a bit about Hurney and Richardson. They were -- and even now probably will remain -- exceptionally close. After saying he’d never have a general manager again after Bill Polian’s ugly departure, Richardson hired Hurney to manage the salary cap in 1998.

The two hit it off, and Hurney quickly gained Richardson’s trust. When former coach George Seifert ran the franchise into the ground in 2001, Richardson reversed course and promoted Hurney to general manager. He also essentially let Hurney hire John Fox as coach.

The Panthers reached the Super Bowl in Hurney and Fox's second season together, 2003. Two seasons later, they were back in the NFC Championship Game.

But soon after that, Richardson started to see cracks. He wanted to see back-to-back winning seasons, and he was starting to worry about growing egos.

Richardson’s worries eventually turned into realities. Fox never produced consecutive winning seasons, and the level of trust between the coach and Richardson seemed to erode to a point where things became downright hostile in Fox’s final season, 2010.

But the Richardson-Hurney relationship survived all that, and Richardson let Hurney hire Rivera to replace Fox. Part of the reason is Hurney is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet in football or anywhere else. He’s the kind of guy who picked up the phone to offer condolences to a reporter whose father had died the moment he heard about it.

Hurney is the kind of guy who would call a reporter on draft night just to exchange thoughts on what happened around the league. He’s the kind of guy who would never lie to you and always try to steer a reporter in the right direction, even if it wasn’t necessarily in his best interest.

On the job, Hurney made some brilliant moves through the years -- signing Jake Delhomme and Stephen Davis as free agents, drafting the likes of Julius Peppers, Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil. His drafting of quarterback Cam Newton looked brilliant last year, but not so much this season.

He also made some very questionable moves -- signing Delhomme to a big contract extension after the quarterback had flamed out, drafting Armanti Edwards, Jimmy Clausen, Dwayne Jarrett, Terrell McClain, Eric Norwood, Everette Brown, Jeff Otah and some other busts. He also committed $80 million of Richardson’s money to running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert.

But for some reason, the coaching staff isn’t making much use out of Williams, Stewart and Tolbert. Is that Hurney’s fault?

I don’t think so. And I don’t think Richardson totally believes that, either.

Still, it really doesn’t matter. Richardson needed a scapegoat, and it had to be hard for him to decide on Hurney. But keep in mind, Richardson once fired his two sons (Mark as team president and Jon as stadium president). His logic on that move was that their dysfunctional relationship was taking a toll on the other 300 people who worked in the building and on fans.

The logic on Hurney was similar. Things weren’t going well, and fans were giving up on the Panthers.

When I spoke to Hurney last week, he seemed resigned to the idea that his time was running out, but it seemed he thought the move would come more toward the end of the season.

That might have been more logical. But Richardson had to send a message now to his fans that he still cares about winning and that the current product is unsatisfactory. It would be difficult to fire the entire coaching staff or fire Rivera and elevate one of his assistants in the middle of the season.

Someone had to go now, and that was Hurney. But I think it should be clear to Rivera, every assistant coach in the building and every player that if Richardson is willing to get rid of Hurney, no one is sacred.

There’s going to be a lot more housecleaning in Carolina after the season. This was just the first step.

Panthers clean up waiver wire

September, 4, 2011
As expected, the Carolina Panthers are not sitting still a day after trimming their roster to 53 players.

The Panthers hit the waiver wire hard Sunday, claiming five players at positions of need.

The Panthers claimed wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu from San Diego, defensive back Stevie Brown from Oakland, nose tackle Marcus Harrison from Chicago, defensive end George Selvie from St. Louis and defensive back Josh Thomas from Dallas.

To make room for them, the Panthers waived defensive end Everette Brown, guard Bryant Browning, receiver David Clowney and defensive end Thomas Keiser. The Panthers also released veteran safety Kevin Payne.

Stay tuned, because it’s likely the Panthers are not done yet. They still have a big need at right guard after losing Geoff Schwartz and Garry Williams to season-ending injuries. They likely are in the market for a veteran at that position.
The Carolina Panthers are next in our series of team-by-team mailbags.

