NFC South: Kevin Kolb

Falcons overcome Matt Ryan's bad day

November, 18, 2012
Matt Ryan Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMatt Ryan threw five picks and no touchdown passes, yet the Falcons still came out with a win.

ATLANTA -- His on-field performance was not sharp, but Matt Ryan's memory sure was.

As he walked out of his news conference after the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Arizona Cardinals 23-19 at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, I asked the quarterback if he had ever thrown five interceptions in a game before.

The wheels turned for all of about three seconds before the answer came.

"No, that’s it," said Ryan, who had thrown only seven interceptions in the season’s first nine games. "Let’s keep in that way."

In a five-year NFL career, Ryan never had thrown more than three interceptions in a game and he only threw three a couple of times. At Boston College, William Penn Charter High School in Philadelphia and even in youth leagues, Ryan never had a five-interception game.

It truly was an historic day for Ryan, on many levels. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ryan became the first quarterback to throw five interceptions with no touchdowns and still win since Green Bay’s Bart Starr in 1967.

"Good company to be in," Ryan said with a slight laugh when told of his new place in the record books.

Ryan and the Falcons can afford to chuckle just a little bit about this one. They’re 9-1 and they know they got lucky.

They quickly fell behind 13-0 as Ryan threw three interceptions in the first quarter and the offense never got into much of a rhythm. Against most teams (maybe as many as 30 other teams), Ryan and the Falcons would have been blown out of the building.

But they were playing the Cardinals, who started the season 4-0 but have fallen apart with quarterback Kevin Kolb injured. They started John Skelton and yanked him in favor of third-string rookie Ryan Lindley, who had never taken an NFL snap before Sunday, when they held a 13-3 second-quarter lead. When’s the last time you heard of a team yanking a quarterback when it held a 10-point lead?

Let’s turn to noted receiver/philosopher Roddy White to truly put this one in perspective.

"The Cardinals are a good football team," White said. "No, I mean they’re a good defensive football team."

Say what you want about White, who draws a lot of criticism for his outspoken nature. But, more often than not, the man cuts straight to the point.

The Cardinals, at least right now, are a horrible offensive football team. Atlanta turned the ball over six times (running back Jason Snelling also lost a fumble), but Arizona managed only one touchdown. Skelton and Lindley combined for 41 net passing yards.

You can debate which of the three quarterbacks had the worst day, but Ryan was the only one who threw an interception. The Falcons never considered benching him and the record will show Ryan led the 20th fourth-quarter comeback of his career and his fourth this season. But Ryan, who completed 28 of 46 passes for 301 yards, will be the first to tell you he didn’t have a good day.

"I think that there are a lot of hats you wear as a quarterback," Ryan said. "Part of it is player and part of it is keeping everybody on the same page and being relaxed."

Ryan kept his composure and rebounded well enough for the Falcons to win -- this time.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Babineaux
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireJonathan Babineaux returned a fumble for a touchdown which helped dig the Falcons out of an early hole.
"We can’t turn the ball over the way we turned the ball over, obviously," said coach Mike Smith, who clinched his fifth consecutive winning season. "You can’t be minus-four in turnovers and, normally, you’re not going to win games. That doesn’t happen very often in the National Football League."

It doesn’t happen often because most NFL teams aren’t nearly as bad as the Cardinals on offense. But let’s give Atlanta’s defense, which held receiver Larry Fitzgerald to one catch for seven yards, some credit.

"They were put in some very difficult situations, in terms of field position and were able to step up and make some plays," Smith said.

Although Ryan’s interceptions frequently handed the Cardinals good field position, the defense generally was able to limit Arizona to field goals or got the Cardinals off the field. No play was bigger -- or more bizarre -- than the third play of Lindley’s first drive.

As Lindley was about to throw a pass, veteran defensive end John Abraham, who finished with two sacks, hit his arm and forced a fumble. A lot of Arizona and Atlanta players stood around, thinking the result of the play was an incomplete pass. But defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux saw the ball on the ground and alertly realized no whistles had blown. Babineaux scooped the ball up and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown that cut Arizona’s lead to 13-10 and put the Falcons back into the game.

