NFC South: Jason Elam
What it means: Much like the Saints, who won an ugly game against Carolina, the Falcons struggled with a winless San Francisco team for most of the day. But, just like the Saints, the Falcons won it at the end. That means Atlanta, which might have been a bit worn out by last week’s big win against New Orleans, remains tied with the Saints at 3-1 atop the NFC South.
What’s next: The Falcons travel to Cleveland next week. After that, there’s a big storyline developing on the horizon. On Oct. 17, Atlanta goes to Philadelphia to face the Eagles and quarterback Michael Vick.
Hero: Matt Bryant. For the second straight week, Bryant hit a late field goal to give the Falcons a win. Bryant’s become pretty much what the Falcons thought they had in Jason Elam last year – a steady veteran who doesn’t miss clutch kicks.
Unsung hero: Roddy White. Yeah, he’s a Pro Bowl receiver, so it’s kind of hard to call him unsung. But White made a big play in a unique role against the 49ers. He hustled down the field and forced a fumble by cornerback Nate Clements, who had just intercepted a pass. The Falcons recovered and that helped set up the winning kick.
What I liked: After last week’s victory in New Orleans, the Falcons talked about a “character win’’. That was true, but I think you also could call this one a character win. Anytime you aren’t playing at the top of your game and still win, it shows you have character.
He’s been through more tragedy and a very humbling experience since that 2008 weekend when he buried his infant son and booted the Buccaneers to victory. But if you thought all those off-field sorrows were going to relegate Bryant to a spot in the minor leagues and send him on a path out of football, think again.
Bryant, 34, is back in the NFL, back in the NFC South and doing just fine. He’s the kicker for the Atlanta Falcons and, in some ways, he’s stronger now than he was before the sudden death of his infant son, Tryson, and the slow and painful death of his father.
“There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t think about my son and now my dad," Bryant said after a recent workout with the Falcons. "That just never goes away. It doesn’t change and it probably never will. That’s all right because that’s my life. But when I step out on the field, no matter what has happened off the field, I go out there with the mentality of trying to be the best.''
That’s Bryant’s mindset these days and he’s in a good spot. The Falcons have some younger kickers on the roster, but all indications are they’ll go with Bryant as long as he kicks well in training camp and the preseason.
“Right now, Matt Bryant is our kicker, but we have a very competitive situation,’’ Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. “Matt’s advantage is he has done it in this league. He’s had some tough times personally, but he’s a very strong man.’’
Probably stronger than any of us realize. After going undrafted out of Baylor, Bryant had to scratch and claw his way to the NFL. He worked in a pawn shop and as a personal trainer for several years before catching on with the New York Giants in 2002. He bounced around with the Colts and Dolphins, too, before finally finding what seemed like a home in Tampa Bay in 2005.
But a strange thing happened when coach Jon Gruden was fired after the 2008 season. Even though Bryant temporarily survived the purge of veterans such as Derrick Brooks that started soon after coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik took over, it quickly became obvious he also was on the way out.
The Bucs spent $2.4 million (more than double Bryant’s salary) to bring in kicker Mike Nugent.
“That was their guy," Bryant said. “It was very clear and obvious. I’d love to tell you the whole story and if I do it would actually accomplish something. If I thought it would do any good, I would. But it would probably actually hurt me. Let’s just say it was a very frustrating situation that could have been easily resolved. All the way from the top, from the owners to the GM, it was a frustrating situation that I wish I never had to have been a part of it. My family and I loved Tampa and the fans were absolutely great. But there are some situations you can’t pick and choose."
The Bucs kept Bryant through training camp as he dealt with a hamstring injury. He said he was healthy enough to kick by the final preseason game, but the Bucs didn’t let him. The Bucs never really have commented on Bryant's departure, only saying they brought in Nugent for competition. But the Bucs later released Nugent who struggled with consistency. The Bucs released Bryant in the final cut and the perception around the league was he still had hamstring issues.
He got a tryout in Cleveland last September.
“It was exactly a year from the day Tryson had passed,’’ Bryant said. “Going into it, I didn’t feel very good and I hadn’t kicked with a snapper and a holder in two months. I didn’t have a great workout.’’