Bill in Colorado Springs asks what I think the odds are Carolina will trade down from the No. 1 overall draft pick.

Pat Yasinskas: Slim. I think the Panthers certainly would entertain any offers, but I don’t think they’re going to get many of them. I don’t think there’s a clear-cut No. 1 choice that everybody wants -- at least not yet. Also, if there’s no labor agreement, I really think that will make it impossible for the Panthers to trade down. If the labor deal is finished before the draft and it includes some sort of rookie pay scale, that might make the pick a little more attractive to other teams. But, still, it’s a lot easier to talk about trading down than actually getting a strong opportunity to do it.

Mike in Winston-Salem, N.C., likes the fact the Panthers signed tight end Jeremy Shockey, but is surprised by it because owner Jerry Richardson said there would be no player moves until a new labor deal was in place. Mike asks if the Shockey signing might be a sign Richardson is confident a labor deal is coming.

Pat Yasinskas: Interesting question. Richardson has final say on everything that happens in that building. I’m just sort of speculating here, but I’m thinking coach Ron Rivera, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski (who coached Shockey in college at Miami) and general manager Marty Hurney came to Richrdson, told them they viewed Shockey as a perfect fit for this system and convinced him they had to act quickly. Not sure that Richardson believes a deal is imminent, but I’m glad to see him at least doing something about the future of his football team.

Mitchell in Walkerton, N.C., asks about the Panthers' bringing back quarterback Jake Delhomme as a veteran option if he’s the odd man out in Cleveland.

Pat Yasinskas: Absolutely not. Let me first say, I like and respect Delhomme as much as any player I’ve ever covered. There are a lot of people with the Panthers who feel the same way about him, and he did some great things for that franchise through the years. But the Panthers can’t bring him back now, and it’s for the same reason they paid him $12.5 million to walk out the door last year. Delhomme’s final season in Carolina and the playoff loss to Arizona the year before were absolutely disastrous. I still can’t figure out exactly how he lost it, but he suddenly turned into Steve Sax when it came to throwing the ball. He couldn’t do it anymore. The Panthers couldn’t keep him last year because it would have sent a message to the rest of the team that the Panthers had no chance on offense. I know it turned out to be bad last year with the quarterback situation. But, still, the Panthers need to take a step forward, not two steps back.

Mike in Pittsburgh says he’s a little frustrated by some in the media repeatedly saying the Panthers will draft Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers because they have a “void’’ at that position.

Pat Yasinskas: Yep, I’m with you. There is no “void’’, assuming the Panthers keep possible free agent Charles Johnson, and I think they will. Johnson emerged as a strong pass-rusher last season. Everette Brown's not a bad player, and there are a lot of people in the organization who believe Greg Hardy can be a force if he stays focused on football. Bowers is a talent, so the Panthers at least have to look at him. But I think defensive tackle clearly is the bigger need on the defensive line.

Roddrick in Charlotte says Carolina’s quarterback problems aren’t going to be solved by anyone on their roster and drafting a quarterback might not produce instant results. He wonders if trading for or signing a veteran might be a better option, and asks if Carson Palmer or Donovan McNabb would be a better fit.

Pat Yasinskas: Just my opinion, but I’d pass on the quarterbacks in this draft. I’m just not sold on them, and Carolina can get its long-term quarterback in another year or two. The rest of this roster isn’t all that bad. Bring in someone like Palmer or McNabb, and I think they instantly make the offense respectable and the entire team competitive. I like both of those guys you mention, and I also like Kevin Kolb. But one thing that will factor into the decision if the Panthers go the veteran route is the price tag. What would they have to give up to get Kolb, McNabb or Palmer? And what would they have to pay one of those guys? We still don’t know the answer to that, but I’m sure Hurney and his staff are looking into that.

Kiper: Panthers sticking with Fairley

February, 17, 2011
Mel Kiper has his latest mock draft out and he has the Carolina Panthers taking Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley with the No. 1 overall pick.

