NFC South: Joe Adams

What to watch: Panthers-Ravens

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
11:02
AM ET
Three things to watch as the Carolina Panthers play the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN:

Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen. Newton will get his most extensive playing time of the preseason, and the Panthers hope he and the offense can get in a rhythm. Newton has led only one touchdown drive this preseason. Clausen is expected to play with the second team. That’s not a sign that Clausen has a chance to beat out Derek Anderson for the backup job. It’s more of a sign that the Panthers want to take a good look at Clausen before deciding if they want to carry two or three quarterbacks on the roster.

The receivers. Armanti Edwards, Domenik Hixon and Joe Adams aren’t expected to play due to injuries. That means more playing time for Ted Ginn Jr. and David Gettis, who are having strong preseasons and have a chance to be among the top backups at receiver.

Garry Williams. He’s been getting the first-team work at right guard since the team released veteran Geoff Hangartner. Williams needs a strong showing because it still is possible the team could bring in a veteran as other teams trim their rosters.

NFC South afternoon update

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
4:44
PM ET
Time for an afternoon run through some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Although he’s having a sensational preseason, undrafted rookie linebacker Paul Worrilow still is listed with the third team on the latest depth chart. Let’s keep in mind that depth charts are unofficial in the preseason. I think Worrilow has opened a lot of eyes and has a very good chance to make the roster as a backup and special-teams player.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Bryan Strickland takes a look at some of the areas in which the Panthers will have to make tough decisions when it comes time to trim the roster. I think the most compelling spot is at wide receiver. Starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are locks. After that, there’s a logjam of receivers that includes Armanti Edwards, Ted Ginn Jr., Domenik Hixon, Kealoha Pilares, David Gettis and Joe Adams. Ginn almost certainly sticks around due to his return ability. Edwards seems to have worked his way into the good graces of the coaching staff and is likely to stay. Gettis, who has dealt with major injuries the past two years, has had a very good preseason and could end up as the fifth receiver.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints are looking thin at linebacker with Will Herring missing practice Tuesday. Jonathan Vilma, Junior Galette and Chris Chamberlain already have missed a lot of practice time.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy takes exception to the criticism Josh Freeman has been getting recently and said the quarterback is a team leader. Some media and fans are down on Freeman, but I think he still has the confidence of his teammates, which is hugely important.

Observation deck: Panthers-Eagles

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
10:21
PM ET

The Carolina Panthers better put in a hurry-up defense quickly.

That became apparent in Thursday night’s 14-9 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

With the defensive starters playing most of the first half, the Panthers struggled to stop Philadelphia’s fast-paced attack. The Eagles piled up 257 yards of total offense in the first half.

Carolina's defense was on its heels, reacting instead of being proactive, most of the night.

Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly’s scheme is unique, but the Panthers are going to face elements of it in the regular season. They have to play Atlanta (twice), a team that’s proficient in the no-huddle offense. They also have to face Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, a pair of quarterbacks who can make things happen with their ability to run.

Things could have been even worse, but Carolina’s first defense was able to produce three turnovers to stop Philadelphia drives. But it’s pretty obvious the unit isn’t a finished product.

The Panthers have some work to do in getting ready for no-huddle offenses and mobile quarterbacks.

Some other quick observations on the Panthers:
  • It wasn’t all bad news for the defense. Cornerback Josh Norman had an interception on a Hail-Mary pass just before the end of the first half and cornerback Josh Thomas picked off Nick Foles early on. Veterans Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn have been getting most of the first-team work in camp, but the interceptions by Norman and Thomas might put them in the mix for starting jobs.
  • I liked the fact the Panthers gave running back DeAngelo Williams 12 carries in the first half. I thought Williams was underutilized last season. He’s an explosive player and, if given enough chances in the regular season, Williams will make things happen.
  • Defensive end Greg Hardy produced a first-half sack. But give some of the credit to rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who got good penetration on the play.
  • Wide receiver Steve Smith is 34, but still going strong, largely because he runs such great routes.
  • Rookie Kenjon Barner might have hurt his chances at claiming future playing time as a return man by muffing a third-quarter punt return.
  • With receivers Domenik Hixon, Joe Adams and Armanti Edwards sitting out due to injuries, David Gettis and Ted Ginn Jr. made the most of increased opportunities. Gettis had five catches for 82 yards and Ginn had two catches for 39 yards.

