NFC South: Josh Bullocks

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

If you want to know one reason why the Saints are 6-6, take a look at their injured reserve list.

As of now, it contains either 14 or 15 guys, depending on how you want to calculate it. Safety Kevin Kaesviharn was added Thursday. Defensive end Charles Grant, who is waiting for a federal hearing Friday on his four-game league suspension is on the reserve-suspended list, but he had been on injured reserve for several weeks.

With either 14 or 15 guys on the injured reserve list, the Saints are way ahead of the league average, which is 7.7 players. Only the Cincinnati Bengals (16) currently have more players on injured reserve. Baltimore has 14 and Seattle, New England and Denver have 11 each. By comparison, the teams with the fewest injured reserve players are Arizona with two and Philadelphia and Carolina with three each.

With Kaesviharn out, the Saints likely will turn to Josh Bullocks as the starter at free safety.

Saints' defense suddenly battered

September, 12, 2008
9/12/08
4:04
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Remember all that talk about the Saints' defense after opening day? You might want to forget it.

Things aren't looking nearly as good today as the Saints announced three starters will be out for Sunday's game with Washington and backup linebacker Mark Simoneau will be lost for the season.

Cornerback Randall Gay, linebacker Scott Fujita and safety Roman Harper will miss the game against the Redskins. Individually, none of those injuries would be devastating because these are not the players the New Orleans defense is built around. Collectively, it's a big deal.

The defense isn't going to suddenly be as bad as it was last year and that's mainly because of the presence of linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. There also is more depth than last year, but that's fading fast. The Saints are thin at defensive tackle, after letting the injured Hollis Thomas go.

The loss of Simoneau, a former starter, also leaves the Saints very thin at linebacker. With Fujita out, Troy Evans probably gets a start. There's a little more depth in the secondary, where veteran cornerback Aaron Glenn and safety Josh Bullocks probably will start. But Bullocks played his way out of the starting lineup last year and Glenn's not viewed as a long-term solution. There still is uncertainty if veteran cornerback Mike McKenzie, who is coming off major knee surgery, will make his return this week.

Audibles: NFC South Week 2 preview

September, 12, 2008
9/12/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Atlanta Falcons (1-0) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1), 4:05 p.m. ET

The Falcons can't do it two weeks in a row, can they?

You might be surprised. Although Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia is getting most of the heat (and a seat) after last week's loss in New Orleans, the biggest culprit might have been the Bucs' defense. Units led by Monte Kiffin aren't supposed to look like the Bucs from the Sam Wyche days.

But that's what happened in the Superdome. The Bucs gave up three huge plays and never really were able to dictate the game the way they have in the past. Maybe Tampa Bay's defense is too young at the same time it's too old and there's not enough in between.

We'll find out if last week was just a fluke for Tampa Bay's defense or a real problem because Atlanta did a pretty good job tearing apart Detroit's defense last week. For those who don't make the connection, Detroit is coached by Rod Marinelli, who spent years at Kiffin's side and subscribes to all of his theories.

Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan looked very poised against Marinelli's defense and running back Michael Turner was spectacular. If linebacker Derrick Brooks sits out with a hamstring injury, Kiffin is going to have to rally the defense or else it will get embarrassed for the second straight week.

Chicago Bears (1-0) vs. Carolina Panthers (1-0), 1 p.m. ET

A week ago, this looked like a pretty dull matchup of two winless teams. But, suddenly, it's a game between two teams that could be NFC powers. That's because the Panthers and Bears knocked off most of the AFC's elite. Carolina went out to San Diego without Steve Smith and beat the Chargers. The Bears rediscovered their defense and made Peyton Manning and the Colts look ordinary.

Something's going to have to give in this game, but not much. John Fox and Lovie Smith are all about defense and they seem to have their teams back to doing what they do best. Both teams showed surprisingly strong running games last week.

Whichever team walks out of Bank of America Stadium with a win is going to be the new darling of the NFC.

New Orleans Saints (1-0) vs. Washington Redskins (0-1), 1 p.m. ET

It's been a rough week for the Saints since they beat the Bucs. They lost receiver Marques Colston for about six weeks and defensive backs Randall Gay and Roman Harper are banged up.

But don't feel too bad for the Saints. Even though Colston is their best receiver, by far, they've got plenty of options. Devery Henderson and David Patten are decent and second-year pro Robert Meachem finally may get a chance to show if he can play in this league.

But more than anything, the receiver slack will be picked up by tight end Jeremy Shockey and running back Reggie Bush. In their own ways, each of them is pretty close to being a wide receiver.

The situation in the defensive backfield is pretty similar if Gay and Harper can't go. New Orleans actually has some depth in the secondary this year and Aaron Glenn and Josh Bullocks wouldn't be bad as short-term fill-ins.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

An evening trip through the NFC South:

PANTHERS

There was some good news on the injury front as return man/receiver Ryne Robinson practiced. He also got upgraded from "week to week'' to "day to day''. That still doesn't guarantee he'll play Sunday. But, in Fox's world, any admission that there's progress on an injury is significant.

FALCONS

Backup center Alex Stepanovich participated in practice for the first time since suffering a back injury Aug. 11. Stepanovich and linebacker Coy Wire (ankle) are the only players listed on Atlanta's injury report.

BUCCANEERS

Linebacker Derrick Brooks (hamstring) sat out practice and said coach Jon Gruden is enforcing a "gag order'' about the injury. It should be pointed out Brooks was laughing every time he mentioned the gag order. Just a guess here, but I think Brooks placed it on himself. The injury was real enough to force him out of the New Orleans game. But it's not unusual for a veteran to get a day off (Warrick Dunn and Joey Galloway did). Let's wait and see if Brooks practices Thursday or Friday before trying to read too much into this one.

SAINTS

Keep an eye on the hamstring injury that kept strong safety Roman Harper out of practice today. If Harper's going to miss any game time, Josh Bullocks likely would return to the starting lineup. Bullocks lost the free safety job to Kevin Kaesviharn in the preseason. But Kaesviharn likely would switch to strong safety if Harper is out.

Saints position battles

July, 23, 2008
7/23/08
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Here's a look at two of the biggest position battles in New Orleans' camp:

KaesviharnBullocks

Free safety: Kevin Kaesviharn vs. Josh Bullocks.

This is not a position of strength for the Saints, who upgraded their defensive line by drafting Sedrick Ellis and their linebacker corps by bringing in Jonathan Vilma. With an improved front seven, there's the chance for the starting free safety to be a playmaker.

Bullocks started most of last year, but he was beaten in coverage at times and never has played consistently well. Bullocks also is coming off knee surgery and that could open the door for Kaesviharn.

At least at the start of camp, Kaesviharn is expected to get the work with the first team. Unless he really struggles or Bullocks has an outstanding camp, Kaesviharn probably will open the season as the starter.

Intensity index: Mild

Running back: Deuce McAllister vs. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas

 
 Jim O'Connor/US PRESSWIRE
 If his knee can't hold up, Saints RB Deuce McAllister will be in a battle for the starting job.

McAllister is coming back from his second major knee injury and he's not getting any younger. But he showed the ability to make it back from serious injury before and he's been the most dependable back in the NFC South this decade. The Saints may bring him along slowly in camp, but, if he's healthy, he'll probably be the opening-day starter.

Bush has yet to show signs he can be an every-down back, although he'll play a big role as a situational player. Thomas showed some promise, averaging 4.8 yards a carry last season, but he's not a real threat to a healthy McAllister.

Intensity index: Hot

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