NFC South: Joey Harrington

Pat Yasinskas' QB Watch

September, 14, 2011
9/14/11
12:00
PM ET
Cam Newton and Andy DaltonGetty ImagesCarolina's Cam Newton, left, and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton are the latest examples of quarterbacks who started the first game of their rookie seasons.
There’s an ancient NFL proverb that says you shouldn’t play a rookie quarterback right away. If you do, the logic goes, you might ruin him.

In breaking and somewhat related news: The world is flat.

Yeah, Christopher Columbus shot the second one down, and let’s turn to Cam Newton and Andy Dalton to take care of the first. Let’s label the exhibits Rookie QB 1 and Rookie QB 2.

Just look at the evidence Newton and Dalton put on the field Sunday as the only two rookie quarterbacks to start the season. Newton threw for 422 yards, the most ever by a player making his NFL debut.

And this was a guy who some fans and draft gurus said wouldn’t be able to run an NFL offense?

Then there was Dalton. He wasn’t as flamboyant as Newton, and he left the game with an injury. But, before he did, Dalton was a very efficient 10-of-15 passing for 81 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions to help the Cincinnati Bengals kick off the post-Carson Palmer era with a victory against Cleveland.

And Dalton slid all the way to the second round of the draft?

There’s a lesson to be learned from what Newton and Dalton did on Sunday. You can start a rookie quarterback right off the bat. And this theory’s not exactly brand new.

Take a look at recent years. Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez have played quickly and fared well. As a matter of fact, can you name the last early draft pick who truly got "ruined" by playing too soon?

I say it’s David Carr, and that was a long time ago and in unique circumstances. Carr was playing on the expansion Houston Texans, who never really did anything to build a quality offensive line during his tenure.

You can throw out names like Joey Harrington, JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young and Alex Smith. But I think those were guys who were going to struggle no matter how soon they played.

Yeah, maybe in a dream world you can let Aaron Rodgers sit behind Brett Favre for a few years. But the NFL’s not a dream world, and maybe it’s time for those still clinging to the myth that a quarterback has to sit to let go.

Maybe it’s time -- or at least close to time -- for the Vikings, Jaguars and Titans to realize they’ve got nothing to lose by playing Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker sooner rather than later.

In a new age when first-round rookie contracts are limited to four years with an option for a fifth, there’s a sense of urgency to find out what a quarterback can do. Yeah, you can make the argument that’s throwing a guy to the wolves. But the Panthers threw Newton to the Cardinals and the Bengals threw Dalton to the Browns and no one got ruined.

This is the inaugural edition of Quarterback Watch. We’ll be here every Wednesday throughout the season, examining the trends and themes involving quarterbacks and looking at whose stock is on the rise and whose is declining.

TRENDING UP


TRENDING DOWN


We have a very interesting story over on our news side that reveals the National Football League has proposed to divert about $300 million a year from guaranteed money for rookies to benefits and salaries for veterans.

We’ve gone a little further into that because the resolution of the labor situation and how rookies are paid could have a huge and direct impact on the Carolina Panthers, who hold the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Under the old system, that pick likely would make somewhere around $50 million in guaranteed money. According to figures obtained by ESPN.com, the past five No. 1 overall draft picks have received $180.8 million in guaranteed compensation before ever playing a down in the NFL. That’s an average of $36.169 million per player.

Last year’s top draft pick, St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford, got $50 million guaranteed in his contract. Matthew Stafford, the top pick in 2009, was given a deal with $41.7 million in guaranteed money. Miami’s Jake Long got $30 million guaranteed when he was taken in 2008. Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell, one of the biggest busts in recent years, was given $32.019 million in 2007 and 2006 top pick Mario Williams got $27.125 million in guaranteed money.

Much of the pre-draft speculation has Carolina taking a quarterback at No. 1, and Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert are the names that have come up most often. But drafting a quarterback early doesn’t always mean success, although it has meant big money.

The last 15 quarterbacks selected in the top 10 (going back to Michael Vick in 2001) have had contracts that guaranteed them more than $367 million. That’s an average of $24.474 million per player, and only six of those 15 quarterbacks have been selected to a Pro Bowl.

Here’s a list of those quarterbacks that includes their draft year, team and guaranteed money.
Patrick PetersonBrian Spurlock/US PresswirePatrick Peterson is regarded by some draft gurus as the best player in this year's pool of players.
Let’s go ahead and agree on the expert witnesses' credentials and swear them in as we begin the case of Patrick Peterson vs. the National Football League draft.