That left Bryant with only one option -- taking a big step back from the NFL. He signed a contract with the Orlando Tuskers of the United Football League. That’s where Bryant’s kicking stroke firmly returned and the Falcons kept an eye on him from a distance. With veteran Jason Elam struggling with accuracy, the Falcons signed Bryant on Dec. 1, 2009.
“Going to the UFL was good,’’ Bryant said. “The pay was considerably less, but it still was football. It was good football. Everybody was there for their own reasons. I want to publicly thank them for letting me come into their league.’’
Bryant finished the season with Atlanta, but not without another tragedy. After a lengthy battle with ALS, Bryant’s father passed away late last season. Bryant had another funeral to attend, but didn’t miss any game time.
Painful as it may be, Bryant is trying to put distance on the tragedies. He’s spent much of his offseason in Atlanta and his family recently moved into the area. Wife Melissa’s been busy getting the children involved in sports and school and Bryant’s been focusing on football.
They once thought they had a long-term home in Tampa. That’s what they now are trying to build in Atlanta.
“It’s been a tough couple of years," Bryant said. “I’ve had some big losses and I’ve been very humbled professionally. But I’m coming in here and starting over. I’m approaching it with the mindset of going out there every day and doing my best and letting whatever happens happen."
That’s a good thing. Aside from the draft and the signing of cornerback Dunta Robinson, the Falcons have had a peaceful and quiet offseason, on and off the field. They’ve focused on fixing some leaky areas of a team that went 9-7 despite plenty of injuries and bad luck last year. Their core is intact and getting healthy and the Falcons could be the top challengers to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
But before they can truly fill that role, the Falcons have some questions to answer. Here’s a look at five things I’ll be watching in minicamp.
Is the secondary fixed? The Falcons signed Robinson and re-signed Brian Williams. They’ve also got safety William Moore coming back from injury. That should be enough to improve a group that took a lot of heat last year. Robinson slides in at one cornerback spot and Williams will compete with Christopher Owens, Chevis Jackson and Brent Grimes for the other. That’s not a bad collection of cornerbacks. Thomas DeCoud played well in his first season as a starter at safety, but Erik Coleman didn’t have a great year. Moore will be given every opportunity to beat out Coleman. On paper, this secondary looks good. But it could be a lot better if the Falcons can find a pass rush.
Where’s the pass rush going to come from? Atlanta’s coaches and front office will tell you the lack of a pass rush was the biggest problem for the defense last year. It’s good that’s recognized, but the Falcons haven’t made any dramatic moves up front. They’re hoping the return of defensive tackle Peria Jerry from injury can create a surge in the middle and help everyone else. But it’s pretty obvious the Falcons are counting on veteran John Abraham to bounce back from a quiet season and young defensive ends Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury to really step up.
Where does top draft pick Sean Weatherspoon fit? That’s something I’m curious to see in minicamp. The Falcons have quality starting linebackers in Curtis Lofton, Mike Peterson and Stephan Nicholas. Lofton’s not going anywhere and you don’t draft a guy in the first round to sit him on the bench. Weatherspoon’s going to get his shot at one of the outside spots. Peterson is getting older on the weak side and Weatherspoon might be his replacement. Nicholas had a decent season last year in his first season as a starter, but the Falcons could try Weatherspoon on the strong side and hope he’s more of a playmaker.
Who’s the kicker? This was a big issue last year and the Falcons finally parted ways with veteran Jason Elam after he lost his consistency. Atlanta believes it has the answer in veteran Matt Bryant, who joined the team late last year. Bryant used to be one of the league’s more reliable kickers. But his career got thrown off track in Tampa Bay by injuries and a family tragedy. The Falcons believe Bryant is healthy and ready to get back to being the kind of reliable kicker he once was.
Pat Yasinskas: No doubt kicking was an issue for the Falcons last year. But I’m not a big believer that you should draft kickers and immediately expect them to be great. Traditionally, some good kickers bounce around the league before truly finding their home, and there always are some decent kickers available. Give Bryant a chance. I know he’s settled into a home in Atlanta and is working hard to get his career back on track. He’ll get his chance to show the Falcons what he’s got left. But I’m also sure they’ll be keeping a constant eye on what other kickers might be available.
