NFC South: Mackenzy Bernadeau

Around the NFC South

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
5:37
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Compared to Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday has been a pretty quiet day in the NFC South, at least so far. I’m not saying that to make you think there’s something brewing tonight, but you never know.

If there is, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some news and notes from around the division.

The Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos reportedly have shown some interest in Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham. But I’m not ready to completely rule out a return to the Falcons, especially since they’re currently without a legitimate pass-rushing threat. I’m not saying I think it’s a great idea to re-sign a player who seems to be near the end of his career. But I think the Falcons might do it, if Abraham’s price tag falls below what it was at the start of free agency.

The Dallas Cowboys continue to gut the Carolina Panthers. They now have signed former Carolina linebacker Dan Connor. That comes a day after Dallas landed former Carolina offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau. I’m just kidding about the “gutting’’ part. The Panthers had little interest in keeping Connor and no interest in keeping Bernardeau.

Just when I thought I’d found a free-agent linebacker who wasn’t on the Saints’ radar, I’ve got to start looking again. It turns out the Saints also reportedly have expressed interest in St. Louis’ Chris Chamberlain. But he might make some sense. New Orleans defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo coached Chamberlain with the Rams.

Speaking of the Saints and linebackers, Jo-Lonn Dunbar says it remains possible he could re-sign with New Orleans.

Everything still seems very quiet in Atlanta. But Jeff Schultz has a good overview of the situation with the Falcons, and I agree with his point that if the roster remains basically the same as last season, the coaching needs to be better next season.

Around the NFC South

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
5:46
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Let’s tie up some loose odds and ends from around the NFC South.

Interesting move by the Panthers in bringing back reserve quarterback Derek Anderson. The team had given some indications Jimmy Clausen could move from No. 3 to become Cam Newton’s backup this year. But the return of Anderson might prevent that. It’s also worth watching what happens with Clausen, who is scheduled to receive a roster bonus of close to $1 million later this month.

The Saint reportedly have tight end Joel Dressen in for a visit.

Forget about the possibility of former Dallas tight end Martellus Bennett joining his brother, defensive end Michael, in Tampa Bay. Martellus Bennett has signed with the New York Giants.

Former Carolina offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau has agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t think the Panthers had much interest in bringing him back.

It’s still nothing but silence out of the Falcons, but former Atlanta return man/receiver Eric Weems has signed with the Chicago Bears.

Panthers: First look at free agency

January, 31, 2012
1/31/12
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Let’s continue our NFC South look ahead to free agency with the Carolina Panthers.

We'll take a look at Carolina’s potential free agents. They’re all unrestricted unless noted as restricted free agents or exclusive-rights free agents.

Quarterback Derek Anderson, linebacker/defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite, offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau, linebacker Dan Connor, linebacker Omar Gaither, cornerback Cletis Gordon, offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner, long-snapper J.J. Jansen, receiver Legedu Naanee, linebacker Jordan Senn, tight end Jeremy Shockey, receiver Seyi Ajirotutu (exclusive rights), tight end Richie Brockel (exclusive rights), cornerback R.J. Stanford (exclusive rights), linebacker Thomas Williams (exclusive rights), linebacker Jason Phillips (restricted) and guard Geoff Schwartz (restricted).

There’s not a single guy on that list that the Panthers absolutely have to have back. That's good because the Panthers are going to be tight against the salary cap. But there are several players they’re likely to have interest in retaining at the right price. They liked what Senn and Applewhite showed in 2011. Shockey seemed to fit well in tandem with Greg Olsen and could return for a one-year contract. The offensive line is in pretty good shape, but the Panthers likely will keep either Schwartz or Hangartner as a starting guard.

NFC South players not signed for 2012

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
8:29
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A lot can change between now and the start of free agency and I sure don’t see any way the New Orleans Saints let quarterback/King Drew Brees walk away. I also think there’s a pretty good chance tight end Tony Gonzalez can return to the Atlanta Falcons if he chooses. Same for cornerback Ronde Barber with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and maybe even Jeremy Shockey with the Carolina Panthers.

But all we know about those guys at the moment is they’re not under contract for 2012. We’ll do much more on free agency as it gets closer but I’ve got the complete list of every NFC South player presently not under contract for 2012.

