NFC South: Jeremy Bridges

There are a lot of injury issues in the NFC South this week. Let's take a look at the latest on the most significant injuries:

ATLANTA FALCONS

The Falcons have a star-studded cast of players listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with Arizona. Receiver Julio Jones, who has not practiced all week due to an ankle injury, highlights the list. If Jones can’t play Sunday, the Falcons likely would start Harry Douglas and use Drew Davis or recently signed Tim Toone as their third receiver. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) did not practice all week, has missed two straight games and is listed as questionable. In the cases of both Jones and Weatherspoon, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Falcons take a cautious approach and sit them, especially since the game is on turf and against a struggling opponent. The Falcons also are listing defensive end John Abraham (back) and running back Michael Turner (groin) as questionable. But both participated in Friday’s practice on a limited basis.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Although he practiced this week, there still is uncertainty if running back Darren Sproles will be able to play Sunday. Interim coach Joe Vitt said Sproles experienced some swelling in his hand and is listed as questionable. Running back is one position where the Saints have plenty of depth and they can continue to use a rotation of Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory if Sproles isn’t ready to go. Right tackle Zach Strief (groin) has been ruled out for Sunday. That means it’s likely Charles Brown will start in his place.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Despite missing Thursday’s practice receiver/return man Armanti Edwards (groin) is probable for Sunday. Coach Ron Rivera also said Jeff Byers will start at right guard Sunday. There had been speculation that Jeremy Bridges, who was signed earlier this week, might move immediately into the starting lineup. But Rivera said Bridges still needs to work on conditioning.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Guard Jamon Meredith (ankle) participated in Friday’s walk-through, giving the Bucs some hope he might be ready to go. Cornerback Eric Wright also practiced after missing Thursday’s session due to what coach Greg Schiano said was a personal reason.

NFC South afternoon update

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
5:06
PM ET
Time for an afternoon run through the top news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, could be ready to return Sunday against Arizona. Weatherspoon didn’t practice Wednesday, but coach Mike Smith indicated there’s a chance he could get some practice time Thursday. That’s the good news. The bad news is that wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) did not practice. Smith said Jones’ status will be evaluated again Thursday, but his injury could be one reason why the Falcons signed receiver Tim Toone on Tuesday night.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Although his first stint with the Panthers was marred by some off-field problems, offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges said he’s calmed down now. Bridges, who previously played for the Panthers from 2006 through 2008, was re-signed Wednesday and become an immediate starter at right guard, a position where the Panthers have had some problems. Defensive end Thomas Keiser was placed on injured reserve to open the roster spot for Bridges.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Although running back Darren Sproles (hand) returned to practice Wednesday, right tackle Zach Strief (groin) sat out. It’s beginning to look like Charles Brown will get another start at right tackle.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

With strongside linebacker Quincy Black out for the rest of the season, coach Greg Schiano said the team likely will go with Adam Hayward as his replacement. That makes the most sense because Hayward has more experience than rookie Najee Goode and Jacob Cutrera. Hayward also has shown some flashes as a backup and on special teams.

Around the NFC South

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
9:10
AM ET
Time for a Wednesday morning run through the headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Mark Bradley makes a good historical point after the Falcons released defensive end Ray Edwards following their first loss of the season. Bradley reminds us that former coach Dan Reeves sent a message to his team when he cut Juran Bolden after the first loss in the 1998 season. The Falcons went on to reach the Super Bowl for the only time in franchise history that season.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

After allowing seven sacks Sunday, the Panthers are shaking up their offensive line. They’re bringing back Jeremy Bridges, who was with the team from 2006 through ’08. It’s likely the Panthers will make Bridges an immediate starter at right guard, ahead of Jeff Byers.

Coordinator Sean McDermott said the defense did its job in Sunday’s 36-14 loss to Denver. It’s true, the Panthers gave up touchdowns on a punt return, an interception and allowed a safety, so the defense allowed only 20 points. But pointing that out makes McDermott sound like a guy who is interested only in saving his job.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The verbal sparring between the Saints and Falcons still is going on. New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma said the Falcons need to “act like they’ve been there before." This all comes after the Saints claimed the Falcons interrupted and taunted them during warm-ups before Sunday’s game, which was won by the Saints. By the way, the rematch comes Nov. 29 in the Georgia Dome.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Former Tampa Bay tight end Jerramy Stevens reportedly was arrested after getting into an altercation with his fianc just before their wedding.

Although there still is plenty of debate over what nickname rookie running back Doug Martin should have, it looks like rookie linebacker Lavonte David is stuck with “Flash." That’s fitting because David’s speed has allowed him to consistently flash into plays.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


We’ve got some key injury situations in the NFC South that are worth watching as the weekend gets closer.

Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Bryant did not participate in practice because of a knee injury. Bryant had surgery in the preseason, but appeared to make a successful return in the season opener. This one is potentially troubling for the Bucs, who aren’t loaded with experience at wide receiver. If Bryant can’t play Sunday at Buffalo, rookie Sammie Stroughter or Maurice Stovall likely would get the start.

In Carolina, right tackle Jeff Otah was held out of practice with a shoulder injury. If Otah is unable to play, Carolina’s loss of veteran depth (Frank Omiyale, Jeremy Bridges and Geoff Hangartner) could catch up to the Panthers. Carolina has a pair of unproven backups in Garry Williams and Geoff Schwartz.

Defensive tackle Nick Hayden missed his second day of practice with a toe injury. Hayden had taken over as a starter when Maake Kemoeatu went down on the first day of training camp with a season-ending injury. If Hayden can’t play, the Panthers have only Ra’Shon Harris and Louis Leonard, who both were added late in the preseason, as backups. Think you might see Atlanta’s Michael Turner headed for the middle of Carolina’s defense a few times on Sunday.

Things are more positive in New Orleans, where running back Pierre Thomas returned to practice after sitting out Sunday. The only issue here is how that will impact the rotation at running back with Thomas joining Mike Bell and Reggie Bush.

Atlanta fans, relax at the moment. The Falcons had all 53 players participate in practice Thursday.

Panthers: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
7:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


Biggest surprise: Jeremy Leman was an instant hit with fans in the preseason. He moved quickly around the field, made some nice hits and made himself even more noticeable with celebrations after he made plays. But celebrations don’t earn you a roster spot and there were reasons why Leman wasn’t drafted and why he was cut Saturday. Leman looked good competing against third-stringers, but he wasn’t nearly at the level of starter Jon Beason and backup Dan Connor. Leman may end up on the practice squad and could develop into something over time.

No-brainer: Did you really think defensive tackle Marlon Favorite was going to make the team as an undrafted free agent? Sure, he was one of the first guys the Panthers plugged in when Maake Kemoeatu went down with an injury on the first day of camp. But that’s only because Favorite was there. Even with rookie Corvey Irvin going on the injured-reserve list, the Panthers knew Favorite wasn’t ready to solve their problems at defensive tackle. They might not be done there yet because all they have is Damione Lewis, who really isn’t an every-down player, Nick Hayden and Louis Leonard, who they traded for last week. But the Panthers got a long look at Favorite in the preseason and decided they probably can find someone better somewhere else.

What’s left: The Panthers shed some very good offensive line depth in the offseason when they let Geoff Hangartner, Jeremy Bridges and Frank Omiyale go. They have high hopes for Geoff Schwartz and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but they’re young and inexperienced. The Panthers didn’t bring in any veterans because they had limited cap space. They still don’t have a lot, but they could look to add a veteran who was cut by someone else at a minimal price.

Around the NFC South

July, 29, 2009
7/29/09
8:53
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

A quick trip through the headlines of the NFC South.

  • Charles Chandler writes the Panthers are looking for some of their young offensive linemen to step up. They need depth now that Geoff Hangartner, Frank Omiyale and Jeremy Bridges are gone. Rookie Duke Robinson and second-year pro Mackenzy Bernadeau are the top candidates.
  • The Falcons waived cornerback David Irons with an injury settlement. A sixth-round pick in 2007, Irons isn't completely recovered from a knee injury suffered last season.
  • Stephen F. Holder takes a look at five Bucs on the hot seat.
  • Anwar Richardson has a look at five position battles for the Bucs. Appropriately, the list starts with quarterback.
  • The Saints will have seating for about 3,000 as they return to their own facility for training camp for the first time since 2005. That's double the space they offered during their June minicamp. They're also adding kiosks for refreshments and souvenirs.

Around the NFC South

April, 15, 2009
4/15/09
7:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Caught a few NFC South nuggets as I was listening to Sirius NFL Radio while making a long drive Wednesday.

Here's a late-round name to keep an eye on, Carolina fans. Missouri Western offensive lineman Roger Allen was interviewed and said the Panthers have shown a lot of interest in him. Makes sense because Carolina has a very good starting offensive line, but not a lot of depth after the departures of Geoff Hangartner and Jeremy Bridges.

Missouri tight end Chase Coffman said the Falcons are one of the teams showing the most interest in him. Coffman, who is coming off surgery on his foot, said he has resumed running.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis made an interesting statement when asked about drafting running backs early. Loomis implied that good running backs can be found later in the draft. Maybe that was a smoke screen to help the Saints take Beanie Wells in the first round. But I think Loomis' statement is right and the Saints should focus on defense in the first round.

Panthers trim three veterans

February, 25, 2009
2/25/09
12:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Carolina Panthers took another step toward getting their salary-cap situation in line for Friday's start of free agency.