"Our defense won the game for us," tight end Tony Gonzalez said. "They bailed us out a bunch of times."

It should be noted that three of Ryan’s interceptions came on tipped passes, but the Falcons know they’ll have to be more efficient if they’re going to have any shot at winning in the postseason for the first time in the Smith/Ryan era.

"It says a lot about how we have that never (say) die attitude," Babineaux said. "But, at the same time, we’ve got to get back to playing Falcon football. You’re not going to turn the ball over like that and win many times."

Observation deck: Cardinals-Saints

August, 5, 2012
Let’s run through some thoughts and observations from the New Orleans Saints’ 17-10 victory against the Arizona Cardinals in Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game.
  • Quarterback Drew Brees and most of the first-team offense played only the first series of the game. But it was a very efficient drive. The Saints went 77 yards on 10 plays to score a touchdown. Brees didn’t do anything fancy, but completed four of five passes for 41 yards and the first offense looked as smooth as you could hope for in a preseason opener.
  • Second-year running back Mark Ingram scored the opening touchdown on a 1-yard run. Ingram also had a nice 10-yard cutback run before that. Ingram missed part of his rookie season with injuries and had knee and toe surgery this offseason. But he looked like he’s completely healthy and that means he likely will share time in the backfield with Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.
  • Free safety Malcolm Jenkins didn’t produce a single interception last season. He got one precisely five minutes into this game, jumping a route and picking off Kevin Kolb. I expect a lot more interceptions out of Jenkins this season as he gets a chance to be a true center fielder for the first time in his career.
  • Curtis Lofton had a tackle for a 2-yard loss on a run by LaRod Stephens-Howling on Arizona’s second possession. Get used to that. Lofton is better than any linebacker the Saints had last season, particularly against the running game.
  • Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, who hasn’t been known as a pass-rusher, got nice pressure on Kolb in the Arizona end zone midway through the first quarter. Kolb barely got a pass off to avoid a safety. He also was shaken up on the play and left the game.
  • Overall, the Saints' first-team defense didn’t do anything that stood out either way. The unit wasn’t real sharp with its tackling against the Arizona running game.
  • There were some encouraging things from the Saints' second-team defense. Martez Wilson, who is making the move from linebacker to defensive end, produced a sack in the second quarter and another early in the third quarter.
  • Joseph Morgan and Laron Scott each misjudged a punt return in the first quarter. Scott redeemed himself with a nice kickoff return in the second quarter.
  • Undrafted rookie running back Travaris Cadet looked great catching the ball out of the backfield and in the return game. But it’s going to be tough for Cadet to make a roster that already includes Ingram, Sproles, Thomas and Chris Ivory. Cadet’s best hope might be to catch on with another team or to end up on New Orleans’ practice squad.
All the talk about Drew Brees' quest for a new contract that will make him the highest-paid player in the NFL got me thinking about quarterback salaries and average per year.

It remains very likely that, sometime between now and Monday afternoon, Brees and the Saints will work out a contract that pays him somewhere around an average of $20 million per season. That would put Brees on top of the list of quarterback pay. He’s earned that honor.

But what about the rest of the NFC South quarterbacks?

First off, let’s be clear that none of them are at the same level as Brees. But two of them are likely to come up for contract extensions sooner rather than later and Brees could help raise the bar.

As it stands right now, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is tied for No. 13 in average per year at $11.25 million. Ryan’s contract currently runs through the 2013 season and there have been some rumblings the Falcons could start looking to extend him. Unless he goes out and wins the Super Bowl this season, I don’t think Ryan falls into the category of elite quarterbacks, but I think it would take an average of somewhere between $14 million and $16 million a season to lock him up.

Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman ranks No. 22 with a $5.24 million average per year. Freeman’s coming off a tough season, but still has plenty of upside and also has a contract that expires after the 2013 season. If the Bucs really believe he is their franchise quarterback, they might be wise to try to extend him before Freeman gets a chance to get back on the field and really drive his price tag into the upper echelon. Then again, the Bucs might want to wait a bit to see if Freeman can recapture his style of play from the 2010 season before making any big commitment.