NFC South quick hits

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
4:02
PM ET
As we get ready for Thursday night’s preseason games involving the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons (I’ll be back with observations on both games soon after they end), let’s take a look at some news and notes from around the division:
  • With Mike Johnson out for the season with an injury, the Falcons are giving Lamar Holmes the first shot at the right tackle job. Holmes faces a big challenge Thursday night when he goes against Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, a pair of strong pass-rushers. If Holmes holds up well against the Ravens, he’s likely to get the nod as the starter.
  • Jonathan Jones tops his list of five players to watch in Carolina’s game with Philadelphia with wide receiver David Gettis, who appears to be competing with Joe Adams and Kealoha Pilares for the final receiver spot. Gettis, who has been plagued by injuries the past two years, showed a little burst in the preseason opener. He’ll need to continue that to secure a roster spot.
  • In this Insider piece , Matt Williamson ranks Carolina’s linebacker corps among the best in the league. Can’t argue with that, but I think you have to attach the caveat that Jon Beason and Thomas Davis need to stay healthy for this group to truly be elite.
  • With linebacker Jonathan Vilma having another knee surgery, Bradley Handwerger writes that this is an opportunity for David Hawthorne to step up. Hawthorne was signed to a decent contract last year but hasn’t done a lot for the Saints. Vilma’s age and history of knee problems leave questions about his durability. Hawthorne could put himself in line for a lot of playing time with a good performance over the next few weeks.
  • Ross Tucker writes that the comments by Carl Nicks, in which the Tampa Bay guard said he’ll have to play through pain for the rest of his career, didn’t draw as much attention as they should have. Tucker, a former player, says that toe injuries can’t be taken lightly. But Nicks and the Bucs think he still can play at a high level.

Observation deck: Bears-Panthers

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
11:03
PM ET

The muddled cornerback situation for the Carolina Panthers might be clearing up.

Second-year pro Josh Norman, who is competing with Drayton Florence, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Thomas for a starting job recorded two interceptions in Friday night’s 24-17 victory against the Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium.

Norman intercepted Jay Cutler on Chicago’s first offensive play of the night to set up a quick touchdown. Norman also had an interception that he returned 60 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Florence and Munnerlyn had been getting most of the first-team work in camp. But Norman certainly made his case for a starting job Friday night.

Some other observations on the Panthers:

We saw the two sides of quarterback Cam Newton in some very limited playing time. He threw a great touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell on a drag route. But Newton also forced a ball into coverage and had it intercepted and returned 51 yards for a touchdown.

Rookie fullback Michael Zordich suffered a knee injury on a first-quarter kickoff. Zordich is fighting for a roster spot and the injury looked serious.

Joe Adams, who had the punt return job taken away from him last year, might have gotten some redemption with a 23-yard punt return in the first quarter.

Charles Johnson got credit for a sack, but he got plenty of help from rookie Kawann Short, who got a good push. Short looked good on several other plays.

Rookie running back Kenjon Barner got a lot of playing time and did some good things. But Barner lost a fumble. That’s not going to help him gain the trust of the coaching staff. Adams lost his job last year because he couldn’t hold onto the football and the fumble could haunt Barner.

David Gettis had a couple of nice catches. But I think Gettis faces an uphill battle to make the roster. He’s behind Armanti Edwards and Ted Ginn Jr. on the depth chart and both of those receivers made several plays Thursday night. Edwards and Ginn also have return ability and Gettis does not.

Tight end Brandon Williams had a nice catch to set up a touchdown. He came to camp as a long shot to make the roster, but he might end up sticking around.
The Carolina Panthers are making it very clear they plan on first-round draft pick Star Lotulelei being an opening-day starter at defensive tackle.

Some teams go out of their way to show courtesy to veterans, but the Panthers aren’t throwing out any smokescreens. They put out their first unofficial depth chart of the preseason Monday afternoon and Lotulelei is listed with the first team. He’s the only rookie listed as a starter.

The rest of Carolina’s depth chart doesn’t contain any surprises, but let’s take a look at a few positions where there still is competition. After releasing right guard Geoff Hangartner last week, the Panthers are listing Garry Williams as the starter and rookie Edmund Kugbila as the top backup. If Kugbila can get healthy, he has a chance to start.

The defensive backfield also is a key area of competition with free safety Charles Godfrey as the only sure starter. Mike Mitchell is listed as the No. 1 strong safety with D.J. Campbell at No. 2. Veterans Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn are listed as the starting cornerbacks with Josh Thomas and Josh Norman as the top backups.