By releasing running back Nick Goings, offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges and receiver D.J. Hackett, the Panthers freed up $4.74 million in cap space. They also restructured the deal of cornerback Chris Gamble to spread the $10 million roster bonus he's receiving this year across his entire contract.

Interestingly, the Panthers have not released cornerback Ken Lucas, who has been speculated as a probable cap casualty. That's a strong sign that the Panthers are hoping to trade Lucas for a draft pick. Stay tuned on this one.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

 Gross
 Peppers

If all goes according to plan, the Carolina Panthers will re-sign offensive tackle Jordan Gross and place the franchise tag on Julius Peppers sometime in the next 24 hours. Then, things could get really interesting.

Making Gross one of the league's top paid tackles likely will cost about $9 million a year and tagging Peppers will cost an immediate $17 million against the salary cap. Assuming Gross' deal gets finalized, the Panthers are going to have to make a series of moves to get under the salary cap.

They are about $10 million under the cap right now, but signing Gross and tagging Peppers would put them more than $20 million over the cap. That's going to lead to some cap-cutting moves and it could get painful.

The most obvious target is cornerback Ken Lucas, who didn't play well the second half of last season and could be getting closer to the end of his career. Cutting Lucas would free up $3.3 million in cap room. Some other potential targets could include offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges, receiver D.J. Hackett, linebacker Landon Johnson and running back Nick Goings.

The Panthers also are likely to restructure the contracts of several veterans to get under the cap.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- No big surprises on Carolina's list of inactives, but the Panthers are catching a break from Arizona.

Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin, whose injury status had been uncertain, has been declared inactive tonight. That means Steve Breaston will start in Boldin's place and lighten an Arizona receiving corps that's highlighted by Larry Fitzgerald.

Carolina's inactive list wasn't impacted much by injuries, but Carolina will start Jeremy Bridges at right guard in place of Geoff Hangartner. Carolina's inactives are D.J. Hackett, Quinton Teal, Adam Seward, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Kenneth Moore, Darwin Walker and J'Vonne Parker. Matt Moore is the third quarterback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

We've noted this trend before, but it's worth repeating. Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams is at his best going up the middle or to the right.

That's kind of interesting because tackle Jordan Gross and guard Travelle Wharton, probably Carolina's two best linemen, play on the left side. Williams has been effective on that side, too.

But his success up the middle speaks volumes about the play of second-year center Ryan Kalil and rookie right tackle Jeff Otah (as well as right guard Keydrick Vincent, who was injured late in the year and probably will be replaced by Jeremy Bridges in Saturday's playoff game against Arizona).

Here's a breakdown of what happens when Williams has carried the ball in each direction:

DeAngelo Williams
 LeftMiddleRight
Attempts8610483
Yards381599535
Average4.45.86.4
TD558
First Downs162525
-- ESPN Stats & Information

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Carolina's offensive line got lots of attention this season as running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart ran wild. That was justified, but it may have hidden how good Carolina's pass blocking has been. The team set a record by allowing a franchise-low 20 sacks throughout the season, and only one lineman was charged with allowing more than three sacks.

Rookie right tackle Jeff Otah surrendered a team-high five sacks, according to STATS. Left tackle Jordan Gross allowed three. Left guard Travelle Wharton allowed 2.5. Right guard Keydrick Vincent and top backup Geoff Hangartner each allowed two sacks. Center Ryan Kalil did not allow a sack. Jeremy Bridges and Frank Omiyale each got significant playing time and didn't allow a sack. The rest of the sacks allowed were charged to running backs and tight ends.

Gross was among the league leaders with seven false-start penalties, but the rest of the line fared pretty well in this category. Otah was called for five false starts. Vincent was flagged three times and Kalil twice. Omiyale had one false start. Wharton, Hangartner and Bridges weren't called for any false starts.

Tonight's inactives

December, 21, 2008
12/21/08
7:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Panthers just made an interesting announcement. They'll start Geoff Hangartner at right guard tonight.

It was obvious the Panthers knew they'd be without the injured Keydrick Vincent, but there was an assumption that Jeremy Bridges would take his place because Bridges took over after Vincent got hurt last season.

Also, the Panthers made it official that Darwin Walker will start at defensive tackle in place of the injured Maake Kemoeatu, who will become the first Carolina defensive player to miss a start this year.

Kemoeatu is joined on the list of inactives by: Matt Moore, D.J. Hackett, C.J. Wilson, Adam Seward, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Hilee Taylor and Kenneth Moore.

The inactives for the Giants are: Lawrence Tynes, Sam Madison, Gerris Wilkinson, Adam Koets, Leger Douzable, Derek Hagan, Sinorice Moss and Jerome McDougle.