Carolina’s Cam Newton is No. 21 with a $5.506 million average salary. Although he was the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft, Newton’s first contract was less than a lot of guys drafted in the years just ahead of him because the league put in new rules last year that limit rookie contracts. If Newton continues to play like he did as a rookie, he could be looking at numbers like Brees a few years down the road.

I’ve assembled a list of the top 32 quarterbacks, based on average salary per year. Here it is:

The final results are in and I’m happy to announce the Atlanta Falcons gained a grand total of 68 yards on screen passes this season.

Although the Falcons say they have plenty of screens in their playbook, they don’t use them very often. Quarterback Matt Ryan attempted just 20 screens during the regular season and completed 16 of them.

Kevin Kolb (62 yards), Matt Cassel (17 yards) and Kyle Orton (17 yards) are the only quarterbacks with fewer yards on screen passes than Ryan, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The difference there is that Ryan started all 16 games, while Kolb, Cassel and Orton all missed time due to injuries or poor performance.

Carolina rookie Cam Newton led the NFL with 497 yards on screen passes, while completing 58 of 63. New Orleans’ Drew Brees was No. 4 with 437 yards. Brees completed 54 of 62 screens.

Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman was No. 11 with 290 yards. He completed 39 of 46 screen attempts.

Pat Yasinskas' QB Watch

December, 21, 2011
Cam Newton, Andy DaltonUS PresswireThe Panthers (with Cam Newton) and Bengals (with Andy Dalton) are two examples of teams that successfully used the draft to fill a void at quarterback.
In the past few months, we’ve seen the Panthers, 49ers and Bengals discover they’re just fine at quarterback. In those same few months, we’ve seen even more teams discover that they’re not in great shape.

That’s why the 2012 draft and free-agency period could provide a shopping spree for teams looking for starting quarterbacks. I’m looking around the league and seeing that roughly a quarter of the 32 teams could change starters in 2012.

Maybe they'll find solutions in the draft, as the Panthers did with Cam Newton and the Bengals with Andy Dalton. Or maybe they'll take a guy who has been around for a while, put him in the right situation and find out he can play, the way the 49ers did with Alex Smith.

But neither method is foolproof. Drafting a quarterback early doesn’t always work. That’s why I’m putting the Vikings and Jaguars on my list of teams that might look for a starter in the offseason. Bringing in a veteran, as the Cardinals did with Kevin Kolb, didn’t bring any dramatic changes, and that’s why Arizona also is on my list of teams with uncertain quarterback futures.

Let’s run through the list, in no particular order.

Redskins. Who really thought it was a good idea to go into a season with John Beck and Rex Grossman as your only options? Owner Daniel Snyder and coach Mike Shanahan must realize now that they’re going nowhere with journeyman quarterbacks. That’s why they have to find someone who can be a franchise quarterback.

Seahawks. Same story as the Redskins. Pete Carroll generally had more talent and depth in his quarterback groups at USC than he did when he decided to go with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. Letting Matt Hasselbeck go wasn’t necessarily a bad move, but heading into a season with guys who never have been and never will be any good made no sense.

Dolphins. The tandem of Chad Henne and Matt Moore was as uninspiring as what the Seahawks and Redskins brought to the table. That’s why the Dolphins will be looking for a new coach. Moore has played pretty well at times, but ownership seems intent on making a big splash to bring some life back to this franchise. The quickest way to make waves is to add a high-profile quarterback, but keeping Moore around as a backup is a nice insurance policy.

Colts. Had Indianapolis had a backup like Moore, this season wouldn’t have been so disastrous. Everything fell apart as soon as it became apparent that Peyton Manning wouldn't play because of a neck injury. The Colts could get a healthy Manning back, or they could draft Andrew Luck. But, if they let Manning go and draft Luck, they should go out and get a backup who is capable of starting.

