NFC South: Preston Parker

Most significant move: The fact the Saints didn’t release or put Jonathan Vilma on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list is a very strong sign that the veteran linebacker is expected to be healthy early in the season. That’s very significant. Vilma may be nearing the end of his career, but he still is the emotional leader of this defense and his mere presence makes this unit stronger.

Going in a different direction: Courtney Roby had been a fixture on special teams since his arrival in 2008. But the Saints have some younger, more athletic guys, like Rafael Bush, they want to get involved on special teams. Roby’s value also was hurt by the fact he brought little as a wide receiver. The team elected to keep Andy Tanner over Roby because Tanner has some upside as a receiver.

What’s next: After losing outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler to injuries, the Saints could look at the waiver wire to add some more help for the pass rush.

Saints moves: Released WR Courtney Roby, DE Jay Richardson, CB Chris Carr, S Jim Leonhard. Waived QB Ryan Griffin, WR Preston Parker, FB Austin Johnson, WR, Saalim Hakim, G Elliott Mealer, TE Keavon Milton, TE Michael Higgins, G Andrew Tiller, C Jeremiah Warren, LB Ray Shipman, LB Rufus Johnson, DT Isaako Aaitui, S Jerico Nelson, LB Baraka Atkins, T Marcel Jones, CB Korey Lindsey and CB Jumal Rolle. Placed C Eric Olsen on injured reserve.

Around the NFC South

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
8:13
AM ET
Time for a quick run through the morning headlines:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter writes that the Falcons will be watching the waiver wire for help on the offensive line. They should be, because the offensive line hasn’t looked good in the preseason. And it remains to be seen if Lamar Holmes is ready to be the starter at right tackle.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Larry Holder tops off his list of five players to watch in the final preseason game with receiver Preston Parker. He appears to be in competition with Andy Tanner for the final roster spot. But Parker could have the advantage because he also has ability in the return game.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Defensive end Da’Quan Bowers said fans shouldn’t be concerned about the team’s lackluster showing in the preseason. Bowers said the Bucs intentionally have kept things bland and will unveil a lot more flash in the regular season. I think what Bowers said is very true. The Bucs have been very cautious and not shown much in the preseason. They’re saving it up for the regular season.

Around the NFC South

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
9:17
AM ET
Time for a Friday morning run through some news and notes from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Coach Mike Smith said Lamar Holmes has done a nice job so far as he tries to win the right tackle position. But Holmes will face another big test Saturday when he’ll have to block Tennessee defensive end Derrick Morgan.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Jon Beason, who is coming off knee surgery, made his preseason debut Thursday night. If Beason can get back to being anything close to what he was before injuries ruined his past two seasons, the Panthers could have one of the league’s top linebacker groups.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Wide receiver Preston Parker puts his chances of making the final roster at 50 percent. I think Parker has a better chance than that. He’s had a productive preseason, and his chances of sticking grew recently when the Saints released veterans Steve Breaston and Patrick Crayton.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

If guard Carl Nicks (staph infection) is out for an extended period, Jeremy Zuttah hopes to stay at center. Zuttah moved to guard when Nicks was injured last season. But center is Zuttah’s natural position. The Bucs also could turn to Ted Larsen, or move backup tackle Gabe Carimi to guard. Carimi was working at guard with the first team in the portion of practice that was open to the media Thursday.

Around the NFC South

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
9:28
AM ET
Time for a run through the top headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Backup quarterback Dominique Davis called his performance in the preseason opener “horrible’’. Davis might be being a little hard on himself, but he didn’t have a good outing. He needs to pick it up in the remaining preseason games or else the Falcons might have to bring in a veteran backup.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Scott Fowler writes that the Panthers will wear black jerseys and black pants for this week’s preseason game with Philadelphia. That combination won a contest for greatest uniform ever recently, even though the Panthers have worn it only once.

Joseph Person writes that Josh Norman has re-emerged as a candidate to start at cornerback after producing two interceptions in the preseason opener. Veterans Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn have been getting the first-team work. But the Panthers wouldn’t mind moving Munnerlyn to nickel back if Norman continues to play well.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Coach Sean Payton said wide receiver Preston Parker had an exceptional game in the preseason opener. Parker caught four passes and scored two touchdowns. That kind of performance could be enough to earn Parker a roster spot.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Coach Greg Schiano said there’s a sense of urgency for the Bucs to develop a better pass rush. Defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn have to step up because no one from the outside is coming to the rescue.

