NFC South: Jason Phillips

Reviewing NFC South free agents

March, 7, 2013
We’ve shown you the lists of potential NFC South free agents before. But let’s do it again because there have been some minor moves and the free-agency period is getting ready to start Tuesday.

Here’s the list of potential free agents for all four NFC South teams:

Atlanta Falcons. Tony Gonzalez, Brent Grimes, Sam Baker, William Moore, Will Svitek, Mike Cox, Todd McClure, Luke McCown, Christopher Owens, Mike Peterson, Garrett Reynolds, Lawrence Sidbury and Vance Walker all can become unrestricted free agents. Michael Palmer can become a restricted free agent.

Carolina Panthers. The potential unrestricted free agents are Derek Anderson, Antwan Applewhite, Gary Barnidge, Dwan Edwards, Ben Hartsock, Sherrod Martin, Captain Munnerlyn, Louis Murphy and Mike Pollak. Richie Brockel can become an exclusive-rights free agent. Andre Neblett, Nate Ness and Jason Phillips are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

New Orleans Saints. Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Casillas, Chase Daniel, Sedrick Ellis, Devery Henderson, Ramon Humber, Elbert Mack, Turk McBride, Will Robinson, Courtney Roby and Scott Shanle can become unrestricted free agents. Brian De La Puente, Justin Drescher, Junior Galette and Chris Ivory are scheduled to become restricted free agents. Eric Olsen and Michael Higgins can become exclusive-rights free agents.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ronde Barber, Dallas Clark, Michael Bennett, E.J. Biggers, Andrew Economos, Roy Miller, Roscoe Parrish, Sammie Stroughter and Jeremy Trueblood can become unrestricted free agents. LeGarrette Blount, Jacob Cutrera, Corvey Irvin and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

Looking at Panthers' defensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
As I’ve been running through playing-time numbers for the 2012 season, I’ve been highlighting the guys who played huge amounts. But, in this post about Carolina’s defense, we’re going to go in the opposite direction.

Injuries were a big story for Carolina, which had 1,051 defensive snaps. But the Panthers were without some key components for most of those snaps. Due to injuries, linebacker Jon Beason was limited to 24.93 percent of the snaps, cornerback Chris Gamble participated in only 26.64 percent of the snaps and defensive tackle Ron Edwards was limited to 29.97 percent.

Here’s the complete breakdown of playing-time percentage for Carolina’s defense:

Looking at Carolina's free agents

February, 11, 2013
Let’s continue our look at the NFC South’s potential free agents with the Carolina Panthers.

The bad news is the Panthers don’t have the salary-cap room to re-sign many of their own free agents. The good news is it’s unlikely they’ll have a strong desire to keep many of those guys.

Their potential unrestricted free agents are quarterback Derek Anderson, defensive end Antwan Applewhite, tight end Gary Barnidge, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, tight end Ben Hartsock, safety Sherrod Martin, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, receiver Louis Murphy, guard Mike Pollak and linebacker Jordan Senn. Fullback/tight end Richie Brockel can become an exclusive-rights frree agent and defensive tackle Andre Neblett, safety Nate Ness and linebacker Jason Phillips are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

There’s not a single name on that list that the Panthers have to keep, although there are several role players that could have increased because the team is going to have to part with several veteran starters to get under the salary cap.

Applewhite, Edwards and Munnerlyn are likely to be the top targets for retention. But Munnerlyn, who the Panthers prefer to use only against slot receivers, believes he can be an every-down corner and may try to find a team that will use him as a full-time starter.

Martin is a former starter, but his career might be better off with a fresh start elsewhere. Anderson has been a veteran backup for Cam Newton the last two years, but I don’t think re-signing him is a high priority. The Panthers also have Jimmy Clausen under contract and, by now, he should know the offense as well as Anderson.

Checking injuries that matter most

October, 5, 2012
The Friday injury reports for Sunday’s games are out, so let’s take a look at the most significant injuries around the NFC South.

Atlanta is listing safety William Moore (hip), center Todd McClure (pectoral) and fullback Lousaka Polite (hamstring) as questionable. If Moore can’t go, veteran Chris Hope likely would get the start. If McClure is out, the Falcons could go with either Joe Hawley or Peter Konz. If Polite sits out, I’d expect to see some of Jason Snelling at fullback, but I’d also expect to see the Falcons do the same thing they did last week and use some reserve offensive linemen at fullback.

The Carolina Panthers could be without two key defensive players as they play Seattle. Middle linebacker Jon Beason (knee) and cornerback Chris Gamble (shoulder) did not practice Friday and are listed as doubtful. The Panthers could play it safe and start Jason Phillips in the middle. Or they could take a chance and move outside linebacker Luke Kuechly to the middle, where he played in college. Kuechly isn’t off to a great start and switching positions could make things more difficult for him. Second-year pro Josh Thomas is the likely alternative if Gamble can’t go.