Vikings. They tried to use Donovan McNabb as a bridge to first-round draft pick Christian Ponder. The bridge quickly collapsed, and Ponder was thrown in over his head. Ponder may eventually turn into a decent starter, but we’ve seen no solid evidence that will happen. That’s why the Vikings need to have an alternative.

Jaguars. You can put Blaine Gabbert in the same category as Ponder. The jury is still out on him. Like Miami, this is another franchise that will hire a new coach and try to energize a fan base. Just a thought here, but there’s a hometown guy who could sell out the stadium every week, if he somehow becomes available. (See below.)

Broncos. Tim Tebow has pulled off miracles by putting the Broncos in playoff contention. The guy has all sorts of intangibles, but he doesn’t throw like an NFL quarterback. That’s why it looks as though John Fox and John Elway are forcing smiles every time Tebow leads them to an awkward victory. You get the sense that, deep down, Fox and Elway would rather have a conventional quarterback.

Cardinals. The Cardinals thought they found their franchise guy when they traded for Kolb. He hasn’t played like a franchise quarterback, but the Cardinals don’t necessarily have to go outside on a shopping trip. John Skelton has played pretty well in relief of Kolb. Come training camp next summer, let Kolb and Skelton compete and settle this thing once and for all.



Only a week ago, we were congratulating the Falcons for reaching 62 total yards on screen passes this season. Looks like we’ve got to pull back on that one.

The latest numbers from ESPN Stats & Information are out and, although the Falcons completed the one screen pass they threw in Sunday’s game at Carolina, they’ve taken a step back. They now are at 61 yards.

Matt Ryan has completed 15 out of 17 attempts on screens. That’s not a lot. Although the Falcons say they have plenty of screen passes in their playbook, they’ve used them less than just about any team in the NFL. Plus, when they have used them, they’ve gained almost nothing. The Falcons are averaging 3.6 yards per attempt on screens and they haven’t scored a touchdown.

I’m searching for something to compare that to and not coming up with much.

Denver’s Tim Tebow also has attempted 15 of 17 screen attempts. But Tebow hasn’t even been starting all season. Plus, Tebow’s screens have resulted in 125 yards and three touchdowns.

I’m looking at the rest of the list and seeing only three quarterbacks who have attempted 17 or fewer screen passes. One is Minnesota rookie Christian Ponder (12 of 17 for 77 yards and three touchdowns) and he hasn’t been the starter all season.

Arizona’s Kevin Kolb has missed time with injuries, but he’s completed eight of 14 screens for 62 yards and a touchdown. I guess the only guy Ryan looks good next to is Kansas City’s Matt Cassel, who also has missed time with injuries. Cassel has completed 11-of-15 for 17 yards and no touchdowns.

The other NFC South quarterbacks have had a lot more opportunities to throw screens. Carolina’s Cam Newton has completed 47-of-51 for 430 yards and a touchdown.

New Orleans’ Drew Brees is 43-of-50 for 269 yards and a touchdown. Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman has completed 32-of-37 for 254 yards and no touchdowns.
Congratulations to the Atlanta Falcons. They have blown past the 60-yard mark on screen passes for the season.

Yep, the Falcons now have completed 14 of 16 screen passes for 62 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They’ve all been thrown by Matt Ryan. The only starting quarterbacks who have attempted fewer screen passes than Ryan are Minnesota’s Christian Ponder (15), who did not open the season as the starter, Arizona’s Kevin Kolb (14) and Kansas City’s Matt Cassel (15), who each have missed time due to injury.

I understand that the Falcons’ priority is the deep passing game, even though that hasn’t worked all that well. But I’m still perplexed by why they don’t mix in a few more screens. Rookie Jacquizz Rodgers seems like the perfect type of running back to use on screens and Jason Snelling and Michael Turner also are capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Maybe a few more screens would help open up the deep-passing game.

For the sake of comparison, let’s look at what the other NFC South teams have done with the screen. New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Carolina’s Cam Newton are tied for No. 2 in the league with 44 attempts. Only Detroit’s Matthew Stafford (49) has attempted more screen passes.

