NFC South: Johnny Patrick

The New Orleans Saints just freed up $2.219 million in salary-cap space.

The Saints reportedly have parted ways with tight end David Thomas and cornerback Johnny Patrick. Releasing Thomas instantly frees up $1.7 million in cap space. The waiver of Patrick clears another $468,655.

That should be a big help as the Saints continue the process of getting under the salary cap before the start of the league year in March. Thomas had been a valuable contributor as a jack of all trades the past four seasons, but the Saints now can look for a less expensive backup to Jimmy Graham.

Patrick, a third-round pick in 2011, was a disappointment. He struggled in coverage last season as the Saints ranked No. 32 in overall defense.

The Saints still are about $16 million over the salary cap and that means there likely will be more releases and contract restructures.
Back when Curtis Lofton left the Atlanta Falcons for the New Orleans Saints as a free agent, he did it because he wanted to be an every-down linebacker.

Lofton has said the Falcons made it clear to him shortly after the arrival of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan that he’d come off the field on passing downs. The Saints lured Lofton largely by telling him he’d be an every-down linebacker in their system.

He ended up coming very close to literally being an every-down linebacker. The Saints had 1,137 defensive plays. Lofton was on the field for a team-high 1,121 (98.59 percent) of those plays.

Let’s take a look at the playing-time percentage breakdown for the rest of the New Orleans defense:

Wrap-up: Saints 34, Cowboys 31 (OT)

December, 23, 2012
12/23/12
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Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ 34-31 overtime victory against Dallas at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday:

What it means: The Saints improved to 7-8, but they might have done themselves more harm than good in the long run by hurting Dallas’ playoff hopes. Suspended New Orleans coach Sean Payton remains without a contract for next season and there’s been a ton of speculation that he could end up in Dallas, where he served as an assistant coach and was very close to owner Jerry Jones. If the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs, the chances that Jones will fire coach Jason Garrett increase dramatically. If there’s an opening in Dallas and Payton hasn’t already worked out a new deal with New Orleans, Jones is likely to come after Payton with an open checkbook.

What I liked: The way the Saints came to play even though they began the day with only the slightest chance of backing into the playoffs and that scenario was eliminated as the day went on. This team faced a lot of adversity all season long, but the Saints never used that as an excuse. Drew Brees threw for a season-high 437 yards, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton forced a fumble and recovered it to set up a crucial touchdown and the Saints still pulled out the overtime win after blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead.

What I didn’t like: A defense that seemed to be improving in recent weeks struggled mightily. The secondary in particular had major problems, especially when it came to attempting to cover Dez Bryant. Cornerback Jabari Greer left the game with a concussion and backup Johnny Patrick had a very rough day. That defense is the reason the Saints aren’t going to the playoffs and a lot of work has to be done on that side of the ball in the offseason.

What’s next: The Saints complete their season next Sunday by hosting the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Around the NFC South

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
10:00
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Let’s take a look at some Wednesday morning headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

There’s some good news for the Falcons as they prepare to head to San Diego on Friday for Sunday’s game with the Chargers. They’re 5-0 in West Coast games under coach Mike Smith.

When asked about running back Michael Turner charged with DUI, Smith said he’s disappointed anytime a negative light is cast upon the organization. But Smith wouldn’t comment much further and wouldn’t say if Turner will face team discipline. There really isn’t much Smith can do right now. He has to wait and let the legal system run its course.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Rookie cornerback Josh Norman said he expects Eli Manning and the Giants to target him Thursday night. Of course they will. Norman’s a fifth-round draft pick with promise, but lots to prove. The Giants already know veteran Chris Gamble can play, but they’re going to find out about Norman.

Quarterback Cam Newton said Thursday night’s game with the Giants is no different than any other. But it is on prime-time television and it is against the defending Super Bowl champions. It’s probably the biggest game on Carolina’s schedule. But you have to commend the second-year quarterback for at least acting like the game is no big deal. Newton is a guy that played in some pretty high-profile games in college.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Elbert Mack is back. The Saints have re-signed the cornerback who was with them in the preseason and previously played in Tampa Bay. With cornerback Johnny Patrick banged up, the Saints need depth and Mack knows the system. The Saints released receiver Adrian Arrington off injured reserve to make room for Mack.

The legal team for New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma plans to paint former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo, who has told the NFL a bounty program existed and provided details, as an unreliable witness. I’d expect nothing less. Vilma’s lawyers get paid to defend their client and it’s only natural to expect them to attack Cerullo’s credibility.

