NFC South: Jerome Murphy

NFC South Stock Watch

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
7:33
AM ET
Welcome to the first 2012 edition of Stock Watch. We usually have three players falling and three rising. But, since this is the start of the season and there’s a lot to work with, we’re going to expand each category to five -- for this week only.

FALLING

Ted Larsen, guard, Buccaneers. He still may end up as the starting right guard, but the Bucs aren’t handing anything to Larsen. Although Larsen appeared to be the first guy in line when Davin Joseph went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Bucs have been bringing in guys that were released off the street for a look.

Jason Snelling, running back, Falcons. He missed part of the preseason with an injury, but that’s only a small part of why Snelling’s stock is falling. The bigger factor is the Falcons are very serious about using second-year pro Jacquizz Rodgers as their No. 2 back behind Michael Turner. Snelling still may get a few reps at tailback, but I doubt he’ll get many touches there. He also seems destined for duty as the backup fullback.

[+] EnlargeKellen Winslow
John Rieger/US PresswireThis TD catch in Kansas City was one of the few bright spots for Kellen Winslow during the preseason in Seattle.
Kellen Winslow, tight end, formerly with the Bucs and Seahawks. The Bucs traded Winslow to Seattle near the start of camp. The deal was conditional and could have earned the Bucs as much as a sixth-round pick if Winslow played well. It could have earned them a seventh-round pick if Winslow simply made the roster. He did neither, so the Bucs aren’t getting anything in return. The Bucs parted with Winslow in the first place because he wasn’t coach Greg Schiano’s kind of guy. I’d imagine Schiano is even less of a Winslow fan now that the tight end has cost him a draft pick.

Nick Toon, wide receiver, Saints. He’ll spend his rookie season on injured reserve. It’s strange, but New Orleans has a bit of a history with young receivers getting hurt at the start of their careers. It happened with Robert Meachem and he wasn’t much of a factor his first few seasons. It happened with Adrian Arrington and just now might be getting his first real chance to contribute.

Garrett Reynolds or Peter Konz, guards, Falcons. These two have been competing for the starting job at right guard throughout the preseason. The Falcons still haven’t named a starter and I don’t take that as a good sign. If either Reynolds or Konz was running away with the job, I think we already would have gotten an announcement. I think what it’s coming down to is the Falcons are deciding if they’d rather guy with a converted college center that might be having more trouble adjusting than they expected or if they’d rather stay with a guy that was mediocre as the starter last year.

RISING

Travaris Cadet, running back, Saints. He led the NFL in rushing with 246 yards during the preseason. Yeah, preseason stats don’t matter. But Cadet was so impressive that he absolutely forced the Saints, who already had Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, to keep him on the roster. It’s a little tough to get touches for five running backs, but the Saints already were pretty good at distributing the ball. Now, they just need to add one more guy to the equation.

Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. Again, preseason stats don’t matter, but the Falcons led the NFL by averaging 280.2 passing yards in their four exhibition games. Yeah, undrafted rookie Dominique Davis was responsible for a chunk of those yards. But when Ryan did play, he looked as sharp as he ever has. Ryan’s always been focused and he has a fantastic supporting cast. I’m not having much trouble picturing a big season out of Ryan.

Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator, Saints. Although he wasn’t chosen as the interim-interim head coach, Spagnuolo obviously is carrying a lot of clout right now. The Saints made a late roster move that had Spagnuolo’s finger prints all over it. Cornerback Elbert Mack had a nice preseason and initially appeared to have made the team. But the Saints claimed cornerback Jerome Murray off waivers and released Mack. Murphy played for Spagnuolo in St. Louis, so it’s pretty safe to assume he went to the front office, said he wanted his guy and was granted his wish.

Armanti Edwards, receiver/return man. Panthers. A lot of people didn’t think Edwards would make the roster and I was one of them. But Edwards still is with the Panthers, even though they have depth at receiver and plenty of options in the return game. The Panthers didn’t keep Edwards just to have an Appalachian State product on their roster. They sort of did that the last two years as they kept hoping Edwards would develop into something. They’re at a point in their development where every roster spot is precious, so you have to believe Edwards is in their plans.

Arrelious Benn, receiver, Tampa Bay. He missed most of the preseason with an injury and just returned to practice this week. But the Bucs must have a pretty good feeling that Benn is close to being ready to be their third receiver after Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. They released Tiquan Underwood, who had a very nice preseason and kept Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter as their only other backups at receiver. I didn’t see anything special from Parker or Stroughter in the preseason and they might have made the roster mainly because they can contribute on special teams. Benn still may have a little work to do to get back into shape, but I don’t think it will be long before he’s established as the third receiver.

Around the NFC South

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
10:12
AM ET
A look at the top Monday morning headlines from around the NFC South:

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

General manger Mickey Loomis begins his eight-game suspension Monday. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt also starts a six-game suspension and defensive end Will Smith begins a four-game suspension. Aaron Kromer will coach the team in Vitt’s absence. Director of pro scouting Ryan Pace will lead the front office during Loomis’ absence.

After cutting down to 53 players, the New Orleans Saints tweaked their roster Sunday. They claimed cornerback Jerome Murphy off waivers from the St. Louis Rams and released cornerback Elbert Mack. This one is not a huge surprise. Although Mack did some good things in the preseason, Murphy played for New Orleans defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo with the Rams.

Check out this photo of a Louisiana man rescuing a framed Drew Brees jersey from his flooded home.

ATLANTA FALCONS

The last time the Falcons faced the Chiefs, who they’ll open the season against Sunday, was in 2008. At that time, Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez was with the Chiefs. It also was the third game Matt Ryan started at quarterback for the Falcons, who won that game, 38-14.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said that veteran defensive end John Abraham again will be on a snap count. The Falcons did that last year to help keep the veteran fresh.

The Falcons filled out their practice squad by signing tight end Chase Coffman, safety Mark LeGree and linebacker Pat Schiller.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Captains Jon Beason and Steve Smith returned to practice Sunday after missing significant time. Smith missed two weeks with a foot infection. Beason missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury. Both are expected to play in Sunday’s opener with Tampa Bay. Running back Jonathan Stewart remains out with an ankle injury and his condition is expected to be evaluated later in the week.

Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, who is coming back from his third torn ACL, says he plans to play at a high level. It might seem difficult to imagine Davis being the player he was before the injuries, but I wouldn’t bet against this guy.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Tampa Bay receiver Arrelious Benn, who had been out with an injury since the first day of training camp, returned to practice over the weekend and said he hopes to be ready for the season opener with Carolina. I don’t know if it will happen immediately, but it shouldn’t be too long before Benn is the third receiver behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

With it looking like a very strong possibility that the NFL will be using replacement referees to start the season, several of the Bucs say they have concerns. Cornerback Ronde Barber said the replacement refs are not incompetent, but aren’t used to working on the NFL level. In a league that says its first priority is the safety of the players, I don’t know that going with replacement refs is the best way to keep everyone safe.

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