I like that call a lot. It’s shaping up like a two-man race between Fairley and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers for the No. 1 spot. This is no knock on Bowers, who should be a good NFL player. But Fairley would fill a bigger need because the Panthers already have some talent at defensive end.

They’ve got young players like Charles Johnson, Greg Hardy and Everette Brown on the outside. But the inside isn’t nearly as strong. Adding Fairley would change the entire look of the middle of the defensive line.

The other interesting development in Kiper’s latest mock draft is that he has Auburn quarterback Cam Newton going No. 3 overall to Buffalo. Newton’s stock appears to be on the rise after he worked out for the media last week.

Could he jump up to No. 1 overall? Some more good workouts would help. But I think background checks and an interview with the Panthers could be a deciding factor. Newton had some academic issues at Florida and the NCAA is investigating what went on as he decided on his next college. The Panthers generally stay clear of players will troubled pasts. If they’re going to take Newton, they’ll have to be convinced that he comes without problems.
Todd McShay’s latest mock draft is out and you can see it all right here.

But let’s focus in on the top pick because it relates directly to the Carolina Panthers. McShay has Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers as Carolina’s pick.

I think that’s entirely possible. Bowers has lots of potential as a pass rusher. Put him with Charles Johnson, Everette Brown and Greg Hardy and the Panthers could have a ferocious pass rush. McShay has defensive tackle Nick Fairley going second to Denver, which is ironic since the Broncos are now coached by former Carolina coach John Fox.

I’ll have more on Carolina’s options at No. 1 in a Friday column, but I think Fairley has to be a consideration for the Panthers. Like all other teams, I think the Panthers are just getting into their draft preparation and haven’t made any decision. We’re still more than two months away from the draft and the thing that intrigues me most about McShay’s mock is that he has Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert going at No. 5 to Arizona.

A lot of people would say Gabbert is a “reach’’ with the first overall pick and that may be true. But I’m wondering if Gabbert is good enough to go to a team desperate for a quarterback at No. 5, why isn’t he good enough to go to a team desperate for a quarterback at No. 1?

Franchise quarterbacks don’t come along often. As Carolina general manager Marty Hurney and new coach Ron Rivera work through all the scenarios over the next couple months, they’re going to be the ones who have to decide if Gabbert is a franchise quarterback.
Marty Hurney and Rich McKay, a couple of general managers I covered back in my newspaper days, used to always say "You don’t judge a draft for at least a couple of years."

I agree with that, even if it means those grades we in the media all do on draft day or the day after are meaningless. You don’t really know what you’ve got for a couple of years. In that spirit, let’s take a look at the 2009 NFC draft classes, rank them and grade them.

Tampa Bay. If you draft a franchise quarterback, you’ve hit it out of the park. A lot of people didn’t think Josh Freeman was a franchise quarterback when the Bucs drafted him. Coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik believed in Freeman and it turns out they were right. That’s why they turned their franchise around. By the way, defensive tackle Roy Miller (third round) and Sammie Stroughter (seventh round) also have turned out to be solid picks. Grade: A+

New Orleans. The Saints only had four picks in this draft and two of them, linebacker Stanley Arnoux (fourth round) and safety Chip Vaughn (fourth round) haven’t been factors due to injuries. But the Saints got it right on their other top picks. First-rounder Malcolm Jenkins showed big-time skills in his first season as a starting safety. Thomas Morstead (fifth round) quickly has become one of the league’s best punters. Grade: B+

Carolina. Second-round pick Everette Brown, who was drafted to be the next Julius Peppers, has produced 6.5 sacks in two years and hasn’t had a big impact. But defensive backs Sherrod Martin (second round) and Captain Munnerlyn (seventh round) have made impacts. Running back Mike Goodson (fourth round) played better than anyone thought he could after injuries to Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams last season and fullback Tony Fiammetta (fourth round) is a starter. Grade: C+

Atlanta. William Moore, who has become a solid starter at safety, saves this class from getting a really bad grade. First-round pick Peria Jerry had a knee injury as a rookie and didn’t have much impact last season. There’s still hope Jerry will come on next year, but he hasn’t done much yet. Neither have cornerback Christopher Owens (third round) or defensive end Lawrence Sidbury (fourth round). Grade: C-

Panthers running away in I.R. race

December, 14, 2010
There were a few house-keeping transactions made around the NFC South today as Carolina put defensive end Everette Brown, linebacker Jason Williams and guard Travelle Wharton on injured reserve and Tampa Bay did the same thing with Quincy Black and Gerald McCoy.