Peterson is challenging the age-old law that you simply don’t take a cornerback with the first pick in the NFL draft. It’s never been done before, at least not in the modern era. In fact, case law shows that a cornerback never has been chosen earlier than Shawn Springs when Seattle picked him at No. 3 in 1997.

But the people at Peterson’s table can put any number of guys on the stand and make a case that it’s time to change the law.

“I honestly think he’s the best player in the draft,’’ said Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson, a former NFL front-office worker. “He’s as clean a prospect as there is coming out in this draft. There are no character flaws or physical problems. I don’t know that there is a single thing you can put down about him that’s a negative.’’

“Peterson is the best player in this draft, period,’’ said Tony Softli, who worked as a high-ranking personnel official for the Carolina Panthers and the St. Louis Rams. “There’s nobody who’s even close.’’

Plenty of draft gurus agree and consider Peterson the best player in the draft. But those same guys are putting out mock drafts, and almost none of them puts Peterson as the first pick.

That pick belongs to the Panthers, and they’ll be the ultimate judge on whether it’s time to rewrite the draft rules to say it’s not a crime to draft a cornerback first -- especially one with the ability to return kickoffs and punts.

Will they do it? That’s anybody’s guess. The Panthers, coming off a 2-14 season and beginning the tenure of Ron Rivera as coach, are methodically working their way through the process. Rivera has said there are as many as eight players being looked at as options with the pick.

It’s safe to assume that defensive linemen Da’Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus are under Carolina’s microscope. Same goes for quarterbacks Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, and they’re being examined under a more powerful lens. But what about Peterson, the guy you can look at from 50 yards away and see is basically flawless?

That’s where Rivera, general manager Marty Hurney and even owner Jerry Richardson are going to have to make one of the most interesting calls in recent draft history. There’s no doubt the Panthers need a quarterback, but Newton and Gabbert come with questions. There’s a big need for help in the middle of the defensive line, and Fairley or Dareus could fix that. Even though the Panthers have talent at defensive end, they almost have to give some consideration to Bowers, who is a game changer at a position where teams aren’t afraid to use high draft picks. But each of the defensive linemen comes with some questions.

[+] EnlargeRon Rivera
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireRon Rivera said as many as eight players are serious candidates to be the No. 1 overall pick.
Peterson doesn’t.

“Why would you not take this kid?’’ Softli said.

Well, that answer is buried deep in minds around the NFL, and traditions can be hard to break.

“The logic is that if you have one of those guys at one corner, he’s going to be marginalized because people are just going to attack the other corner all day,’’ Williamson said.

Softli echoes that and points to baseball, where the theory is you build up the middle with good pitching, a catcher, shortstop and center fielder. In other words, you don’t build a baseball team around a left fielder or a first baseman.

“The philosophy is that you build from the inside,’’ Softli said. “On defense, you build around the defensive line or the linebackers. On offense, you start with the quarterback or the running backs or the guys that block for them. The last piece you put in an offense is a wide receiver or a tight end. The last piece you put on a defense is a cornerback. It’s because those guys are on the outside.’’

We’ve heard all the glowing testimony on Peterson, and we’ve heard why the current law is in place. Everyone seems to agree on all of that. But ask what the Panthers should do with the first pick, and that’s where reasonable minds disagree.

“They have to get a quarterback,’’ Williamson said. “I take Gabbert over Newton because there’s less downside. Look at the rest of Carolina’s roster. They’ve got running backs and I like their young wide receivers, Brandon LaFell and David Gettis. They’ve got a good offensive line. This isn’t the Houston offensive line when David Carr was coming in. They need a quarterback and this is an exceedingly friendly time to do it. Apologies to Patrick Peterson, who I think the world of, but they have to go with a quarterback.’’

Richardson and Hurney are traditional guys, but Softli has some advice for his former bosses.

“They can get a transition guy at quarterback,’’ Softli said as he pointed to quarterbacks such as Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb, who might be available via trade or free agency. “They can get their quarterback in another year or two when there’s more of a can’t-miss guy. Why not just take the best player in the draft? You can’t go wrong on that.’’

Carolina already has cornerbacks Richard Marshall and Chris Gamble, who have played at high levels in the past. Captain Munnerlyn also has shown signs he can be a solid starting cornerback. Marshall got into the bad graces of the front office last year, and Gamble fell out of favor with former coach John Fox last season. It’s possible one of those guys could go, but the other could stay and team with Peterson as the starters and Munnerlyn as the nickel. That would leave the Panthers with second and third cornerbacks who aren’t all that easy to pick on.

