NFC South: NFL Roster Analysis 2012

Click here for the complete list of Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster moves.

Most significant move: The Bucs released defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who at one time appeared to be headed for significant playing time in the rotation or maybe even a spot in the starting lineup. Okoye is healthy enough that he reportedly is ready to turn around and sign with the Chicago Bears. But I think this move is another example of what coach Greg Schiano is all about. Okoye missed a lot of time in training camp and the preseason with a knee injury. He might have been one of those guys that could have gotten through the season by taking a lot of days off practice and showing up on Sundays. I don’t think that system is going to fly with Schiano (see Kellen Winslow). Although they might not be former first-round picks like Okoye, I think Schiano would rather have Gary Gibson and Wallace Gilberry, who show up for practice each day, as the starters behind Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller.

Onward and upward: Receiver Tiquan Underwood played for Schiano at Rutgers. Underwood seemed to have a good shot at making the roster with a strong showing in training camp and the preseason. But Underwood was released Friday night as the Bucs decided to keep Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter for the final roster spots at wide receiver. Underwood likely would be a guy the Bucs would bring back if they have any injuries at receiver. But that will only happen if another team doesn’t scoop Underwood up first.

What’s next: The guys that made the latter parts of the roster shouldn’t get too comfortable. General manager Mark Dominik has a history of bringing in guys that are cut by other teams and I think that trend will only continue this year as he and Schiano try to fine tune a roster that still could use more depth in several areas. I think there still could be movement on the defensive line, at guard and at tight end.

Carolina Panthers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
10:50
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Click here for the complete list of Carolina Panthers roster moves.

Most significant move: The biggest move of the day wasn’t the release of a player. Instead, it was a trade. The Panthers will send a future draft pick to San Francisco for safety Colin Jones. I don’t think the Panthers are looking for Jones to come in and start at safety. This move was more about special teams -- and if you saw Pittsburgh’s Chris Rainey have a long punt return against them Thursday night, you saw why the Panthers still have concerns with the unit. Jones should help solve that problem. He was a regular on special teams for the 49ers and had eight special-teams tackles last season.

Onward and upward: Throughout training camp and the preseason games, there was a lot of buzz about undrafted rookie receiver Jared Green. Part of it came because he’s the son of Hall of Famer Darrell Green. But part of it came because the kid can play. The Panthers had a numbers crunch at receiver and wanted to keep guys like Kealoha Pilares and Joe Adams because they have invested draft picks in them in recent years, and both have abilities in the return game. But Green only helped himself with what he did in the preseason. Another team could take a shot and claim him off waivers. If not, Carolina almost certainly will try to get Green on the practice squad.

What’s next: As it stands, I’m not sure the Panthers are completely content with their cornerback situation. Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn are the starters with rookie Josh Norman and second-year pro Josh Thomas as the backups. The Panthers really would like to move Munnerlyn inside and let him match up with slot receivers as the nickel back. Heading into camp, they though Norman might be able to step straight into a starting job. But his development was slowed a little when he missed some practice time with an injury. Brandon Hogan and Darius Butler also were guys the Panthers had high hopes for, but both got injured. I’m not sure the Panthers want to put too much on Norman's plate right away. They could look to bring in another cornerback. I could also see them at least checking to see what’s available as far as defensive-line depth. I know a lot of Carolina fans are shouting for the Panthers to do something at kicker after Justin Medlock missed two long field-goal attempts in the preseason finale. But all indications are the Panthers are planning to stick with Medlock.
Click here for the complete list of New Orleans Saints roster moves.

Most significant move: The Saints have a history in recent years of finding obscure running backs (see Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory). They’ve done it again. Undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet made the roster. So did Thomas, Ivory, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles. That leaves the Saints very heavy at running back, but that’s not a bad thing. Cadet almost forced the Saints to keep him by having a tremendous preseason. Now, the Saints have the upper hand on any team looking for a running back. Sproles is likely untouchable, and I don’t see the Saints parting with Ingram, who joined them as a first-round pick last year. But Thomas and Ivory have shown they can do a lot of good things, and the Saints could add a future draft pick if a team that’s desperate to add a quality runner is willing to make a trade.

Onward and upward: One of the best kicking battles in NFL history was won by Garrett Hartley, who spent the summer kicking against veteran John Kasay. Both have kicked in the Super Bowl and both kicked well this summer. I don’t think there really was a clear winner. Kasay and Hartley finished in a dead heat, and the Saints made the logical decision. They went with the homegrown guy, who still has four seasons remaining on his contract. As long as Kasay, 42, wants to keep playing, he should be able to find another place to kick because he showed no signs of slipping with his preseason performance.

What’s next: The linebacker corps remains a question mark. Starters Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne have been injured, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be ready for the season opener. The only other linebackers on the roster are Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas, Will Herring and newly acquired Barrett Ruud. I’ve got a strong suspicion the Saints will bring in a linebacker (maybe two) from somewhere else in the next few days.

Atlanta Falcons cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
6:35
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Click here for the complete list of Atlanta Falcons roster moves.

Most significant move: In yet the latest sign that they’re going to become more of a passing team, the Falcons are going with Lousaka Polite as the only true fullback on their roster. They released Mike Cox, who became the starter last season after Ovie Mughelli suffered a major injury. Throughout Mike Mularkey’s tenure as offensive coordinator, the Falcons used Mughelli extensively as a lead blocker for Michael Turner. Polite’s a solid veteran, but I think the fact the Falcons are going without a true backup fullback says a lot. Tailback Jason Snelling can play fullback if needed, but I think this is an indication that new coordinator Dirk Koetter doesn’t plan on using fullbacks as much as this team did in recent years.

Onward and upward: More than any other franchise in the NFC South, the Falcons pride themselves on keeping their team together. That’s why I’m fairly surprised that third-year cornerback Dominique Franks was waived. He seemed to be in the lead for the job as the punt returner and he also made several nice plays as a cornerback in the preseason. Take this as a sign that the Falcons think more highly of fourth-year corner Chris Owens, who they also drafted and have developed. Owens will be the fourth corner after Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel. There is some mileage on the guys ahead of him, so Owens could end up in a bigger role as the season goes on. Also, this pretty much means the Falcons plan to use wide receiver Harry Douglas as their main punt returner. Franks shouldn’t have a problem landing on another roster.

What’s next: Quarterback Matt Ryan is “the franchise’’ in Atlanta. I know fans aren’t sold on left tackle Sam Baker. But I’m a little more concerned that all the Falcons have behind Baker, who has had injury problems in the past, is rookie Lamar Holmes, who missed a chunk of the preseason with an injury. I think the Falcons need to find a bit of insurance with a left tackle that’s had a little experience in the NFL. Until Holmes has a little more time to get coached up, this team is one Baker injury away from disaster.

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