Observation deck: Saints-Chiefs

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
11:20
PM ET

For those of you who thought coordinator Rob Ryan could come in and turn around the New Orleans Saints' defense overnight, think again.

This chore is going to take some time. That was apparent in Friday night’s 17-13 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Kansas City first-team offense, which wasn’t very good last year, had no problem marching 80 yards on 14 plays for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. The Chiefs also got a field goal on the second drive, when the starters still were on the field. I did see some good moments by the defense, particularly the pass rush, later in the game when the starters were out.

But Ryan needs to use the next few weeks to get this defense ready for the regular season.

Some other observations on the Saints:

With Marques Colston sitting, rookie receiver Kenny Stills got the start. He didn’t have a great night. He dropped a deep pass from Drew Brees and also was called for offensive pass interference.

The Saints handed the ball to Mark Ingram on the first two plays of the game. I think that’s a sign of things to come. The Saints have said they want to run the ball more often and they want Ingram more involved in the offense.

Rookie defensive tackle John Jenkins, who has had a nice camp, recorded a sack of Chase Daniel. Jenkins has had a nice camp and could end up with a spot in the rotation.

Charles Brown got the start at left tackle and didn’t seem to have any major problems. But rookie Terron Armstead got a lot of playing time and still could have a chance to start.

Wide receiver Preston Parker probably enhanced his chances of making the roster by catching two touchdown passes.

Luke McCown may have solidified his lead over Seneca Wallace in the competition to be the backup quarterback. McCown completed 18 of 28 passes for 216 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Wallace, who has been dealing with a groin injury, did not play.
METAIRIE, La. -- I’m getting ready to head out and watch the first session of the New Orleans Saints’ minicamp.

I’ll be back with more on the Saints later. But here are five things I’ll be keeping a close eye on.

The defensive vibe: Throughout the OTAs (organized team activities), there has been a lot of positive talk about new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. I want to see him in action. More importantly, I want to see his defense in action. New Orleans had the worst defense in the league last season, and something dramatic had to be done. I remember the stir Gregg Williams caused when he arrived as defensive coordinator in 2009. The defense was jumping after every loose ball in minicamp and training camp, and that created a swagger. I’m curious to see if Ryan is duplicating that.

Payton’s return: Coach Sean Payton has been back from his suspension for several months. But the mandatory minicamp will be his first formal time back with his players. I didn’t realize Payton’s true value to his team until he was out. Things were quieter with assistant head coach Joe Vitt running the team in minicamp and training camp last year. I’m guessing Payton’s presence will make things a bit more spirited.

The backfield rotation: In his third season, running back Mark Ingram is entering a critical time. The former first-round pick has been part of a logjam in the backfield. I think Ingram can be a solid player if he gets on the field more often. He needs to use the offseason to show the coaching staff he deserves to be on the field more than Pierre Thomas.

The third-receiver battle: The Saints used to have one of the league’s deepest receiving corps. But it’s looking a little thin after starters Marques Colston and Lance Moore right now. That said, the Saints have plenty of candidates to emerge as big parts of the offense. I want to see if Nick Toon, Joe Morgan, Preston Parker or rookie Kenny Stills steps up.

The competition at left tackle: Jermon Bushrod's departure as a free agent left a big void. The Saints don’t have a clear answer. They’re letting rookie Terron Armstead compete with Charles Brown and Jason Smith for the starting job. The minicamp should give us an indication of who’s leading the competition.

Looking at Bucs' offensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
3:03
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When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55 million contract last offseason, it was clear they expected him to earn the money.

Jackson did that by instantly becoming a true No. 1 wide receiver. But he also put in plenty of time. Jackson was on the field for 93.04 percent of Tampa Bay’s 1,049 offensive plays.

The only other wide receivers with higher playing-time percentages in 2012 were Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (97.91 percent), Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (96 percent) and Atlanta’s Roddy White (93.21).