For those keeping sore at home, that means the Panthers lead the NFC South with 14 guys on injured reserve. But before we start sounding like all of Carolina's problems are because of injuries, let's also note that the Buccaneers now have 12 guys on injured reserve. The Bucs are 8-5 and the Panthers are 1-12.

The New Orleans Saints are 10-3 and they have nine guys on injured reserve and the Atlanta Falcons are 11-2 and only have three guys on injured reserve. So, yes, there definitely is some correlation between injuries and success (or lack of it) on the field.

But let's analyze how much of an impact having guys on injured reserve have had on each team. You can find the complete injured reserve list at the bottom of the roster on each team's website and I'm not going to list every guy here. For this discussion, I'm not including guys like Atlanta's Sean Weatherspoon, who have missed significant playing time. I'm only talking significant players who have been placed on the injured reserve.

Carolina. Running back DeAngelo Williams is the biggest name on the list, but he at least played a portion of the season. I think not having right tackle Jeff Otah or linebacker Thomas Davis all season have been the biggest injury influences in Carolina. Of course, it would have been nice if the Panthers had middle linebacker Dan Connor for a longer stretch. Would the Panthers have been better if they didn't have so many injuries? Absolutely, but they wouldn't have been all that much better. Was a healthy Matt Moore any better than Jimmy Clausen? In fact, I'll argue that the Bucs have been hit harder, especially in recent weeks.

Tampa Bay. I'm looking at names like Jeff Faine, Davin Joseph and Aqib Talib and seeing high-level starters. McCoy was the team's first-round draft pick and had turned the corner after a slow start. Fellow defensive tackle Brian Price, a second-round pick, missed almost the entire season. I'm also looking at names like Cody Grimm, Kareem Huggins and Kyle Moore and seeing guys who would be nice contributors if they were healthy.

New Orleans. Things are a bit misleading here. Nine guys on injured reserve might sound like a lot. But cornerback Randall Gay and running back Lynell Hamilton might be the only two the Saints really have missed.

Atlanta. There is no way around it. The Falcons have been lucky when it comes to injuries. Yes, Weatherspoon, cornerback Dunta Robinson, receiver Michael Jenkins and backup running back Jason Snelling have missed time with injuries. But there are only three guys on injured reserve and running back Jerious Norwood is the only name of any significance. But Norwood's been out for so long and had so many injury problems in the past that the Falcons wrote this guy off long ago.

Carolina Panthers buried in avalanche

October, 10, 2010
Jimmy ClausenBob Donnan/US PresswireJimmy Clausen was sacked five times and completed just 9-of-22 for 61 yards in Carolina's loss.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – You know that lockout that everybody keeps saying might be coming in 2011? It’s already started for at least one National Football League team.

That’s the Carolina Panthers.

They’re 0-5. They’ve got a lame-duck coach. They’ve got absolutely no offense and a defense that already is almost worn out. They’ve got absolutely nothing positive going for them right now.


You could say Carolina owner Jerry Richardson already has locked out his franchise and his fan base. If you want to see what an autumn Sunday without NFL games looks like, look no further than what happened in Bank of America Stadium in a game that will go down in the books as a 23-6 victory by the Chicago Bears over the Panthers. But that was not NFL football.

Despite the best efforts of Bears quarterback Todd Collins and his 6.2 passer rating to hand the game to the Panthers, Carolina couldn’t grasp it. Quite simply, that’s because the Panthers are playing with their hands tied.

“In every phase, that was an avalanche,’’ Carolina coach John Fox said.

An avalanche that’s far from finished. Seriously, if you think things are going to get better for the Panthers anytime soon, you probably also thought back in 2001 that Jeff Lewis actually was going to be a legitimate NFL quarterback. The Panthers haven’t even hit bottom yet.