The NFL released a statement, saying Cerullo is credible and that his statements have been backed up by other sources. The league also commended Cerullo for coming forward to talk about the bounty program.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

It appears the Bucs are sticking with Demar Dotson as their starting right tackle. Dotson got the start in place of an injured Jeremy Trueblood on Sunday and performed reasonably well. Even though Trueblood has had time to recover from the injury, it appears the Bucs again will go with Dotson on Sunday at Dallas. This should come as a relief to many Tampa Bay fans, who point to Trueblood anytime something goes wrong on the offensive line.

Scott Reynolds reports that defensive end Da’Quan Bowers has become a student of the game while being sidelined with a torn Achilles tendon. Nothing wrong with that. Bowers is gifted physically and studying the game should only help him become a better player. The Bucs are hoping Bowers can return around the middle of the season.

Saints without two injured starters

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
11:42
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As expected, the New Orleans Saints will be without two injured starters. Receiver Devery Henderson (concussion) and cornerback Johnny Patrick (thigh) are inactive for Sunday’s game with Carolina.

The other inactives are running back Chris Ivory, running back Travaris Cadet, defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker, offensive lineman Bryce Harris and defensive end Turk McBride. Lance Moore is likely to start in Henderson’s place with Greg Camarillo and Joe Morgan getting time as the third and fourth receivers. Jabari Greer returns after missing last week’s game and will start at cornerback opposite Patrick Robinson. Rookie Corey White is expected to be used as the third cornerback.

Also, rookie defensive tackle Akiem Hicks will be active for the first time.

Carolina’s inactives are quarterback Jimmy Clausen, defensive back D.J. Campbell, linebacker Kenny Onatolu, tackle Bruce Campbell, guard Mike Pollak, tight end Ben Hartsock and defensive tackle Frank Kearse. Receiver Steve Smith and running back Jonathan Stewart, who had been listed as questionable, are active for Carolina.

Checking the injuries that matter most

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
3:00
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The final injury reports are out for the three NFC South teams that play Sunday, so let’s get a status report on the most significant concerns for each team.

Tampa Bay right tackle Jeremy Trueblood (ankle) practiced on a limited basis. Coach Greg Schiano said it’s too early to tell if Trueblood will be able to play Sunday. If he doesn’t, Demar Dotson would get the start and, right or wrong, I know there are a number of Tampa Bay fans who believe that would be an upgrade.

Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) and wide receiver Steve Smith (knee) are listed as questionable. But coach Ron Rivera indicated he was optimistic both will be able to play against the Saints.

The Saints have declared three players will miss Sunday’s game. Cornerback Johnny Patrick (thigh), receiver Devery Henderson (concussion) and defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) are listed as out. Cornerback Jabari Greer is listed as questionable, but he’s practiced all week and likely will start opposite Patrick Robinson. Without Henderson, the Saints will need Joe Morgan and Greg Camarillo to contribute as the third and fourth receivers after Lance Moore and Marques Colston. Linebacker Scott Shanle (leg) also is listed as questionable.

The Atlanta Falcons don’t play until Monday night and don’t have to file their final injury report until Saturday afternoon.

Around the NFC South

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
9:35
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Time for a Friday morning look at the top headlines from around the NFC South.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Wide receiver Arrelious Benn is expected to play Sunday after missing the opener and the preseason with a sprained knee. A second-round pick in 2010, Benn’s career has been limited by injuries. But there clearly is some talent here. Benn may have to prove himself at first to start climbing the depth chart, but, if he can stay healthy, it shouldn’t take him long to become the No. 3 receiver after Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

Eric LeGrand, the paralyzed former Rutgers player who was signed by the Bucs after the draft, will be at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. LeGrand has maintained a close relationship with Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano and, even though he officially was released before training camp started, has maintained a presence around the Bucs.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said that the New Orleans receivers did not do a good job of getting separation in the season opener. That would help explain why Drew Brees wasn’t as accurate as we’re used to seeing him. But there’s no guarantee that will be fixed immediately. The Saints may have to play young receiver Joe Morgan and newly signed veteran Greg Camarillo extensively this week because Devery Henderson is dealing with a concussion.

