NFC South: P.J. Fleck

NFC South afternoon update

December, 19, 2012
Let's take an afternoon run through some odds and ends from all around the division:


In this Insider post, Insider KC Joyner makes a strong case for Matt Ryan to win the Most Valuable Player award. Ryan has had a great season, but Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Adrian Peterson probably will win the award.

Coach Mike Smith said Thomas DeCoud and William Moore have played as well as any safety tandem in the league. He’s right. Both of those guys took some time to develop, but they’ve turned into very solid players this season.

Pro Football Focus has its own choices for the NFC Pro Bowl roster and you’ll see multiple NFC South representatives. But the one choice that kind of surprised me was Atlanta right tackle Tyson Clabo. You don’t hear much about him, but Pro Football Focus says he’s the NFL’s most consistent right tackle.


Quarterback Cam Newton had a pretty profound quote when he said he’s found out as the season has gone on that the Panthers aren’t a one-man team. Makes you wonder if Newton perhaps was trying too hard when he struggled early in the season. Whatever, he certainly has looked much more comfortable recently.


Dallas coach Jason Garrett danced around questions over speculation Sean Payton could end up taking his job. There really isn’t anything Garrett can say. He just has to hope the Cowboys end the season well and Payton and the Saints can agree to a contract.

Right tackle Zach Strief (ankle) sat out Wednesday’s practice. His backup, Charles Brown, already is on injured reserve, so it looks as if William Robinson could get another start.


Check out this Insider post Insider in which Matt Williamson said that rookie linebacker Lavonte David reminds him of Derrick Brooks. David still needs some work to get to Brooks’ level, but he’s had an excellent rookie season.

Receivers coach P.J. Fleck, who has been hired as the head coach at Western Michigan will finish the season with the Buccaneers.

Coach Greg Schiano said he doesn’t plan to reduce running back Doug Martin’s carries with the Bucs out of the playoff race. That makes sense. The Bucs need to get back on a good track and carry some positive momentum into the offseason. Martin is one of their best offensive players, so there’s no reason to stop giving him the ball.

St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher had some praise for quarterback Josh Freeman, who hasn’t been getting much praise from Tampa Bay fans in recent weeks.

Around the NFC South

December, 18, 2012
Let's take a look at the top Tuesday morning headlines from around the division:


Receiver Roddy White said the Falcons are a different team than in recent years. I’ve seen more swagger out of this year’s team. But the real test of "is this team different" will be if the Falcons can win a playoff game.

Cornerback Asante Samuel, who has two Super Bowl rings, said it’s important for the Falcons to carry momentum into the playoffs. Sunday’s win was a good start. If Atlanta can finish strong and secure home-field advantage, it should have everything working in its favor.


Ron Rivera said he doesn’t think a two-game winning streak is enough to keep his job. No, but it could be a step in that direction. If the Panthers play well in their final two games, I think Rivera returns for next season.


Punter Thomas Morstead has been a bright spot in a rough season. Morstead is on pace to break the NFL record for net punting average.

The Saints added safety Phillip Thomas and guard Wayne Tribue to the practice squad.


Receivers coach P.J. Fleck reportedly will become the head coach at Western Michigan. This comes with the territory at this time of year. There’s always movement by assistant coaches, especially a guy like Fleck, whose background was on the college level.

Roy Cummings writes that quarterback Josh Freeman’s recent struggles have been due to communication problems. You could see that on interceptions that were intended for Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark. But communication problems shouldn’t be an issue 14 games into the season.

Around the NFC South

July, 30, 2012
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- I’ll be heading out to watch the Falcons’ morning practice in a little bit and will be back with more later on. The Camp Confidential profile on the New Orleans Saints also will pop up on the blog a little later Monday. In the meantime, let’s take a spin around the division.
  • First off, Mel Kiper Jr. has his NFC South Summer Audits , in which he checks in on what all four teams did on the offseason.
  • Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert uses boxing as part of his offseason training program. I know a fair amount of players around the NFL have dabbled with mixed-martial arts in recent years. I don’t know if being able to fight really helps them with football skills, but it certainly helps with conditioning.
  • The Panthers used the 3-4 defense a little bit last season. They’re saying they’ll use it even more in 2012, although their base will remain the 4-3. Nothing wrong with that. A little variety might help cause some headaches for offenses.
  • Rookie Doug Martin has been getting the bulk of the first-team work early in camp. The Bucs have last year’s starter, LeGarrette Blount, still on the roster. But no one should be surprised that Martin already is ahead of Blount. When the Bucs traded back into the first round to take Martin, it sent a pretty strong signal. You don’t trade back into the first round to get a running back unless you’re planning to play him a lot. It also could be well worth watching how Blount handles his new role. It's not unusual for a guy to pout when he's demoted. New coach Greg Schaino doesn't seem like the kind of guy that will put up with a lot of pouting.
  • Receivers coach P.J. Fleck told Mark Cook that free-agent pickup Vincent Jackson is even better than he initially thought. The Bucs obviously thought pretty highly of Jackson because they gave him a contract worth $50 million.
  • Cornerback Patrick Robinson injured his shoulder in Sunday’s practice. The extent of the injury isn’t known yet. If Robinson has to miss a little practice time, that’s not all bad. It would give second-year pro Johnny Patrick some work as a starter and some valuable experience. The Saints are hoping Patrick will be their nickelback.
  • Six players from Alabama’s defense were drafted in April. Jerrell Harris wasn’t one of them. But the linebacker is making a good early impression on the Atlanta coaching staff.
  • The Falcons went through their first padded practice Sunday afternoon.