People think of Newton as having a big arm, and he does, but he leads the league with 41 completed screens for a league-high 355 yards.

Brees has completed 39 of his screens for 265 yards. Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman has completed 27 of 31 screens for 211 yards.
The Atlanta Falcons continue to lag behind the rest of the NFL when it comes to the screen pass.

Matt Ryan has attempted just 13 screens, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Kyle Orton and Kevin Kolb are the only other quarterbacks who have played enough to make the list with fewer attempts on screens. Orton and Kolb have each attempted 11. Orton has lost his starting job to Tim Tebow and Kolb has missed time with an injury.

Ryan has completed 11 of those screens, but they haven’t amounted to much. The Falcons have gained just 18 yards on screens and have not scored off a screen.

The screen hasn’t been a big part of Atlanta’s offense since Ryan’s arrival in 2008, but I thought it would be used a bit more this season. The Falcons drafted running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who looks like the perfect guy to throw screens to, but he hasn’t had a lot of playing time.

Most of the rest of the NFC South is using the screen pass fairly often. Carolina’s Cam Newton ranks No. 2 in the league in yardage on screen passes (266). He’s completed 31 of 34 screens.

New Orleans’ Drew Brees is fourth in screen yardage (233). Brees has completed 37 of 40 screens with one touchdown. Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman has thrown for 137 yards on screens, while completing 19 of 23 attempts.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFC South. But Brees isn’t the first guy I look to when I think about pure arm strength.

Carolina’s Cam Newton and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman probably can throw a ball further than Brees. In terms of arm strength, I’d probably lump Brees in the same area as Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.

But, when you look at the numbers that are most representative of arm strength, Brees stands well above Newton, Freeman, Ryan and every other quarterback in the league. He might not have the strongest arm, but he’s the most efficient passer on long throws.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brees has completed a league-high 62.5 percent (15-of-24) of his passes of 21 or more yards. On those throws, Brees has four touchdowns, no interceptions and is No. 1 in NFL passer rating at 145.8.

The other category that reflects arm strength is passing outside the numbers. Brees has completed 66 percent (second to Kevin Kolb at 66.2) of those throws. Brees has completed 70 of 106 attempts in those situations and he leads the league in touchdowns (10) and NFL passer rating (111.0).

For comparison, Newton is the only NFC South quarterback remotely close to Brees on passes of 21 yards or more. Newton is 18 of 38 (47.4 percent and No. 5 in the league). Newton’s thrown three touchdowns, two interceptions and has 98.0 NFL passer rating.

Freeman hasn’t had a lot of deep throws. He’s attempted just 10 throws of 21 yards or more and completed only three (30 percent). He’s produced two touchdowns, one interception and has a 74.2 NFL passer rating.

Then, there’s Ryan. He’s completed just 2 of 16 passes (12.5 percent). His completion percentage is second-lowest in the league -- Kerry Collins is 0-for-7. Ryan hasn’t thrown a touchdown or an interception on a throw of 21 yards or more and his NFL passer rating is 51.6.

On throws outside the numbers, the other three NFC South quarterbacks aren’t up there with Brees, but they are respectable. Freeman is No. 7 in the league with a 60.5 completion percentage (52-of-86) with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Newton is No. 15 at 59.1 percent (68-of-115). He’s thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions. Ryan is No. 18 at 57.3 percent (63-of-110) with four touchdowns and one interception.

Pat Yasinskas' QB Watch

October, 12, 2011
Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb and Michael VickUS PresswireBig offseason splashes at the quarterback position haven't paid off for Arizona (Kevin Kolb), Philadelphia (Michael Vick) or Minnesota (Donovan McNabb).
Aside from the drafting of Cam Newton, the biggest quarterback news of the offseason was the trade of Kevin Kolb to Arizona, the trade of Donovan McNabb to Minnesota, and Michael Vick signing a new six-year contract with Philadelphia.

How are those moves working out for the Cardinals, Vikings and Eagles?

In one categorical word: Disastrously.

