NFC South: Junior Gallette

NEW ORLEANS -- The table was all set for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to turn around their season.

Then it all fell apart.

Despite holding an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Bucs lost 37-31 to the New Orleans Saints in overtime Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"We had every opportunity to win this football game," offensive tackle Demar Dotson said. "We had the Saints right where we wanted them. We didn't finish. We allowed things to slip out of our hands. We've got to learn how to finish football games. That's tough to come in here and have the opportunity we had and let it slip away."

It's tough because, with a win, the Bucs would have been nicely positioned. They would have been right in the NFC South race and they would have been coming home with a two-game winning streak and growing confidence for next week's game with Baltimore.

Instead, they're 1-4, in sole possession of last place in the NFC South and coming home angry. There was more anger in Sunday's locker room than there was after a 56-14 loss to Atlanta in Week 3.

"Somebody's got to make a play," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "You've just got to make a play. We let that one go. We let that one go."

The Bucs let this one get away in regulation and in overtime. They took a 31-20 lead when rookie receiver Robert Herron caught a touchdown pass from Mike Glennon with 13:28 left in the fourth quarter.

Plenty of teams have blown leads to Drew Brees and the Saints in their home through the years. But shouldn't you expect to hold on when you have an 11-point lead and your offense and defense have been playing well?

"Yes, we do," coach Lovie Smith said. "There's no other way around it. You're up by 11. With our defense, simple as that, you don't let them score and you win the football game."

That's not what the Bucs did. Two series -- one by the offense and one by the defense -- quickly turned the course of the game. On a New Orleans drive that featured three Bucs penalties, Pierre Thomas scored on a 27-yard run to cut the lead to 31-26.

The Bucs followed that with one of the worst offensive series in franchise history, which is saying a lot. The Bucs started with a first-and-10 at their own 20. They quickly got backed up by three penalties and a fumbled snap by Glennon. Stuck at the 1-yard line, Glennon was sacked for a safety by Junior Gallette to cut the lead to 31-28.

The Saints followed that up with a field goal to send the game to overtime. But that's where things got even worse for the Bucs. On a third down, the Tampa Bay defense appeared to force a New Orleans punt. But cornerback Johnthan Banks was called for illegal use of hands. That gave New Orleans new life and the Saints wound up winning on an 18-yard run by Khiry Robinson.

The Bucs, who finished with 15 penalties for 113 yards, have no one to blame but themselves. They had this game there for the taking and they didn't finish it off.

"It was a key game for us," Smith said. "We put a big emphasis on it. On the road and a division game, that itself says quite a bit. To be able to steal one would have put us in pretty good position. But we seem to do it the hard way. I'm still encouraged by a lot of the things I saw. Disappointed in the loss, but encouraged by some of our play. We're getting better as a football team and eventually our record will show it."

But, despite the golden opportunity, the Bucs aren't there yet.

Links: Panthers, Bucs release camp plans

June, 27, 2013
Atlanta Falcons

Richard Seymour, a former standout at the University of Georgia, discussed his talks with the Falcons, the possibility of retirement in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “But in terms of Atlanta, obviously, we had some talks,” said Seymour. "[There's] really nothing new to report. I think they are a team that is definitely on the rise and they obviously have a lot of great players at the positions that you want to have."

Which receiver is quarterback Matt Ryan's go-to guy: Julio Jones or Roddy White? The Falcoholic's Alex Welch takes a look.

Carolina Panthers

The team released its training-camp schedule Wednesday. The Panthers will report to Wofford College on Thursday, July 25, and hold its first practice the following day. Training camp will end Aug. 13.

Ted Ginn Jr. is looking forward to a fresh start with the Panthers, writes the AP's Steve Reed.

New Orleans Saints

The Times-Picayune continues its series on the Saints’ top 25 players, with No. 17: Junior Gallette.

Which Zach Strief will show up in 2013? Cory Gunkel of Canal Street Chronicles explores.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs will open 10 training-camp practices to the public, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Film of the NFC South chat

May, 19, 2012
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from Friday’s NFC South chat.

Ryan (Charlotte): Regression or Progression. Which will be the theme for Cam Newton next year.

Pat Yasinskas: I see progress. He's got a full offseason with the coaches and the play book this time around.

Chris (taylor): Saw you just made the article about the lawsuit. Article 43 section 1 states that per agreement, Vilma can only take grievance with the NFl, not the legal system. Do you think that the case will be thrown out?

Pat Yasinskas: Again, I'm no legal expert. But Munson is our legal expert and he said he believes there is a good chance it will get dismissed.

Bryant (Virginia): what are the bucs expecting to get out of McCoy/Price? Do you expect them to have big years?

