NFC South: Greg Romeus

Bucs, Falcons make most of injuries

December, 4, 2012
When a team’s season goes bad, one common response is to point to injuries.

Sometimes that holds merit and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t have to look any further than the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to see that.

At least at the moment, the Panthers lead the division with 13 players on injured reserve. They are linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Ron Edwards, cornerback Chris Gamble, center Ryan Kalil, defensive end Thomas Keiser, cornerback Nate Ness, linebacker Kenny Onatolu, receiver Kealoha Pilares, guard Mike Pollak, safety Sherrod Martin, defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite, running back Tauren Poole and tackle Lee Ziemba.

The Buccaneers are right behind them with 10 players on injured reserve. They are receiver Arrelious Benn, linebacker Quincy Black, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, safety Cody Grimm, guard Davin Joseph, guard Carl Nicks, tight end Danny Noble, receiver Sammie Stroughter, tackle Jeremy Trueblood and offensive lineman Desmond Wynn.

Beason, Edwards, Gamble and Kalil were starters and Pilares was the kick returner. No doubt those injuries have hurt the Panthers.

But, guess what? Tampa Bay’s injury situation is virtually the same. Black, Clayborn, Joseph and Nicks were starters and Benn was returning kicks before he went down.

The difference is Tampa Bay has used its next-man-up philosophy, especially on the offensive line, and fared pretty well. The Panthers are 3-9 and I’ve got a hunch their record might be pretty close to the same even if all the injured guys were healthy.

Injuries matter but they’re not a cover-it-all excuse. We can look to the other two NFC South teams for proof of that. The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints each have eight players on injured reserve.

Atlanta’s injured players are fullback Bradie Ewing, tight end Tommy Gallarda, receiver Kerry Meier, tight end Adam Nissley, guard Garrett Reynolds, safety Shann Schillinger and tackle Will Svitek.

New Orleans’ injured reserve list includes linebacker Chris Chamberlain, receiver Chris Givens, tackle Bryce Harris, tackle Marcel Jones, defensive end Greg Romeus, guard Andrew Tiller, receiver Nick Toon and tackle Fenuki Tupou.

Grimes was a starter for the Falcons and Ewing might have been. Reynolds was starting up until his injury, but I think there’s a chance the Falcons still might have put rookie Peter Konz into the lineup. Chamberlain might have been a full-time starter for the Saints, but none of the rest of their injured guys would have been key players.

You could make a case the Falcons were hit harder than the Saints by injuries. But the Falcons are 11-1 and the Saints are 5-7.

Saints down another QB

June, 13, 2012
New Orleans head coach Joe Vitt just met with the media and explained why quarterback Chase Daniel didn’t practice Wednesday and cleared up the mystery that surfaced when Daniel showed up at a charity event with his right (throwing) hand in some sort of brace.

Vitt said Daniel has a hairline fracture on his thumb. Vitt said the injury happened when Daniel hit the thumb on a helmet.

Daniel had been getting all of the first-team work this offseason because starter Drew Brees has been away from the team while trying to work out a long-term contract. Vitt said Daniel will be fine for training camp, but won’t be allowed to throw for the next few weeks. Sean Canfield and recently signed Luke McCown ran the offense in Wednesday’s session.

I don’t think Daniel’s situation adds any urgency to getting the Brees deal done. The Saints can finish their offseason program with Canfield and McCown. I’m still expecting Brees will get a new deal shortly before the July 16 deadline for franchise players to sign long-term contracts.