Will in New Orleans writes: The Times Picayune is reporting that the Saints are bringing Alex Brown in for a workout. If he signs with them it would seem to resolve their problem at defensive end, who would you predict them going after in the draft if they fill that spot first?
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, signing Brown would seem like a very logical move for the Saints and probably would be an upgrade over Charles Grant. But, let’s hang loose on this one a bit. The Saints have had some visitors already this offseason and they’ve let them leave without offering contracts. Those were mostly running backs and the Saints simply were doing their due diligence. It might be the same with Brown. Besides, he’s drawing interest elsewhere. There are reports saying Tampa Bay will be next on Brown's tour. I also know Carolina’s at least entertaining the idea of pursuing him. However, if the Saints do sign Brown, I think they’d be pretty well set at defensive end and their needs in the draft would be narrowed. Outside linebacker would probably top the list and there should be some good ones available at No. 32 overall. But that would give the Saints flexibility to not have to absolutely lock in on one position with their first pick.
Unknown (only because I accidentally erased the name as I pulled the question out of the mailbag and I’m sorry about that because it’s a good question) writes: With all the talk of needing a QB to go with Matt Moore in Carolina, why not Jeff Garcia? Granted they are going younger but with the lockout looming why not? He could probably be gotten on the cheap and would be a great mentor for Moore. Especially if this is John Fox's last year, you know there will be another purge with the new regime.
Pat Yasinskas: Jeff Garcia has been many things and, at times, was a very good quarterback. Not sure how much he has left. But one thing Garcia never has been and never will be is a mentor. He’s never been content to be a backup. That’s not necessarily a knock on him. He’s just a very competitive person and competitive people aren’t going to go out of their way to help the people they’re competing with.
Ryan in Wilmington, N.C., writes: Forget about Jason Campbell. What about the Panthers having a true viable alternative to Moore with Marc Bulger? I want Moore to get his chance, but I'd feel a lot more comfortable having a true vet like Bulger in case things don't go so well and Campbell is more questionable than Moore is in my opinion.
Pat Yasinskas: I think the Panthers have to at least consider Bulger. He’s a veteran and has done some good things. But at this point in his career, is he that much better than Jake Delhomme? Not so sure. If I were the Panthers, I'd want to sit down with Bulger first and see exactly what his mindset is (see Garcia question above). I’d prefer the Campbell scenario, even though there are no guarantees with Campbell. But Campbell still has upside. I say bring in Campbell, throw him out there with Moore and see if one of them rises up. One of those two guys just might emerge as a franchise quarterback -- at least in Carolina’s system.
Pat Yasinskas: No, purely a ceremonial gesture. In the case of Elam, it’s very fitting. Yes, he finished up with the Falcons, but spent the vast majority of his career with Denver.
Chris in Harrisburg, Pa., writes: What did you think of WR Carlton Mitchell and how did he perform at UFS’s pro day? Do you think the Bucs might be looking at him to fill their WR role?
Pat Yasinskas: As I reported yesterday, Mitchell appeared to do very well. Several people who actually have some draft input with their teams said they liked what they saw of Mitchell. This guy already was rising and I think he made sure Tuesday that the trend will continue. I asked one of Mitchell’s agents before the workout which teams seemed to be showing the most interest. Keep in mind it’s an agent’s job to promote his client and the answer went something like: “Any team that wants a receiver with good size, speed and character that can catch the ball should be interested in Carlton.’’ That said, after watching Mitchell’s workout, talking to him and talking to some scouts about him, I tend to agree with the agent’s answer. I think Mitchell might have pushed himself into the second round. I could see the Bucs or the Panthers taking a shot on this kid.
Jeff in Charleston, SC writes: Does Thomas Dimitroff have anyone (besides Jamaal Anderson) on the trade block? Also, is he eyeing any players around the NFL to trade for, or does he just want to stick strictly to the draft now? I would think Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling have pretty good trade value, right?
Pat Yasinskas: First off, I’m not certain Anderson is actually on the trade block, but that wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Norwood and Snelling are restricted free agents and, so far, there’s been no indication they’re drawing serious interest from other teams, and we’re two weeks away from the end of restricted free agency. Never say never to anything and I’m sure Dimitroff is monitoring everything going on around the league. But he told me last week during the owners meeting that the Falcons now are focusing primarily on the draft.
