NFC South: Mike Karney

Falcons looking for fullback help

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
4:53
PM ET
The Atlanta Falcons will place fullback Ovie Mughelli on injured reserve, according to Chris Vivlamore.

Mughelli injured a knee in Sunday’s victory against Detroit.

The Falcons haven’t announced the move yet. But it sounds like they’re preparing for it. Reports say they worked out several fullbacks, including Jason McKie and Mike Karney earlier Tuesday.

The Falcons also have Jason Snelling. He’s been used as a backup fullback in the past but he is primarily the main backup to tailback Michael Turner.

As long as we're talking about potential transactions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a couple minor moves Tuesday. They placed fullback/tailback Earnest Graham on injured reserve and waived long-snapper Christian Yount. Take Yount's release as a sign that the Bucs are about to activate Andrew Economos off the physically-unable-to-perform list.

Evening roundup

March, 9, 2009
3/09/09
5:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Another fairly quiet day in the NFC South. But there are a few mid-level free agents making the rounds. Here's a quick roundup of the local headlines.

D. Orlando Ledbetter reports linebacker Mike Peterson will visit the Falcons at some point this week. We hear he's arriving in Atlanta tonight and the Falcons will talk to him about the possibility of switching from the middle to outside linebacker.

Bill Coats reports fullback Mike Karney, who was released by the Saints, will visit with the St. Louis Rams.

Long snapper Jason Kyle wants to stay in Carolina, but that may be difficult. The Panthers don't have much cap room and, even at the veteran minimum, Kyle will cost almost $1 million a year. Kyle's had some contact with the Cardinals and he lives in Arizona in the offseason. But the Panthers should think long and hard about letting Kyle go. He's been with them since 2001 and almost never has had a bad snap.

Roy Cummings writes the Bucs had cornerback Karl Paymah in for a visit Monday and will entertain linebacker Angelo Crowell on Tuesday.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Karney
A couple of interesting details emerged from a radio interview with XTRA 910 in Phoenix from former New Orleans fullback Mike Karney.

First and foremost, Karney did the interview on his wedding day, a day after the Saints released him. Second, Karney said he was expecting the move by the Saints for about a month.

Finally, Karney, who makes his offseason home in Arizona, said his dream scenario would be to play for the Cardinals.

 
  AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
  New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, left, and coach Sean Payton are outperforming their NFC South counterparts this offseason.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Very quietly, the New Orleans Saints might be having the best offseason of any NFC South team.

A back-handed compliment? Maybe so, since Carolina and Atlanta have done virtually nothing and Tampa Bay might have taken a couple of steps back. But give the Saints, who finished last in the division in 2008, credit for one thing.

At this moment, the Saints are a better team than they were at the end of last season. That's more than you can say about the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers. Maybe that changes with the remainder of free agency and the April draft, but the Saints, who went 8-8 last season, clearly have taken a step forward.

They've made only a couple outside moves in free agency, but add in a stroke of luck, some time to heal and an overhaul of the defensive coaching staff and you've got a team that -- at least on paper -- is a serious playoff contender.

General manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton went for broke last year, trading for linebacker Jonathan Vilma and tight end Jeremy Shockey and it got them nowhere. This year, they're taking a slower approach -- mainly because of a shortage of salary-cap space -- and that might just be the formula to snap the Saints out of two years of mediocrity.

Start with the two free-agent signings the Saints have made. They brought in fullback Heath Evans from New England to replace Mike Karney. It may not seem like much, but it could make an offense that already was very good even better. Karney was the perfect fullback for a power-running game, but the Saints don't have a power-running game.

Evans can block a little bit, but he also can run the ball and catch some passes. Maybe he can pick up some of those short-yardage gains the Saints couldn't come up with last year. And there's still the possibility the Saints will add a bigger tailback to go with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.

Other than that, the Saints are loaded on offense -- again. Offense has never been much of a problem since Payton and quarterback Drew Brees arrived in 2006.