Receiver Lance Moore and linebacker David Hawthorne have been ruled out for Sunday night’s game with San Diego. With Moore out, veteran Greg Camarillo, who was re-signed this week, should get some playing time. Hawthorne missed last week’s game and so did his backup, Jonathan Casillas. But Casillas is expected to play this week, so the Saints will have to choose between him and Will Herring.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a bye, so there is no injury report for them.

Checking the injuries that matter most

September, 28, 2012
The final injury reports are in for Sunday’s game, so let’s take a look at the most significant injuries around the division.

The news isn’t good for a New Orleans defense that already was struggling. Linebackers David Hawthorne and Jonathan Casillas and defensive end Turk McBride have been declared out for Sunday’s game at Green Bay. Casillas had been backing up Hawthorne. With both of them out, Will Herring appears likely to get the start.

Carolina middle linebacker Jon Beason (knee and shoulder) practiced Friday. Coach Ron Rivera said the team will see how sore Beason is Sunday before making a decision on his status. If Beason can’t play against Atlanta, Jason Phillips is expected to start in the middle. Running back Jonathan Stewart is listed as probable and expected to play for just the second time this season.

The Falcons have declared tight end Michael Palmer, cornerback Christopher Owens, running back Antone Smith and fullback Lousaka Polite out for Sunday. That means Dominique Franks likely will be used as the nickel back and running back Jason Snelling probably will get some time at fullback. Tommy Gallarda is expected to take Palmer’s place as the backup tight end.

The Buccaneers are relatively healthy compared to the other three teams. Reserve cornerback Anthony Gaitor is out for Sunday, but everyone else (including guard Carl Nicks and cornerback E.J. Biggers) is no worse than probable.

NFC South evening update

September, 27, 2012
Let’s take a Thursday evening look at the top headlines from around the division:


Arthur Blank was one of several owners that were instrumental in getting a deal finalized between the NFL and officials. Blank admitted the ending of Monday night’s game between Green Bay and Seattle helped create a sense of urgency. But Blank said the prospect of sending replacement officials into Lambeau Field on Sunday wasn’t why the deal got done. Although Green Bay fans might not have been happy with the result in Seattle, Blank said Lambeau crowds are very polite and there wasn’t concern about the safety of replacement officials.

Defensive end John Abraham attributed being charged with obstructing law-enforcement officials on Monday was due to “bad timing." When pressed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for his side of what happened, Abraham stayed clear of going into any detail. Abraham obviously still has to deal with legal implications. But his arrest came a week after running back Michael Turner was charged with DUI. The Falcons are very conscious of their public image and recent events can’t be sitting well in some important places. Coach Mike Smith is a genuinely nice man, but he’s also not afraid to be stern. I think it’s safe to say the Falcons have been told there better not be any more trouble.


The Charlotte Observer explains the logic behind Kevin Siers’ cartoon on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. The newspaper said Siers was just poking fun at the absurd – Newton celebrating a touchdown when the Panthers were losing badly. In other words, Siers simply was doing his job. It might be a difficult concept for fans to grasp, but the media has to look at things from both sides.

Middle linebacker Jon Beason is dealing with knee and shoulder injuries. Coach Ron Rivera said, if Beason can’t play Sunday at Atlanta, the Panthers will not move rookie Luke Kuechly into the middle, a position he played in college. That’s probably a wise move because Kuechly clearly is still adjusting to NFL life as an outside linebacker. Moving him now probably would lead to some mistakes. If Beason can’t go, the Panthers will start Jason Phillips in the middle.


Linebackers David Hawthorne and Jonathan Casillas missed another day of practice with injuries. It’s looking more and more like Will Herring will be starting against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Running back Chris Ivory, who has been inactive in the first three games, said he’s received no feedback about how to get some playing time. The Saints appear content to go with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram as their top three running backs. Makes you wonder why the Saints, who certainly could use some help on defense, decided to keep Ivory and rookie Travaris Cadet, who has been active for one game but doesn’t have a carry, on the roster.


More and more, I think Tampa Bay’s decision to unload tight end Kellen Winslow in the offseason was a smart move. The Bucs traded him to Seattle and the Seahawks ended up cutting him. Winslow recently signed with New England and, on Thursday, asked to be released. Winslow’s always been a free spirit and recent events have shown that hasn’t changed. Coach Greg Schiano doesn’t seem to like free spirits. It’s better the Bucs got rid of Winslow early in Schiano’s first offseason program. If they had kept Winslow around longer, it’s likely things would have ended badly.

