NFC South: Jason Craft
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Some random thoughts as cutdown day comes to an end.
More than a little surprised the Panthers kept kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. A move like that is out of character for coach John Fox who usually plays things straight by the book. By keeping Lloyd, the Panthers will only carry four running backs (DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, fullback Brad Hoover and Nick Goings, who can play both positions). But I think Fox made a good move because short kickoffs have been a problem for the Panthers in recent years.
The Bucs kept four quarterbacks, but you still have to wonder if they have a true quarterback of the future. As long as Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese are around and healthy, Luke McCown's not going to get on the field. Rookie Josh Johnson's not even close to being ready to contribute. No matter how this season plays out for Tampa Bay's quarterbacks, don't be surprised if Jon Gruden, who is more than a little infatuated with quarterbacks, goes out and addresses the position again after the season.
To the surprise of many, the Saints kept cornerbacks Jason David, Jason Craft and Aaron Glenn on the roster. That gives the Saints seven cornerbacks, but don't expect them to go through the entire season with this many. Carrying the extra help might be nothing more than an early precaution because Mike McKenzie is coming back from major knee surgery and Usama Young has been battling an injury.
The Falcons kept six wide receivers, but that decision wasn't because the team expects Brian Finneran or Adam Jennings to catch many passes. Finneran, who missed two seasons with knee problems, stuck because he's expected to play a big role on special teams. Jennings stayed because he's likely to be the punt returner.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Veteran cornerbacks Jason David, Jason Craft and Aaron Glenn are on the bubble for roster spots. The Saints have Mike McKenzie, Tracy Porter and Randall Gay as their top three corners and Usama Young seems to have the edge for the No. 4 spot. That leaves either one or two roster spots for the three veterans. David, who cost the Saints a fourth-round draft pick and a $16.5 million contract in 2007, took much of the blame for last year's defensive struggles. If the Saints release him, they'll take a salary cap hit of around $3 million.
Jimmy Wilkerson, who never was able to make much of an impact in Kansas City, may parlay a strong preseason into a spot in Tampa Bay's defensive tackle rotation. Wilkerson's chances of making the roster are boosted by his ability to also play defensive end.
Although rookie Jonathan Stewart likely will play a big role at running back, the Panthers are considering using him on kickoff returns. Return specialist Ryne Robinson has been sidelined by an injury. Stewart returned kicks in college and may have more upside than Robinson.
In a story that details how the roster might look, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wonders which two quarterbacks the Falcons will keep behind rookie Matt Ryan. The team could keep Chris Redman and Joey Harrington or let one of the veterans go and keep D.J. Shockley. The guess here is the Falcons will cut Shockley, but try to bring him back to the practice squad if he makes it through waivers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat YasinskasGranbury writes: Do you think the Saints starting Cbs will be Young and Randall Gay?
Pat Yasinskas: I don't see Usama Young as a starter just yet, but I think Gay could be a candidate for the starting job opposite Mike McKenzie. But rookie Tracy Porter, Aaron Glenn, Jason David and Jason Craft also are in the mix.
Killeen writes: How do you think the Panthers will do this year?
Pat Yasinskas: As long as Jake Delhomme's elbow stays healthy, they're probably a playoff team. If that happens and Julius Peppers rebounds from last year and rookie running back Jonathan Stewart is what I think he is, the Panthers could win the NFC South and go deep into the playoffs. If Delhomme's elbow suffers any setback, it could be another tough year because the Panthers rely so heavily on him.
Carlos in Lexington writes: I was wondering what you thought of DJ Shockley's chances of getting any play time for the Falcons. I'm thinking that since Matt Ryan was drafted, his shot at playing for them is over, but I'm also thinking that his chances of pl for another team are just as low. Do you think he still has a shot at playing in the NFL?
Pat Yasinskas: I saw Shockley in Atlanta's camp over the weekend and he looked pretty good. He's coming back from injury, but appears to be healthy. He's a long shot to stick with the Falcons because they likely want to surround Ryan with the experienced Joey Harrington and Chris Redman. If there's not a place in Atlanta for Shockley, that doesn't mean his career's over. He has as much talent as some potential No. 3 quarterbacks out there. If he can showcase his ability in preseason games, he could land in a situation where he'd have a legitimate shot at a No. 3 job.