I’ll list them by team here and we’ll only go with the guys who have at least four years of service and can become unrestricted free agents. We’ll deal with restricted and exclusive-rights free agents at another time.

Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez, tight end; Reggie Kelly, tight end; Todd McClure, center; Mike Peterson, linebacker; John Abraham, defensive end; Joe Zelenka, long-snapper; Chris Redman, quarterback; Kirk Chambers, offensive line; Kelvin Hayden, cornerback; Brett Romberg, offensive line; James Sanders, safety; Jason Snelling, running back; Kroy Biermann, defensive end; Thomas DeCoud, safety; Harry Douglas, receiver; Brent Grimes, cornerback; Curtis Lofton, linebacker; Eric Weems, receiver.

Carolina Panthers: Jeremy Shockey, tight end; Reggie Wells, offensive line; Derek Anderson, quarterback; Geoff Hangartner, center/guard; Omar Gaither, linebacker; Cletis Gordon, cornerback; Legedu Naanee, receiver; Antwan Applewhite, linebacker; Mackenzy Beranadeau, offensive line; Dan Connor, linebacker; J.J. Jansen, long-snapper; Jerome Felton, fullback; Jordan Senn, linebacker.

New Orleans Saints: John Kasay, kicker; Drew Brees, quarterback; Shaun Rogers, defensive tackle; John Gilmore, tight end; Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle; Marques Colston, receiver; Pat McQuistan, offensive line; Courtney Roby, receiver; Leigh Torrence, cornerback; Jeff Charleston, defensive end; Turk McBride, defensive end; Robert Meachem, receiver; Jo-Lonn Dunbar, linebacker; Carl Nicks, guard; Tracy Porter, cornerback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronde Barber, cornerback; Earnest Graham, running back; Sean Jones, safety; Connor Barth, kicker; Geno Hayes, linebacker; Josh Johnson, quarterback; James Lee, offensive line; Corey Lynch, safety; Elbert Mack, cornerback; Frank Okam, defensive tackle; Micheal Spurlock, receiver; Jeremy Zuttah, offensive line.

Jordan Gross out for Panthers

December, 11, 2011
12/11/11
11:41
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross will not play Sunday against Atlanta.

Gross is sidelined with an ankle injury. Travelle Wharton will start in Gross’ place. MacKenzy Bernadeau will start at left guard, where Wharton usually plays.

Also inactive for the Panthers are quarterback Jimmy Clausen, cornerback Brandon Hogan, linebacker Jason Phillips, receiver Darvin Adams, linebacker Kion Wilson and defensive end Eric Norwood.

Looking at Panthers' depth chart

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
4:35
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Here’s a new one. The Carolina Panthers just released their “unofficial’’ depth chart for Sunday’s game at Arizona and they’re listing two starters at tight end and no fullback.

Is the media relations staff really giving away the formation for the first play of the Ron Rivera era? I doubt it.

But the Panthers are listing both Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey as starting tight ends. There’s no starting fullback listed and running back DeAngelo Williams is listed as Carolina’s lone starter in the backfield. For the record, whenever the Panthers do use a fullback, it will be Jerome Felton, who was brought in to replace Tony Fiammetta.

Some other items of interest on Carolina’s depth chart.
  • Yes, Cam Newton is listed as the starting quarterback. We just had to say it. Again, this depth chart is unofficial, but Jimmy Clausen is listed as the No. 2 quarterback and Derek Anderson as No. 3.
  • Mackenzy Bernadeau is listed as the starter at right guard. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. The Panthers went out and grabbed veterans Max Jean-Gilles and Geoff Hangartner after injuries wiped out this position. It’s likely one of them will start.
  • Brandon LaFell is listed as the starting receiver opposite Steve Smith. That’s what the Panthers would like to happen, but nobody knows for sure if LaFell is ready to be a starter.
  • Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, a pair of rookies, are listed as the starters at defensive tackle.

Hitting the NFC South links

October, 22, 2010
10/22/10
10:36
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Time for a quick trip through the NFC South headlines.

Coming off their bye week, the Panthers are shaking up their offensive line. They’re sliding Geoff Schwartz from right tackle to right guard. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who had been starting at right guard, will go to the bench. Second-year pro Garry Williams will take over as the starter at right tackle, at least for the short term. That’s Jeff Otah’s position, but he’s been sidelined with a knee injury all season.