That might help bend the law in the Panthers’ eyes, and Softli points to the franchise’s past for more support. He remembers 2002, when defensive end Julius Peppers was in a draft class that featured Carr and Joey Harrington. The Panthers held the second pick in that draft and Softli remembers sitting in pre-draft meeting rooms with Hurney, Fox and college personnel director Jack Bushofsky.

“We were all sitting there hoping that Houston wouldn’t take the best player,’’ Softli said. “They took Carr and we could have had Harrington, but we wanted the best player. Peppers was the best player, and history has shown that. Harrington’s out of the league and Carr’s a third-string quarterback.’’

The verdict won’t come until the Panthers make their pick in late April. But they have to at least look at Peterson and wonder whether the guy with no questions would make it worthwhile to break the law.

NFC South Saturday mailbag

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
10:49
AM ET
Kevin in Boston writes: I liked your article on Roddy White and it came right after a debate my friends and I had on the very subject. Can you say it is purely coincidental that White became an elite receiver the very year after Michael Vick stopped being the QB? Vick admittedly never worked hard, couldn't read a defense, and was terribly inaccurate. Did the passing "upgrade" to Joey Harrington and Chris Redman (wow... I just wrote that) in 2007 contribute to Roddy's emergence?

Pat Yasinskas: Michael Vick and White were very close friends when they played together. But Vick was not the most accurate of passers in those days. White emerged in the 2007 season with Harrington and Redman playing a lot. I wouldn’t credit them all that much for his emergence, but I think they played a small part. More importantly, I think the influences of Joe Horn and Paul Petrino, as discussed in the column, really triggered the turnaround and the arrival of Matt Ryan in 2008 helped put White over the top.


Haiile in Durham, N.C., writes: Do you think Julius Peppers is looking at the situation in Carolina and saying "I saw that coming"?

Pat Yasinskas: I covered Peppers for most of his career, but I would never try to read his mind. That’s because Peppers is a very private and complex person and he never really shared his thoughts on much of anything. I will say I don’t think Peppers is the type to gloat. I think he just had been very unhappy in Carolina and wanted out of there for several years. My best guess is he’s just happy to be out of there and doesn’t really care what’s happening to the Panthers.


Richard in Ann Arbor, Mich. writes: With regards to the stat about Carolina winning 7 of the last 10 regular season games against New Orleans, I think it's worth mentioning that, in two of those victories, the Saints were playing a "meaningless" game in which they made no real effort to win. In the 2006 finale, Drew Brees played two series, produced a touchdown, hit the bench. In last year's finale, Brees did not even play; Mark Brunell went all the way. Those are still victories for the Panthers, of course, but it's hard to take them seriously with regards to the division rivalry.

Pat Yasinskas: Some valid points there. This year, I view Carolina as a sinking ship. If the Saints make the Panthers 0-4 on Sunday, I think the bottom really is going to start to fall out in Carolina.


Robert in Dallas, Texas, writes: Just saw some of the Albert Haynesworth interview on ESPN-in your opinion do you think his attitude would be different if he would have signed with Tampa?

Pat Yasinskas: Believe it or not, things might have turned out even worse if Haynesworth had come to the Buccaneers, who actually offered him more money than the Redskins. Haynesworth said one of the reasons he decided not to come to Tampa Bay was that there were too many distractions and he wanted to go to a place where he could concentrate on football. It’s pretty obvious Haynesworth hasn’t been real focused in Washington. So, if he had doubts about his ability to focus in Tampa …well, let’s just say it’s probably best the Bucs didn’t sign him.


Sam in Raleigh, N.C., writes: You have often said that when there are head coaching changes coaching staffs tend to get dismantled. If John Fox leaves what are the chances that an up and comer like Jim Skipper would stick around as RB coach or OC?

Pat Yasinskas: I’ve known Jim Skipper for years. I think he’s one of the best assistant coaches in the league and he’s also a person I truly respect. But I don’t think you can call Skipper an up-and-comer. He’s 61 and will turn 62 in January. Plus, Skipper has been on Fox’s staff from the start. If Fox goes, Skipper almost certainly goes with him. Fox shouldn’t have a problem getting a job somewhere else. If that happens, I think there’s a pretty good chance Skipper ends up on his new staff.

Fox: Delhomme remains starter

September, 14, 2009
9/14/09
1:18
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

John Fox faced the media a little bit ago and said about what you would expect him to say about Carolina’s quarterback situation.

Jake Delhomme remains the starter. Did you really expect Fox to say anything else?