Martin Fennelly writes that the Bucs need to free up quarterback Josh Freeman. I couldn’t agree more. This kid has talent and he’s finally got a supporting cast. Let him spread his wings and fly. If that doesn’t happen, Tampa Bay’s offense never is going to take off.

Observation deck: Panthers-Texans

August, 11, 2012

This should come as absolutely no surprise, because it’s what the Carolina Panthers envisioned on draft day and what they’ve seen so far in training camp. But the world got to see the impact of rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly in Saturday night’s preseason opener, a 26-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

It didn’t take long for Kuechly to do what he’s done in practice every day -- make a big play. On Houston’s second drive of the night, Kuechly put a big hit on running back Arian Foster and forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Sherrod Martin. That turnover helped set up a field goal for the Panthers.

Kuechly left the game after the first quarter, but finished with two solo tackles, two assists and the forced fumble. Spread that out over four quarters and over an entire season, and it sure looks like the Panthers have found a playmaker at linebacker.

Some other observations on the Panthers:
  • It was hard to really get a read on quarterback Cam Newton’s performance. Statistically, it wasn’t great. He completed two of six passes for 16 yards, and also ran twice for 16 yards. But Newton didn’t get blocking from his offensive line and also had at least one pass dropped. Newton led the Panthers to a field goal before leaving the game after three offensive series. It also was pretty obvious the Panthers weren’t showing anything close to their full playbook.
  • Speaking of running back depth, rookie Tauren Poole, who had a short touchdown run in the second quarter, has a decent chance to make this team. At worst, he’s probably a guy the Panthers would like to keep on the practice squad.
  • The Panthers held middle linebacker Jon Beason out as he recovers from a minor injury that’s not related to the torn Achilles tendon he suffered last season. Jason Phillips started in Beason’s place and came up with an interception late in the first quarter. If Phillips continues to progress and Thomas Davis can get healthy, the Panthers could have some very nice depth at linebacker.
  • Speaking of linebacker depth, the Panthers have plenty on the outside as well. Jordan Senn, who was a part-time starter last season, is going to be a backup this season. But Senn was very productive Saturday night, leading the Panthers with 13 tackles.
  • The Panthers went to great lengths to try to improve their special teams in the offseason. So far, that’s not paying off. Carolina allowed Trindon Holliday to return a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
  • I'm not sure rookie Joe Adams will have much of a role as a receiver, because there's so much depth at the position. But, after watching his spectacular third-quarter punt return, I'm thinking there's a good chance Adams has a big role in the return game.
  • I think Louis Murphy already was in the mix to be the No. 3 receiver. But he might have moved into the lead for that job Saturday night. Murphy had a nice leaping catch on the sideline in the second quarter, and also caught another pass where he put a nice move on the defensive back that resulted in some yards after the catch.
  • Forget any chance of Jeremy Shockey being re-signed by the Panthers. Gary Barnidge sure looks like he’s ready to be the No. 2 tight end.
  • Be sure to check out the Camp Confidential profile on the Panthers. It's scheduled to pop up on the blog early Sunday afternoon.

Panthers give tenders to two

March, 10, 2012
The Carolina Panthers have placed tenders on two of their exclusive-rights free agents.

Cornerback R.J. Stanford has been tendered at $540,000 and tight end Richie Brockel at $465,000.

The Panthers have not placed tenders on restricted free agents Geoff Schwartz, Jason Phillips, Seyi Ajirotutu, or exclusive-rights free agent Thomas Williams. Theoretically, they still could tender any of those players, but it’s not likely.

Around the NFC South

February, 9, 2012
Time for a look at the top morning headlines from around the NFC South.
  • Reserve offensive lineman Andrew Jackson said new offensive line coach Pat Hill will bring passion to the Falcons. Jackson should know. He played for Hill at Fresno State.
  • The Panthers signed long-snapper J.J. Jansen to a four-year contract extension. They also re-signed linebacker Jason Phillips to a one-year deal.
  • Former Carolina Panthers defensive line coach Sal Sunseri talks about what he hopes to accomplish as defensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee. Sunseri had been the linebackers coach at the University of Alabama since leaving the Panthers.
  • Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant lobbied Georgia legislators to educate young athletes, parents and coaches about the dangers of concussions.
  • Here’s a look ahead at New Orleans’ situation at wide receiver in 2012. Interestingly, the speculation is that the Saints will keep their receiving corps pretty much intact. That might be a bit difficult from an economic standpoint since Marques Colston and Robert Meachem both are free agents.
  • Roy Cummings addresses Tampa Bay’s perceived struggles in finding assistant coaches and says we don’t know that’s really the case. Good point. Yes, the Bucs have been blocked from interviewing some candidates from other teams. But we won’t know for sure about the quality of Tampa Bay’s new assistant coaches until the team announces its full list of new assistants.