 
 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
 DeAngelo Williams and the Panthers steam past the Buccaneers, 38-23, to take the lead in the NFC South. Williams carried 19 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If it looked like the Carolina Panthers' offensive line played the perfect game Monday night, think again.

The good news for the Panthers is they rushed for 299 yards in a 38-23 victory over Tampa Bay and their offensive line may have not hit its peak. Seriously.

"The best part about it is even with all the success, all the stats and all the touchdowns we got tonight, there's still a lot of room for improvement,'' center Ryan Kalil said. "We came out against a really good defense and did what we did and we know there's room to keep getting better.''

Think about what Kalil's saying and it makes a lot of sense. Carolina's offensive line really hasn't played together very much. Kalil and right tackle Jeff Otah each missed significant time with injuries and the Panthers were forced to shuffle in reserves Geoff Hangartner and Jeremy Bridges. It's only been in the last three games the intended starting offensive line has gotten back to being together.

Kalil and Otah both missed an earlier loss to Tampa Bay, a game that Tampa Bay's defense dominated.

"It was really embarrassing,'' left guard Travelle Wharton said. "40 yards rushing or whatever. They really put it to us.''

The Panthers really put it to the Bucs this time around and the offensive line deserves most of the credit. DeAngelo Williams carried 19 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns and Jonathan Stewart had 115 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

The Panthers (10-3) pushed past the Bucs (9-4) to take control of first place in the NFC South and it's because Carolina pushed Tampa Bay all around at the line of scrimmage. The stamp on it all was a four-play, 90-yard drive in the middle of the fourth quarter. The Panthers ran on all four downs and built a 31-17 lead.

Carolina's running game was so good late in the game the Panthers attempted only two passes in the fourth quarter. That was precisely what the Panthers were hoping to build up front when they blew up their offensive line after last season.

"It's kind of what we're built around,'' coach John Fox said. "Props to [general manager] Marty Hurney, [director of scouting] Don Gregory and the personnel department. I think we got bigger and more physical up front and those two backs are pretty special. We've got the people to do it and now it's going to be if we can do it consistently moving forward.''

After two non-winning seasons, the Panthers felt they had to get more physical up front. They let guard Mike Wahle and center Justin Hartwig, a pair of high-priced former free agents, go. They then assembled an offensive line that wouldn't feature any of the regular starters from last year's line in the same spot.

The Panthers took Wharton, who played left tackle last season, and moved him inside to guard. They took veteran right tackle Jordan Gross, the team's best offensive lineman, and put him at left tackle. They brought in Keydrick Vincent as a free agent and he won a training camp battle for the right guard job.

The biggest piece of all might have come when the Panthers, after drafting Stewart, traded back into the first round to draft Otah out of Pittsburgh. They also took a bit of a leap of faith on Kalil, who had played only sparingly as a rookie last year, and made him the centerpiece of the line.

The injuries may have slowed the line a bit early on, but everything was clicking against the Bucs.

"I don't think Jeff and I by ourselves make that much of a difference,'' Kalil said. "But the rhythm and continuity of having the same guys in there is the biggest part. It was rough early on with not having a lot of stability. But these last couple of games have helped us get in a rhythm. When you get comfortable as a group, you know what the call is going to be and don't have to call it, you can play a lot faster and do what we did tonight.''

The Panthers totally dominated up front. They caught a bit of a break because Tampa Bay defensive tackle Jovan Haye was out with a knee injury. His replacement, Ryan Sims, showed why he was a first-round flop with Kansas City. The Panthers consistently drove Sims off the ball. In the process, they also gave the other starting defensive tackle, veteran Chris Hovan, a tough time.

Williams went over 1,000 yards for the season and became the first Carolina running back since Stephen Davis in 2003 to reach that milestone. Think about this for a second: 2003 was Carolina's Super Bowl season.

With the New York Giants only a game ahead in the battle for the top seed in the NFC and the offensive line suddenly playing extremely well, anything is possible. The Panthers, who host Denver in Week 15, travel to New York to play the Giants on Dec. 21.

"People remember what you do in December,'' Fox said. "This was a big stage. I like the way our guys met this challenge.''

If Carolina's offensive line keeps getting better, people might remember what the Panthers do in January -- and February.

Tonight's inactives

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
7:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina offensive guard Jeremy Bridges, who was arrested Sunday night, will be inactive for tonight's game.

The other inactives for Carolina are D.J. Hackett, C.J. Wilson, Adam Seward, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Hilee Taylor, Kenneth Moore and Matt Moore.

Tampa Bay's inactives are Brian Griese, Dexter Jackson, Josh Johnson, Noah Herron, Donte Nicholson, Matt McCoy, Jovan Haye and James Lee.

SPONSORED HEADLINES