Ted Ginn Jr. is listed as the top punt and kickoff returner, but I’m expecting Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and Armanti Edwards to get some work in this area during the preseason games.
Bryan Strickland’s overview on Carolina’s situation at wide receiver got me thinking about just how deep the Panthers are at this position.

Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are set as the starters. But, after that, I see six guys competing for what likely will be four roster spots.

Let’s take a look at the candidates:

Domenik Hixon. Brought in as a free agent, his experience and ties to general manager Dave Gettleman could make Hixon the favorite to claim the No. 3 receiver spot. But he’ll face plenty of competition.

Ted Ginn Jr. Another free-agent pickup, who is likely to handle at least some return duties. Ginn had a great offseason and sparked hopes that he can win the No. 3 receiver job. Ginn has elite speed. But the real test will come in training camp and the preseason. Ginn has looked great in shorts before, but hasn’t always produced in the regular season.

Armanti Edwards. This former college quarterback struggled in adjusting to wide receiver, but there were signs in the offseason program Edwards may be catching onto the position. He also has ability in the return game, but needs to use camp and the preseason to show he can contribute as a receiver in order to earn a roster spot.

David Gettis. He missed almost all of the past two seasons with injuries after showing some promise as a rookie in 2010. The coaching staff doesn’t have high expectations for Gettis, but he could put himself back into good graces if he’s healthy and has a strong showing in camp and the preseason games.

Kealoha Pilares. He’s another guy with return skills. But, if he’s going to stick on the roster, Pilares needs to show he can contribute at least a little bit as a wide receiver.

Joe Adams. The Panthers wanted him to be their primary return man as a rookie last season, but he lost that job after struggling early. The potential to be an explosive return man is still there. But, like Pilares, Adams also needs to show he can contribute as a receiver to have a shot at staying on the roster.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Some random observations and thoughts out of the Carolina Panthers’ minicamp:
  • Coach Ron Rivera was vague on this topic, but I get the sense that there’s a good chance running back Jonathan Stewart, who is recovering from surgery on both ankles, might not be ready to go at the start of training camp.
  • I don’t think the Panthers will scrap the read-option completely, but I came away with a strong sense they’ll be leaning much more heavily to a traditional running game. I think that’s a wonderful thing. Let Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert truly be running backs, and let Cam Newton be a true quarterback. Let him use his mobility when receivers aren’t open and plays are breaking down. But don’t ask your quarterback to be your leading rusher.
  • Speaking of running backs, rookie Kenjon Barner seems to have plenty of explosiveness and speed. The Panthers might have to figure out a way to get him into the backfield rotation.
  • After starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, the Panthers are going to have some very intriguing competition for the other receiver spots. Free-agent pickup Ted Ginn Jr. stood out during minicamp. Ginn has great speed, and I saw him catch several deep passes from Newton. I also thought Armanti Edwards, a former college quarterback, finally looked comfortable at receiver. But Ginn and Edwards will be competing with Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and David Gettis in training camp for playing time and roster spots.
  • Speaking of Ginn, the Panthers have plenty of options in the return game. But I get the sense that what they ideally would like to do is have Ginn handle both punt and kickoff returns.
  • Safety Robert Lester was signed as an undrafted free agent, but it’s obvious the Panthers are very high on what he has shown so far. There have been times when Lester has gotten some work with the first team.
  • I wish I could give you a clear picture of the situation at cornerback. But I can’t, and that’s mainly because the Panthers still don’t have a clear picture. Captain Munnerlyn hasn’t participated in minicamp as he recovers from an injury. The Panthers were giving a bunch of different cornerbacks work with the first team. I didn’t see any of them really stand out, and that means the competition will continue into training camp.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If there was a star of the Carolina Panthers' minicamp in Thursday afternoon’s session, it was Ted Ginn Jr.

On two different occasions, Ginn used his speed to get open and catch deep balls from Cam Newton.

“That’s kind of part of the reason he’s here coach Ron Rivera said. “Obviously, with his speed, we know he can blow the top off the covers and he’s showing. He’s going. I think he’s going to help us with some of the complimentary reps that we’ll have."

It’s ironic, but what Ginn flashed Tuesday must have been something similar to what the Miami Dolphins envisioned back in 2007 when they used a first-round pick on Ginn. But Ginn never materialized into a consistent threat in three seasons in Miami. He then spent the past three seasons in San Francisco, where he barely was used as a receiver, but was the primary return man for the 49ers.

