NFC South: Josh Bidwell

Bucs make some minor moves

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
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As the start of a new league year approaches, teams are going to start releasing some players. Even in an uncapped year, this is going to happen because a lot of roster bonuses are structured to be paid in the first 10 days of the league year. Teams aren’t going to pay bonuses to guys they don’t really want.

That process has started in Tampa Bay. The Bucs just announced they’ve released punters Josh Bidwell and Dirk Johnson and cornerback Torrie Cox. Bidwell joined the Bucs in 2004, but spent last season on the injured-reserve list. Johnson was brought in as one of his replacements, but he also got injured. Cox had been with the Bucs since 2003, primarily as a special-teams player.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

I just sent an item over to our news side that the Bucs have placed punter Josh Bidwell on the injured-reserve list because of a hip problem.

Can't call this part of Tampa Bay's youth movement because replacement Dirk Johnson is 34. But it's another area where a prominent face is gone and a new one is taking over. Aside from parting ways with the likes of Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn in the offseason, the Bucs are close to totally overhauling their special teams.

The combination of Bidwell and kicker Matt Bryant, which had been a very good one in recent years, appears to be just about done. Bryant also has been banged up in camp and the Bucs seem to be on the verge of going with kicker Mike Nugent, who they signed as a free agent.

Bucs add punter Johnson

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
11:25
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Bucs signed a new punter Thursday morning, adding veteran Dirk Johnson to the roster.

It may only be a short-term thing, but there's a chance Johnson could end up handling the role for the long term. Regular punter Josh Bidwell has been ruled out for the preseason opener. Bidwell's dealing with severe hip pain.

We don't know all the details of Bidwell's condition yet, but it could be reason enough to be concerned about his ability to contribute this season. The Bucs waived defensive tackle Greg Peterson to create a roster spot for Johnson.

Around the NFC South

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
8:08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

I'm getting ready to head out to watch the Falcons practice, but wanted to share some links to what's going on around the rest of the NFC South.

  • Linebacker Derrick Brooks, who worked out with the Saints on Wednesday, told the St. Petersburg Times, the team wants to go through its preseason opener before talking more about signing him. Brooks also said the Oakland Raiders have contacted him.
  • The Bucs reportedly will work out Tim Masthay and Dirk Johnson Thursday morning and they're expected to sign one of the punters today. Josh Bidwell has swelling in his hip and will miss the preseason opener.
  • New Orleans defensive end Will Smith says he's ready for a bounce-back year, even though he'll be suspended for the first four games.
  • Tom Sorensen writes what I've been saying all along: There's no way the Panthers will sign Michael Vick. But Sorensen takes it another couple steps and says he believes Vick deserves a second chance and that the Panthers should sign him. I agree about the second chance, but it's not going to come in Carolina.
  • Steve Reed also writes that the Panthers are not going to sign Vick.

Ranking the NFC South punters

June, 16, 2009
6/16/09
7:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

We're down to the punters in our series of NFC South position rankings. The return men will come Wednesday before we move on to coaches and the front office.

But let's not sell the punters short. This spot might be one of the division's strongest areas. The first three guys in the rankings each drew serious consideration for the top spot. Here they are:

1. Michael Koenen, Atlanta. His coverage unit helped a lot, but opponents had only 49 return yards on Koenen last season. No wonder the Falcons used the franchise tag on their punter.

2. Josh Bidwell, Tampa Bay. Has the strongest leg in the division. Would be in the top spot if Koenen and the Falcons had given up more in returns.

3. Jason Baker, Carolina. The division's most consistent punter. Baker's averaged over 44 yards a punt each of the last three seasons and, mercifully, has helped the world forget Todd Sauerbrun ever was in Carolina.

4. Glenn Pakulak. The guy is only eight games into his NFL career, but he did average 47.7 yards a punt last year. The Saints like his leg strength, but used a fifth-round pick on Thomas Morestead because they aren't sure about Pakulak's consistency.

Over-30 club dwindling fast in Tampa

February, 25, 2009
2/25/09
6:13
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- There are a couple of rosters sitting around in the media room here at One Buccaneer Place that were printed right before last season's finale against Oakland.

I just walked over and grabbed one and started scratching off the names of the guys who got released Wednesday. Then, I did a little bit more of the obvious and scratched off Jeff Garcia, who we already knew wasn't coming back and a little more doodling.

Long story short: The Bucs had 11 players who were 30 or older on the roster on the last day of last season. That number now stands at five and two of those are the punter and kicker.

Josh Bidwell is 32 and Matt Bryant is 33. The only other guys 30 or over on the roster at the moment are cornerback Ronde Barber (33), quarterback Brian Griese (33) and defensive tackle Chris Hovan (30). Maybe you can throw in defensive end Kevin Carter (35), who is scheduled to become a free agent Friday morning, or maybe the Bucs just let him walk, too.