Things are so bad in Carolina right now, that it felt an awful lot like the dark days of 2001 when I walked through the stadium tunnel in the final minutes of the game Sunday. Sir Purr, the Carolina mascot, shrugged his shoulders. A couple minutes later, Steve Smith, perhaps the best player in franchise history, came along wearing a boot, bouncing a tennis ball and looking very dejected.

Before joining his teammates in the locker room, Smith stood in the tunnel the Bears took to their locker room. He bounced the ball occasionally and shook hands with a few Bears. Then, a noticeable noise picked up and a crew of cameras followed Julius Peppers into the tunnel.

Smith and Peppers clasped hands, embraced and chatted for just a minute. Then, they went very separate ways -- Peppers to celebrate a big day that featured a dazzling interception and Smith to a locker room where it was tough to sense any hope.

“He made a great play,’’ Fox said of the first quarter play when Peppers leaped to get a hand on a Jimmy Clausen pass, fell to his knees and then dove to make an interception. “That’s what great players do.’’

Yep, and once upon a time, Fox had a lot of players to make great plays. But he doesn’t anymore. You know all about Peppers, Fox’s first draft choice, who spent about two years begging to get out of Carolina before getting his wish. You know about Smith, who’s sidelined with an ankle injury.

[+] EnlargeJulius Peppers
Bob Donnan/US PresswireJulius Peppers' interception helped the Bears shut down the defensive end's former team.
Apologies to Jon Beason, Jordan Gross, Chris Gamble, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but the Panthers just don’t have a lot of talent. Fox may shoulder some of the blame for the fact Peppers wanted out and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins did the same thing a few years before. And you can certainly question some of the moves general manager Marty Hurney has or has not made in the past few years.

But just like Fox said, “the quarterbacks are having some help’’ as the offense continues to be dismal, Fox and Hurney have had some help that’s hurt a lot.

That’s where Richardson comes in. The guy has long been perceived as honorable and brilliant throughout the league. But what exactly is Richardson doing with his franchise right now?

Nobody knows exactly because Richardson isn’t talking. He’s got a standing invitation from the NFC South Blog to do that and that message was reinforced to his media-relations director after the game.

Until Richardson talks, we’re left to guess what’s going on and here’s what we know: The Panthers have made themselves into the youngest team in the NFL (at least according to opening-day rosters) and they haven’t signed a free agent of any significance since Mike Wahle and Ken Lucas back in the middle of the last decade. If there was a salary cap this season, the Panthers would be standing right about at $113 million. That’s not a particularly low figure in comparison to the rest of the league, but those numbers are misleading.

If you take away the $30-plus million in what ordinarily would be dead money, the Panthers would be slightly below the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have what would be the league’s lowest cap figure ($84 million), if there was a cap.

“For two weeks, we’re going to be sitting here at 0-5,’’ cornerback Richard Marshall said as he pondered Carolina’s coming bye week and the current situation. “That’s real difficult. It’s frustrating because we’re 0-5. It’s embarrassing.’’

Fox, who has not been offered a contract extension -- his deal is set to expire at the end of this season -- continues to stay on the high road.

“We’ll continue to work on our weaknesses, which are many,’’ Fox said.

But there’s only so much Fox and his staff can do with what they’ve got. Hurney doesn’t seem to have the authorization to go out and make any quick fixes.

“Something has to change,’’ defensive end Everette Brown said.

No doubt, but do the current collection of people who coach and play for the Panthers have the wherewithal to suddenly stop the avalanche? I don’t see it.

There’s really only one guy who can stop the avalanche. That’s Richardson. Again, we don’t know exactly what he’s thinking and you have to believe some of what he’s doing is to prepare his franchise for a lockout.

But the avalanche keeps coming and it sure seems like there is a non-stop blizzard at the top of the mountain.