Cornerback Jabari Greer is expected to make his return Sunday after sports hernia surgery. Greer has been out for over a month and, under ideal circumstances, the Saints probably would ease him back into the lineup. But with cornerback Johnny Patrick dealing with an injury, that might not be an option. Greer might have to play the entire game.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

In two meetings with Brees last season, the Carolina defense gave up 748 passing yards and seven touchdowns. The Panthers showed some signs in the opener that their defense might be improved from last year. But Brees and the Saints should provide a much stronger offensive challenge than Tampa Bay did.

Center Ryan Kalil took out a newspaper ad, promising a Super Bowl victory, prior to the season. Now, coach Ron Rivera has outfitted his players with T-shirts that say, “I have Ryan Kalil’s back." Nothing wrong with using every motivational tactic you can come up with.

ATLANTA FALCONS

In his time as a coordinator and head coach, Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is 1-6 against Peyton Manning. No shame in that. A lot of coaches have poor records against Manning. But Nolan certainly has experience with Manning. He’s got defensive talent to work with this time and simply slowing Manning might be enough because Atlanta has an offense that should score points.

Jeff Schultz writes that if the loss of cornerback Brent Grimes to a season-ending injury is enough to derail the Falcons’ Super Bowl dream, they weren’t going anyway. He’s right. Grimes was an important player, but not the most important player on the defense. Teams are going to have injuries and the ones that can compensate for them are the teams that will succeed.

NFC South afternoon update

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
5:02
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Time for an afternoon drive through the NFC South headlines.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Running back LeGarrette Blount practiced Thursday and said he’s fine to play as much as the Bucs need him on Sunday. I guess the question becomes, how much will the Bucs use Blount as the backup behind rookie Doug Martin.

Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood missed practice with an ankle injury. If he’s not ready to play Sunday, it’s likely Demar Dotson would get the start.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The attorney for linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he was stunned by the statement the NFL released earlier Thursday and said that the appeals panel specifically said the suspensions were “vacated." You had to expect the war of words to heat up again as Vilma and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell prepare to meet next week.

Receiver Devery Henderson (concussion), cornerback Johnny Patrick (thigh) and defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) each missed their second straight day of practice. It’s looking like the Saints will have to use Joe Morgan and Greg Camarillo behind starters Marques Colston and Lance Moore. Although Patrick is out, Jabari Greer is expected to be healthy for the first time this season.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

There suddenly have been a lot of comparisons between Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III and Carolina’s Cam Newton. That’s because the Saints played Griffin last week and face Newton on Sunday. Both were Heisman Trophy winners and both can run. But Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the two quarterbacks aren’t all that similar and said Newton is more of a vertical passer.

There’s been a lot of talk about how the Panthers had only 10 rushing yards in the season opener. But Bryan Strickland makes an excellent point as he writes the Panthers didn’t run the ball well in the first two games of last season. But they went on to rush for more than 100 yards in the final 14 games of last season, a franchise record.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Coach Mike Smith said Thursday at Christopher Owens will take over at nickel back after the Falcons lost Brent Grimes to a season-ending injury. Dunta Robinson, who played inside in nickel situations in the opener, will move outside and start at right cornerback with Asante Samuel starting on the left side. Owens will get the first shot at nickel back, but the Falcons also have Dominique Franks, Robert McClain and Terrence Johnson to turn to if he falters.

There’s a subplot of note to Monday night’s game between Atlanta and Denver. Jack Del Rio is now Denver’s defensive coordinator. He was the head coach in Jacksonville when Atlanta head coach Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter worked there.

Checking the injuries that matter most

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
5:52
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The first injury reports for Week 2 are out, so let’s take a look at the most significant injuries around the NFC South.

The New Orleans Saints have a couple of injuries that are worth keeping a close eye on. Receiver Devery Henderson (concussion) and cornerback Johnny Patrick (thigh) did not practice Wednesday. The Saints re-signed veteran Greg Camarillo, so they’ve got some depth if Henderson can’t play Sunday. Patrick missed part of the Washington loss with the injury and that left the Saints short-handed at cornerback. But there’s a little good news on that front. Jabari Greer (sports hernia) sat out the opener, but returned and practiced fully Wednesday.

Carolina’s most significant injury note isn’t about who didn’t practice. It’s about running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle). After sitting out the opener, Stewart participated fully in Wednesday’s practice.