As bad as Delhomme was on Sunday (and in that playoff loss to Arizona), Fox really doesn’t have another option at quarterback. Backup Josh McCown is hurt and the Panthers aren’t ready to give up on Delhomme and hand off their season to third-stringer Matt Moore – just yet.

But this can’t go on forever. If Delhomme continues to be a turnover machine Sunday in Atlanta, Fox is going to have to make a critical decision. The Panthers still are sorting out the severity of McCown’s injury and Fox said not to rule out the possibility of adding another quarterback.

If Fox even acknowledges that possibility, I think there’s a pretty good chance the Panthers will add another quarterback. Guys like Jeff Garcia, Joey Harrington and Brian Griese are out there. So is the retired Vinny Testaverde, who is about 72, but started for the Panthers for much of 2007. I think Rodney Peete might be available, too. And don't forget Chris Weinke.

But Garcia, Harrington and Griese would seem like the most realistic possibilities at this point. It’s not realistic to imagine any one of them coming in and taking Delhomme’s job before Sunday. But if Delhomme gives that job away against the Falcons, you could see major change in Carolina.

NFC South: Final Word

September, 11, 2009
9/11/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:

New Orleans’ defense will look like the Steelers of the 1970s. There’s been a lot of hype about new coordinator Gregg Williams and all the new defensive personnel. We’ve seen glimpses of a new aggressive attitude in the preseason. But we really haven’t seen anything yet. This unit will be spectacular Sunday and that’s naturally going to raise hopes. But keep this one in perspective. The Saints are playing the Detroit Lions and rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. Williams will go after him and you’re going to see sacks and turnovers -- things that were rare for this defense in the past -- and that’s great. But the Saints have to build from this game and show that this defense can dominate against teams that have won a game sometime in recent memory.
J. Meric/Getty Images
Josh Freeman is No. 2 on the depth chart behind the injury-prone Byron Leftwich.
Josh Freeman’s only an injury away. The Bucs made a lot of offseason noise about how they don’t want rookie quarterback Josh Freeman playing right away. Probably not a bad concept when you look at the Lions and realize the Saints could turn Stafford into the next Joey Harrington. But the Bucs, who’ve done a lot of things that defy logic recently, kind of contradicted themselves when they traded Luke McCown to Jacksonville. Sure, they’ve got veteran Byron Leftwich as the starter and they want him to lead this team through a brutal early schedule. But Leftwich doesn’t have a track record for durability and he’s the only insulation between Freeman and the playing field. With DeMarcus Ware lining up across the way, Bucs fans could be seeing Freeman long before they want to.

If I’m Andy Reid, I’m turning into Joe Paterno: Yeah, I know the Eagles aren’t what anybody would call a power-running team. Brian Westbrook does most of his damage on the fringes and that’s been working nicely for almost a generation. But, if Reid takes a look at the middle of Carolina’s defensive line, he’s got to consider scrapping all that for a day. With Maake Kemoeatu lost for the season, the Panthers likely will start Damione Lewis, who isn’t a run stuffer, and Nick Hayden, who shouldn’t be an NFL starter. They’ll be backed up by two guys who just joined the roster this week. John Fox and Kris Jenkins despised one another when they were together in Carolina. But I’m thinking Fox would gladly swallow his pride and welcome back Jenkins, and all his antics, right about now.

Is Atlanta’s defense really that bad? There was panic in the preseason because the Falcons looked horrible on defense. Yes, there are reasons to be concerned, but don’t freak out about what you see in the preseason because it doesn’t show you the whole picture. The Falcons were cautious with veteran defensive end John Abraham, but they won’t hold him back in the regular season. Yes, they’ve got five new starters on defense and there may be some growing pains. But did you really think the aging Keith Brooking, Lawyer Milloy and Grady Jackson were that vital to a defense that wasn’t exactly great last season? There was a reason the Falcons let them go.

Fantasy advice: We’ve got other people on our site who specialize in this and take their word before mine. But I’ve got some random thoughts this week. If you’ve got a Saint -- any Saint -- start him. If you’ve got Drew Brees or Marques Colston, you’ve already won. Be careful if you’ve got a Tampa Bay running back -- Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham are going to be splitting carries. With the possible exception of Brees, DeAngelo Williams is going to be the most solid fantasy player in the NFC South each week. Don’t let all the Tony Gonzalez and Jerious Norwood hype steer you away from Michael Turner.