Panthers: First look at free agency

January, 31, 2012
Let’s continue our NFC South look ahead to free agency with the Carolina Panthers.

We'll take a look at Carolina’s potential free agents. They’re all unrestricted unless noted as restricted free agents or exclusive-rights free agents.

Quarterback Derek Anderson, linebacker/defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite, offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau, linebacker Dan Connor, linebacker Omar Gaither, cornerback Cletis Gordon, offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner, long-snapper J.J. Jansen, receiver Legedu Naanee, linebacker Jordan Senn, tight end Jeremy Shockey, receiver Seyi Ajirotutu (exclusive rights), tight end Richie Brockel (exclusive rights), cornerback R.J. Stanford (exclusive rights), linebacker Thomas Williams (exclusive rights), linebacker Jason Phillips (restricted) and guard Geoff Schwartz (restricted).

There’s not a single guy on that list that the Panthers absolutely have to have back. That's good because the Panthers are going to be tight against the salary cap. But there are several players they’re likely to have interest in retaining at the right price. They liked what Senn and Applewhite showed in 2011. Shockey seemed to fit well in tandem with Greg Olsen and could return for a one-year contract. The offensive line is in pretty good shape, but the Panthers likely will keep either Schwartz or Hangartner as a starting guard.

Panthers carrying two kickers, for now

December, 13, 2011
The Carolina Panthers signed a kicker Tuesday, but Olindo Mare remains on the roster.

It appears, at least for the moment, the Panthers will give Mare a little more time to work out his accuracy issues. Mare missed a short field-goal attempt in Sunday’s loss to Atlanta. He also missed a short field-goal attempt in a loss to Minnesota earlier in the season.

The Panthers signed rookie kicker Adi Kunalic and placed linebacker Jason Phillips on injured reserve Tuesday.

It remains to be seen how the Panthers plan to use Mare and Kunalic in the three remaining games. But it makes sense that the Panthers are hesitant to give up on Mare just yet.

They made a move that was unpopular with the fan base at the end of the lockout when they released veteran John Kasay and signed Mare to a four-year deal worth $12 million. Kunalic was with the Panthers in the preseason, but was released Sept. 3.

Jordan Gross out for Panthers

December, 11, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross will not play Sunday against Atlanta.

Gross is sidelined with an ankle injury. Travelle Wharton will start in Gross’ place. MacKenzy Bernadeau will start at left guard, where Wharton usually plays.

Also inactive for the Panthers are quarterback Jimmy Clausen, cornerback Brandon Hogan, linebacker Jason Phillips, receiver Darvin Adams, linebacker Kion Wilson and defensive end Eric Norwood.

Panthers considering LB movement

October, 31, 2011
The Carolina Panthers might lead the league in once category -- injured linebackers.

Thomas Williams and Jason Phillips each suffered injuries in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota. Coach Ron Rivera said Monday that both could be out for an extended period. Williams has a neck injury and Phillips has an injured calf.

The injuries came on a day when linebacker Omar Gaither returned after missing time with a knee injury. The Panthers lost starting linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis to injuries early in the season.

The Panthers started Gaither, James Anderson and Dan Connor on Sunday. After Williams and Phillips were injured, Gaither, Anderson and Connor had to fill in on special teams.

The Panthers have a bye this week and Rivera said he planned to meet with general manager Marty Hurney to discuss possible additions at linebacker. There aren’t a lot of quality linebackers available right now.

They might have to turn to their practice squad where they have Lawrence Wilson and Kion Wilson.

Around the NFC South

October, 20, 2011
Time for a look at the morning headlines from around the division.

Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez has a chance to move as high as No. 2 in career receptions Sunday. Gonzalez is currently No. 4 with 1,099 catches. Cris Carter (1,101) is No. 3 and Marvin Harrison (1,102) is No. 2. Jerry Rice is the all-time leader with 1,549 catches.

The Panthers will have another new starter at weak-side linebacker Sunday. Coach Ron Rivera said Jason Phillips will get the start in place of Jason Williams. Phillips appeared in nine games for Baltimore last season, but this will be his first career start.

Drew Brees has had a recent string of interceptions, including several that went off the hands of his receivers. But the New Orleans quarterback said he still trusts his receivers.

The Buccaneers might want to take a lesson from Carolina’s mistakes and kick away from Chicago return man Devin Hester on Sunday. Punter/kickoff specialist Michael Koenen has been booming the ball, but it might be wise to turn to directional kicking against Hester.