As noted earlier, Tampa Bay cornerback E.J. Biggers (foot) practiced fully. So did cornerback Anthony Gaitor (hamstring). Both missed the opener, but it looks like the Bucs are getting their depth back at cornerback. Also, the Bucs are now saying that an MRI on running back LeGarrette Blount's neck showed no problems.

The Atlanta Falcons don’t play until Monday night (against Denver) and don’t have to issue an injury report until Thursday.

Jabari Greer out for Saints

September, 9, 2012
9/09/12
11:45
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NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints, who currently have just 50 players on their roster, only had to deactivate four players for Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins, but there are a couple of big names on the list.

Cornerback Jabari Greer is inactive. Greer has been out since having sports-hernia surgery in August. Either Johnny Patrick or Corey White will start in his place.

Another move of note is that running back Chris Ivory is inactive. The Saints chose to activate undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet over Ivory.

Defensive tackles Tyrunn Walker and Akiem Hicks also are inactive.

Around the NFC South

August, 14, 2012
8/14/12
9:46
AM ET
Let's take a look at the top headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Quarterback Matt Ryan still has some time to go before he joins what coach Mike Smith calls “the over-30 club." But Ryan’s been getting some of the same benefits as the team’s senior citizens this camp. He’s been getting a little time off. Consider that another way the Falcons are trying to keep a key player fresh for late in the season.

The Falcons released their unofficial depth chart for their upcoming game with the Bengals. There were no major changes. But you have to wonder if the Falcons are going to give rookie Peter Konz a preseason start at right guard. Garrett Reynolds is the incumbent there and the Falcons drafted Konz to provide an eventual upgrade. The third preseason game is when teams generally like to settle on their starting lineups. I wouldn’t be surprised if Konz gets a start this week or next.

As expected, middle linebacker Akeem Dent will sit out this preseason game after suffering a concussion. But it doesn’t sound like this is an injury that will keep Dent out for an extended period. Smith said Dent already is showing signs of improvement.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The Miami Dolphins, who play the Panthers this week, are being featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks’’ this summer. Coach Ron Rivera was asked if he’d like his team to be on the show and he firmly said no. Doesn’t surprise me. Rivera is a guy who's all about business and I don’t see him doing anything that would open his team to possible distractions. Besides, even if Rivera felt differently, I can’t see the Panthers on a reality-television show as long as Marty Hurney is the general manager and Jerry Richardson is the owner. It simply is not their style.

Third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen was sacked five times in the preseason opener. You could say Clausen was the victim of some terrible play by the third-team offensive line. But there were at least a couple situations where Clausen should have gotten rid of the ball. Although he’s practiced well in camp, it’s become obvious Clausen is not going to vault over Derek Anderson into the backup job. That leaves Clausen as the No. 3 quarterback this year, assuming the Panthers don’t follow a league trend and carry only two quarterbacks on their active roster.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Defensive end Junior Galette is sporting a lot more facial hair these days. That’s led to one of the more innovative chants (“fear the beard’’) I’ve heard in a while. It’s been getting a lot of use because Galette has been making some plays in training camp. He’s done that before. But the real test will be if Galette can have a bigger impact in the regular season.

The Saints finally got back to a bit of normalcy at cornerback. Starter Patrick Robinson returned from a shoulder injury Monday. But fellow starter Jabari Greer, who had surgery to repair a sports hernia, isn’t expected to return until shortly before the start of the regular season. That means more first-team work for second-year pro Johnny Patrick.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky said he knows a big part of his job is to provide support for starter Josh Freeman. He also knows he’s not going to play unless Freeman is injured. But Orlovsky said he also is preparing daily as if he will play. That’s what you want out of any backup because one injury could change everything.

Speaking of Freeman, wide receiver Vincent Jackson caused a stir Monday when he said the quarterback was one of the five best in the league. At this moment, I don’t know if you can even rank Freeman in the top 20. But Jackson is projecting ahead, based on what he’s seen on the practice field and there’s no doubt Freeman has lots of upside. Jackson also might be trying to send a dose of confidence to Freeman, which might not hurt when you think about what a rough season the quarterback had last year.
All around the NFC South this summer, we’ve been hearing a lot about nickelbacks.

It seems like all four teams are putting more emphasis on a position that has grown in importance as passing around the league has increased in recent years. Relatively speaking, the NFC South didn’t use a lot of nickel packages last season. The Falcons ranked 11th in the league, using an extra defensive back on 55.8 percent of their defensive plays last season. The Saints (50 percent) were No. 18. The Buccaneers were No. 23 at 45.9 percent and the Panthers came in at No. 24 at 45.2 percent.