One other numbers note: If you take the collective NFL experience of Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, Warrick Dunn, Ike Hilliard and Cato June, you're talking 58 seasons.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Kickers and punters pretty much have been ignored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Although some guys who kicked and played other positions have been inducted, Jan Stenerud is the only true kicker to ever make it.

That's not likely to change any time soon, but there finally is a place for kickers and punters to be honored. Rick Sang founded the American Football Kicking Hall of Fame last year and it probably won't be long before the NFC South has some strong representation.

With that in mind, I've decided to pick the best kicker and punter in the history of each NFC South franchise.

New Orleans Saints

Kicker: Morten Andersen. This one's incredibly easy. Andersen spent 13 seasons with the Saints and some would make a case he's the best kicker ever.

Punter: Tommy Barnhardt. Mark Royals had a couple of great seasons with the Saints, but Barnhardt gets the nod because of longevity.

Atlanta Falcons

Kicker: Morten Andersen. Yes, he gets the award for the Falcons, too. Andersen did two stints with the Falcons and spent eight seasons with them.

Punter: John James. The Falcons have a great punter right now in Michael Koenen. But James a three-time Pro Bowler back in the 1970s.

Carolina Panthers

Kicker: John Kasay. This one's as easy as picking Anderson for the Saints and Falcons. Kasay has been with the Panthers since their start in 1995 and has been their kicker throughout their existence, except for a little time off because of injuries. He's been as steady as they come and could kick well into his 40s.

Punter: Todd Sauerbrun. This guy is the best punter to ever walk the planet. But he's a tragic story. In a league that's willing to overlook a lot, Sauerbrun can't even get a job because of his repeated off-field problems.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kicker: Matt Bryant. I'm taking Bryant over Martin Gramatica simply because the current kicker has been more consistent.

Punter: Josh Bidwell. Again, I'm going with the incumbent. After looking at the history of Tampa Bay's punters, that's really the only choice.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Some notes from around the NFC South.

BUCCANEERS

Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said the Bucs got some good news on linebacker Derrick Brooks, who suffered a rib injury Sunday. Gruden said Brooks' injury isn't as serious as first thought. Brooks didn't practice, but Gruden said he's hopeful the linebacker can continue his streak of playing in every game since coming to the NFL in 1995.

Gruden also said he hopes Jeff Garcia (calf) will be ready to start Sunday. Garcia practiced on a limited basis, but the Bucs changed up their practice schedule a bit to get backups Brian Griese and Luke McCown some work with the first team. Defensive ends Gaines Adams and Stylez (formerly Greg) White and offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah were limited in practice. Defensive tackles Jovan Haye and Chris Hovan, who had been bothered by injuries, were able to practice. Punter Josh Bidwell did not practice because of an illness.

PANTHERS

Carolina's in danger of having a defensive starter miss a game for the first time this season. Defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu (ankle) missed Wednesday's practice. Offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (groin) also missed practice. Darwin Walker would be the likely starter if Kemoeatu can't go and Geoff Hangartner is the top backup at guard.

ESPN Stats & Information passed along some notes on Carolina's road record. The Panthers are 3-3 on the road, but the wins have come against teams (Chargers, Raiders and Packers) that currently are a combined 14-28. Carolina's three losses (all on the road) are against teams (Vikings, Bucs and Falcons) that currently have winning records. Carolina's losses have all been by double digits and quarterback Jake Delhomme has thrown just one touchdown in those three games. Delhomme's passer rating at home is 100.8. On the road, it's 63.3.

SAINTS

Left tackle Jammal Brown returned to practice after missing last week's game with an injury. The Saints also signed cornerback Michael Lehan off Miami's practice squad to fill the roster spot that came open after the Saints placed Reggie Bush on the injured reserve list.

FALCONS

For those who have been asking for Atlanta's playoff scenarios since about Week 10, the NFL finally has sent out an official list of ways the Falcons can get into the playoffs this week.

Looking ahead to Pro Bowl results

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
10:44
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Pro Bowl squads will be announced at 4 p.m. ET today and it's going to be interesting to see how the NFC South fares.

With NFC East fans apparently having a lot of time on their hands, the NFC South didn't do too well in the fan portion of the voting. But the coaches and the players usually have a way of balancing out the vote.

Here's a list of the guys from the division who I think should be in the Pro Bowl:

Atlanta: Running back Michael Turner, quarterback Matt Ryan, receiver Roddy White and defensive end John Abraham. The reality is Turner and Abraham will make it. Ryan's going to be on the border line and probably end up as an alternate. White should be on the roster, but won't make it because there are some bigger names out there who will make it on reputation.