First-half observations on Panthers

September, 19, 2010
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Some observations on the Panthers from their first-half performance against the Buccaneers.
  • I like what coordinator Jeff Davidson (and coach John Fox?) are doing with the offense. Although the Panthers have fallen behind twice, they’re sticking with the run. They’re not putting too much on quarterback Matt Moore. Tampa Bay’s defensive line is better against the run than it’s been the past couple years. But the Panthers are having some success and they continue to pound away at the line. That could pay off in the second half.
  • With Tyler Brayton out with an injury, the Panthers started Everette Brown at defensive end. But I saw rookie Greg Hardy rotating in their quite a bit and he was putting some pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman.
  • Carolina fans aren’t showing a lot of patience with Moore. The “boo birds’’ started after an incompletion with 3:51 left in the first quarter. But Moore silenced them when he hit Steve Smith with a 37-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter. Moore had a nice throw on a play where Aqib Talib had pretty good coverage. But Smith deserves the real credit for making a nice grab, breaking free from Talib’s tackle attempt and strolling to the end zone when there was no safety help.

Cleaning out the mailbag

August, 30, 2010
I just took one more pass through the mailbag before I cleaned it out in preparation for a coming onslaught. Very shortly, I’ll be making an announcement about how we’re going to handle an idea we’ve been kicking around: Selecting the most disliked figure for each NFC South team.

I’ve set the parameters and we’ll be announcing them as well as one other twist to this project in just a bit. Stay tuned for that. But in the meantime I wanted to answer a few more questions from the mailbag.

Al in Washington, D.C., writes: I'm surprised that you have Everette Brown so low. I know his great preseason alone isn't enough to support moving him up, but he's got a year of experience, has put on weight, and as far as I can tell has the attitude you need to be dominant. I was thinking Tyler Brayton's job might be in danger, but now I guess I should ask if you really see Greg Hardy passing Everette on the depth chart?

Pat Yasinskas: Like I said in the original post, the Panthers still think Brown has a world of potential and could be a factor. But his development hasn’t been rapid. Hardy’s emergence has been incredibly rapid.

Jared in New York writes: I know this may sound a little bit strange, considering his position, but do you think Todd Sauerbrun is a candidate for most (disliked) Panther? As great as he was, he did some pretty bad things for them like refusing to place kick, showing up overweight, getting a DWI, and (being linked to a steroids investigation)?

Pat Yasinskas: That’s going to be up to you as fans, because you’re the ones who are doing the voting. But the list of Sauerbrun’s indiscretions that you ticked off kind of speaks for itself. If I were a fan, I think I’d at least consider giving him a vote. I know some coaches and front-office types at Bank of America Stadium who might give him some votes. Sauerbrun's time in Carolina never was dull.

Nate in Palmer, Alaska, writes: I've never been a fan of Antonio Bryant. I'm laughing still from the news of him getting cut by the Bengals. That noise you hear is me laughing from 6500 miles away! Of course, Bryant's laugh is probably just a little bit louder seeing he made $8 million and I'm still working my tail off to provide for my wife and kids. You can add Antonio Bryant to the most disliked player of the NFC South's history. I’ve never liked the guy.

Pat Yasinskas: You’ll be able to cast your official ballot shortly. Like I wrote yesterday, there are plenty of people inside One Buccaneer Place that aren’t members of the Bryant fan club.

Scott in Atlanta writes: Have not heard anything lately about Jonathan Vilma's strained groin. Any news about how serious?

Pat Yasinskas: Your question was very timely. New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis spoke to the media just a little bit ago and said the injury is not serious. Loomis expects Vilma to be ready for the regular-season opener.
We’re going to resume our series of NFC South position rankings with the defensive ends.

This is not exactly a position of strength entering the season, but I think that could change as time goes on. There are a lot of young defensive ends around the division and some of them are bound to rise up as the season goes on. For the moment, though, there aren’t a lot of sure things.

Once again, I’m basing my rankings on talks with coaches, scouts, front-office folks and players. Here we go.