Saints: Cutdown analysis

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

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


Biggest surprise: Lynell Hamilton virtually forced the Saints to keep four running backs. A practice-squad player last year, Hamilton turned in an impressive preseason performance and beat out undrafted rookies P.J. Hill and Herb Donaldson. At 235 pounds, Hamilton could be a short-yardage specialist. He’ll be behind Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell on the depth chart. But Bush and Thomas each have histories of getting banged up so there’s a good chance Hamilton will get some playing time. Hamilton could even get some work at fullback because Heath Evans is the only one on the roster at that position.

No-brainer: A lot of people just assumed Paul Spicer would make the roster because he’s a 10-year veteran and the Saints will be without suspended defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant for the start of the season. But I remember watching Spicer in camp and thinking it didn’t look he had much left. Give the Saints credit for facing reality and not just relying on Spicer’s reputation. They might not be done at this position yet because they have only Bobby McCray, Anthony Hargrove and Jeff Charleston behind Smith and Grant.

What’s next: With Pro Bowler Drew Brees and veteran Mark Brunell, the Saints are in fine shape at quarterback. But they still need to do something at this position after releasing Joey Harrington. It might be something as simple as signing a young quarterback to the practice squad. The Saints don’t necessarily need to carry three quarterbacks on the regular season roster. But they need to have one more quarterback in the building to run the scout team and to be ready just in case of disaster.

Backup QB breakdown

September, 1, 2009
9/01/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas



More: Chadiha: The plan | Scouts: Rating QBs | Rank 'em | Clayton: Next Cassel?


Atlanta Falcons
:
If Matt Ryan is unavailable, the team's situation is not as desperate as it might seem. Yes, losing Ryan, one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, for any period of time would hurt. But the Falcons could weather a Ryan injury in the short term. Chris Redman is a very capable backup with a fair amount of experience. With a very good offense around him, Redman could step in nicely. He doesn’t have Ryan’s arm or big-play ability, but Redman is the type of quarterback who can manage a game well. It doesn’t hurt that Atlanta’s a run-first team and Michael Turner can make any quarterback look good. D.J. Shockley and John Parker Wilson are battling for the No. 3 job. If either has to play, the Falcons would be in big trouble.


Carolina Panthers
:
If Jake Delhomme is unavailable, fairweather fans will realize again how good he is. Josh McCown has some experience and some of the same moxie as Delhomme. Same for No. 3 quarterback Matt Moore. But neither has Delhomme’s track record or proven respect in the locker room. McCown and Moore both have some upside, but the Panthers would take a big hit if Delhomme goes down. Forget Delhomme’s disastrous outing in the playoffs last season. He led the Panthers to a 12-4 record before that. When Delhomme went out with an elbow injury in 2007, the Panthers went 7-9 and missed the playoffs.


New Orleans Saints
:
If Drew Brees is unavailable, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi will go into one huge panic. That would be justified because Brees is one of the league’s best quarterbacks and nobody on the roster is nearly as good. But the Saints have one of the league’s better backup quarterback situations -- at least in the short term. Veteran Mark Brunell is even more experienced than Brees and the Saints have tons of offensive talent. If Brunell had to play a few games, the Saints wouldn’t have a huge drop off. But Brunell is old and brittle and might have problems handling a long season if Brees went out for more than a few games. Third quarterback Joey Harrington still has some talent, but he’s a reclamation project. Harrington’s in a good situation because coach Sean Payton is a great offensive coach. But Harrington probably needs more time in the system before he’s ready to make much of a contribution.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers
:
If Byron Leftwich is unavailable, the Bucs could be better off. Let’s face it: Leftwich is a short-term solution and won the starting job only because the coaching staff viewed him as the safe choice. Leftwich has some experience and a big arm. But he’s not mobile and his technique is awkward. You can make an argument that backup Luke McCown outplayed Leftwich in the preseason. McCown got a lot of work with the first team, so it wouldn’t be hard for him to step back in. But Leftwich and McCown aren’t going to excite many people, including the coaching staff. The Bucs know rookie Josh Freeman is their future, but they want to bring him along slowly. If anything happens to Leftwich in the first half of the season, the Bucs will turn to McCown because the early schedule is brutal and Freeman needs time to develop. But, if there’s an injury in the second half of the season, you’ll probably see Freeman. It might not even take an injury for that to happen.

Your observations on the Saints

August, 23, 2009
8/23/09
10:54
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Since I wasn't able to watch the Saints against the Texans, I asked for your help. I asked those of you would could catch the game to send in your observations and you did. There were dozens of scouting reports in my mailbag. We can't run them all, but I picked some that seemed to represent the thoughts of many of you. Thanks to all who helped out.