Here’s a look at the breakdown of playing-time percentage for the rest of Tampa Bay’s offense:

NFC South afternoon update

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
3:44
PM ET
Time for an afternoon run through some odds and ends from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

There’s some good news on the injury front. Cornerback Dunta Robinson, who suffered a concussion in the regular-season finale, was medically cleared and practiced Friday. Fellow cornerback Asante Samuel was excused from practice due to a death in his family.

A lot of the Falcons like to say they don’t think about their recent playoff problems. Kudos to tight end Tony Gonzalez, whose playoff drought extends back to his Kansas City days, for admitting the lack of postseason success bothers him. Maybe he and the Falcons can use that as motivation.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

All remains quiet as far as the future of coach Ron Rivera and the hiring of a general manager and I’ll update that if anything breaks. But, in the meantime, Max Henson has a breakdown of Carolina’s offense in the 2012 season.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints signed receiver Preston Parker to a futures contract. A lot of guys signed to futures contracts are never heard from again, but this is one to keep an eye on. Parker flashed some promise in his Tampa Bay days and could prosper in New Orleans’ offensive system.

Bradley Handwerger has a look at the team’s potential restricted free agents. Running back Chris Ivory and center Brian de la Puente head that list. Ivory wasn’t always happy about his playing time this past season, but I don’t see any way the Saints don’t put a tender on him.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Running back Doug Martin is a finalist for one rookie-of-the-year award. If you’re a Tampa Bay fan, go vote for him. He needs all the help he can get because he is up against quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.

Guard Davin Joseph was selected as the team’s Man of the Year, which makes him a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

More shuffling at WR for Buccaneers

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
11:13
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The revolving door at wide receiver continues for the Buccaneers.

The team just announced it has placed receiver Sammie Stroughter on injured reserve and signed receiver Chris Owusu.

That comes in a week in which the team signed receivers Tiquan Underwood and Jordan Shipley and released Preston Parker. Stroughter was used as a backup receiver and punt returner in the first two games, but suffered a foot injury.

Owusu comes from San Diego’s practice squad after spending the preseason with San Francisco. Owusu was an undrafted free agent out of Stanford this year.

The Bucs are set with Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson as their starters and are hoping Arrelious Benn can stay healthy and be the third receiver, but the Bucs need some of the new guys to step up and provide depth.

Buccaneers shuffling wide receivers

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
11:58
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to fiddle with their wide receiver corps.

The team just announced it has re-signed Tiquan Underwood and released Preston Parker.

That comes on the heels of the Bucs signing Jordan Shipley. Coach Greg Schiano has indicated that Sammie Stroughter’s foot injury could keep the receiver out for a substantial period.

With Underwood and Shipley, the Bucs appear to be attempting to beef up their depth behind Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn.

Underwood, who played for Schiano at Rutgers, was with the Bucs in the preseason and gave a strong showing. Many were surprised when he was released. Underwood showed some big-play capability and the Bucs could use some of that from someone other than Jackson.

NFC South evening update

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
6:43
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Time for a look at the Wednesday afternoon headlines from around the NFL.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Let’s start this one off with a fantasy-football alert. Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart could miss Thursday night’s game due to a toe injury. Stewart hasn’t practiced all week. If he can’t play, expect more carries for DeAngelo Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert also could get some time at tailback.

The Panthers may be catching a bit of a break because the Giants are banged up. The Giants said running back Ahmad Bradshaw, receiver Domenik Hixon and tackle David Diehl will not play in Thursday night’s game due to injuries. Andre Brown is expected to take over most of Bradshaw’s duties.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Running back Michael Turner apologized to ownership, coaches and fans for being charged with DUI. Turner said he expects to play Sunday against the Chargers, the team he began his career with. Turner could face discipline at some point, but I think that’s down the road, after his case moves through the legal system.

Coach Mike Smith is pleased with what he’s seen from left tackle Sam Baker so far this season. While fans were spending the offseason screaming for Baker to be released, the Falcons stood by him, saying they believe he’s a competent player when healthy. So far, he’s been healthy, so maybe the Falcons knew what they were talking about.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints are saying all the right things about their 0-2 start. They realize they’ve dug a hole, but keep pointing to how this team has dealt with adversity well in the past. That’s true. But if the Saints don’t win Sunday against Kansas City, this season could be over in a hurry.