Richie in New Orleans writes: Big fan of the blog. What are your thoughts on previously injured Saints' draft picks like Stanley Arnoux, Chip Vaughn, and Adrian Arrington? During the drafts, these guys seemed to have a lot of potential, but disappeared after their injuries.
Pat Yasinskas: Glad you brought those guys up because a lot of people have forgotten about them. I’m not saying any of those guys are going to come in and be immediate stars. But the Saints liked all of them when they first brought them in. They view them almost like extra draft picks this year. At very least, Arnoux and Vaughn have a chance to be regulars on special teams this year. Arrington has some nice potential, but the Saints have a deep receiving corps. Still, he’s got a chance to stick on the roster.
Chris in Charlotte writes: Do you think Jacoby Ford will make it to the 2nd Round for the Panthers selection? If not who else you think Carolina could pick up?
Pat Yasinskas: Just sampled some random projections on Ford and I’d guess the odds are pretty good he’ll be available when the Panthers pick in the second round. Seems like a lot of people are projecting him as a third-round guy. Ford is a fast but small receiver. He’d be perfect in the slot. But I think the Panthers might be looking for a bigger receiver (perhaps someone like Mitchell) to take Muhsin Muhammad’s starting place.
Some are pretty conventional and some are not, but put them all together and, hopefully, you’ll have a comprehensive review of the season.
Most Valuable Player: Drew Brees, Saints. Do I really have to explain? Let’s save time and move on.
Most Valuable Player not named Brees and not with the Saints: Jon Beason, Panthers. Consistently excellent. Should have been named to the Pro Bowl. Best player on the division’s best defense.
Rookie of the Year: Thomas Morstead, Saints. Yes, I’m going with a punter and it’s not because the pickings are slim. There were some other decent options. But Morstead was so good punting and on kickoffs that he earned this award.
Best win: The Saints steamrolling the Patriots on Monday night. If the Saints play like that in the postseason, they’ll win the Super Bowl. That said, I’m a little concerned that the Saints might already have played their best game.
Worst loss: Carolina’s 20-9 home loss to Buffalo. The Panthers had a chance to get to 3-3 after an 0-3 start. They had one of the worst teams in the league coming into Bank of America Stadium. They didn’t just lose. They got embarrassed. Think about what might have happened if they just had been able to win that game?
Worst injury: You could see right away that Atlanta rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry was going to be an impact player. He was making everybody around him look better. Problem is, Jerry went down with a knee injury on Sept. 20 and missed the rest of the season. You instantly could see the rest of Atlanta’s defensive line start to slide.
Best injury: The leg injury that New Orleans linebacker Dan Morgan suffered in minicamp. It wasn’t major, but it was enough to prompt the star-crossed Morgan to retire for the second time. Sure, it’s a shame that he missed out on being part of what became a very fun season in New Orleans and a healthy Morgan truly might have prospered on that defense. But Morgan made the right call in walking away. The guy put his body through too much and had some concussion issues in his Carolina days. He’s got a family and his health is more important than football.
The Falcons released veteran kicker Jason Elam and replaced him with former Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant. The Falcons also release long snapper Bryan Pittman and signed Joe Zelenka to replace him.
The Buccaneers signed punter Sam Paulescu after losing Dirk Johnson to a hamstring injury on a fake punt during Sunday’s loss to Atlanta. Paulescu previously spent some time this season with the Redskins.
The biggest move here is easily Elam. He had been one of the best kickers in the league for years and had a joyful homecoming when he joined the Falcons and returned to his native Georgia last year. But Elam had been struggling with accuracy most of this season and the Falcons made it clear by working out four kickers last week that they were considering alternatives.
Elam struggled again Sunday and that forced the move. Bryant was released by Tampa Bay in an unpopular preseason move. He had been kicking in the United Football League.
One other move that has nothing to do with special teams. The Falcons signed quarterback D.J. Shockley to the practice squad and released tackle Jeremy Clark from the practice squad. Shockley has previously been with the Falcons on the regular roster and the practice squad.
Brandon in Alto, Ga. writes: I have been a Falcons fan for years since my uncle took me to my first game and have seen several coaches have one good year and then struggle. I dont think the Smith regime will falter that bad but what are their chances of a playoff spot this year and even turning into a contending team on a yearly basis like the Eagles, Cowboys, Chargers, and Steelers?
