NFC South: Jerome Felton

Around the NFC South

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
8:39
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Time for a look at the Wednesday morning headlines from around the NFC South.

Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib has had his trial on an assault charge in Texas moved back to April 14. It had been scheduled for next week. Talib could face prison time if convicted, but the Bucs should know his fate before the NFL draft later in April.

In yet another sign that the Carolina Panthers really are intent on using newly-signed Mike Tolbert at fullback, Jerome Felton has signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Felton was Carolina’s fullback most of last year.

The Atlanta Falcons are suing eight of their former players in an attempt to get them to litigate workers compensation claims in Georgia instead of California.

Mike Triplett writes that Peyton Manning and the Broncos working out a contract so quickly is proof that the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees could do the same. He’s right. But I think Brees and the Saints will continue to play this one out slowly. There’s no pending deadline and no big sense of urgency. Both sides are trying to get the best deal possible from their individual perspectives.

The Panthers had four representatives at North Carolina’s pro day on Tuesday and presumably they were keeping a close watch on defensive end Quinton Coples. He’s viewed as a top-10 talent and the most athletic pass-rusher in the draft. Carolina’s picking No. 9 and may have a bigger need at defensive tackle. But it’s tough to pass on a talented pass-rusher and the Panthers have to do their homework on Coples.
Unless you’re a die-hard fan of the New Orleans Saints, you might not even know who Jed Collins is.

That’s understandable because a season in which you compile four carries for four yards and two touchdowns and catch 11 passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns isn’t going to catch the eyes of casual observers.

But die-hard fans and casual observers alike might want to take a closer look at how much Collins meant to the Saints this past season. He had bounced around the NFL since 2008, but had never appeared in a regular-season game. But the Saints brought in Collins and he wound up replacing Heath Evans quite nicely.

In a season in which New Orleans set all sorts of records, Collins quietly played a very big role. He was responsible for protecting Drew Brees and opening holes for Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory.

Collins obviously had to be doing something right because the coaching staff used him extensively. According to playing time numbers from the 2011 season obtained by ESPN.com, Collins was on the field for 42.5 percent of New Orleans’ offensive plays. That’s the second-highest percentage of any fullback in the NFL.

Only Baltimore’s Vonta Leach (52.8 percent) was active in a higher rate of his team’s offensive snaps. Collins was on the field for 489 of New Orleans’ 1,152 offensive plays. He also contributed heavily on special teams. Collins took part in 32 percent of New Orleans’ special-teams plays.

Collins easily got more offensive playing time than any other NFC South fullback. Tampa Bay’s Erik Lorig was next at 23.6 percent. Lorig also got considerable time on special teams, participating in 66.8 percent of the Bucs’ special-teams plays. Tampa Bay’s Earnest Graham suffered a season-ending injury. But, prior to that, he got in on 18.8 percent of the offensive plays as a fullback and also was used at tailback.

Carolina’s Jerome Felton was next at 15.3 percent. Atlanta’s Ovie Mughelli also suffered a season-ending injury, but got in for 13.1 percent of the team’s offensive plays. Replacement Mike Cox was on the field for 11.9 percent of the Falcons’ offensive plays.

NFC South players not signed for 2012

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
8:29
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A lot can change between now and the start of free agency and I sure don’t see any way the New Orleans Saints let quarterback/King Drew Brees walk away. I also think there’s a pretty good chance tight end Tony Gonzalez can return to the Atlanta Falcons if he chooses. Same for cornerback Ronde Barber with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and maybe even Jeremy Shockey with the Carolina Panthers.

But all we know about those guys at the moment is they’re not under contract for 2012. We’ll do much more on free agency as it gets closer but I’ve got the complete list of every NFC South player presently not under contract for 2012.

I’ll list them by team here and we’ll only go with the guys who have at least four years of service and can become unrestricted free agents. We’ll deal with restricted and exclusive-rights free agents at another time.

Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez, tight end; Reggie Kelly, tight end; Todd McClure, center; Mike Peterson, linebacker; John Abraham, defensive end; Joe Zelenka, long-snapper; Chris Redman, quarterback; Kirk Chambers, offensive line; Kelvin Hayden, cornerback; Brett Romberg, offensive line; James Sanders, safety; Jason Snelling, running back; Kroy Biermann, defensive end; Thomas DeCoud, safety; Harry Douglas, receiver; Brent Grimes, cornerback; Curtis Lofton, linebacker; Eric Weems, receiver.