Pat Yasinskas: They both have flashed promise when they've been healthy. But there's no denying this will be a crucial season for McCoy. He needs to stay healthy and start reaching his potential.

RossMcR (Glasgow, Scotland): Pat, I am not too concerned about the Brees lack of talks with Saints at this point however I do expect them to ramp up now! When do you expect this to get resolved??

Pat Yasinskas: Deadline to sign franchise players to long-term deals is July 16. I'm guessing it will play out pretty close to the deadline.

Kris (One Buc, FL): Who do you see having a better year? Freeman or Matt Ryan?

Pat Yasinskas: Hmmm, I'll say Ryan. I think Freeman will be much better than last year. But I think Ryan might really take a big step up in their new offense.

Brian (Baton Rouge): Much has been made of the Saints' "lack of depth" at DE this offseason. I think both Junior Gallette and Greg Romeus have a chance to blossom under Spags' guidance. Your thoughts?

Pat Yasinskas: Yeah, bringing up Romeus is a good point. He's supposed to be healthy and I think he could be a player. Gallette definitely has some raw talent and could be helped by Spags.

Tony (Richmond, CA): Will Mike Smith & Matt Ryan get over the hump this year and finally win a playoff game? If not, do questions begin swirling around the coach and his ability to take Atlanta to the next level?

Pat Yasinskas: Yeah, I think it's pretty obvious this is a crucial year for Smith. He needs to win a playoff game. Not saying he'll be fired if he doesn't, but the pressure is definitely on.

Scott (maine): when its all said and done who do you see playing oline for falcons?

Pat Yasinskas: I say Hawley at center with Konz and Blalock at guards. Clabo at RT. And this probably isn't what you want to hear ...but Baker at LT. I think they're serious about sticking with him -- for better or worse.

Here’s the complete transcript of the NFC South chat.
As severe as the New Orleans Saints’ player suspensions were for their three-year bounty program, they’re not entirely devastating.

Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season, and defensive end Will Smith will be suspended for the first four games. That’s all, as far as current Saints go. Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, drew an eight-game suspension, and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, will be suspended for the first three games of the season.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Vilma
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireJonathan Vilma had a down season in 2011, collecting 54 tackles in 11 games.
But let’s stick to the current Saints and how this latest news impacts them. There’s no doubt Vilma’s suspension is severe. But the overall news wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The NFL initially said 22 to 27 players were involved in the bounty program, and there was fear many more current Saints could end up with suspensions.

But only Vilma and Smith ended up drawing suspensions. Those two have been defensive leaders for the Saints in recent years, but their suspensions aren’t going to gut the New Orleans defense.

The Saints had spent the offseason bracing for a possible lengthy suspension for Vilma, although I suspect the full season is about a half-season longer than what the Saints suspected. But they were proactive at linebacker. They went out and got free agent Curtis Lofton from Atlanta. They also added David Hawthorne from Seattle and Chris Chamberlain from St. Louis.

Let’s be real honest here. As great as Vilma was in the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl season, and maybe even in 2010, he had a down year in 2011. He tried to play through a knee injury before finally having knee surgery that kept him out for five games. Even after his return, Vilma wasn’t the same player he was in earlier seasons.

Plug in Lofton, who is younger and healthier, as the starting middle linebacker and the Saints may have an upgraded linebacker corps. Hawthorne and Chamberlain also can play outside and they’ll compete with Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas, Martez Wilson and Will Herring for playing time. The Saints are pretty well set at linebacker.

Defensive end is another story, and the Saints will have to get through contests against the Redskins, Panthers, Chiefs and Packers without Smith, who led the team with 6.5 sacks last season. That will be a challenge, especially in a system in which new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to get the bulk of his pass rush from the front four.

Smith is the only member of the front four with a proven track record of getting pressure on quarterbacks. Cameron Jordan, who had one sack as a rookie, was projected as a starter even before Smith’s suspension. The Saints could go with Turk McBride or Junior Galette (or a combination of the two) at the other end spot.

But it also is entirely possible the Saints will try to find another defensive end (or two) in free agency.

Rapid Reaction: Packers 42, Saints 34

September, 8, 2011
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' season-opening 42-34 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

What it means: It’s only one game, but this one was particularly painful for the Saints and could have implications that linger through the season. The defense was nothing short of horrible most of the night, and that’s a huge cause for concern. Yes, the Saints were playing the defending Super Bowl champions on the road, but they have to be better than this on defense if they hope to be more than an average team.

Missing Will Smith: With the defensive end suspended for the first two games of the season, the Saints generated virtually no pass rush. Rookie Cameron Jordan, Jeff Charleston, Junior Galette and Turk McBride weren’t expected to do it on their own. The Saints did try plenty of blitzes but didn’t have a lot of luck. Don't give the Saints too much sympathy on this one. They knew for months there was the chance Smith would serve a suspension but didn't do much to counter that.