  1. [+] EnlargeWill Smith
    AP Photo/Jeff RobersonWill Smith is the most dominant defensive end in the division. He had 13 sacks for the Saints last season.
    Will Smith, Saints. This is the easiest decision in this bunch because Smith really is the only sure thing among the defensive ends in this division. He’s coming off a big season and still is in his prime. At the moment, it’s safe to say he’s the only pass rusher in this division that really scares people.
  2. John Abraham, Falcons. Let’s make it clear the decision to go with Abraham, who is coming off a disappointing season and not getting any younger, is not a lifetime achievement award. Atlanta coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff could have attempted to get an elite pass rusher if they thought Abraham was through. They chose not to. Abraham’s looked great in camp and there are other folks around the NFC South that think he’s going to bounce back this season and produce double-digit sacks.
  3. Charles Johnson, Panthers. I’m projecting here, but somebody has to step up on Carolina’s defensive line now that Julius Peppers is gone. You’ve heard some preseason hype about some young Carolina pass rushers and we’ll get to them. But Johnson is the guy the Panthers believe is ready to be their most complete defensive end.
  4. Alex Brown, Saints. This guy’s not going to come up and suddenly put up huge numbers, but he’s going to be a nice upgrade over the inconsistent Charles Grant. Look back at Brown’s time with Chicago. His numbers were very steady. He’ll put some heat on the passer from time to time. His sack numbers never have been spectacular, but he disrupts a lot of passes. He’s always going to play the run well.
  5. Kroy Biermann, Falcons. This guy’s getting a lot of hype because he’s had a sack in each of the first three preseason games and Dimitroff and Smith are convinced Biermann’s ready for a breakout season. There are some other talent evaluators around the league that think Biermann doesn’t have all that much upside. But I’m going to take the word of Smith and Dimitroff and trust what I saw out of Biermann in camp and the preseason and give him a high ranking.
  6. Greg Hardy, Panthers. This guy’s been getting tons of preseason hype and some fans are comparing him to Peppers. That’s a stretch. But I’ve been told by the Panthers and people who’ve been watching Hardy from a distance that this guy’s for real -- as long as he can keep focused on football.
  7. Tyler Brayton, Panthers. We’ll twist a common phrase from coach John Fox and say Brayton is what he is. That’s a pretty solid all-around defensive end. In a lot of ways, he’s a lot like New Orleans’ Brown.
  8. [+] EnlargeLawrence Sidbury
    AP Photo/Steve NesiusLawrence Sidbury has potential, but he recorded just five tackles -- including one sack -- during his rookie season.
    Lawrence Sidbury, Falcons. We’ll jump back to projecting here. Sidbury didn’t do much as a rookie, but there are people around the league who think he has a lot more upside than Biermann.
  9. Jimmy Wilkerson, Saints. He’s pretty much in the same category as Brown and Brayton. In fact, Wilkerson probably would be higher on this list if he wasn’t coming off a major knee injury.
  10. Everette Brown, Panthers. Carolina drafted Brown last year thinking he might be the eventual replacement for Peppers and that still could happen. The Panthers believe Brown has lots of upside, but his development has not been rapid.
  11. Chauncey Davis, Falcons. One talent evaluator thinks Davis is enormously underrated. In Atlanta’s defensive-line rotation, where it doesn’t really matter who starts, Davis is going to get a lot of playing time. He’s good against the run and isn’t a bad pass rusher, although his lack of height sometimes keeps him from really disrupting passes.
  12. Stylez G. White, Buccaneers. He’s the best Tampa Bay has right now. The Bucs have tried to light a fire under him in the preseason by publicly questioning his practice efforts. They’re also disappointed he hasn’t stepped forward at all as a leader of a very young defensive line. But White’s never been a great practice player and has been reasonably productive in the regular season.
  13. Jamaal Anderson, Falcons. No doubt this guy has been a huge bust as a defensive end and maybe you can’t even call him a defensive end anymore. He started rotating inside last year and could get even more work at tackle this year. This guy’s not going to give you any pass rush from the outside, but he can play the run.
  14. Kyle Moore, Buccaneers. He seems to have landed the starting spot opposite White. Part of that is because Moore’s been decent, but part of it is because the Bucs have no one else who is ready.
  15. Bobby McCray, Saints. New Orleans let him go after last season and brought him back at a reduced salary. There’s no guarantee he’ll make the regular-season roster. McCray’s a guy that’s supposed to be a pass-rush specialist in a rotation. He ended up starting a lot in place of Grant last year and produced 1.5 sacks. Maybe, in the right situation, McCray can be a pass-rush specialist, but he’s never really lived up to that reputation.
  16. Michael Bennett, Buccaneers. This guy’s unknown and undersized, but he’s had some flashes as a pass rusher in the preseason. He could be used in a rotation as a situational pass rusher. But, keep an eye on how White’s season goes. If White struggles, Bennett could end up starting later in the season as Tampa Bay continues its youth movement.