Carolina: Defensive end Julius Peppers, linebacker Jon Beason, kicker John Kasay, receiver Steve Smith, running back DeAngelo Williams and tackle Jordan Gross. Peppers can go ahead and buy a ticket to Hawaii. But there might be some disappointment in Carolina. Smith is as good as any receiver out there, but he could be a victim of numbers. Same story with Beason and Williams. Gross has had a great year at left tackle, but he'll probably get left in the shadow of the NFC East.

New Orleans: Quarterback Drew Brees. He deserves to be the starter for the NFC. Other than that, he's probably the only member of the Saints who gets a trip.

Tampa Bay: Center Jeff Faine, receiver Antonio Bryant, linebacker Barrett Ruud and punter Josh Bidwell. In a fair world, Faine would be the unquestioned starting center. But this isn't always a fair world and Tampa Bay seems to fly under the radar. The Bucs have some legitimate candidates, but they all run the very real risk of getting slighted.

Pro Bowl voting slights NFC South

December, 11, 2008
12/11/08
2:21
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

I just got a look at the final totals on the fan portion of the Pro Bowl balloting and it's not pretty. If the results were judged only by the fan voting (it's not -- coaches and players each will count for one-third of the vote), the NFC South would have only four players in the Pro Bowl.

New Orleans' Drew Brees won the voting at quarterback. Carolina's Julius Peppers finished second among defensive ends and Atlanta's John Abraham was third at the same position. Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber was fourth among cornerbacks.

That's it, folks.

New Orleans' Reggie Bush finished third among return men. New Orleans fullback Mike Karney finished fourth and Jeremy Shockey was fourth among tight ends. Tampa Bay punter Josh Bidwell finished fourth and Atlanta's Jason Elam was fourth among kickers. Atlanta's Matt Ryan was fifth at quarterback and Atlanta running back Michael Turner finished fifth.

If you've been reading this blog for the past few weeks, you know my feelings on the fan voting. In a nutshell, the folks in the NFC East stuffed the ballot box. Let's just hope the coaches and players are a little more concerned about voting for guys who actually belong in the game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

All right, this officially has become a pet peeve. The latest update on fan voting for the Pro Bowl isn't doing the NFC South any justice.

As of the moment, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees would be the division's only starter. Brees is the only player leading the voting at his position. Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers and New Orleans return man Reggie Bush each rank third at their position.

New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey, Atlanta defensive end John Abraham, Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber and Atlanta kicker Jason Elam each rank fourth at their spots. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner, New Orleans fullback Mike Karney and Tampa Bay punter Josh Bidwell each rank fifth.

The NFC South doesn't even have an offensive lineman among the top five at any of the three positions. What about Jeff Faine? Or Jordan Gross? They're as good as anybody out there.

While we're at it, what about wide receiver? The NFC South is getting shut out there, too. Roddy White, Lance Moore and Antonio Bryant are having career years. And who wants to be the one to tell Steve Smith he's not going to the Pro Bowl?

Then, there's linebacker, where Jon Beason and Barrett Ruud aren't even in the top five. Neither is Derrick Brooks, who should get a ton of votes on reputation alone.

It's not to late to get over to nfl.com and vote, but let's hope the coaches and players give a little more consideration to the NFC South when they each do their third of the vote later this month.

Bucs take a look at punter

November, 30, 2008
11/30/08
3:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- Just heard a very interesting tidbit that could explain Josh Bidwell's horrible punt a moment ago.

Bidwell shanked a punt out of bounds to help New Orleans tie the game. But there might be more to this than meets the eye.

Although Bidwell was having a nice year, until today, the Bucs had punter Ben Graham in for a workout Saturday. That's kind of an unusual day to have any player in for a workout.

Makes you wonder if Bidwell is healthy. But he did just follow that punt up by placing one inside the 10-yard line.

Graham played one game for the Saints this year and previously was with the Jets.

Around the NFC South

November, 27, 2008
11/27/08
9:27
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

PANTHERS

John Fox isn't the kind of coach who throws out statistics lightly. He often says "stats are for losers'', so it means something when Fox throws a stat at his team.

He did it this week when he and the defensive staff told the Panthers repeatedly they gave up 193 yards after contact in Sunday's loss to Atlanta. That stat is based on yards the Falcons gave after Carolina's defense made the initial hit. That's pretty surprising for a Fox defense. The Panthers are usually fundamentally sound in tackling, but they'd gotten away from that a bit even in their two previous games -- victories against Oakland and Detroit.

The Panthers haven't practiced in pads this week because Fox wants to keep his team fresh, but you can bet the Panthers have talked about tackling better.