Secondary issues: Second-year pro Patrick Robinson had a tough game as he took over the nickelback role. Strong safety Roman Harper had a rough night, and cornerback Tracy Porter didn’t tackle well. If you’re not getting any pressure and your secondary is struggling, you’ve got problems.

The bright spot: Running back/return man Darren Sproles was explosive as he made his New Orleans debut. He returned a punt for a touchdown, and looked good on kickoff returns and as a receiver out of the backfield. Sproles looks like an upgrade from Reggie Bush.

Whatever happened to Jimmy Graham? The second-year tight end was expected to be a focal point of the offense. He was barely a factor. But give Green Bay’s defense much of the credit for that. The Saints seemed like they were looking for Graham, but he rarely was open, except for a fourth-quarter touchdown that came too late.

What’s next: The Saints get another strong NFC North opponent Sept. 18. They’ll play the Chicago Bears, but that game will be in the Superdome.

Reggie Bush returning for Saints

November, 25, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- New Orleans running back Reggie Bush will make his return Thursday after missing eight games with a broken leg.

Bush is on the active list and is listed as the starter, although he's likely to share time with Chris Ivory in the backfield.

Inactives for the Saints Thursday are running back Pierre Thomas, safety Matt Giordano, safety Darren Sharper, running back Ladell Betts, tackle Charles Brown, tight end Jeremy Shockey and defensive end Junior Gallette.

Sean Canfield is the third quarterback.

Thursday morning mailbag

August, 19, 2010
John in Prairieville, La., writes: A lot is being made of the "late" hits on Brett Farve. There were called late hits on Favre, two I believe. And I believe that one was missed. I also saw that a man in mid-air, as Favre passed, was called for a late hit. This extended a drive. It goes both ways. The refs did the best they could with the Vikings backfield swamped with Saint's jerseys. Which leads me to my point. The Vikings could not contain our pass rush (or hold on to the ball), this is why they lost. Not because we paid off refs our some other conspiracy. Simply put, if you don't protect your QB he will get hurt. Your opinion?

Pat Yasinskas: Football is a very physical game and I think you’re correct in saying the Vikings didn’t do a great job of protecting Favre in the NFC Championship Game. That and Adrian Peterson’s inability to hold onto the ball are the main reasons the Vikings lost. Yes, the Saints got called for some penalties and might have crossed the line at times. But, like you said, if the Vikings had done a better job protecting Favre, the Saints wouldn’t have been able to get hits on him.

Kevin in Omaha, Neb., writes: I know you don't make your predictions until closer to the season, but I was listening to Mike and Mike and they predicted that the Bucs would have a 2-14 season and 3-13 season. What are they looking at? From my view the Bucs are better at just about every position. Now I am not predicting a Super Bowl run and a playoff appearance is even far-fetched (not out of the question but unlikely) but they are going to be better than last season. What is your view?

Pat Yasinskas: Pretty much the same as your view. I think the Bucs are improved in a lot of areas and the biggest is at quarterback. Josh Freeman has a year under his belt and he’s going to be all right. Like you, I’m not ready to say the Bucs are going to the playoffs, but I think they’ll be a competitive with the potential to win five or six games.

Matt in Tampa writes: Great article on the Bucs in your Camp Confidential piece. Just one question, how is Arrelious Benn doing? He seemed invisible against Miami and I see that he is 3rd string at the Z WR position behind Maurice Stovall and Sammie Stroughter. Is he really struggling?

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think it would be fair or accurate to say Benn is struggling. He did get off to a quiet start in camp, but that happens with a lot of rookie receivers. He’s come on in practice over the last week or so and is progressing nicely. I don’t think he’s ready for a spot in the starting lineup. But, if continues to make progress, he could earn a spot in the receiver rotation.

Brendan in Kernersville, N.C., writes: What is the feeling in Panther's camp on how Dan Connor is progressing at the MIKE position?

Pat Yasinskas: The Panthers seem satisfied with Connor at middle linebacker. He’s not going to be Jon Beason, who has moved over to weakside linebacker. In other words, Connor probably isn’t going to make a lot of big plays. Beason can do that from the weak side. Connor’s main job will be to produce tackles.

Scott in Austin, Texas, writes: Junior Gallette looked pretty good in the first preseason game and I keep hearing his doing well. Do you think there is any chance they might move him to defensive tackle as opposed to end?

Pat Yasinskas: I’ve heard good things about Gallette and liked what I saw when I visited the Saints early in camp. However, I don’t think defensive tackle is in Gallette’s future. He’s not big enough to play the interior. Heck, he’s even undersized as a defensive end. He might have trouble making the regular roster as an end, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ends up on New Orleans’ practice squad.