Paul in Lafayette, La., writes: Observations on Saints-Texans game: You can write Mike Bell's name in permanent ink on the roster. The defense did a good job making adjustments. Both first- and second- team defenses allowed a TD on the first series but no point after that. The Saints have forced three turnovers in each of their two preseason games. That's a big change in New Orleans. Rod Harper is going to make it tough for the coaching staff to decide who becomes the Saints' sixth receiver. The goal line offense needs work. The Saints failed to convert on their first two opportunities from within the 10-yard line. P.J. Hill ended the drought with a two-yard run. Porter and Greer hold Andre Johnson to less than 10 yards per catch. Harrington did a decent job running the two minute offense (45 yards in 1:46 and got a field goal).Buck Ortega might only make this team if the Saints keep four tight ends. He hasn't had the best camp and failed to get out of bounds during the two-minute drill.

Archie in St. Bernard, La., writes: I thought the Saints played well. They struggled with penalties on special teams but they will fix that. I was really impressed with our running game. Mike bell had 100 yards rushing and a TD on only 10 carries, he stood out among all the rest. I felt that our D did good considering that we were in our base package throughout pretty much the entire game. Our dbs and lbs got after the football and created turnovers. We did let a few big plays happen but there offense was ranked 3rd overall last year and we were at their house. Our run defense was solid. We got some pressure on the QB, although I would like to see more sacks. Over all I give the Saints a B-. They could have done better. But it still was a very good performance. There is one problem though, we have to many talented wrs. Colston, Moore, Meachem, Henderson, and Arrington should make the final roster but that still leaves Courtney Roby who has been great in camp and returning kicks, and then there is Rod Harper who came out of nowhere during the offseason and has been very impressive in the preseason games. I know I'm still missing a few names but those 7 can all help out a lot. Is there any way at all that the Saints keep 7 wrs on the final roster? Or am I just kidding myself?

Cory in Baton Rouge, La., writes: About scouting on the saints-texans game:Rod Harper is making a case to the Saints organization. In the first preseason game he was as electric as someone from the af2 can look like in the nfl. And here again in the second preseason game he was a very interesting player to watch, returning a punt for a touchdown. I know this is the preseason and therefore there were limited personnel on the field but with some time and coaching he could be another coslton/moore diamond-in-the-ruff.In other news, Anthony Hargrove continues to make a statement and will, WILL, push Charles Grant eventually for the starting job. While he looked a little rough with the penalties, he is showing his talent and relentlessness. No wonder the coaches are high on him.Finally, we see adrian arrington make some very nice catches in this second game. This receiver group is deep but very talented. It will be interesting to see who is let go, especially considering the depth needed/wanted for the defensive backs and the safeties.

Benjamin in New Orleans writes: I found it incredible how dominate both of our lines were. Save for the first and part of the second drive the run, the offensive line blocked fantastic for the run and the pass.Obviously Mike Bell had a huge game for us, and those weren't just padded stats against a second team Houston defense. Bell ran with authority behind a line that blocked well all night.The turnovers the Saints have managed to produce to is remarkable. The attitude the defense was lacking last season came full force against the Texans.It's preseason and a bit early for jubilation and claiming all our woes bygone, but if the Saints have truly found the answer to their lack of defensive production and a solid run blocking line to give holes to our backs I don't see any team that we don't match-up well with.

Troy in New Orleans writes: Several serious observations: Never get excited about a pre-season game. Saints running game on track. Thomas ran well, Bell 10 carries, 100 yards. Saints against the run also on track: 35 yards rushing at the end of three. Not much more in the fourth. The Gregg Williams effect: three more decisive and timely turnovers. Robert Meachem: Most Improved player in NFL. Adrian Arrington: Watch out for him too .Did you notice: Joey Harrington looked effective with the ones, but when he went out, the threes had an immediate and unmistakable boost with Brunell.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Some interesting developments in New Orleans on Saturday night. The Saints signed John Carney, a kicker they have regretted letting go previously.

But this move isn't about making amends for the past. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports kicker Garrett Hartley is facing a possible four-game suspension for unspecified reasons.

Hartley is just the latest in a revolving series of kickers the Saints have gone through since letting Carney go after the 2006 season. Hartley had been inconsistent in training camp and he missed a 20-yard field-goal attempt in Friday's preseason opener.

Carney is known as one of the league's most reliable kickers, but doesn't have a particularly strong leg. Carney spent last season with the Giants and made 35 of 38 field goal attempts. Carney's return means the Saints are continuing to shuffle their special teams.

They have a new long-snapper in Jason Kyle. Rookie Thomas Morstead is battling with Glenn Pakulak for the punting job and the Saints have been using backup quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Mark Brunell as holders, instead of letting the punter handle that role.