SAINTS

Defensive end Will Smith is hoping Sunday's game at Tampa Bay isn't his last of the season. But that's a very real possibility. Smith, along with running back Deuce McAllister and injured defensive end Charles Grant, are facing possible suspensions for testing positive for a banned substance.

If Smith is suspended for the final four games, it will mark the end of what's been a disappointing season. After signing the biggest contract in franchise history in the offseason, Smith has been limited to 3.5 sacks.

The number of players on the injured-reserve list jumped to 14 Thursday as the Saints sat cornerback Aaron Glenn (ankle) down for the rest of the season. With another overhaul of the secondary likely in the offseason Glenn, a 15-year veteran, might have played his last game in New Orleans.

BUCCANEERS

Although his name has been thrown about in connection with the open head coaching job at Clemson, Tampa Bay associate head coach Rich Bisaccia said he hasn't been contacted by university officials. Bisaccia formerly worked at Clemson as an assistant and has a long history in the college game. Bisaccia has been one of Tampa Bay's most productive assistants this season. He oversees special teams, where rookie Clifton Smith has emerged as a top-not return man and punter Josh Bidwell and kicker Matt Bryant are having seasons that make them Pro Bowl candidates. Bisaccia also supervises the running backs and has done a nice job as the Bucs have had to juggle tailbacks and fullbacks because of injury.

It sounds like safety Jermaine Phillips, who has been out with a broken arm, could make his return Sunday against the Saints. If he does, that would send Sabby Piscitelli back to the bench. Also, tight end Alex Smith is making progress in his recovery from an ankle injury and might be available Sunday.

FALCONS

Atlanta coach Mike Smith has made several references to the "Over-30 Club'' recently. Specifically, he's talking about guys like John Abraham, Keith Brooking, Grady Jackson, Lawyer Milloy and Jason Elam. They're all over 30, most of them have played on winning teams at various points in their careers and they've provided valuable leadership for a young team that didn't seem to have a lot of leaders after an offseason purge that saw the departures of players like Warrick Dunn and Alge Crumpler.

The leadership from this group has been tremendous, but you have to wonder about the future of the Over-30 Club. Abraham and Elam are almost certain to be back with the team next season. But you have to wonder a bit about Jackson, Brooking and Milloy. They're all contributing a lot this year, but their age could work against them as the Falcons look at their roster in the offseason.

Evening roundup

November, 26, 2008
11/26/08
5:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

SAINTS

New Orleans coach Sean Payton offered his take on the NFC South race in his conference call with the Tampa Bay media Wednesday.

"It's always hard at the start of the season to predict where you think teams are going to fall in our division,'' Payton said. "We're sitting at 6-5, scratching and clawing and we're last in the division. There are other divisions where you might be tied for first with that record. But the fact is we're in this division and we've got our work cut out for us.''

FALCONS

Tight end Ben Hartsock went on the injured reserve list and the team signed Jason Rader to take his place. This might not seem like that big a deal, but Hartsock's blocking has been a big reason why Atlanta has been running the ball so well.

PANTHERS

In a move aimed at stopping the recent slow starts, the Panthers practiced at a faster pace Wednesday. Not sure if that will change anything, but it's worth a shot.

BUCS

Coach Jon Gruden campaigned for punter Josh Bidwell and kicker Matt Bryant to get a trip to Hawaii.

"Bidwell, he'll be in the Pro Bowl, I assume,'' Gruden said after Wednesday's practice. "Bryant will be in the Pro Bowl without a doubt for what he's done. Forget about all the circumstances for just a second. He makes all his kicks. He's an ice man. Those two guys have been superb.''

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Just got another weekly update on what NFC East fans as well as some folks in Wisconsin and Arizona have been doing with their free time. Yes, there's another update on the Pro Bowl fan voting and it's not much better than last week for the NFC South.

Only 11 players from the division are even in the top five at their respective positions. If the fan voting determined the whole thing and it ended today, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers would be the only players from the NFC South going to Hawaii. There's something wrong with that because the NFC South can make a strong case that it's the best division in the NFL right now, but Brees is the only guy who would even having a starting job.

He ranks first among quarterbacks and Peppers is third among defensive ends. New Orleans return man Reggie Bush ranks third. Atlanta defensive end John Abraham, New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey and Atlanta kicker Jason Elam rank fourth at their positions. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, New Orleans fullback Mike Karney, Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber and punter Josh Bidwell rank fifth at their positions.

Lots of other worthy guys -- Carolina's Jon Beason, Tampa Bay's Barrett Ruud, Atlanta's Roddy White, Carolina's Steve Smith, Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant and Carolina's Chris Harris pop quickly to mind -- aren't even in the top five.

Two things you can do about this: One, hop over to nfl.com and give an honest vote; two, hope that players and coaches straighten out this mess with their two-thirds of the overall vote.

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