You probably saw Drew Brees limping around a bit after hurting his ankle Sunday against Carolina. The Saints listed Brees on the injury report Wednesday, but the good news is it doesn’t sound like anything to worry about. Brees participated fully in Wednesday’s practice.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Giants continue to gripe about the Bucs going all out when they were in the victory formation Sunday. The Giants have every right to voice their opinions on this, but they might be wise to move on from this. They’ve got another game coming up in just over 24 hours.

A lot of people thought the Bucs signed receiver Jordan Shipley because they were concerned about an injury to Preston Parker. As it turned out, they’re more concerned about a foot injury to receiver Sammie Stroughter. Coach Greg Schiano said Stroughter’s injury could be "long term." Parker practiced fully Wednesday.

Around the NFC South

September, 18, 2012
9/18/12
4:15
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Temporary NFC South Blog headquarters are set up back in the Queen City, where I soon will start looking ahead to Thursday night’s game between the Panthers and Giants.

But, first, let’s take a look at the headlines from around the rest of the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Bucs re-signed receiver Jordan Shipley, who briefly was with the team in the preseason. Consider that an indication that receiver Preston Parker is likely to miss some time with a foot injury. Shipley showed great promise as a slot receiver with the Bengals early in his career. But he suffered a major knee injury and the Bengals released him during the preseason and the Bucs picked him up. Shipley didn’t look like he had re-gained his full speed in the preseason. But, if he can get back to full health, he could provide a nice boost for the receiving corps.

The replacement officials are getting criticized after Monday night’s game between Atlanta and Denver. But Stephen Holder points out some missed calls might have played a role in Tampa Bay’s loss to the New York Giants on Sunday. This whole situation has gotten out of hand and the quality of the game is suffering. The NFL needs to do whatever it takes to get the regular officials back to work as soon as possible.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was at the center of the bounty drama early on, but he had seemed to fade in recent months. That now has changed. Williams has been subpoenaed in the defamation lawsuit by linebacker Jonathan Vilma against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. If that case ever makes it to trial and Williams has to testify, things could get fascinating. Williams and Vilma were very close when they worked together, but Williams reportedly has given the NFL a statement that says Vilma offered a $10,000 bounty for anyone that knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the game in the 2009 postseason.

A day after Vilma met with Goodell in New York, defensive end Will Smith and former New Orleans defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove had their meetings with the commissioner. Former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, also was scheduled to attend. But Fujita backed out of his meeting, saying it was more important to stay in Cleveland.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn isn’t happy about losing his starting job to rookie Josh Norman. That’s understandable. Munnerlyn is a competitor and has lots of pride. But he can still turn this situation into a positive. He still is getting plenty of playing time and is only an injury away from starting again. He also is in the final year of his rookie contract. If he stays focused and performs well, he can get a shot at a starting job elsewhere next season.

Tom Sorensen writes that Carolina’s $89 million investment in contracts for running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert is worth every penny. I agree. Quarterback Cam Newton is the franchise and the passing game is very important, but Newton can be much more dangerous with good running backs behind him.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Mark Bradley writes that the Atlanta secondary might have had its finest game since the NFC Championship Game against Minnesota in the 1998 season. That’s a strong statement, but the secondary was very impressive against Denver on Monday night. The Falcons intercepted Peyton Manning three times in the first quarter. Who does that? What’s more impressive is that the Falcons did it without nickel back Christopher Owens, who missed much of the game after suffering a concussion, and were briefly without Asante Samuel, who was shaken up, but returned to the game. Backups Dominique Franks and Robert McClain stepped in and made big contributions.

Former Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking, now with Denver, did not have a good homecoming Monday. Part of it was because the Broncos lost and part of it was because Brooking drew boos from the fans. That’s understandable because Brooking taunted the Falcons after he went to play for the Dallas Cowboys and fans remember that -- at least for now. However, somewhere down the road (and it will take a few more years), Brooking, who played high school and college football in Georgia, will end up being remembered as one of the most popular Falcons ever.

Around the NFC South

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
8:51
AM ET
As we count down to the start of the regular season, let's take a look at the Wednesday morning headlines from around the division.