If you’re looking for a bright spot in what’s been a dismal Carolina season, turn to strong safety Charles Godfrey. He’s the NFL leader in interceptions.

D. Orlando Ledbetter has a feature on Atlanta’s inconsistent offense. The encouraging thing here is the Falcons recognize they have to start faster and get better in the red zone. If they can take care of those things, they’ll be fine.

My friends at The Times-Picayune have their weekly video preview on the Saints.

With the Bucs considering every possible solution for their woes in the running game, Joe Henderson takes a look at running back LeGarrette Blount.

Carolina offensive line gets high praise

December, 30, 2009
12/30/09
12:46
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Offensive lines generally don’t get the attention they deserve. But, this week, Carolina’s offensive line is getting some well-earned credit.

The Panthers have been named the NFC’s winners of the weekly Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award. A yearly winner of the award for best offensive line will be announced during Super Bowl week.

The performance of Carolina’s offensive line in Sunday’s victory against the New York Giants certainly deserves high praise. The Panthers helped Jonathan Stewart rush for a franchise-record 206 yards and the team finished with 247 rushing yards.

More importantly, the Panthers did it without their two best offensive linemen. Starting tackles Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah are out for the season with injuries. The Panthers went with Travelle Wharton at left tackle, Geofff Schwartz at right tackle, guards Keydrick Vincent and Mackenzy Bernadeau and center Ryan Kalil and were able to dominate against the Giants.
Carolina OL Travelle Wharton, Saints OT Jermon Bushrod, and Bucs OT Donald PennIcon SMIOffensive linemen Travelle Wharton, Jermon Bushrod, and Donald Penn were not first-round draft picks, but they have proved to be capable left tackles for their respective teams.

There’s an age-old theory in the NFL when it comes to left tackles. It’s pretty simple, really and it goes something like this: Every decade or so, you use a first-round draft pick on a left tackle. You throw him out and there and he anchors your offensive line for 10 or 12 years.

Think Anthony Munoz or Jonathan Ogden. You get a guy like that and, chances are, he’s going to be around through at least a couple of coaching regimes and you’ve got one position you don’t need to worry about.

It’s a philosophy that’s been so rock solid through the years, that every team subscribes. But what happens when the subscription runs out or someone steals the magazine out of the mailbox?

Well, that’s sort of what’s happening right now in the NFC South -- the division without a stud left tackle.

It wasn’t planned this way at all. But the Carolina Panthers were starting Travelle Wharton, who truly is a guard, at left tackle when they lost to the Dolphins on Thursday night. Come Sunday, there’s a very good chance Wharton, who was a third-round draft pick, might have the best pedigree of any starting left tackle in the division.

There’s a very real chance that the other three NFC South teams will be starting left tackles who were not drafted, drafted late or born in the Czech Republic. Yes, this is what it has come to as we head for the playoff stretch.

Where have you gone Willie Roaf and Paul Gruber?

It’s been this way through parts of the division for much of the season, but the trend suddenly has grown because of injuries. The amazing thing is that the lack of blue-chip left tackles hasn’t caused a disaster for any of the NFC South teams --at least not yet.

Here’s a look at each NFC South team’s situation at left tackle:

Atlanta. The Falcons are the only team in the division that could end up with a first-round draft pick playing left tackle any time the rest of this season. That would be Sam Baker, whom the Falcons drafted out of Southern California last year. They used their second of two first-round picks to get Baker to protect the blindside of top pick Matt Ryan.

Baker’s been fine -- when he’s been on the field. But the problem is he’s already had a disturbing assortment of injuries. He missed last Sunday’s game against Carolina and the Falcons were forced to throw Will Svitek out there at left tackle and ask him to block Julius Peppers.

Svitek got through that game without much problem, but that was mainly because Peppers was playing with a broken hand and played only part of the game. Svitek’s the kind of guy who can get you through a game, but he’s not someone you want to hang out there for the rest of the season. The Falcons are 5-4 and have problems all over the place. To have any shot at the playoffs, they need to get Baker healthy and back into the lineup.

Carolina. Entering the season, the Panthers had the best left tackle in the division -- maybe in the NFL -- in Jordan Gross. They drafted him early in the first round back in 2003 and gave him a massive new contract after last season.