Pat Yasinskas: I think Mike Smith is one of the best in the business. Same for general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Yes, they’ve had some ups and downs this year, but they still have a shot at the playoffs. I think the long term is even brighter. They have a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan and a lot of good players around him. If they can add a few more parts to the defense in the offseason, I think the Falcons can be a contender for a long time.
Mike J in Norway, SC writes: Do you think the Falcons can run the table over the next 6 wks? I think they can because I dont think we are that bad on defense. Your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: Anything is possible and I think the fact Ryan played well late in the loss to the Giants was encouraging. If he can continue like that, I think the Falcons can contend. Running the table will be tough as I see games with Philadelphia and New Orleans as big obstacles. But I think the Falcons would make the playoffs if they can go 5-1 over the last six games. They might even have a shot if they go 4-2.
Norm in Atlanta writes: Pat, I read in the AJC today that Chris Owens is getting a shot to either start or play substantial minutes in the upcoming game against the Bucs. In fact, Abraham was quoted as saying they are going with Chris to try and rectify the problems with the secondary. I thought Abraham calling out the secondary to the press was of particular note, especially since the lack of pass rush in one of the problems. But what I can't understand is why, with all the focus on the potential of Owens in the offseason, it has taken so long to give him a shot. What do the Falcons have to lose--all their other corners have been torched by any decent quarterback faced? Appreciate any insights.
Pat Yasinskas: I think the Falcons have been wise in going slowly with Owens, their third-round draft pick. It’s tough for a rookie cornerback to come in and start right away. I’m sure, Smith and the coaching staff have worked hard to get him ready and you might get a pleasant surprise. Owens is physically talented. If he’s ready for the mental part of the game, he could solve a lot of the problems the Falcons have been having.
Austin in Middletown, Wis., writes: Hi Pat, what do you think Atlanta will do about their kicker problems? Mike Smith says he has all the confidence in the world in Jason Elam, but come on. He's been missing from the beginning of the year, and there hasn't been an end in sight. Elam missed a crucial 34 yd against the panthers that would have given them the lead. Do you think there will be a new kicker in Atlanta next year, or even before the season is over?
Pat Yasinskas: Well, I found it very interesting that the Falcons worked out four kickers on Tuesday. I think that was a pretty strong message to Elam that the team can’t go on like this much longer. He’s got to be more accurate. If that doesn’t change quickly, I could see a move this season.
They had Brandon Coutu, Sam Swank, Shane Andrus and Steve Hauschka in for workouts. This is highly interesting because the Falcons have veteran (and Georgia native) Jason Elam as their kicker.
The league source said no moves are imminent and the Falcons plan to stick with Elam this week. But the team apparently is assembling a list of possible replacements.
That’s not a bad idea because the normally-reliable Elam hasn’t been very accurate on field goals this season and has been listed on the injury report much of this year.
It’s time to reveal the selections on special teams for our midseason All-NFC South team.
Punter: Jason Baker, Carolina. A very steady punter, who has made the Panthers forget the rocky days of Todd Sauerbrun.
Kicker: John Carney, Saints. It hasn’t been a very good year for veteran kickers in the NFC South. John Kasay and Jason Elam are well below 80 percent on their field goal attempts. Carney’s only been slightly better at 79 percent, but we have to choose someone to fill this position.
Return man: Clifton Smith, Buccaneers. Start the music. We’ve got a Buccaneer on the All-NFC South team. But this guy deserves it. He’s come back from a brutal hit by Carolina’s Dante Wesley and shown he hasn’t lost a thing.
Long-snapper: Jason Kyle, Saints. He’s switched teams, going from the Panthers to the Saints, but he remains automatic.
NEW ORLEANS -- Looks like it’s going to go down to the wire in the Superdome. Right now it’s Saints 28, Falcons 24.
I thought for a second it was going to be tied when Roddy White appeared to make what initially was called a touchdown catch. The call was reviewed and, rightly, overturned and the Falcons had to settle for a field goal.