But the Panthers are hoping that maybe a fresh start might re-launch Ginn’s career as a wide receiver. He’s going to get a chance to compete with Domenik Hixon, Joe Adams, Kealoha Pilares, David Gettis and Armanti Edwards for the third receiver spot.

If Tuesday’s practice was any indication, Ginn might have the early lead because his speed looked tantalizing.

“A 5-yard pass could turn into a 25- or 30-yard gain before you know it," Rivera said.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I’ll be heading out shortly to watch the Carolina Panthers open their minicamp.

Let’s take a look at five things I’ll be keeping a close eye on:

Cam Newton. For whatever reason, the quarterback is a magnet for scrutiny. I saw some signs of maturity the second half of last season and I’m curious to see if Newton is continuing to progress.

Mike Shula’s playbook. Shula replaced Rob Chudzinski as offensive coordinator. I’m thinking there’s a good chance Shula learned from what Chudzinski did last season. Early on, the Panthers were leaning heavily on Newton and the read option and not really using their running backs. The Panthers started 2-8. Then, they went to a more traditional running game and finished the season strong. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are talented running backs. The Panthers need to use them and let Newton be a quarterback.

Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. The Panthers used their first two draft picks on these two defensive tackles. I thought that was a great move because the Panthers have struggled in this area for far too long. Lotulelei is a classic run-stuffer and Short has the potential to bring an interior pass rush. If these guys are anywhere near as good as advertised, Carolina’s defense has a chance to be very good.

The defensive backfield. The Panthers didn’t make any big moves here and that was somewhat surprising. But general manger Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera know a lot more about football than I do. They must be confident that some of their mid-level free agents and some guys that were already on the roster can play.

The cluster at wide receiver. The Panthers have loaded up their depth behind starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. They brought in free agents Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn Jr. to compete with Kealoha Pilares, Armanti Edwards, David Gettis and Joe Adams. That should create some competition and competition usually prompts someone to step up their game.

I'll be back with more on the Panthers after they finish their morning practice and interview session.

NFC South offseason Stock Watch

April, 8, 2013
4/08/13
10:00
AM ET
RISING

Lamar Holmes, Falcons. Don’t rule out the possibility of the Falcons bringing in someone to play right tackle in the draft or as a free agent. But at the moment, Holmes appears to be the player most likely to start at right tackle. Holmes barely played as a rookie. But he was a third-round draft choice last year and the Falcons may believe it’s time to get him on the field.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers. Here’s an early fantasy tip: Draft this guy very early. He had a very strong rookie season and there’s no reason to expect a sophomore slump. In fact, Martin’s numbers should only get better with Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks returning from injuries.

Roman Harper, Saints. New Orleans fans might not want to hear this, but all indications are the Saints are sticking with Harper at strong safety. If they weren’t it’s likely they would have released him by now or at least asked him to take a cut in pay. Only the Saints know what they have planned for Harper. But the fact that he still is around is a pretty good indication that new coordinator Rob Ryan has plans for Harper. That likely means the Saints will let Harper play to his strengths -- helping against the run and being used as a blitzer -- and not being asked to do too much in coverage.

FALLING

LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers. There have been multiple reports that the Bucs are shopping Blount. But the fact the word is out there and that the Bucs have no apparent plans to give Blount a larger role will make it difficult to trade him. Interested teams may just wait because the Bucs may end up releasing him.

Stephen Nicholas, Falcons. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Falcons bring in an outside linebacker fairly early in the draft. Nicholas’ flaws got exposed in the postseason and it might be time to look for an upgrade.

Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and Armanti Edwards. The signings of Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn Jr. show the Panthers can’t be very high on Pilares, Adams or Edwards as receivers or return men. If David Gettis is healthy, Pilares, Adams and Edwards might be battling for one roster spot in training camp.

Eight in the Box: WR status check

March, 29, 2013
3/29/13
12:00
PM ET
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each team look at wide receiver, and what still needs to be done?

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have one of the best starting combinations in the league in Roddy White and Julio Jones, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. White and Jones are as good as most No. 1 receivers, and that creates matchup problems for opposing defenses, especially when you factor in the presence of tight end Tony Gonzalez. What has been mildly disappointing is that the Falcons haven’t gotten more out of their third receiver. Harry Douglas was used primarily in the slot last season. He has big-play potential but was limited to 38 catches and one touchdown. There is no serious challenger to Douglas on the current roster. That means the Falcons could look for an upgrade in what remains of free agency or in the draft.