Around the NFC South

June, 14, 2012
Let's take a stroll through some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.
  • Atlanta’s Akeem Dent said he’s looking forward to competing with veteran Lofa Tatupu for the starting job at middle linebacker. I think the Atlanta coaching staff would be content to go with Tatupu if the safe route is the best route. But I think the coaching staff would be delighted if Dent stepped up and won the job in his second NFL season. This is a team that wants to add younger, fresher legs at a number of positions.
  • After struggling with some lingering symptoms following two concussions last year, tight end David Thomas is back with the New Orleans Saints. But the decision to keep playing came only after Thomas and his wife, Kassidy, spent a lot of time visiting with six neurological specialists. That was a very wise approach. Returning to football is a decision that could impact Thomas’ entire family. Everyone needed to feel comfortable that it was safe for him to return.
  • Although he’s making the move from cornerback to free safety, Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber said he still expects to get the chance to blitz frequently. That’s a smart idea since Barber is one of the best pass-rushing defensive backs ever, as evidenced by his 27 career sacks.
  • The Saints have claimed rookie receiver Derek Moye off waivers after he was released by the Miami Dolphins. The Saints already are loaded at receiver, but this guy is worth a look. At Penn State, which isn’t known for its vertical passing game, Moye showed an ability to get open deep.
  • New Orleans defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, a third-round pick this year, has an injury to his hand and wrist, but said he’ll be ready for the start of training camp.
  • Atlanta wide receiver Julio Joes said he believes he should benefit from having a full offseason program this year after the lockout kept players away from their teams until training camp last year. I think that’s true for any second-year player. But it probably is especially true for Jones. He’s a speed receiver and it’s crucial for him to have his timing down with quarterback Matt Ryan.
  • Although Tampa Bay’s new coaching staff is more stoic than the previous staff in general, receivers coach P.J. Fleck appears to be the exception. According to Scott Reynolds, Fleck has been quite vocal and animated during minicamp.

Evening update from Charlotte

June, 11, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I’m settled into Charlotte, where I’ll be covering Panthers minicamp starting Tuesday morning.

The Panthers just announced a couple of minor roster moves. They have signed undrafted rookie wide receivers Michael Avila (San Jose State) and Lamont Bryant (Morgan State). To make room for them, they released receivers Wes Kemp and Chris Manno.

Now, let’s take a look at some other headlines from around the division.
  • Tampa Bay wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck had some high praise for Vincent Jackson's ability as a leader. That should be a real positive for the Buccaneers. They’ve had one of the league’s youngest receiving corps in recent years. Guys like Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Sammie Stroughter and Preston Parker. Plus, Jackson isn’t known for being selfish, like some other premier wide receivers. He’s got a reputation for being the kind of guy that will try to help young receivers.
  • Daniel Cox writes about how the Falcons have a chance to be one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2012. There still are a lot of unknowns, but I think the talent is in place for this to happen. New coordinator Dirk Koetter is going to have to be a little bit more creative than predecessor Mike Mularkey, though.
  • Mark Cook writes that Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is fully healthy after suffering a biceps injury last season. That’s good news about a player that has flashed some promise when he has been able to play in his first two seasons. The Bucs really need McCoy to stay healthy for an entire season for the first time in his career.
  • NFC West colleague Mike Sando has a chart showing how teams fared in games decided by seven or fewer points last season. All four of Tampa Bay’s wins fell into that margin. The Panthers had only one win in a game decided by seven or less points. New Orleans and Atlanta each had four such wins.

Bucs announce offensive staff

March, 6, 2012
We’ve known most of the names and some of the roles for weeks, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just officially announced their offensive coaching staff. Let’s take a look:

  • Mike Sullivan, offensive coordinator
  • Brian Angelichio, tight ends
  • Bob Bostad, offensive line
  • Earnest Byner, running backs
  • P.J. Fleck, wide receivers
  • Steve Loney, assistant offensive line
  • Ben McDaniels, offensive assistant
  • Ron Turner, quarterbacks

The Bucs previously announced Jimmy Raye, a long-time NFL assistant, will be a senior offensive assistant. This group comes with a healthy mix of NFL and college experience for head coach Greg Schiano’s first staff.