Michelle in Greensboro, NC writes: We would love to have Brett Favre at Carolina. Favre would have a very talented wide receiver in Steve Smith. Running game is looking better. Offensive line is looking better. Great defense. He would love the weather down here. He could continue to play outside. We would not have a problem with naming him the starter.
Pat Yasinskas: Appreciate your admiration of Favre. I admire him, too. But I don't think the powers that be in Carolina feel the same way you do. I've talked to folks within the Panthers and they tell me they're fully confident in Delhomme's elbow and they're sticking with him at quarterback.
Gerry in Jacksonville Fl writes: I'm originally born & bred in NC. Grew up in Durham, went to high school there etc etc. Been big Cats fan since day1..Who do you think will come out on top as far as RB's go & WR's (less Smitty and we know why)?????
Pat Yasinskas: As you point out, Steve Smith is all set at the No. 1 wide receiver spot and that's a great start. The Panthers have some solid options at No. 2. Muhsin Muhammad is the safe choice, but D.J. Hackett could be ready to step into the starting role. If Dwayne Jarrett has a great camp, he could be a factor. However it sorts out, I think I like Carolina's 1-2 punch at receiver better than anyone else's in the division. Smith is the best receiver in the division and Muhammad or Hackett could be more dependable than any other No. 2 receiver in the NFC South.
Jimmy in New Orleans writes: I've been hearing good things about the new Saints' defensive end Bobby McCray. Provided that Sedrick Ellis lives up to expectations, do you think the Saints will ever go with a line of McCray, Charles Grant, Ellis, and Will Smith in certain situations?
Pat Yasinskas: There's a very good chance of that and I was thinking about it as I watched the Saints practice. Grant or Smith could slide inside on passing downs and that would give the Saints three strong pass rushers, plus Ellis, who the Saints expect to create some push in the middle.
Bert in Raleigh writes: Who do you see winning the Panthers TE battle? As a Hokie of Course I am rooting for Jeff King especially after the year he had last year, but I know they want to go to a two TE set who else do you see starting?
Pat Yasinskas: King almost has to remain as No. 1 on the depth chart. He had a decent season despite all the problems at quarterback. But I think you could see Donte Rosario getting a lot of playing time, too. He came on strong at the end of last year and caught the attention of the coaching staff.
N. Lemons in Tampa Bay writes: Do you believe that the bucs may have a quarterback dilemma with numerous QBs and considering Brett?
Pat Yasinskas: Wouldn't call it a dilemma as much as I'd call it a good thing. With Jeff Garcia, the Bucs already have a starter coming off a Pro Bowl and a solid backup in Brian Griese and a couple young prospects. With Favre, they'd have an upgrade on Garcia, who would almost surely be shipped out. Either way, they're going to have an experienced and proven starter.
J in Atlanta writes: Do you see Matt Ryan starting this year? Also, how do you see the Falcons this year?
Pat Yasinskas: I see Ryan starting, but my guess is it will come sometime around mid-season. There's going to be temptation to play him from Day 1. But this is a team with a lot of questions and it might be better to bring Ryan along slowly. It could be better in the long term if he doesn't get thrown into it from the start like, for example, David Carr, who never recovered from the pounding he took in Houston. Let Chris Redman or Joey Harrington start for a bit and see how things develop. The Falcons, obviously, face an uphill battle. But I see them making some progress. I've compared them before to the 2002 Carolina Panthers. John Fox took over from George Seifert after a 1-15 team. Right away, Fox made the Panthers respectable. The next season he had them in the Super Bowl. I think Atlanta could make progress close to that in two years, but it will require another offseason of strong personnel moves.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas.
JACKSON, Miss. -- The Saints are getting some positive news on the injury front.
Cornerback Mike McKenzie, who suffered a knee injury late last season, is expected to begin practicing early next week, coach Sean Payton said Friday morning. McKenzie, who had surgery to repair a torn right ACL, has been working on the side the first few days of camp.
Payton said the team will bring McKenzie along slowly. He'll get some practices off on and the Saints hope to use McKenzie in the third or fourth preseason game. There's no need to rush McKenzie, who almost certainly will be a starter. That will give the Saints a chance to take a long look at Jason David, Randall Gay, Jason Craft and Usama Young, who are competing for the other starting spot.
In other news, offensive tackle Jammal Brown was not in camp Friday because of a death in the family. He's expected to return Saturday.