Vitt also announced that defensive end Greg Romeus recently suffered a torn ACL. The Saints had high hopes for Romeus, who sat out his rookie season after tearing his other ACL while still in college. Without Romeus, the chances of converted linebacker Martez Wilson and Junior Galette getting more playing time at defensive end will increase.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints went through two minicamp practices Tuesday. I'm working on several columns and other items for the future, but let me share some quick notes and observations from the first day of minicamp.
  • At times, quarterback Chase Daniel looked very good while working with the first team. Same for Sean Canfield, but it’s pretty obvious these guys aren’t quite on Drew Brees’ level. I’m pretty sure Tuesday was the first time I’ve seen the Saints practice and witnessed back-to-back incompletions. That basically doesn’t happen with Brees.
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said it’s too early to talk about defensive linemen because they’re not hitting and they’re not in pads. But it’s pretty obvious Vitt is high on young defensive ends Greg Romeus, Junior Galette and Martez Wilson.
  • Vitt said he’s not ready to say that Wilson’s move from linebacker to defensive end is permanent. But Vitt said Wilson’s past as a linebacker gives him an advantage on the other defensive ends as they sometimes are being asked to drop into pass coverage in the new defensive scheme.
  • Although the Saints had only five draft picks this year, Vitt said he views the class as having six members. Romeus had to sit out his rookie season with a knee injury and Vitt said he’s being treated as a rookie.
  • Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo expressed the same precaution about judging defensive linemen before full contact, but he sounded very high on defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, who joined the Saints during the offseason. Spagnuolo raved about Bunkley’s fundamentals and attention to detail.
  • Tight end Jimmy Graham appears to have added some muscle in the offseason. I asked him about it and Graham said his weight is still 265, but said he’s spent a little more time in the weight room and has added some muscle.
  • The Saints added a little secondary depth just before minicamp. They signed former Tampa Bay cornerback Elbert Mack.
  • The Saints lost guard Carl Nicks to Tampa Bay in free agency, but quickly replaced him with Ben Grubbs. Nicks may be the best guard in the NFL, but Grubbs isn’t bad. In fact, he may be better than Nicks in some ways. “I think that he is probably a little better communicator on the line of scrimmage than Carl Nicks,’’ Vitt said.
  • The Saints clearly are in the experimental stages at linebacker. They opened the morning session with Curtis Lofton, Scott Shanle and David Hawthorne working with the first team. In the afternoon session, they shook things up and had free-agent pickup Chris Chamberlain working with the first team in Shanle's spot.
  • Zach Strief worked with the first team at right tackle in the morning session, but Strief wasn’t on the field in the afternoon. It wasn’t clear if Strief was injured or if there was another reason for his absence. Rookie Marcel Jones worked with the first team in the afternoon. I’m not sure that bodes well for the future of Charles Brown, who Vitt previously said was competing for a starting job.
  • Left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who was rehabbing an injury through the early part of organized team activities, was back on the field and practicing with the first team Tuesday.
  • Former Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson, now the head coach at Tulane, brought his staff out to watch practice. Vitt said Johnson offered a critique after the morning session.
  • I know a lot of New Orleans fans like to criticize strong safety Roman Harper’s pass- coverage skills. But I did see Haprer coming through with a nice breakup on a deep pass in the morning session.

Around the NFC South

June, 4, 2012
Time for a look at some of the headlines from around the NFC South.
  • Although Martez Wilson, Junior Galette and Greg Romeus have generated a buzz due to their potential, Mike Triplett writes that Turk McBride is the favorite to start at right defensive end for the Saints the first four games of the season, if Will Smith’s suspension is upheld. McBride started last year when Smith was suspended at the start of the season and produced two sacks in three games before being slowed by injuries.
  • The Panthers brought in Haruki Nakamura and Reggie Smith, but Sherrod Martin still believes the starting job at free safety is his. But Martin acknowledges he has to improve his tackling. He missed far too many open-field tackles last season. I think Martin has the inside track on the starting job. But I think coach Ron Rivera will keep him on a very short leash. We could see Nakamura or Smith pushed into the lineup the first time Martin misses a tackle.
  • Atlanta receiver Roddy White said he might be doing less in Atlanta’s offense next season. That doesn’t mean White’s numbers will drop dramatically. It just means the Falcons are diversifying their offense and some things will be different. They’ll be throwing more to Jacquizz Rodgers out of the backfield and using more tight ends. Still, I think there will be plenty of passes thrown down the field for White and Julio Jones.
  • Sports Illustrated, which picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl last season, isn’t quite as high on them this time around. Sports Illustrated is projecting the Falcons to reach the playoffs, but said they have too many question marks to make a deep run in the postseason.
  • Tampa Bay made a big splash in free agency this year, but don’t expect that to happen every year. Coach Greg Schiano said his basic philosophy is to build through the draft and that’s the same philosophy held by general manager Mark Dominik. The two decided this was an exceptional year because the Bucs had plenty of salary-cap room and guys such as Carl Nicks, Vincent Jackson and Eric Wright were on the market. There’s one other factor at work here that makes me believe Schiano is very serious when he said this year was unique. Looking ahead at Tampa Bay’s salary-cap situation for 2013, the Bucs already have committed about $115 million in salary-cap space and that’s not even counting rookies Mark Barron and Doug Martin, who have yet to sign. The Bucs simply aren’t going to have a lot of cap space next year.
I’m scheduled to make the trek to New Orleans later Monday, to cover the Saints’ minicamp that starts Tuesday.

I’ll be watching for all sorts of stuff, but let’s pick a few of the more important things I’ll be keeping an eye on.