Sullivan most recently was quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants. Byner a former NFL running back, has been a running backs coach in the league for eight years and was with Jacksonville last season. Loney has 10 years of experience as an NFL assistant and 24 years on the college level. He most recently was the offensive line coach for the St. Louis Rams. McDaniels previously was quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos. Turner has spent 11 years working in the NFL and was the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis last season.

Bostad spent the past six seasons at the University of Wisconsin, where he was a highly successful offensive line coach and running game coordinator.

Angelichio and Fleck each previously worked for Schiano at Rutgers.

Schiano's hiring pattern not unusual

February, 22, 2012
There’s been a lot of talk about Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano bringing so many of his Rutgers assistants to the Buccaneers and the tone is generally skeptical.

The Bucs haven’t officially announced their full staff of assistants yet, but it has been widely reported that Schiano has hired at least six coaches that were on Rutgers’ staff with him last year. It also was reported that he has hired P.J. Fleck, who had just left Rutgers to become offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois. So we’ll say Schiano is bringing seven assistants that were with him at Rutgers last season. Schiano also has officially hired defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, who recently had been hired for the same job at Ohio State.

That’s really not all that unusual. I just took a look back to 2010 when Pete Carroll left Southern California to take over the Seattle Seahawks. He brought eight members of his Southern California staff and hired wide receivers coach Kippy Brown away from Tennessee. So roughly half of Carroll’s first staff, and we’re including strength and conditioning coaches, came from the college ranks.

Butch Davis, who was hired as a special assistant to Schiano, talked about how it was important for Schiano to bring some coaches he had worked with before. That sort of includes Davis. Schiano was his defensive coordinator at the University of Miami.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to bring in a bunch of coaches from the college ranks. These are guys Schiano knows he can work with and has enjoyed success with.

In some ways, that’s better than what predecessor Raheem Morris did when he got the job in 2009. He hired offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and defensive coordinator Jim Bates from outside. He had never worked with either, although he knew Bates through Bates’ son. But Morris was going mostly on reputations, not first-hand experience.

Jagodzinski was fired before the first training camp ended and Bates was fired 10 games into the first season.

Around the NFC South

February, 19, 2012
A look at the top Sunday headlines from around the NFC South.

Jeff Duncan has a good overview of the contract negotiations between the Saints and Drew Brees. Although both sides say they want a deal, it has yet to happen. I wouldn’t worry too much about this because it’s almost certain a deal will get done before Brees can become a free agent. But Duncan brings up a good point when he says that Brees probably won’t take a hometown discount. The quarterback is as competitive as they come and he’s likely to want full-market value. He also deserves it.

Carolina linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, who each missed most of last season with injuries, are working hard on their comebacks. There’s not much doubt Beason will be back. But Davis is coming off his third torn ACL and has a big contract. Davis is confident something can be worked out on the contract situation and that he’ll be physically ready to play again.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly have hired Bob Bostad as offensive line coach. Bostad recently had been hired as offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh. He’s the third coach the Buccaneers were able to lure away from a college job before ever really starting it. Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan left Ohio State before ever coaching a game. Receivers coach P.J. Fleck also left North Illinois.

Jeff Schultz ranks the pro sports franchises and various college sports programs in Georgia and Atlanta. He has the Falcons No. 2, behind the Braves. Part of me wanted to argue that, especially when you take into consideration the fact the Braves lost 20 of their final 30 games last season. But the Falcons have shown a recent history of making very quick exits from the playoffs, so you can’t put up a very strong case for them.

More names for Bucs' staff

February, 8, 2012
It appears as if the Buccaneers have finally made some significant progress in the hiring of coach Greg Schiano’s staff.

Although a few names have leaked out in recent days, WDAE Radio’s Steve Duemig has the most extensive list so far. He’s reporting eight coaches have been hired.

We don’t know specific roles in all instances yet, but Duemig reports that Jeff Hafley, Bob Fraser, Brian Angelichio, Jay Butler, P.J. Fleck, Randy Melvin, Jimmy Raye II and Tem Lubuku will join the Tampa Bay staff.

It previously has been reported that Fleck will coach wide receivers and Raye will be a senior offensive assistant. Raye is a long-time NFL assistant. Fleck worked on Schiano’s staff at Rutgers, which will give him common ground with most of the new coaches.

Fraser was the defensive coordinator at Rutgers. Lubuku also worked there as the outside linebackers coach. Hafley came to Rutgers in 2010 as secondary coach.