But the defense has been a recurring problem and this may be the year the Saints finally fix that. This is where the other free-agent signing comes in. The Saints signed cornerback Jabari Greer on Thursday.

That might not sound like a big deal. Greer came into the league as an undrafted free agent, but there's a reason why he drew a lot of interest on the market (Tampa Bay also was very much in the running for Greer) and why the Saints are going to pay him $23 million over four years.

Greer has always had outstanding natural speed and he made himself into a legitimate player, holding down a starting spot in Buffalo much of the last two seasons. Greer is a player on the rise, which is more than can be said for veterans Mike McKenzie and Aaron Glenn, who the Saints had to rely on too much last season.

Pair Greer with Tracy Porter, who looked promising before suffering a season-ending injury midway through his rookie year, and the Saints suddenly could be set at cornerback. They're still looking for help at safety and have had Darren Sharper and Gerald Sensabaugh in for visits in recent days. Either or both could help solidify the secondary and the rest of the defense might not be as bad as you think.

Part of that could be because the Saints got lucky when linebacker Dan Morgan decided to end his one-season retirement and re-join the Saints. You have to cross your fingers here because Morgan's long history of injuries have plagued his career.

But Morgan says he's healthier now than at any point since he came to the NFL and that's a reason for hope. When Morgan's been healthy, he's been one of the best linebackers in the league. Put him on the weak side and you've suddenly got a play-maker to go with Vilma in the middle. Let veterans Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle handle the other side and -- knock on wood that Morgan stays healthy -- the Saints could have an above-average linebacker corps.

The same could be said for the defensive line.

Injuries were a huge problem here last season. Tackles Hollis Thomas, Sedrick Ellis and Antwan Lake and ends Charles Grant and Will Smith all were banged up at one time or another. But they're healthy now.

There's been plenty of talent on this defense the last couple years, but the unit underachieved under coordinator Gary Gibbs. That's why Gibbs was fired after last season and why the Saints went out and hired Gregg Williams, who was considered one of the game's best defensive minds a few years back.

Williams' reputation took a bit of a hit with stints in Washington and Jacksonville that didn't result in success. But coming to New Orleans might be a shot at redemption for Williams.

In a lot of ways, this might be a perfect fit. Williams is known as an old-school coach who likes to play very aggressive defense. The Saints haven't been very physical on defense in recent years.

But it's time for a change. Guys like Smith and Grant have been viewed as underachievers, but they're also guys with lots of talent. Maybe Williams can pull that out of them and pull this defense together.

There's no miracle needed here. The Saints already have a great offense and they're going to score plenty of points.

All they need is a defense that's somewhere around average and the Saints could be very good.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Here's an update to our earlier report about the Saints releasing fullback Mike Karney. The Saints have just sent out a press release confirming Karney's release and the signing of Heath Evans as his replacement.

 Evans

Evans, who previously played for New England, signed a two-year contract. Evans, who has been in the NFL for eight seasons, is viewed as more versatile than Karney. While Karney was known almost exclusively as a blocker, Evans has some rushing and receiving skills.

Evans has 157 career carries and has averaged 3.6 yards a carry. He also has 40 career receptions for 328 yards. With Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush as the main running backs, the Saints were lacking a short-yardage runner. Evans could help fill that void, although the Saints still could be on the market for a bigger tailback.

"Heath is a versatile and fundamentally sound fullback who can help our offense in a variety of roles, whether it be as a lead blocker, as a runner or receiving option out of the backfield as well as on special teams,” Saints executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis said. "He has played in a few different offensive systems and has adapted quickly and been a contributor to all of them.”

Before joining the Patriots, Evans was the lead blocker for Seattle's Shaun Alexander for four straight 1,000 yard seasons.

"Heath is a tireless worker and someone we were very impressed with after spending time with him,” coach Sean Payton said, "He's very excited about the various things we do from an offensive perspective and is a well-rounded and versatile player. In addition, he has played quite a bit on various special-teams units throughout his career and been a reliable and dependable player in many different situations.”