Carolina Panthers: Jeremy Shockey, tight end; Reggie Wells, offensive line; Derek Anderson, quarterback; Geoff Hangartner, center/guard; Omar Gaither, linebacker; Cletis Gordon, cornerback; Legedu Naanee, receiver; Antwan Applewhite, linebacker; Mackenzy Beranadeau, offensive line; Dan Connor, linebacker; J.J. Jansen, long-snapper; Jerome Felton, fullback; Jordan Senn, linebacker.

New Orleans Saints: John Kasay, kicker; Drew Brees, quarterback; Shaun Rogers, defensive tackle; John Gilmore, tight end; Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle; Marques Colston, receiver; Pat McQuistan, offensive line; Courtney Roby, receiver; Leigh Torrence, cornerback; Jeff Charleston, defensive end; Turk McBride, defensive end; Robert Meachem, receiver; Jo-Lonn Dunbar, linebacker; Carl Nicks, guard; Tracy Porter, cornerback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronde Barber, cornerback; Earnest Graham, running back; Sean Jones, safety; Connor Barth, kicker; Geno Hayes, linebacker; Josh Johnson, quarterback; James Lee, offensive line; Corey Lynch, safety; Elbert Mack, cornerback; Frank Okam, defensive tackle; Micheal Spurlock, receiver; Jeremy Zuttah, offensive line.

Looking at Panthers' depth chart

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
4:35
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Here’s a new one. The Carolina Panthers just released their “unofficial’’ depth chart for Sunday’s game at Arizona and they’re listing two starters at tight end and no fullback.

Is the media relations staff really giving away the formation for the first play of the Ron Rivera era? I doubt it.

But the Panthers are listing both Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey as starting tight ends. There’s no starting fullback listed and running back DeAngelo Williams is listed as Carolina’s lone starter in the backfield. For the record, whenever the Panthers do use a fullback, it will be Jerome Felton, who was brought in to replace Tony Fiammetta.

Some other items of interest on Carolina’s depth chart.
  • Yes, Cam Newton is listed as the starting quarterback. We just had to say it. Again, this depth chart is unofficial, but Jimmy Clausen is listed as the No. 2 quarterback and Derek Anderson as No. 3.
  • Mackenzy Bernadeau is listed as the starter at right guard. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. The Panthers went out and grabbed veterans Max Jean-Gilles and Geoff Hangartner after injuries wiped out this position. It’s likely one of them will start.
  • Brandon LaFell is listed as the starting receiver opposite Steve Smith. That’s what the Panthers would like to happen, but nobody knows for sure if LaFell is ready to be a starter.
  • Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, a pair of rookies, are listed as the starters at defensive tackle.

Carolina Panthers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:42
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Check here for a complete list of the Carolina Panthers’ roster moves.

Surprise move: The Panthers waived fullback Tony Fiammetta, their starter last season and the man who had the misfortune to replace fan favorite Brad Hoover. Fiammetta didn’t do a lot to endear himself to the old coaching staff and that didn’t change after Ron Rivera took over.

The Panthers recently went out and signed Jerome Felton. Presumably, Felton will move right into the starting lineup. Being the lead blocker for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could make him look pretty good.

No-brainers: The Panthers released defensive tackles Nick Hayden and Corvey Irvin, who had gotten a fair amount of playing time in recent years. That leaves them with only three defensive tackles, which was the weakest spot on the roster the last few years. There was no sense holding onto Hayden or Irvin because the Panthers already knew they weren’t the answer. This is a position where the Panthers are far from done. Although they have high hopes for rookies Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, they’ll take a look at who else around the league is available. It’s a safe bet they’ll sign a defensive tackle -- maybe two.

What’s next: In addition to defensive tackle, there’s still work to do on this roster. General manager Marty Hurney was very aggressive coming out of the lockout. Look for him to jump back into that mode quickly. The Panthers need a starting right guard after placing Garry Williams on the injured-reserve list. They could also use help at cornerback and wide receiver.

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