The atmosphere. Normally, there’s not much difference, other than faces and names, from one NFL minicamp to another. But this isn’t a normal year for the Saints. In fact, they’re going through one of the most unique periods any franchise in any sport has faced. The Saints are without suspended head coach Sean Payton. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt, the guy standing in Payton’s place right now, will be suspended for the first six games of the season. General manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight games. Unless they win appeals, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma will be suspended for the entire season and defensive end Will Smith will be suspended for the first four games.

Oh, and throw in the fact that quarterback Drew Brees hasn’t reached a long-term deal or signed his franchise tag. Unless something changes dramatically and rapidly, Brees won’t be at this minicamp. It’s going to be weird to see the Saints without Payton and Brees.

The Saints are doing the only logical and smart thing. They’re just following Payton’s system. That makes sense because it’s been successful and this is an experienced coaching staff and there are plenty of veteran players. The Saints are trying to carry on with business as usual, but I’m curious to see if it looks like anything close to normal.

The defensive line. The word out of the early organized team activities is that the Saints are trying all sorts of different things up front. They’ve moved linebacker Martez Wilson to defensive end and they’re using some formations where they’re moving defensive ends to defensive tackle. That might not be a bad idea because the Saints have to get better with their pass rush up front.

Smith is New Orleans’ only proven pass rusher and the Saints have to pressure quarterbacks while he’s suspended and he can’t do it all by himself. I’m curious to see what Wilson looks like as a defensive end. I’m also looking forward to watching Junior Galette and Greg Romeus. Those are two young defensive ends with plenty of upside and this could be the year they get to play a lot.

Steve Spagnuolo. The new defensive coordinator is putting in a whole new defensive system. Previous coordinator Gregg Williams was noted for his exotic blitz packages. Spagnuolo is known for taking a more conventional approach. He likes to get most of his pressure from the front four and let the back seven focus on pass coverage.

I think the Saints have made some very nice moves adding linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne and there’s some talent in the secondary with Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins. But strong safety Roman Harper isn’t known for his coverage skills. Harper’s had a lot of success as a blitzer. I’m curious to see if Spaguolo will try to make Harper fit into his scheme or if he’ll allow Harper to continue to do what he does best.

I’m thinking Spagnuolo might be wise to bend on this one a little bit because Harper’s ability on the blitz could help a front four that needs plenty of help.
For the most part, the New Orleans Saints are keeping things status quo while coach Sean Payton is suspended.

But interim coach Joe Vitt revealed a few tweaks when he met with the media after Thursday’s practice. There are changes coming on defense, which isn’t Payton’s side of the ball. But you can bet Payton signed off on the changes before he began his suspension. He already had brought in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to improve a defense that struggled at times the past two seasons.

Vitt said the Saints gave up too many big plays last season and the defense will look to include more zone schemes. It appears that also means there will be some personnel changes. Linebacker Martez Wilson, who showed some promise last year, has been moved to defensive end. He was lining up Thursday opposite Greg Romeus, another 2011 draft pick who missed last season with an injury.

"We've got a lot of zone pressures now and it's going to call for a defensive end to drop into coverage," Vitt said. "And Martez has got a pretty good foundation from being here a year ago with coverage and coverage aspects. So we've been very encouraged for the first week of what he's done. He'll be our right end. He does a pretty good job with pattern recognition. This is a time to experiment and we'll see what he can do."

Wilson has some quickness and that should help him at defensive end in a Spagnuolo defense. Spagnuolo likes to generate most of his pressure from the front four, but Wilson’s ability to drop into coverage could give the Saints some flexibility. Wilson’s quickness also could help him as a pass-rusher. Romeus also has potential as a pass-rusher.

Cameron Jordan, a first-round pick last year, is set to start at one defensive end spot. The Saints could have three players from the 2011 draft as their top three ends on opening day. Will Smith is New Orleans’ top end, but the NFL has suspended him for the first four games. Smith is appealing the suspension, but it looks like the Saints are coming up with alternatives.

Film of the NFC South chat

May, 19, 2012
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from Friday’s NFC South chat.

Ryan (Charlotte): Regression or Progression. Which will be the theme for Cam Newton next year.

Pat Yasinskas: I see progress. He's got a full offseason with the coaches and the play book this time around.

Chris (taylor): Saw you just made the article about the lawsuit. Article 43 section 1 states that per agreement, Vilma can only take grievance with the NFl, not the legal system. Do you think that the case will be thrown out?

Pat Yasinskas: Again, I'm no legal expert. But Munson is our legal expert and he said he believes there is a good chance it will get dismissed.

