NFC South: Kentwan Balmer

NFC South Stock Watch

August, 30, 2011
We won't officially start our Stock Watch feature until the regular season. But there's plenty going on right now, so let's give you an unofficial preseason version of Stock Watch.


Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle, Saints. There was a buzz early in camp about Franklin and Shaun Rogers, who both were added to help the Saints get stronger in the middle. Hopes remain high that Franklin will have a big impact, but those hopes might have to wait a bit. Franklin has a sprained knee and could miss a little time at the start of the season.

The Falcons and their Super Bowl chances. Veteran Sports Illustrated writer Peter King has picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl. That may be music to the ears of fans. But, believe me, it’s not what coach Mike Smith wants to hear. Like a lot of coaches, the guy is very superstitious and probably thinks his team has been jinxed. I've seen and heard Smith plead with writers not to pick his team to win the Super Bowl or the division. On the bright side, King was right last year when he picked Green Bay and Pittsburgh to reach the Super Bowl.

Corvey Irvin, defensive tackle, Panthers. A third-round draft pick in 2009, Irvin continues to be listed as a starter on the depth chart the Panthers sent out for their final preseason game. But Irvin is in jeopardy of not even making the 53-man roster. The Panthers thought they had improved themselves a lot at defensive tackle when they signed free-agent Ron Edwards. But he’s going to miss the season with an injury. The team also used a pair of third-round picks to get Terrell McClain and Sione Fua. The rookies could end up starting right away. The Panthers recently picked up Kentwan Balmer and they’re probably not done yet. They’ll keep an eye on who becomes available elsewhere because they’re not sold on Irvin.


Michael Bennett, defensive end, Buccaneers. The team used its top two draft picks on defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. The Bucs remain high on both, but Bennett has been a star this preseason. He likely will start opposite Clayborn and Bowers and will be used as a situational pass rusher at the start of the season.

Joe Hawley, center, Falcons. Veteran Todd McClure had what the team called a minor procedure on his knee. It’s unknown if McClure will be ready for the opener. If he’s not, the Falcons likely will have to start Hawley, a second-year pro. Hawley hasn’t looked great in preseason games, but he was drafted last year to be McClure’s eventual replacement. The Falcons haven’t gone out and added a veteran, so they must believe Hawley can step up if given the chance.

Cameron Jordan, defensive end, Saints. New Orleans had been bringing the first-round pick along slowly. But the coaching staff must have liked what it saw out of Jordan in practice. The team made a bold move Tuesday by releasing veteran starter Alex Brown. He was a dependable player with plenty of experience, but the Saints must believe Jordan has more upside.

Whatever happened to Chris Gamble?

August, 25, 2011
I’m not sure if Cincinnati rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are going to be the NFL’s next great quarterback and receiver or if Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble is totally washed up.

I’m leaning toward the latter after watching Gamble get beat badly twice by Green in Carolina's 24-13 loss in Thursday night’s exhibition game. It got so bad that Cincinnati broadcaster Anthony Munoz joked that Gamble was seen being escorted to the locker room to have aloe applied to his burns.

I’m starting to think the Panthers have a big problem on their hands. It actually might have first surfaced last season, when former coach John Fox took Gamble’s starting job away. Fox may have been going through a catastrophic season, but the man always has known what he’s doing when it comes to defense. The Panthers shrugged it off as a conflict with Fox and decided to keep Gamble while not really addressing cornerback early in the draft or free agency.

Green first beat Gamble on a deep ball in the first quarter. Gamble caught a break when officials reviewed the play and decided that Green didn’t make the catch in bounds, but it was still worrisome because the receiver got open with ease.

Gamble wasn’t nearly as lucky the next time around. Dalton threw deep for Green in the second quarter and the rookie caught the pass easily in the end zone. It doesn’t get much worse than that, and I’m wondering what the Panthers are going to do.

For a lot of years, Gamble was a pretty good cornerback, but he was never great. Last season and this preseason have shown that he might be in sharp decline.

Gamble is 28 and scheduled to make $6.24 million in base salary and count $9.24 million against the salary cap. Those are the kind of numbers you associate with a No. 1 cornerback. Gamble doesn’t look like a No. 1 cornerback anymore.

Captain Munnerlyn is the other starting cornerback and he’s never going to be a No. 1 guy. In fact, he’d be a No. 3 or 4 on a lot of other teams. Beyond Munnerlyn, the Panthers don’t have much else at cornerback.

The Panthers may have to make a move to get some help at cornerback before the regular season starts. Maybe that comes off the waiver wire or maybe via trade. The Panthers have $8 million in salary-cap room and they also might want to add some help at defensive tackle (yeah, I know they got Kentwan Balmer off waivers, but is he really the answer?) and receiver. But cornerback seems to have moved to the top of the shopping list.

If the Panthers go into the regular season with Gamble as their top cornerback and he continues to play like he did Thursday night, they’re going to have major problems.

Monday night mailbag

August, 16, 2010
Scott in Prairieville, La., writes: The debate of Derrick Brooks or Rickey Jackson as the best ever player in the NFC South is a good one. Rickey played 13 of his 15 years in New Orleans. I wouldn't say that a chunk of his career was played in San Francisco. Ricky helped re-define the position along with Lawrence Taylor. Had Rickey played in a larger market, he would be considered in the top 3 of all time. I know that Tampa and New Orleans are both small markets, but had Rickey played during the media explosion era that Brooks did, it would be no contest.

Pat Yasinskas: New Orleans fans have been firing away with notes arguing Jackson over Brooks as the best NFC South Player of all time. I respect your arguments and agree Jackson was great. That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame and I’m glad he finally got there. But I’m sticking with Brooks, who, I think, will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Nate in Palmer, Alaska, writes: Tampa Bay's Kareem Huggins has officially put Derrick Ward on the trading block if you ask me. I think Tampa overpaid the guy, so there isn't a lot in return they could get for him, but do you see Ward in a Bucs uniform much longer?

Pat Yasinskas: Ward’s contract makes it virtually impossible to trade him, because no team would want to pick up the rest of that deal for a guy who has shown nothing since he came to Tampa Bay. Do the Bucs just cut Ward? Wouldn’t surprise me at all. Huggins has looked very good and Ward has not. Plus, I don’t think Ward is viewed as a great chemistry guy. However, the one thing that could keep Ward around is Cadillac Williams’ history of injuries. Huggins is undersized and inexperienced. The Bucs might decide to hang onto Ward in case something happens to Williams.

Robert in Sterling, Va., writes: Just a suggestion, but maybe do a piece of the NFC South projecting what the outcome will be like (Ex: player states, injuries, W/L record) like the writer who does the AFC North blog did by simulating a season in Madden 11.

Pat Yasinskas: I’d love to sit down and play a season of Madden 11, but I don’t exactly have a lot of free time these days. I did do a simulated season once when I was covering the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. If my memory is correct, I guided the Panthers to a 7-9 record – with Chris Weinke as my quarterback. If someone out there wants to play a Madden 11 for the NFC South, I’ll be happy to share the results with the readers.

Cory in Knoxville, Tenn., writes: Did the Panthers make a move for Kentwan Balmer?

Pat Yasinskas: No, San Francisco traded Balmer to Seattle. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers make a move to add a defensive tackle when other teams start cutting down rosters.