NFC South: Greg Schaino

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.

Around the NFC South

May, 3, 2012
Let's take a look at the top Thursday morning headlines from around the division.

There had been some uncertainty as to how the Falcons will deploy their cornerbacks now that Asante Samuel has joined the mix. General manager Thomas Dimitroff cleared that up by saying the plan is to slide Dunta Robinson inside and let him handle slot receivers. Samuel and Brent Grimes will play the outside.

Martin Fennelly writes that Tampa Bay’s signing of Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand is the best signing in franchise history. I couldn’t agree more, even though LeGrand never will play with the Bucs. This one came from the heart of Greg Schiano, who coached LeGrand at Rutgers, until a 2010 game in which LeGrand was paralyzed. Schiano and LeGrand have remained especially close. This move was all about the relationship between Schiano and LeGrand. But when fans see things like that, the Bucs, who haven’t been easy to embrace in recent years, suddenly become a lot more likeable.

Stephen Holder has a list of several undrafted players who have a chance to start the process of earning roster spots in Tampa Bay’s upcoming rookie camp.

New Orleans defensive end Will Smith has said he’ll appeal his four-game suspension and linebacker Jonathan Vilma has implied he’ll do the same with his season-long suspension. But a legal expert says they’ll face an uphill battle because they’re appealing to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the same man who handed down the punishments. Goodell already upheld appeals of suspensions by coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis.

Carolina undrafted receiver Jared Green has good speed and bloodlines. He’s the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Darrell Green. But he’s raw after a college career that included stops at Virginia and Southern.