NFC South: Jay Richardson

The New Orleans Saints swapped one veteran backup for another Tuesday, signing defensive end Keyunta Dawson and releasing outside linebacker/end Jay Richardson.

Dawson
Dawson, 28, is a six-year veteran who was released by the Tennessee Titans over the weekend to make room for a backup quarterback. At 6-foot-3 and 258 pounds, he likely will play a role similar to the one played by Richardson, who was used sparingly on defense and special teams this season. The Titans apparently liked Dawson as a dependable backup, but he appeared in only two games this season and made no tackles. He became expendable when the Titans needed the roster spot.

Dawson started 20 games early in his career with the Indianapolis Colts between 2007 and 2009. Since then, he’s been a backup with the Colts, Detroit Lions and Titans. He has 117 career tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.

Dawson fits best as an end in a four-man front. It's possible he could line up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, as well, but the Saints don't use their base 3-4 package all that much. They have spent more than 75 percent of their snaps in nickel or dime defense this year, usually with four men on the line of scrimmage. Dawson could potentially back up Cameron Jordan or Junior Galette in those alignments.
Most significant move: The fact the Saints didn’t release or put Jonathan Vilma on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list is a very strong sign that the veteran linebacker is expected to be healthy early in the season. That’s very significant. Vilma may be nearing the end of his career, but he still is the emotional leader of this defense and his mere presence makes this unit stronger.

Going in a different direction: Courtney Roby had been a fixture on special teams since his arrival in 2008. But the Saints have some younger, more athletic guys, like Rafael Bush, they want to get involved on special teams. Roby’s value also was hurt by the fact he brought little as a wide receiver. The team elected to keep Andy Tanner over Roby because Tanner has some upside as a receiver.

What’s next: After losing outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler to injuries, the Saints could look at the waiver wire to add some more help for the pass rush.

Saints moves: Released WR Courtney Roby, DE Jay Richardson, CB Chris Carr, S Jim Leonhard. Waived QB Ryan Griffin, WR Preston Parker, FB Austin Johnson, WR, Saalim Hakim, G Elliott Mealer, TE Keavon Milton, TE Michael Higgins, G Andrew Tiller, C Jeremiah Warren, LB Ray Shipman, LB Rufus Johnson, DT Isaako Aaitui, S Jerico Nelson, LB Baraka Atkins, T Marcel Jones, CB Korey Lindsey and CB Jumal Rolle. Placed C Eric Olsen on injured reserve.

Saints running out of healthy LBs

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
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At a time when they’re switching their defensive scheme to include an extra linebacker, the New Orleans Saints are running out of players to play the position.

Outside linebacker Will Smith reportedly will miss the season after injuring his knee in Sunday’s preseason game with Houston.

That comes after the Saints lost Victor Butler, a projected starter at the other outside linebacker position, to injury in June. Outside linebackers Martez Wilson (elbow) and Junior Galette (leg) also have missed significant time in the preseason. Inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma also has been sidelined after having knee surgery. Defensive end Kenyon Coleman also is out for the season with a pectoral injury.

Vilma’s space is being filled by David Hawthorne. But the outside linebacker positions are a bigger concern. The Saints are hoping Wilson and Galette can get healthy. Veteran backup Jay Richardson could be in the mix for more playing time. Rookies Rufus Johnson and Eric Martin have done some good things in the preseason, but I’m not sure they’re ready to be starters.

The Saints might have to comb the waiver wire for linebacker help in the coming days.

Around the NFC South

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
9:01
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Time for a look at the top morning headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Guard Phillipkeith Manley has been getting some work at left tackle. He’s not a threat to challenge Sam Baker, but becoming more versatile would only help Manley’s chances of sticking on the roster.

The folks at Pro Football Focus gave cornerback Desmond Trufant a low grade for his performance in the preseason opener.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Receiver Domenik Hixon said he’s about a week away from returning from a hamstring injury. Hixon needs to get back on the field as soon as possible. He had been ticketed for the No. 3 receiver spot. But Armanti Edwards and Ted Ginn Jr. have performed well in his absence.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Bradley Handwerger writes that defensive end Jay Richardson, who has bounced in and out of the league in recent years, is keeping an eye from a distance on his insurance firm as he tries to make the roster. Richardson, who also can play linebacker, might have a shot after Kenyon Coleman and Victor Butler suffered season-ending injuries.

Linebacker Martez Wilson, who has been dealing with an arm injury, said he has no doubt he’ll be ready for the regular-season opener.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

It’s no surprise that the Bucs have eight players from Rutgers on their roster, because that’s where Greg Schiano coached previously. But the surprising thing is that New England has nine former Rutgers players on its roster.

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