Saints to release FB Karney

March, 5, 2009
3/05/09
5:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

This shouldn't come as a big surprise because the Saints have been shopping for fullbacks in free agency. But a league source said the Saints will release incumbent starter Mike Karney.

He's been with the Saints since 2004 and was known for his blocking ability. But the Saints soured on Karney for some reason and they've been looking at free agents Heath Evans (New England) and Leonard Weaver (Seattle).

Look for New Orleans to sign either Evans or Weaver soon.

Pro Bowl voting slights NFC South

December, 11, 2008
12/11/08
2:21
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

I just got a look at the final totals on the fan portion of the Pro Bowl balloting and it's not pretty. If the results were judged only by the fan voting (it's not -- coaches and players each will count for one-third of the vote), the NFC South would have only four players in the Pro Bowl.

New Orleans' Drew Brees won the voting at quarterback. Carolina's Julius Peppers finished second among defensive ends and Atlanta's John Abraham was third at the same position. Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber was fourth among cornerbacks.

That's it, folks.

New Orleans' Reggie Bush finished third among return men. New Orleans fullback Mike Karney finished fourth and Jeremy Shockey was fourth among tight ends. Tampa Bay punter Josh Bidwell finished fourth and Atlanta's Jason Elam was fourth among kickers. Atlanta's Matt Ryan was fifth at quarterback and Atlanta running back Michael Turner finished fifth.

If you've been reading this blog for the past few weeks, you know my feelings on the fan voting. In a nutshell, the folks in the NFC East stuffed the ballot box. Let's just hope the coaches and players are a little more concerned about voting for guys who actually belong in the game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Here's a quick roundup of the events of the day in the NFC South.

PANTHERS
Cornerback Ken Lucas was listed on the injury report with a head injury, but he fully participated in Wednesday's practice. Linebacker Adam Seward (ankle) and defensive end Hilee Taylor did not practice.

Guard Travelle Wharton gets some international pub for his big fumble recovery Sunday and his strong season overall.

BUCCANEERS
Tampa Bay didn't practice Wednesday, but they did put out an injury report, as required by the NFL. The Bucs specified that the report is only an estimate, but they estimated that defensive tackle Jovan Haye (knee) wouldn't have practiced and quarterback Brian Griese (elbow), receiver Ike Hilliard (shoulder), tight end Alex Smith (ankle) and defensive end Gaines Adams (hip) would have participated on a limited basis. The Bucs return to practice Thursday.

SAINTS
Fullback Mike Karney practiced for the first time since suffering a knee injury Nov. 9. Running back Reggie Bush also participated fully. Safety Kevin Kaesviharn (shoulder) did not practice and is doubtful for Sunday's game with Atlanta.

The Saints signed defensive end Rob Ninkovich and safety Terrence Holt to fill the roster spots for the suspended Deuce McAllister and Will Smith.

FALCONS
Rookie left tackle Sam Baker took a big step in his return from back surgery. He's been out since Week Six, but returned to the practice field on a limited basis Wednesday. But my best guess is we're at least another week away from seeing Baker in a game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

All right, this officially has become a pet peeve. The latest update on fan voting for the Pro Bowl isn't doing the NFC South any justice.

As of the moment, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees would be the division's only starter. Brees is the only player leading the voting at his position. Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers and New Orleans return man Reggie Bush each rank third at their position.

New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey, Atlanta defensive end John Abraham, Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber and Atlanta kicker Jason Elam each rank fourth at their spots. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner, New Orleans fullback Mike Karney and Tampa Bay punter Josh Bidwell each rank fifth.

The NFC South doesn't even have an offensive lineman among the top five at any of the three positions. What about Jeff Faine? Or Jordan Gross? They're as good as anybody out there.

While we're at it, what about wide receiver? The NFC South is getting shut out there, too. Roddy White, Lance Moore and Antonio Bryant are having career years. And who wants to be the one to tell Steve Smith he's not going to the Pro Bowl?