But I suspect the numbers will jump for all NFC South teams. When the Falcons went out and traded for Asante Samuel, they repeatedly talked about the importance of having three starting-caliber cornerbacks. They have that now with Samuel, Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes. We still don’t know if Samuel or Robinson will start, but the Falcons have made it pretty clear that, in nickel situations, Robinson will be the guy moving inside and lining up against slot receivers.

The Saints also have worked to beef up their cornerback situation, although it’s been a gradual process over the past couple of years. They still have starter Jabari Greer, but let Tracy Porter leave as a free agent. The Saints were well prepared for that. They used a first-round pick on Patrick Robinson in 2010 and a third-round pick on Johnny Patrick last year. The plan is for Robinson, who often was used as the nickel back last year, to move permanently to the starting lineup with Patrick taking over as the nickel.

The Buccaneers have shuffled their secondary with a strong eye on what they’ll do in nickel situations. They signed cornerback Eric Wright as a free agent and the plan is to start him opposite Aqib Talib. Wright’s arrival allowed the Buccaneers to move veteran cornerback Ronde Barber to free safety, where he’ll line up with rookie strong safety Mark Barron. But it appears as if the Bucs will slide Barber inside against slot receivers in the nickel package and replace him with Ahmad Black, Larry Asante or Cody Grimm. I think you’ll see the Bucs use the nickel package often because they want to take advantage of Barber’s experience.

I think you’ll see Carolina’s use of the nickel move toward 50 percent, or above it. The Panthers quietly have been hoping that a young cornerback will rise up and allow them to move Captain Munnerlyn inside to the nickel spot. Munnerlyn doesn’t have great size, but wouldn’t be at as much of a disadvantage if he’s matched up with slot receivers. Rookie Josh Norman appeared to have a shot to start with a strong showing in the June minicamp. But Norman has been banged up early in camp. The Panthers are hoping second-year pro Brandon Hogan can put a knee injury fully behind him and challenge for a starting spot, but that hasn’t happened yet. With Norman and Hogan missing camp time, Darius Butler has been getting a lot of work and making a good impression. Unless Norman and Hogan can get healthy and show they’re ready to contribute, Butler could end up playing a key role in Carolina’s secondary.

Around the NFC South

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
7:20
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Time for a look at the top Wednesday morning headlines from all around the NFC South.

ATLANTA FALCONS

The Falcons still have some decisions to make when it comes to starters on the offensive line. Coach Mike Smith said he plans to use the preseason games to determine his lineup. Don’t be surprised if rookie guard Peter Konz and center Joe Hawley start emerging in the preseason. The Falcons want to inject some youth on the offensive front.

If it seems like it’s a critical year for a lot of Falcons, that’s only because it is. Add defensive end Lawrence Sidbury to that list. Sidbury has flashed some promise at times and tied for second on the team with four sacks last year, but never has played with much consistency or reached his full potential. This is a contract year for Sidbury and his production will have to rise if he wants to stay in Atlanta for the long term.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Former Carolina running back Mike Goodson, who was traded to Oakland in the offseason, was taken to the hospital after a helmet-to-helmet hit Tuesday. The Raiders said medical tests revealed no serious damage to Goodson’s head or neck.

After two years of disappointment, receiver Armanti Edwards has been making some big plays in training camp. Still, Edwards likely is on the roster bubble. After starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, the Panthers have some talented young receivers in David Gettis, Louis Murphy, Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams and Jared Green. Edwards needs to have very good showings in the preseason games to solidify a spot on the roster.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The joint workout Tuesday between the Saints and Patriots drew an all-time camp attendance record for New England. No shock there. Put Drew Brees and Tom Brady on the same field and people are bound to show up.

Brady didn’t look sharp in team drills, completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes and throwing two interceptions. Maybe Brady simply was having an off day. Or maybe Steve Spagnuolo’s new defense is starting to take form.

With starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson sidelined with injuries, second-year pro Johnny Patrick had been getting a lot of work with the first team. He left Tuesday’s practice with what appeared to be a back injury. It wasn’t clear immediately how serious the injury is. But I think you’ll see a lot of backup cornerbacks playing Thursday night when the Saints play the Patriots.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood had been one of the bright spots in the early stages of camp. But Underwood had a rough day Tuesday, dropping several passes. Underwood can't afford many more days like that if he wants to stay on the roster.