Bryant (Virginia): what are the bucs expecting to get out of McCoy/Price? Do you expect them to have big years?

Pat Yasinskas: They both have flashed promise when they've been healthy. But there's no denying this will be a crucial season for McCoy. He needs to stay healthy and start reaching his potential.

RossMcR (Glasgow, Scotland): Pat, I am not too concerned about the Brees lack of talks with Saints at this point however I do expect them to ramp up now! When do you expect this to get resolved??

Pat Yasinskas: Deadline to sign franchise players to long-term deals is July 16. I'm guessing it will play out pretty close to the deadline.

Kris (One Buc, FL): Who do you see having a better year? Freeman or Matt Ryan?

Pat Yasinskas: Hmmm, I'll say Ryan. I think Freeman will be much better than last year. But I think Ryan might really take a big step up in their new offense.

Brian (Baton Rouge): Much has been made of the Saints' "lack of depth" at DE this offseason. I think both Junior Gallette and Greg Romeus have a chance to blossom under Spags' guidance. Your thoughts?

Pat Yasinskas: Yeah, bringing up Romeus is a good point. He's supposed to be healthy and I think he could be a player. Gallette definitely has some raw talent and could be helped by Spags.

Tony (Richmond, CA): Will Mike Smith & Matt Ryan get over the hump this year and finally win a playoff game? If not, do questions begin swirling around the coach and his ability to take Atlanta to the next level?

Pat Yasinskas: Yeah, I think it's pretty obvious this is a crucial year for Smith. He needs to win a playoff game. Not saying he'll be fired if he doesn't, but the pressure is definitely on.

Scott (maine): when its all said and done who do you see playing oline for falcons?

Pat Yasinskas: I say Hawley at center with Konz and Blalock at guards. Clabo at RT. And this probably isn't what you want to hear ...but Baker at LT. I think they're serious about sticking with him -- for better or worse.

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

Around the NFC South

November, 9, 2011
Time for a run through the top headlines around the NFC South.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey, who is on a one-year contract, said he’d like to stay longer in Carolina. I think the Panthers might have some interest in keeping Shockey, who has been used in tandem with Greg Olsen. Shockey is 31, but he’s stayed healthy so far this season. As a role player, Shockey might be able to go a few more years.

D. Orlando Ledbetter has his midseason report card on the Falcons. He’s a pretty generous grader. There’s nothing on there below a C.

New Orleans rookie defensive end Greg Romeus will begin practicing Wednesday. Romeus has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list all season. He was a seventh-round draft pick and is coming off ACL surgery. Once he starts practicing, the Saints have a 21-day window in which they can activate Romeus to the 53-man roster.

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who will miss the rest of the season with an injury to his right biceps tendon, is scheduled for surgery Wednesday. McCoy missed part of last season with an injury to his left biceps tendon. McCoy suggested the injuries may be due to a hereditary condition.

Saints put two RBs on injured reserve

September, 2, 2011
It looks like running back Joique Bell, who has been one of the stars of the preseason for the New Orleans Saints, will make the 53-man roster.

That’s not definite yet, but Bell’s chances increased considerably Friday night as the Saints made some roster moves at running back. They placed Chris Ivory and Patrick Cobbs on injured reserve.

That leaves Bell with a chance to be a backup and special-teams player in a backfield that also includes Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.

Wide receiver Joe Morgan, another preseason star, was placed on injured reserve along with safety Paul Oliver. Defensive end Greg Romeus was placed on the non-football injured list.

The Saints terminated the contracts of tackle Jordan Black, safety Quincy Butler, tackle George Foster, tight end Tory Humphrey, cornerback Trumaine McBride, safety Pierson Prioleau, safety Chris Reis and fullback Chris Taylor.

The Saints also placed receiver Montez Billings, defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, tight end Tyler Lorenzen and linebacker Dwight Roberson on waivers.
We still don’t know exactly what the Saints will be getting from the Dolphins in exchange for Reggie Bush. But we do know that safety Jonathon Amaya is at least part of the package, according to ESPN’s John Clayton.

Although veteran safeties Roman Harper and Darren Sharper are free agents, I wouldn’t go reading too much into the Amaya acquisition. He might have some upside, but he appeared in only 10 games as a backup last season. At best, he can begin his time with the Saints as a backup safety and special-teams player.

In other Saints news, defensive tackle Remi Ayodele has agreed to terms with the Vikings. Ayodele became expendable with the signing of Shaun Rogers prior to the lockout

The Saints also reportedly have agreed to terms with seventh-round draft picks Greg Romeus and Nate Bussey.