But disaster struck last week when Gross broke his ankle and went down for the season. That forced Carolina to drastically overhaul its offensive line because the Panthers don’t have another true left tackle on the roster. They’ve shifted Wharton to left tackle and inserted Mackenzy Bernadeau, who made his first NFL start Thursday night, at left guard.

Wharton’s been a starter at left tackle before and he’s serviceable there. But he’s not nearly as good at left tackle as he is at guard and he’s not nearly as good as Gross. There’s also a big drop-off from Wharton to Bernadeau at left guard and the 4-6 Panthers will have to pull off miracles on their offensive line if they have any hopes of making the playoffs.

New Orleans. The Saints thought they got their left tackle for a generation when they used the 13th overall pick in 2005 to take Jammal Brown out of Oklahoma. That move was working out just fine as Brown made the Pro Bowl in the 2006 and ’08 seasons.

But trouble surfaced in the preseason when Brown had to have surgeries for a hip injury and a sports hernia. Initially, the Saints thought he could return around midseason, but his recovery was slow and New Orleans decided to place Brown on injured reserve.

Brown’s injuries have given rise to one of the NFL’s biggest surprises. That’s Jermon Bushrod, who was thrust into the starting lineup after spending his first two seasons on the bench. A fourth-round pick out of Towson State, Bushrod suddenly was placed in charge of protecting Drew Brees’ back.

The amazing thing is Bushrod has done just fine. Give him lots of credit for that, but don’t go thinking he’s a Pro Bowler and the Saints should try to trade Brown in the offseason. Bushrod is not Brown. He has limitations and the Saints know it. If you watch their offense, they’ve done a lot to help Bushrod. They give him blocking help with their tight ends, fullback and running backs and it also helps that Brees has a quick release and doesn’t take many deep drops.

Tampa Bay. Part of the reason Jon Gruden was fired after last season was because he never instituted a long-term plan and this was especially true at left tackle. He was bringing in washed-up veterans like Luke Petitgout, but that might end up being a blessing for Raheem Morris and the current regime. Totally by accident (and injuries to Petitgout), the Bucs discovered Donald Penn.

He wasn’t even drafted out of Utah State, but he’s turned out to be a solid starting left tackle. He may never be dominant, but Penn has played well enough that the Bucs are likely to try to sign him to a big contract before the start of free agency in February.

Penn and Bushrod have shown that you don’t always have to find a left tackle in the first round of the draft. But they’re the exceptions. It’s nice when you can find gems like them and surround them with a good offensive line. But it’s even nicer when you draft a blue-chip tackle in the first round and build your offensive line around him.

Anticipating Dolphins-Panthers

November, 19, 2009
11/19/09
3:28
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As we wait for Thursday night’s game between the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins, here are some thoughts to ponder.

All indications out of Carolina are that running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will be playing. But I’m very curious to see if having both of these guys banged up will take a toll on Carolina’s running game. It’s tough -- more like impossible -- to get injury information out of coach John Fox. So we’ll have to wait and see just how injured Williams and Stewart are. They’ve been a large part of the reason the Panthers suddenly are playing good football, and I’m thinking Fox finally has learned the lesson that it’s best not to put the game in the hands of Jake Delhomme. Keep it on the ground and let Williams and Stewart do their thing -- if they’re able.

When All-Pro tackle Jordan Gross went out with a season-ending injury on Sunday, the Panthers shifted left guard Travelle Wharton to left tackle and inserted Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard. They got through the rest of the Atlanta game without any major problems. I’m guessing the Panthers will go with that same alignment tonight. Wharton played left tackle earlier in his career and was serviceable at that spot. The bigger question is Bernadeau. He doesn’t have much experience and I’m sure the Dolphins will try to test him.

I wish I could be in Charlotte for the game because I’d like to see what happens on the field before the game. I’m real curious to see if Fox and Miami offensive coordinator Dan Henning shake hands or talk at all. Fox fired Henning after the 2006 season and I don’t think there’s a lot of love remaining between the two.

I know it’s a short week and I know Fox is a creature of habit, but I wonder if he might make a little move at linebacker. The absence of the injured Thomas Davis was very apparent against Atlanta. Landon Johnson and James Anderson both have experience, but they’re just not that good. With Davis gone for the season, I wonder if Fox has considered sliding backup middle linebacker Dan Connor to the outside.