Cornerback Myron Lewis, a third-round pick in 2010, has done very little so far in his career. But there suddenly is some hope for Lewis. With cornerbacks E.J. Biggers and Aqib Talib banged up, Lewis has gotten more practice time and has shown some flashes of promise. That could be a big boost to his career because Lewis entered camp on the bubble with a coaching staff that wasn’t around when he was drafted.

Saints shuffling cornerbacks

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
12:49
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There’s some news out of New Orleans that is less than ideal, but it might not be disastrous if the time frame works out as expected.

Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said that cornerback Jabari Greer is having sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia. Vitt said he expects Greer to be ready for the start of the regular season.

If that ends up being the case, the Saints are fine. Greer is a proven veteran who can pop right back in after missing most of camp and the entire preseason. But, if the time table runs longer on Greer’s recovery and he’s not ready for the start of the regular season, then the Saints face a potential problem.

Greer is New Orleans’ best cornerback and I say he’s the best corner in the NFC South. Fellow starting cornerback Patrick Robinson has also missed some camp time with a minor injury. That’s given guys like Johnny Patrick, Marquis Johnson and Elbert Mack an opportunity to get more practice time in camp and that’s a silver lining. Patrick is a second-year guy who the Saints would like to use as their nickelback and this will give the coaching staff a good chance to really gauge his progress. All indications are Patrick is having a good camp.

But I don’t think he’s reached a point in his career where the Saints would be very comfortable if he has to open the season as a starter.

NFC South afternoon update

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
5:31
PM ET
Let's take a quick look at the day's headlines from around the NFC South:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Tampa Bay punter Michael Koenen said he would not have minded if the Atlanta Falcons had given permission to use their trademarks in the “Rebirth’’ statue unveiled last week outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The statue memorializes Steve Gleason’s legendary blocked punt against the Falcons in the first game played in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. Koenen was Atlanta’s punter at the time. The NFL holds the rights to the use of a team’s trademarks outside their home market and the NFL asked the Falcons if they’d like to make an exception in this situation. The Falcons declined. Koenen said he has met Gleason, who has ALS, and has enormous respect for him. Koenen said he might visit the statue when the Bucs play the Saints this season.

After being troubled by injuries in his final few seasons in Indianapolis, tight end Dallas Clark appears to be totally healthy in Tampa Bay’s training camp. If he can stay that way, it would be a big plus for the Bucs. I don’t think Clark ever will be the 100-catch guy he once was, but he can provide a nice veteran target for quarterback Josh Freeman.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Before playing in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday, the Saints will visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame and view the exhibit celebrating the Super Bowl championship from the 2009 season. That’s a natural motivational tactic. Let the guys that were on that team see and remember the work that went into the championship and let them tell the young guys all about it. And I'd be willing to bet that assistant head coach Joe Vitt will remind the troops that this season's Super Bowl will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

With starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson sitting out with injuries, Johnny Patrick is making the most of his opportunity. Patrick had a highlight play in Wednesday’s practice, intercepting a Drew Brees pass.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Chris Vivlamore ponders how good the receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones can be. He also rolls out a list of his top receiving combinations in history. He has Pittsburgh’s Lynn Swann and John Stallworth at the top. We already know White is a great receiver and all indications suggest Jones can become one. But Jones needs a few big years and White needs to continue to keep playing at a high level for a few more years before you can mention them with the likes of Swann and Stallworth.

Speaking of Atlanta receivers, Knox Bardeen explores the battle between Kevin Cone and Drew Davis for the No. 5 receiver spot. Harry Douglas already is settled in as the No. 3 receiver and Kerry Meier is likely to stick around because he has value on special teams.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Defensive tackle Ron Edwards is healthy and ready to go after missing all of last season with an injury. Everyone talks about linebacker Jon Beason’s return from injury and that’s very significant. But I think Edwards’ return is just as important. He was brought in to bring the kind of run-stopping presence the Panthers have lacked since the long-ago departure of Kris Jenkins.

Tom Sorensen writes he doesn’t expect Jeff Otah to stick with the Panthers after his trade to the New York Jets was voided by a failed physical. I’m in full agreement with Sorensen. In fact, I’ve been checking my e-mail all afternoon because I’m expecting an announcement that the Panthers have released Otah. Time to check the e-mail again.

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