Each team is 1-4, and each quarterback has been a big reason his team has struggled. Consider it proof that even if a guy has played well -- in limited or unlimited experience or has had success in a current system -- the buyer should beware when handing out huge currency for quarterbacks.

The Eagles gave Vick a contract worth $100 million, including $40 million guaranteed. The Vikings voided the remaining four years on McNabb's contract with the Redskins, but still agreed to pay him at least $5.05 million this season. McNabb also can earn an extra $2.25 million if certain playing-time and statistical incentives are met. Once the Cardinals got Kolb, they handed him a $10 million signing bonus and an extension through 2016 that averages $12.4 million per year.

But we're talking currency, not just money, when adding up the full tab on these three quarterbacks. The Cardinals shipped cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and their second-round draft pick in 2012 to the Eagles. The Vikings sent the Redskins their sixth-round pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2013. In the case of Vick, the Eagles didn't have to give any player or draft-pick compensation to keep a player already on their team, but they invested a ton of salary-cap room at one position for six years.

What are they getting in return? Not much. Vick, who was better than he's ever been while starting 12 games last season, has been dreadful since leading the Eagles to a season-opening win against Baltimore. Through five games, he's committed 10 turnovers. All last season, he had nine.

Vick has put coach Andy Reid on the hot seat for putting all his eggs in one basket. But McNabb and Kolb seem to be doing their best to make their former coach look smart.

In 2009, McNabb, Vick and Kolb were all property of Philadelphia. Before last season, Reid decided to trade McNabb, his longtime starter, to Washington. He kept Vick and Kolb, and Vick emerged as the starter. That made it seem like Vick was the answer and the Eagles traded Kolb as soon as the lockout was lifted.

Reid knew McNabb better than anyone else and he shipped him off to Mike Shanahan, who knows a thing or two about quarterbacks. Shanahan quickly decided McNabb was washed up. But new Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier didn't heed the warning signs from Reid and Shanahan. He brought in McNabb to be a bridge until first-round draft pick Christian Ponder is ready.

McNabb's a bridge over troubled waters. He's thrown only four touchdown passes, been intercepted twice and sacked 11 times. But McNabb's looking like a gem compared to Kolb. In their head-to-head meeting Sunday, Minnesota defeated Arizona 34-10 in a game that had a lot more to do with Adrian Peterson and Minnesota's defense than McNabb.

Kolb threw two interceptions and was sacked four times. That's nothing new. In Arizona's first two games, he threw for four touchdowns and one interception. In his last three games, he's thrown for one touchdown and been intercepted five times.

The Eagles, who once seemed to have an embarrassment of riches at quarterback, simply have been an embarrassment. So have the Vikings and Cardinals, who aren't getting anything close to what they paid for.



Checking NFC South Total QBR

October, 10, 2011
If it wasn’t for horrible games by Kevin Kolb and Kyle Orton, Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman would have had the league’s worst Total QBR from Sunday’s games.

Orton put up a 5.1 rating before getting yanked in favor of Tim Tebow and Kolb’s rating was 5.4. Only those two were below Freeman, who came in at 13.8. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan also had an anemic rating (28.8) in a loss to Green Bay.

The other two NFC South quarterbacks were at the other end of the spectrum. New Orleans’ Drew Brees was No. 3 at 86.7 and Carolina rookie Cam Newton was No. 10 at 64.0.

For the season, Brees is No. 4 at 77.3. Ryan is No. 15 at 53.5. Newton is No. 18 at 49.8 and Freeman is No. 19 at 48.9.

How much should Drew Brees make?

September, 15, 2011
We all know the New Orleans Saints are talking to quarterback Drew Brees (and his agent) about a contract extension.

Although they’re talking about a pile of money and the structure of a potential deal could be complicated, it’s really not that hard to at least get a gauge of what kind of money Brees should make. I just got a look at the salaries for all quarterbacks in the league and here’s a list of the top 10 based on average money earned per year over the course of an entire contract.
In his current deal, Brees has averaged $10 million per year, which doesn’t even put him near the top 10. But there’s absolutely no doubt he’s a top 10 quarterback and should be paid like one. You can even make a very strong case that he’s a top three quarterback and should make something similar to Brady and Peyton Manning.