I’ll be watching the game from home and will be checking in with observations during and after the game, so keep checking the NFC South blog.

Gross' ankle is broken

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
4:58
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina left tackle Jordan Gross has a broken ankle, coach John Fox said.

But that was all Fox would say about the injury. Even though it seems almost a certainty that Gross’ season is over, Fox wouldn’t say it, and repeatedly said the situation would be evaluated in the coming days.

Look for Gross to be put on injured reserve at some point this week. After his injury, left guard Travelle Wharton slid to left tackle and Mackenzy Bernadeau took over at left guard. Look for the Panthers to stick with that alignment. Although Wharton’s at his best as a guard, he previously was a serviceable starter at left tackle.

The only other alternative would be moving right tackle Jeff Otah and inserting Geoff Schwartz at right tackle.

Panthers' Gross out with ankle injury

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
2:15
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Carolina Panthers might have just suffered what could be a devastating injury.

Left tackle Jordan Gross was carted off the field with what looked like a serious injury to his right ankle. The team has said he will not return to this game and we won’t know any more details about his condition until after the game.

Meantime, the Panthers have moved left guard Travelle Wharton to left tackle, where he has some past experience. They’ve inserted Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard.

Panthers: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
7:45
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


Biggest surprise: Jeremy Leman was an instant hit with fans in the preseason. He moved quickly around the field, made some nice hits and made himself even more noticeable with celebrations after he made plays. But celebrations don’t earn you a roster spot and there were reasons why Leman wasn’t drafted and why he was cut Saturday. Leman looked good competing against third-stringers, but he wasn’t nearly at the level of starter Jon Beason and backup Dan Connor. Leman may end up on the practice squad and could develop into something over time.

No-brainer: Did you really think defensive tackle Marlon Favorite was going to make the team as an undrafted free agent? Sure, he was one of the first guys the Panthers plugged in when Maake Kemoeatu went down with an injury on the first day of camp. But that’s only because Favorite was there. Even with rookie Corvey Irvin going on the injured-reserve list, the Panthers knew Favorite wasn’t ready to solve their problems at defensive tackle. They might not be done there yet because all they have is Damione Lewis, who really isn’t an every-down player, Nick Hayden and Louis Leonard, who they traded for last week. But the Panthers got a long look at Favorite in the preseason and decided they probably can find someone better somewhere else.

What’s left: The Panthers shed some very good offensive line depth in the offseason when they let Geoff Hangartner, Jeremy Bridges and Frank Omiyale go. They have high hopes for Geoff Schwartz and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but they’re young and inexperienced. The Panthers didn’t bring in any veterans because they had limited cap space. They still don’t have a lot, but they could look to add a veteran who was cut by someone else at a minimal price.

Around the NFC South

July, 29, 2009
7/29/09
8:53
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

A quick trip through the headlines of the NFC South.

  • Charles Chandler writes the Panthers are looking for some of their young offensive linemen to step up. They need depth now that Geoff Hangartner, Frank Omiyale and Jeremy Bridges are gone. Rookie Duke Robinson and second-year pro Mackenzy Bernadeau are the top candidates.
  • The Falcons waived cornerback David Irons with an injury settlement. A sixth-round pick in 2007, Irons isn't completely recovered from a knee injury suffered last season.
  • Stephen F. Holder takes a look at five Bucs on the hot seat.
  • Anwar Richardson has a look at five position battles for the Bucs. Appropriately, the list starts with quarterback.
  • The Saints will have seating for about 3,000 as they return to their own facility for training camp for the first time since 2005. That's double the space they offered during their June minicamp. They're also adding kiosks for refreshments and souvenirs.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Here are some headlines from around the division Wednesday morning.

  • There are rumors swirling that Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen had dinner with Brett Favre in Tampa on Monday night. Allen strongly denied that, but stayed silent when asked if the Bucs are interested in Favre.
  • The Falcons signed linebacker Robert James, a fifth-round draft choice, to a four-year contract. Atlanta has signed nine of its 11 draft picks.
  • The Saints haven't been nearly as active in getting their picks signed.
  • The Panthers signed tight end Gary Barnidge, giving them two picks under contract, and are close to a deal with seventh-round pick Mackenzy Bernadeau.

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