Speaking of field goals, veteran kickers Jason Elam and John Carney aren’t having particularly good nights. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one somehow comes down to a kicker deciding it.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
Told you I’d be back once the Falcons sent out their injury report. They just did and there’s nothing definitive on fullback Ovie Mughelli, who hasn’t practiced all week due to a calf injury.
The Falcons are listing Mughelli as questionable. Since he hasn’t practiced, I’m thinking there’s a good chance Mughelli won’t play against the Bears. If he doesn’t, the Falcons are likely to split his duties between Verron Haynes and Jason Snelling, who is a tailback, but can play some fullback.
The Falcons have declared safety Antoine Harris out for Sunday. Cornerback Brian Williams didn’t practice Friday and is listed as questionable, but Mike Smith said he didn’t expect this injury to be an issue. Kicker Jason Elam and receiver Marty Booker are both listed as probable.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
Time for a quick check on the significant injuries throughout the NFC South.
Carolina fullback Brad Hoover returned to practice after a back injury. But rookie running back Mike Goodson (concussion) sat out.
The Falcons are pretty healthy coming out of their bye. Fullback Ovie Mughelli (hamstring) and kicker Jason Elam (hamstring) were limited in practice and reserve safety Antoine Harris (knee) sat out.
Tampa Bay running back Derrick Ward (knee) returned to practice while fellow running back Earnest Graham (hamstring) sat out. But don’t go starting Ward on your fantasy team. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he wants Cadillac Williams to be the “full-time guy."
The Saints are in their bye week and not practicing. They don’t have to give an injury report, but running back Mike Bell says he’ll be ready to return to work next week.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
Wednesday’s injury reports are coming in from around the NFC South.
Carolina’s Chris Harris, Sherrod Martin, James Stewart and Nick Hayden all missed practice, while Everette Brown, Charles Johnson and Jeff Otah were limited. Atlanta’s Jason Elam and William Moore were limited. The Falcons also listed Peria Jerry on the injury report, but he participated fully in practice.
Tampa Bay’s E.J. Biggers, Jeff Faine and Kyle Moore did not practice. Antonio Bryant and John Gilmore were limited.
In New Orleans, Jammal Brown, Darnell Dinkins, Jermon Bushrod, Kendrick Clancy, Tracey Porter and Jeremy Shockey did not practice and Roman Harper was limited. Running back Pierre Thomas, who sat out the opener, participated fully.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Let's talk NFC South kickers for a bit because we probably will be talking about them a lot more once training camps get going.
There's the potential for three intriguing battles, so let's take a look at each. We'll leave Atlanta out because Jason Elam is probably as safe as any player on an NFC South roster aside from Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Steve Smith.
But it's not the same story elsewhere. Let's start in Tampa, where the Bucs could have the best battle of the kickers.
It was kind of a curious move in the offseason when the Bucs signed Mike Nugent to a $2.4 million contract for one year. That's huge money for a kicker, especially when you have an established one like Matt Bryant. But there's some solid logic behind this one.
Since Raheem Morris took over, the Bucs have made it clear they want as much competition as possible at every position. They've got it at kicker. Nugent missed almost all of last season with an injury, but he had three good years with the Jets before that. If he can return to his previous form, Nugent will provide a serious challenge to Bryant. If not, the big contract isn't that big a deal. The Bucs structured it so there would be only a minimal salary-cap hit if they release Nugent.
In New Orleans, the Saints have Garrett Hartley as the only kicker on the roster -- at the moment. Hartley was signed last October and gave the Saints some much-needed stability in the kicking game. The Saints are hoping that will continue, but Hartley only has half a season of NFL experience. If there are any signs of trouble, the Saints won't hesitate to consider other options at kicker.
Carolina has a unique situation in which John Kasay is the elder statesman of the team. Even in the cruel NFL world, Kasay probably goes out only when he decides to retire. Seriously, he's got that much credibility with owner Jerry Richardson, coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney. And Kasay's not ready to retire.
But that's where things get a little interesting. The Panthers carried kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd last year and there's no doubt he was a help when it came to field position. Lloyd also can kick field goals and extra points, but he's not going to beat out Kasay in those areas. The issue here is the roster spot. Can Fox once again afford to carry a kickoff specialist or would he consider letting punter Jason Baker, who has kicked off in the past, take on that role to get another player on the roster?