At worst, put him somewhere in the Vick and Eli Manning vicinity. But definitely give him more than Rivers. That’s the guy who replaced Brees in San Diego and there’s no doubt Rivers is a fine quarterback. But Brees still is a little sensitive that he got pushed out the door in San Diego. As great a person as Brees is, he still has some ego and a lot of pride. It’s hard to imagine him accepting less money than the guy who replaced him.

For the record, here’s the average per year on the rest of the NFC South quarterbacks. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is at $11.25 million. Carolina’s Cam Newton is at $5.5 million and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman averages $5.24 million.
NFC South teams don’t share trade secrets, but we do. The Carolina Panthers might want to take a lesson from the New Orleans Saints when they host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The Saints had a very tough time stopping Aaron Rodgers in the season opener and the Packers scored 42 points. Rodgers thrived particularly when facing the blitz.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers completed 18 of 22 passes (81.8 percent) when the Saints rushed five or more defenders. Rodgers produced a league-best 11 first downs on passes against the blitz. He averaged 10.5 yards per attempt in those situations and threw two touchdowns.

The Panthers didn’t have a lot of success with the blitz against Arizona’s Kevin Kolb in their opener. Kolb averaged 17.8 yards per attempt against the blitz and threw two touchdown passes.

Although conventional wisdom says you usually want to put as much pressure on a quarterback as possible, the Panthers might want to rethink that one with Rodgers. With defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, the Panthers should be able to generate some sort of pass rush from their front four.

Instead of bringing linebackers or defensive backs on blitzes, the Panthers might be better off keeping them back in coverage.

More history for the NFC South

September, 13, 2011
We told you Monday it was an historic week in the NFC South as all four teams lost in the same week for only the third time since the division came into existence in 2002.

The NFC South also played a big role in making history in another area. There were five games in which both quarterbacks threw for 300 yards or more and three of them involved NFC South quarterbacks.

New Orleans' Drew Brees combined with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan joined Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Carolina’s Cam Newton combined with Arizona’s Kevin Kolb to each throw for 300 yards or more. Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo each did it in the game between the Jets and Cowboys and New England’s Tom Brady and Miami’s Chad Henne each did it on Monday night.

That’s the most games with two 300-yard passers in one week in NFL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Prior to that, there had been only two weeks in NFL history in which four games featured a pair of 300-yard passers. One of those weeks came last season and the other was in 1984.

Around the NFC South

September, 9, 2011
APPLETON, Wis. -- Before we take a look at some statistics to reflect on the Saints' loss to the Packers on Thursday night, let's take a look at some headlines from around the rest of the division.

Mark Bradley writes that Atlanta’s 0-4 record in the preseason doesn’t matter. He’s right. Despite the winless preseason, I thought Atlanta’s starters looked better than anyone else’s in the NFC South during most of the exhibitions. The backups didn’t look great. That’s why they’re backups.

Keep a close eye on this situation. Carolina linebacker Jon Beason sat out Thursday’s practice because of soreness in his foot. Beason had surgery recently. The Panthers say they still expect Beason to play Sunday, but the soreness is not a good sign. If Beason is out, Carolina is without its defensive leader.

Raheem Morris has made a lot of impressive moves since taking over as coach of the Buccaneers. But this one might be the most impressive. Morris is taking the entire team to Friday’s funeral service for Tampa Bay legend Lee Roy Selmon. A lot of football coaches wouldn’t want to disrupt their schedule. Give Morris credit for realizing the significance of Selmon.

Jags Journal has something unique. It’s an All-Florida team, made up of members of the Bucs, Jaguars and Dolphins. The team is heavy with Buccaneers.

Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb has a pretty good idea of what he’ll see from Carolina’s defense Sunday. Kolb played in Philadelphia when Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was there. Kolb said he expects to see plenty of blitzes.