Then, there's linebacker, where Jon Beason and Barrett Ruud aren't even in the top five. Neither is Derrick Brooks, who should get a ton of votes on reputation alone.

It's not to late to get over to nfl.com and vote, but let's hope the coaches and players give a little more consideration to the NFC South when they each do their third of the vote later this month.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Bucs and Saints just announced their injury reports for Sunday's game and there are a couple situations worth watching.

New Orleans running back Reggie Bush, who hasn't played since suffering a knee injury Oct. 19, officially is listed as questionable. But Bush and coach Sean Payton are talking like the running back definitely will play Sunday. Defensive end Jeff Charleston also is questionable and fullback Mike Karney is out.

For the Bucs, safety Jermaine Phillips, who has been out with a broken arm, is listed as questionable. But coach Jon Gruden said he expects Gruden to play with some sort of padding on his arm. Presumably, Phillips will step right back into his role as the starting strong safety. Quarterback Brian Griese and tight end Alex Smith are questionable. The Bucs also added guard Aaron Sears to the injury report with an "illness'' and listed him as questionable. If Sears is unable to play Sunday, rookie Jeremy Zuttah likely would take his place. Receiver Ike Hilliard is probable.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Just got another weekly update on what NFC East fans as well as some folks in Wisconsin and Arizona have been doing with their free time. Yes, there's another update on the Pro Bowl fan voting and it's not much better than last week for the NFC South.

Only 11 players from the division are even in the top five at their respective positions. If the fan voting determined the whole thing and it ended today, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers would be the only players from the NFC South going to Hawaii. There's something wrong with that because the NFC South can make a strong case that it's the best division in the NFL right now, but Brees is the only guy who would even having a starting job.

He ranks first among quarterbacks and Peppers is third among defensive ends. New Orleans return man Reggie Bush ranks third. Atlanta defensive end John Abraham, New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey and Atlanta kicker Jason Elam rank fourth at their positions. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, New Orleans fullback Mike Karney, Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber and punter Josh Bidwell rank fifth at their positions.

Lots of other worthy guys -- Carolina's Jon Beason, Tampa Bay's Barrett Ruud, Atlanta's Roddy White, Carolina's Steve Smith, Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant and Carolina's Chris Harris pop quickly to mind -- aren't even in the top five.

Two things you can do about this: One, hop over to nfl.com and give an honest vote; two, hope that players and coaches straighten out this mess with their two-thirds of the overall vote.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

There's a sudden flurry of roster moves in the NFC South. Here's a look:

BUCCANEERS
As expected, the Bucs placed Earnest Graham (ankle) and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) on the injured reserve list. They filled their roster spots by signing running back Noah Herron and linebacker Matt McCoy, who was with the team earlier in the season.

FALCONS
Atlanta made a minor tweak to its roster, elevating receiver Eric Weems from the practice squad and releasing rookie defensive end Brandon Miller. Don't be surprised if Miller ends up back on the practice squad.

SAINTS
As reported last night, the Saints signed running back Mike Bell and put running back Aaron Stecker on the injured reserve list. One other move to add -- the Saints signed fullback Darian Barnes, who could get immediate playing time with Mike Karney hurt.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Have to say I'm more than a little shocked by the early results of Pro Bowl voting. There are three weeks left and a lot can change, but the NFC South isn't faring very well in the fan voting, which counts for one-third of the vote. Coaches and players make up the rest of the vote.

As of the moment, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is the only NFC South player leading at his position. In fact, Brees is one of only nine NFC South players who ranked in the top five at their positions.

Atlanta defensive end John Abraham and kicker Jason Elam and New Orleans return man Reggie Bush each rank third at their positions. Atlanta running back Michael Turner, New Orleans fullback Mike Karney and tight end Jeremy Shockey and Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers each rank fourth at their positions and Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber ranks fifth.

Off the top of my head, I'd say Carolina linebacker Jon Beason, safety Chris Harris, kicker John Kasay and receiver Steve Smith, Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Bryant, kicker Matt Bryant and linebacker Barrett Ruud and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Roddy White all are having seasons that should put them in the top five.