Looking back at Carolina's loss

August, 22, 2010
Let's take a quick look back at Carolina's 9-3 loss to the New York Jets on Saturday night.

Scott Fowler plays optimist and pessimist on Carolina’s loss, which is a smart way to look at preseason games. But the offense definitely earned some pessimism. If it stays like this, Jake Delhomme suddenly will be viewed as a hero again in Charlotte.

Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins made his return to Charlotte and was very honest about the greeting he received.

Rookie Armanti Edwards continued to struggle – this time as a punt returner. He’s already been struggling as a receiver. Bottom line here is if Edwards isn’t ready to contribute as a receiver and can’t field punts, he’s not going to be seeing the field when the regular season starts.

One of the bright spots was the play of defensive end Everette Brown. He got the start and delivered a sack and played well against the run. Brown’s a guy with a lot of potential, but he really hadn’t flashed in camp. This might be a sign that he is ready to contribute.

Tuesday evening mailbag

August, 17, 2010
JM in Charlotte writes: I haven't heard much regarding Everette Brown so far and he didn't register any stats against the Ravens. Have you heard anything about him? How's he coming along?

Pat Yasinskas: The Panthers have been very quiet about Brown, their top draft pick from a year ago. They’ve talked a lot about rookies Greg Hardy and Eric Norwood and I’ve heard some positive words about Charles Johnson. But I haven’t really heard that Brown is doing anything especially well or badly. He is a guy with good physical skills, so there still is time for him to emerge.

Adam in Columbia, SC writes: I saw Jake Delhomme's highlights and think that the Panthers may have done him a favor by letting him go. Delhomme had relied on Steve Smith for far too long to the point that he locked onto Smitty like a laser.

Pat Yasinskas: No argument here. As much as I enjoyed covering Delhomme and respect him as a person, the Panthers had to make a move at quarterback. There was no way they could have brought Delhomme back after last year because it would have sent a terrible sign to the rest of the locker room. The Panthers had to hand Delhomme the $12 million he was guaranteed and move forward with Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen.

A.J. in Charlotte writes: While I understand your argument to keep Ward in case Caddy has to go to the repair shop, I believe you are forgetting another proven veteran runner already on the team; Earnest Graham. We have at least 2 fullbacks (Pressley / Taylor) we can use if Caddy goes down and switch Graham to HB. Cut Ward, use Huggins, and if Caddy gets hurt switch in Graham.

Pat Yasinskas: I’m not arguing that the Bucs should keep Derrick Ward, who’s been nothing but a disappointment since his arrival. I’m just saying they may decide to keep him simply to have someone in place in case anything does happen to Williams. At least when he was with the Giants, Ward did some good things. I like Kareem Huggins a lot, but I’m not sure he’s ready or able to be a No. 2 back. He’s undersized and his role might be as more of a third-down back. Yes, the Bucs always could switch Graham back to tailback. But he’s pretty solid as a fullback and has spent the entire offseason working there. I think you only move him in an emergency.

Rick in Marietta, Ohio, writes: On the Derrick Ward front, should the Bucs decide to trade him. Does the NFL work like baseball and basketball, in that can they trade him and pay part of his salary?

Pat Yasinskas: No, if they trade him, the other team would have to take on his contract, which includes about $11.5 million remaining in base salaries. I can’t see another team taking on that salary for a guy who has disappeared like Ward. Plus, if there is interest in Ward, teams might want to see if he’s cut because they could then sign him to a new contract.