Gruden visits with Saints

August, 6, 2009
8/06/09
4:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

METAIRIE, La. -- There's a very special guest out here at Saints camp for a few days. It's John Gruden of "Monday Night Football."

In a scene that never could have happened a year ago, New Orleans coach Sean Payton has opened his doors to the former Tampa Bay coach. Gruden's doing some scouting for his work as a broadcaster, but there's also a benefit for the Saints. Gruden is sitting in on the quarterbacks' meetings.

Kind of fun to imagine what Gruden could do with Drew Brees. Then again, given Gruden's history in Tampa, it's not hard to imagine him suggesting to Payton that the Saints bring in Brian Griese and about four other quarterbacks to go with Brees, Mark Brunell and Joey Harrington.

Payton and Gruden have been friends for years.

"If they pull him out of the booth, I'm sure he'll have another opportunity [in coaching]," Payton said.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

METAIRIE, La. -- The NFC South tour of training camps continues today with the Saints. I caught their morning practice and will be back out there this afternoon. I'll be gathering stuff for our Camp Confidential profile on the Saints for Monday.

As a matter of fact, I'm going to spend the next few hours working on Carolina's Camp Confidential for Thursday. But, before I jump into that, I wanted to share some quick observations on what I saw this morning.

  • All this talk about the Saints being more aggressive on defense isn't just talk. It's real. You can see it instantly on the practice field. We'll have much more on that in the Camp Confidential segment.
  • The nicest play I saw Wednesday morning was a fully extended Marques Colston making a catch in the back of the end zone. A lot of people tend to forget how good Colston is because injuries kept him somewhat quiet last year. At full health, Colston can be as productive as just about any receiver in the league.
  • Defensive tackle Rod Coleman now is wearing the No. 75 jersey he wanted. He had been wearing No. 72 and Tim Duckworth had No. 75. Not sure yet how it all transpired, but Duckworth probably made a profit on this deal.
  • A couple of young linebackers jumped out at me. Anthony Waters and Jonathan Casillas seemed to be around the ball constantly.
  • With Colston, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson, the Saints have an impressive group of receivers. Courtney Roby could be in that mix, too. Saw him make a couple of nice catches this morning.
  • I know Joey Harrington is considered a bust because of his status as a high draft pick. But forget all that and view him as just another guy competing for a job. Through that lens, Harrington looks pretty good. He was throwing the ball well and he could end up moving ahead of Mark Brunell as Drew Brees' backup. You could do a lot worse than Harrington as a backup. He's still got first-round physical talent and he's never been on a team with this kind of offensive talent and he's never been around an offensive coach as good as Sean Payton.
  • Malcolm Jenkins is a great talent and the Saints have big plans for him. But the rookie is holding out of camp in a contract squabble and you can't help but wonder how that might impact his career. Starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter are looking very good. Randall Gay and Jason David aren't bad backups and Jenkins falls further behind them with each practice he misses.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

 Harrington
 Brunell

New Orleans coach Sean Payton made it clear through the offseason that Joey Harrington will have a chance to challenge Mark Brunell for the No. 2 job. The coach is following through on that pledge.

Harrington's been getting some work with the second unit early in camp.

"What we're trying to do is, in each practice, to rotate those two players,'' Payton told the media Monday morning. "A lot of time when you're working with the third unit, there are a number of things that you have to handle as a quarterback. The route might be open but there might be a protection flaw. So you're seeing both Mark (Brunell) and Joey take those snaps. I'd like to get to a point where I'm going to rotate those guys in with the ones as well and rest (Drew) Brees a period or two."

Payton said the plan for now is to let Brunell and Harrington keep sharing reps with the second team and make a decision on the depth chart later in the preseason.

"We just try to stay on top of each day after practice of where they're at,'' Payton said. "I'm not as concerned with how many throws they make. The arm can sometimes get tired, but it's not like a pitcher. But I do want to see the other two guys get some work with the first group, if not early on in camp, then later in camp and in the preseason."

 
  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  Former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick may get conditionally reinstated, but even if he does, will any team want him?

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Anybody want Michael Vick?

That's not a question. It's a plea. Seriously, I'd be thrilled to trade you the former Atlanta quarterback for anything. Heck, for nothing. Take him and the mountain of baggage he carries, please.

Still no takers?

Don't feel isolated. It appears nobody is lining up to take Vick. Selfishly, I'm not real happy about that because I've had more than my share of the ugly Vick saga, which has dragged on seemingly forever.