Ancgelichio coached tight ends at Rutgers and Butler was the strength and conditioning coach there. Melvin, who has a background as a defensive line coach, did two different stints at Rutgers before going to the Canadian Football League in 2010.

I know some fans are going to be critical that Schiano is filling his staff mostly with his former assistants from Rutgers. It is a legitimate gripe that some of these guys don’t have strong NFL backgrounds, but they do have history with Schiano.

Besides, we haven’t seen the entire staff yet. There could be more NFL experience on the way and that could create a nice blend on the staff.
After getting turned down in their request for permission to interview Arizona Cardinals assistant John McNulty and the Green Bay Packers' Ben McAdoo for their offensive coordinator position, it appears the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are working on some other possibilities.

Alex Marvez reports that Ron Turner and Bill Lazor are being considered for the job. Turner was the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator from 2005 through 2009 and spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts. Lazor currently is offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Virginia, but has worked previously as an NFL quarterbacks coach.

This hire might be the most important one new coach Greg Schiano makes because it’s critical for the Bucs to get franchise quarterback Josh Freeman and the offense back on track after a disappointing 2011 season.

Marvez also reports that Schiano will be hiring three of his former assistants from Rutgers: Bob Fraser (linebackers), Brian Angelichio (tight ends) and Jeff Haley (assistant defensive backs coach).

P.J. Fleck, another former Rutgers assistant, who had a one-day stop as Northern Illinois' offensive coordinator, reportedly already has agreed to be Tampa Bay's wide receivers coach.

Bucs getting blocked on assistants

February, 7, 2012
It certainly appears as though new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano is having a challenging time putting together a staff of assistants.

The latest example of this comes from this report that says the Green Bay Packers denied permission for the Bucs to speak to tight ends coach Ben McAdoo about becoming offensive coordinator.

McAdoo is at least the second offensive coordinator candidate the Bucs have been blocked from interviewing. The Arizona Cardinals previously denied permission for offensive assistant John McNulty, a former Schiano assistant at Rutgers, to interview for the job.

It also was reported Monday that University of Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn turned down a position with the Bucs, presumably as the defensive line coach.

The Bucs have not made any official announcements about any hirings of assistants. The only assistant known to have accepted a position is wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck, another former Rutgers assistant.

The Bucs appear to be in line to add several other Rutgers assistants, but nothing definite has happened yet. There also has been speculation from the moment Schiano was hired that he’d be joined by former NFL and college head coach Butch Davis as defensive coordinator, but nothing has been announced on that move.

Although Tampa Bay was extremely thorough in its search for a head coach -- the process took more than three weeks -- it appears the late start has put Schiano at a disadvantage when it comes to filling out a staff. Most assistant jobs have been filled across the league, and teams are trying to hold onto what they have. Quinn turned down a chance to get back into the NFL, and Rutgers reportedly is doing its best to keep as many assistant coaches as possible.

One of the knocks on former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris was that he lacked a strong stable of assistants, especially after firing experienced coordinators Jim Bates and Jeff Jagodzinski during his first season. It’s starting to look like the late start might make it tough for Schiano to assemble a quality staff.

Bucs' staff should be coming soon

February, 6, 2012
The Buccaneers have been silent on assistant coaches since hiring head coach Greg Schiano.

Now that the Super Bowl is over and Schiano’s had time to work quietly behind the scenes, I think it’s just a matter of days (maybe even hours) before we start getting official announcements on the hiring of assistants.

Word already leaked out that former P.J. Fleck, a former Schiano assistant at Rutgers, will be joining the Bucs as the wide receivers coach.

There have been rumblings from the moment Schiano was hired that former NFL and college head coach Butch Davis would join him as defensive coordinator. Makes sense, because Schiano worked for Davis at the University of Miami.

There also have been reports that Rutgers offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and defensive coordinator Bob Fraser could be joining Tampa Bay’s staff, although it’s possible they would come as position coaches and not coordinators.

I know there’s some concern among Tampa Bay fans that Schiano’s staff could basically be a reunion of the Rutgers staff, leaving the Bucs with a shortage of assistants with NFL experience.

But I say it’s wise not to jump to any conclusions. Soon enough, we’ll find out who the Bucs are hiring. My guess is there will be some assistants with Rutgers backgrounds, but you’ll also see some with NFL experience on their resumes.
Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano is adding at least one former Rutgers assistant to his new staff.

P.J. Fleck resigned as offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois only one day after his hiring for that position was announced. A source said Fleck backed out of the job so he could become the wide receivers coach for the Buccaneers.

The team has not announced any hirings of assistants since Schiano took the job. But Schiano indicated he would like to bring along some of his former Rutgers assistants. A team spokesperson could not be reached immediately for confirmation.

Fleck was the wide receivers coach at Rutgers the past two seasons. Before that he was the receivers coach at Northern Illinois, where he also played.