Carolina Panthers: The team might not be sitting still at this position. It’s very possible the Panthers could use an early draft pick on a receiver because it’s time to start grooming an heir apparent to Steve Smith. He still is the No. 1 receiver, but his age is due to catch up with him at some point. Brandon LaFell has established himself as the No. 2 receiver but doesn’t look as if he’s a candidate for anything more. The No. 3 receiver spot is wide open after Louis Murphy departed via free agency. The team has some young options in Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and Armanti Edwards. But the Panthers recently signed Ted Ginn Jr. He primarily was a return man in San Francisco the past three seasons. But he contributed as a receiver in Miami before that. Ginn has a chance to win the third receiver job.

New Orleans Saints: There could be change on the horizon in New Orleans’ wide receiver situation. Veteran Devery Henderson is a free agent, and it appears unlikely the Saints will bring him back. The Saints still have veterans Marques Colston and Lance Moore, but several young players are going to have a chance at significant playing time because the Saints use a lot of three- and four-receiver sets. Joseph Morgan flashed potential at times last season. But the player to keep an eye on is Nick Toon, who missed his rookie season because of injury. Toon might have the inside track on the third receiver job and eventually could develop into a starter.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are well set with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams as their starters. But the real competition should be for the No. 3 receiver spot as the team continues to try to give quarterback Josh Freeman everything he needs to succeed. Tiquan Underwood emerged as the No. 3 receiver last season, and he has a chance to stay in that role. But the Bucs brought in Kevin Ogletree to compete with him. Ogletree did some good things in Dallas last season and might be just starting to reach his potential.

NFC South afternoon update

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
6:13
PM ET
It’s been a quiet afternoon in the NFC South, but we have a few minor news items to touch on.

The New Orleans Saints are bringing back Will Herring, according to Bradley Handwerger. They recently released him because he’s a 4-3 linebacker and they’re switching to a 3-4 scheme.

But it’s pretty obvious what this move is all about. The Saints are bringing Herring back at a lower salary because they want him to play on special teams.

In other news, the Carolina Panthers will sign wide receiver/return man Ted Ginn. He spent the past three years in San Francisco, but wasn’t nearly as productive as he was in Miami during the first three seasons of his career.

By bringing in Ginn, the Panthers have made it pretty obvious they’re not sold on Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams or Armanti Edwards.

NFC South afternoon update

March, 20, 2013
3/20/13
4:02
PM ET
The NFL owners meeting has ended, so let's take a run through the headlines from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Coach Greg Schiano predicted a “great’’ season by quarterback Josh Freeman in 2013. Schiano said Freeman had three bad games in 2012 and the key is to avoid the same mistakes in the future. As I’ve said before, I think the ability is there for Freeman to be a really good quarterback. I just think he needs to relax a bit and not put so much pressure on himself.

Cornerback E.J. Biggers has left for the Washington Redskins via free agency. The Bucs had some interest in keeping Biggers, but only as a third or fourth corner. They’ll address the cornerback position (probably more than once) in free agency, trade or the draft.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Former New Orleans defensive end Turk McBride has signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears. No big shock there. McBride was a nice role player when the Saints ran the 4-3 defense, but he wouldn’t have been a good fit in the 3-4.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Coach Ron Rivera had glowing things to say about Ted Ginn Jr., who visited the team and has been offered a contract. If the Panthers end up with the wide receiver/kick returner, it probably doesn’t bode well for the futures of Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and Armanti Edwards.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Jeff Schultz writes that the Falcons might be better off signing a veteran cornerback and getting a pass-rusher in the draft. I agree. You’re not going to get a great cornerback at No. 30, but you might get a decent pass-rusher. There still are a few free-agent cornerbacks on the market. But the best one might be Brent Grimes, who has spent his career in Atlanta. The Falcons have interest in Grimes and I think there’s a decent chance he ends up re-signing with the team because it doesn’t seem like anyone else is throwing huge money at him.

Looking at Panthers' offensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
11:03
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Carolina veteran left tackle Jordan Gross showed no signs of wearing down in 2012. Gross appeared in all but four of the Panthers’ 1,030 offensive plays.

Gross was on the field for a team-high 99.61 percent of the offensive snaps.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the breakdown of percentage of offensive playing time for the Panthers. (You might want to pay close attention to how little the Panthers used high-paid running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.)

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