As the NFC South blogger, my territory includes Vick until he signs with a team in another division. My readers write me every day to ask me to stop writing about Vick because they're so tired of hearing about him. That's probably not going to change any time soon.

Yes, Vick is out of prison and done with home confinement. Yes, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio is reporting Commissioner Roger Goodell has decided to grant Vick a conditional reinstatement for training camp, although there remains a chance the quarterback could face a four-game suspension.

Even with the conditional reinstatement, there's no guarantee an NFL team will step forward to take an immensely talented athlete, who may or may not be suited to play quarterback or some other position and is certain to bring a swarm of media and protesters if he shows up anywhere near a stadium. And the cloud of a possible four-game suspension doesn't make Vick any more appealing.

Still, I thought there was a chance some owner (Jerry Jones? Al Davis?) might take a shot. Now, I'm thinking there's a very real chance 32 owners will pass on Vick.

(Read full post)

Tuesday's NFC South mailbag

June, 2, 2009
6/02/09
1:26
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Time for another mailbag and we're going to start this one off with two back-to-back questions that are similar in a weird sort of way.

Jim in Tampa writes: Pat i hate how you love matt ryan so much! Would he be so great if he didnt have Turner or roddy??

Justin in Mount Airy, N.C., writes: Well hello, I have a question concerning the Carolina Panthers. Why does it seem that you always hate on Jake Delhomme? Jake has what the fourth best winnning percentage of NFL starters, been to two NFC Champioships, an 1 Superbowl. He also led his team to a 12-4 record last year, and there is nothing to show he is declining in winning, one bad playoff game in a career of great playoff games dosnet make me believe a QB is awful. Just concerned for QB as TO would say.

Pat Yasinskas: Wow, this is kind of funny because I feel like I've spent half my life being accused of defending Jake Delhomme and now I'm being accused of hating him. Truth is, I don't "love'' or "hate'' any player. I get paid not to be biased. I write my opinions and you're welcome to interpret them however you want. But, from my side, none of it's personal.


Kevin in Kelowna, B.C., Canada: Pat, great blog. I love the frequency with which you post new articles and all interesting stuff. I'm confused about the StarCaps issue. How come it seems that the two Williams' from the Vikings are being treated differently than the Saint's guys? Is there some evidence or some state law differences that make their case different? Thanks.

Pat Yasinskas: Yeah, here's the deal. A federal judge last week threw out most of the claims by the five players involved. But, at the same time, that judge also sent a couple of issues involving Kevin Williams and Pat Williams back to a Minnesota State court. So the two Vikings players remain in limbo. Barring some sort of successful appeal, it looks as if New Orleans' Charles Grant and Will Smith will be suspended for the first four games of this season. Same deal for Deuce McAllister -- if he signs with anyone.


JT in Nashville writes: Pat- with respect to your top q.b.s in the nfc south, I found your comments of why you put Redman above Leftwich interesting and convincing. One question though, why would you put Harrington above Redman? All 3 of those quarterbacks played on that same '07 Falcons team and Redman was by far the most productive.

Pat Yasinskas: That's just my opinion. But my logic is that, if you put Joey Harrington with New Orleans' skill-position players, he'd produce pretty good numbers. Harrington got a bad rap in Detroit early in his career and some of that was deserved. But he is a guy who has talent and he's had time to be around the league and get comfortable. If he somehow had to play in New Orleans, I think he could do well because of the system and the players around him. Not saying he's Drew Brees, by any means, but I think he could be decent in the right situation.


AlDogg in D.C. writes: Pat - When I saw that the Packer's Aaron Kampman is unhappy, I had the same idea as Bobby from your last mailbag: Peppers for Kampman? But then I remembered that Trgovac is in Green Bay. Not to mention, Peppers still hasn't signed his tender as far as I know, so the Panthers still can't even talk about a trade unless it is facilitated by Pep's agent. Three questions: Would Trgovac be a hurdle?

Pat Yasinskas: Let's just say, I think there's a big misconception among Carolina fans about Julius Peppers and Mike Trgovac. Reminds me a bit of the scene from "Hoosiers" (the greatest sports movie ever) where the Hickory faithful just assume Jimmy will rejoin the team if the coach is fired. But that wasn't the case in "Hoosiers" and it wasn't the case with Peppers and Trgovac. Peppers' issues are elsewhere. If they were with Trgovac, I think Peppers would be working out with his teammates right now. In fact, I could see Peppers playing for Trgovac, who is regarded as one of the best defensive line coaches in the league, in Green Bay -- if the Panthers and Packers somehow worked out a trade. But we don't speculate about trades here.

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