NFC South: Ogemdi Nwagbuo

Just a quick note to let you know we’re still waiting on official announcements from the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and -- to a lesser degree -- the Carolina Panthers on what moves they have made to get down their rosters down to 53 players.

As of the moment, the Atlanta Falcons are the only NFC South team to announce their roster moves. I’ll bring you our cutdown analysis on the Saints and Buccaneers as soon as their moves are announced.

The Panthers did something I’ve never seen before. They made a partial announcement. The team said it has waived receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, cornerback Darius Butler, receiver Jared Green, linebacker David Nixon, defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo, running back Tauren Poole, offensive tackle Matt Reynolds, cornerback R.J. Stanford, defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen and linebacker Kion Wilson.

The Panthers still have to clear 12 more roster spots.

A few other items worth noting as we wait (and wait):

Joseph Person reports that Carolina wide receiver Armanti Edwards will make it through this round of cuts.

Stephen Holder reports that Tampa Bay receiver Tiquan Underwood has been told he’s being released.

Mike Triplett reports that it appears as if New Orleans undrafted running back Travaris Cadet will make the roster.
The NFC South is a division without a dominant defensive tackle.

But I think it’s fair to say Atlanta’s Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux, New Orleans’ Sedrick Ellis and Tampa Bay’s Brian Price were the best the NFC South had to offer in 2011. Apparently, their coaches agreed.

According to playing-time numbers obtained by ESPN.com, Ellis led all NFC South tackles by taking part in 66.3 percent of New Orleans’ 1,061 defensive plays. That percentage ranked Ellis No. 16 in the NFL and he was the only NFC South player in the top 20.

Peters was next at 60.4 percent, which ranked No. 23 in the league. Babineaux was No. 30 at 54.1 percent. Price, who was somewhat limited by injuries and was sent home early from one game by former coach Raheem Morris, took part in 47.1 percent of Tampa Bay’s defensive plays. That tied him at No. 37 in the league with teammate Roy Miller.

Carolina rookie Terrell McClain was one spot behind them, taking part in 46 percent of his team’s defensive plays. After that, there was a big drop off among the rest of the division’s tackles and we should note that Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy probably would have finished in the top four or five in the NFC South if he hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury.

Let’s take a look at the percentage of playing time for the rest of the NFC South defensive tackles:
Just when it didn’t seem like things could get any worse for the Carolina Panthers’ defense, they have.

Rookie starting defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Sione Fua reportedly will be placed on injured reserve. That would leave Andre Neblett and Frank Kearse as the only defensive tackles on the roster. Update: The Panthers just officially announced McClain and Fua have been placed on injured reserve.

To replace them on the roster, the Panthers have signed Ogemdi Nwagbuo as a free agent and promoted Jason Shirley from the practice squad. The Panthers also added defensive tackle Demario Pressley to the practice squad.

Defensive tackle was a problem spot for the Panthers even in the last years of coach John Fox’s regime. When Ron Rivera took over, the Panthers tried to solidify things in the middle of their defensive line.

Besides drafting McClain and Fua, the Panthers made one of their biggest free-agency moves by signing Ron Edwards. The former Kansas City player was supposed to instantly become the anchor of the interior line and the plan was to let McClain and Fua grow up alongside Edwards.

But that plan went awry in training camp, when Edwards suffered a season-ending injury. The Panthers have gone through a bunch of defensive tackles in the meantime.

The only bright side to all this is Fua and McClain got experience this year. Bring them back healthy next year and put them next to a healthy Edwards and the Panthers might be all right at defensive tackle for the first time in a long time.

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