If you agree, you might want to hop over to NFL.com or out to the stadiums and vote. Looks like that's all the NFC East fans have been doing the last few weeks.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Here's an update on the significant injuries around the division.

SAINTS

Reggie Bush's comeback from knee surgery will have to wait at least another week. Fullback Mike Karney, cornerback Aaron Glenn, defensive tackle Brian Young and center Jonathan Goodwin also will be out Sunday.

FALCONS

Running back Michael Turner (hand) is listed as probable for Sunday. But don't be surprised if you see a little more than usual of Jerious Norwood.

BUCCANEERS

Coach Jon Gruden said it's likely running back Cadillac Williams will be inactive Sunday.

PANTHERS

It looks as if center Ryan Kalil will be out of the lineup.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

With ESPN.com's new NFL Blog Network, I've decided to do something that's never been done before. I'm going to pick a preseason All-NFC South team.

We'll start with the offense today, unveil the defense tomorrow and, after the season, we'll go back and do it all over again -- when it actually will be based on production, not speculation.

Here goes:

Brees

QUARTERBACK: Drew Brees, New Orleans

Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia also have been to the Pro Bowl and they could get there again this year. But Brees is the safest choice of the four quarterbacks because there are no questions about his health or age.

RUNNING BACK: Michael Turner, Atlanta

I know, Turner's never been a starter before and the Falcons probably aren't going to be very good. But, remember, this is all speculative. Besides, there aren't a lot of choices here. If this were a lifetime achievement award, Deuce McAllister and Warrick Dunn would be worthy. But it remains to be seen how healthy McAllister is and Dunn may be nothing more than a third-down back. Reggie Bush and DeAngelo Williams are question marks and I'm not going to anoint Carolina rookie Jonathan Stewart before he's ever taken a snap, although I think he's going to be good. Tampa Bay's Earnest Graham is solid, but there's not much upside. I'm going with Turner because there aren't questions about his age or health and he's got upside.

FULLBACK: Mike Karney, New Orleans

Close call here because Carolina's Brad Hoover, Atlanta's Ovie Mughelli and Tampa Bay's B.J. Askew are all pretty much the same guy as Karney. They're all solid blockers and none of them are real threats with the ball. Karney gets the nod because he's got an All-Pro selection (2006, second team) on his resume.

Shockey

TIGHT END: Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans

This is the easiest choice on the entire offense. Shockey's the only true pass-catching threat in the division at this position.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Steve Smith, Carolina and Marques Colston, New Orleans

Roddy White and Joey Galloway also got consideration, but you can't beat Smith and Colston. In fact, if you could put them together, their contrasting size and style might make the perfect receiver duo.

CENTER: Jeff Faine, Tampa Bay

The Bucs paid him a ton of money to anchor their offensive line. Faine's a pro's pro and he's already become the leader of this line.

GUARDS: Jahri Evans, New Orleans and Justin Blalock, Atlanta

Very quietly, Evans has developed into a very solid player. Blalock gets the nod over Tampa Bay's Davin Joseph, who is out with a broken foot. Blalock's only a second-year pro, but the Falcons are expecting big things from him. Blalock's presence at left guard is one reason why the Falcons are comfortable starting rookie Sam Baker at left tackle.

GrossBrown

TACKLES: Carolina's Jordan Gross and New Orleans' Jammal Brown

Yeah, I know, they're both left tackles. But this is a paper team and there's flexibility. Besides, Gross has spent a large chunk of his career on the right side. If this team ever had to take the field, I'd put Gross on the right side and Brown on the left because they're the two best tackles in the division.

KICKER: Carolina's John Kasay

Until he had a dismal preseason, Tampa Bay's Matt Bryant would have been in the argument. Atlanta's Jason Elam also got strong consideration. Bottom line: If I needed someone to kick a field goal to win a game, Kasay's the guy.

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