ATLANTA FALCONS

As he gets ready for Sunday’s return to Arrowhead Stadium, tight end Tony Gonzalez reflected on his 12 years in Kansas City. He talked a lot about 1998, which certainly wasn’t his best season. Gonzalez dropped 17 passes that year. That prompted him to start reading inspirational books, seeking advice from veterans and staying after practice to catch passes. The result was the drops stopped and Gonzalez has caught more passes than all but one player (Jerry Rice) in NFL history.

Speaking of Atlanta tight ends, Tommy Gallarda made the roster and is third on the depth chart behind Gonzalez and Michael Palmer. But I think you’ll see a fair amount of Gallarda. He is Atlanta’s best blocking tight end.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said his expectations for defensive tackle Peria Jerry were “in limbo’’ entering training camp. Jerry had struggled since suffering a knee injury early in his rookie season (2009). But Nolan said Jerry has had an impressive preseason. That should help, because Jerry is expected to start with Corey Peters out for at least the first six games of the regular season.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Special teams were a problem area last season, so the Panthers made a bunch of changes in the offseason. The results weren’t apparent in the preseason, but coach Ron Rivera said he’s confident the special teams will be better in the regular season. They better be. The Panthers made changes at kicker and punter and plan to play several starters extensively on special teams. If the performance isn’t any better, the Panthers won’t have any excuses.

Although the Panthers arrived in Florida on Tuesday night and will practice in Bradenton starting Wednesday, a team of staff members have stayed back at Bank of America Stadium. Team president Danny Morrison said those staffers are helping behind the scenes with the Democratic National Convention and will join the team in Florida on the weekend.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett caught up with suspended New Orleans coach Sean Payton, who is helping coach his team’s youth-league football team. Payton said he’s kept a close eye on the Saints throughout the preseason, but largely has stayed quiet on the league-imposed suspensions. Payton said he, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis are in a different position than the players, because they don’t have a union to challenge the NFL. He said his ultimate goal is to get reinstated at the right time, and he’s received no indications the league would consider reducing his suspension.

The NFL Players Association is making a last-ditch effort to get a temporary restraining order that would stop suspensions for New Orleans defensive end Will Smith and two other former Saints (Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove) before the season opens. A similar motion previously was filed for linebacker Jonathan Vilma. The union is arguing irreparable damage will be done to the players if they’re suspended at the start of the season.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

At least according to the latest unofficial depth chart put out by the team, Preston Parker has lost his job as the No. 1 punt and kickoff returner. Sammie Stroughter is listed as the top punt returner and Michael Smith as the top kickoff returner. If the depth chart is accurate, it’s not a huge surprise. Parker has struggled with returns and the Bucs might have been forced to keep Stroughter over receiver Tiquan Underwood because they wanted to make sure they had someone dependable to field punts.

Coach Greg Schiano and co-chairman Bryan Glazer asked fans to help give the Bucs a home-field advantage at Raymond James Stadium. The team has struggled to get good attendance in recent years, and Bucs’ fans are sometimes outnumbered by those of opponents. The Bucs have repeatedly said this offseason that they want to reconnect with their fan base. They’re doing their part so far, but the next step is to win consistently.

NFC South Stock Watch

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
7:33
AM ET
Welcome to the first 2012 edition of Stock Watch. We usually have three players falling and three rising. But, since this is the start of the season and there’s a lot to work with, we’re going to expand each category to five -- for this week only.

FALLING

Ted Larsen, guard, Buccaneers. He still may end up as the starting right guard, but the Bucs aren’t handing anything to Larsen. Although Larsen appeared to be the first guy in line when Davin Joseph went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Bucs have been bringing in guys that were released off the street for a look.

Jason Snelling, running back, Falcons. He missed part of the preseason with an injury, but that’s only a small part of why Snelling’s stock is falling. The bigger factor is the Falcons are very serious about using second-year pro Jacquizz Rodgers as their No. 2 back behind Michael Turner. Snelling still may get a few reps at tailback, but I doubt he’ll get many touches there. He also seems destined for duty as the backup fullback.

[+] EnlargeKellen Winslow
John Rieger/US PresswireThis TD catch in Kansas City was one of the few bright spots for Kellen Winslow during the preseason in Seattle.
Kellen Winslow, tight end, formerly with the Bucs and Seahawks. The Bucs traded Winslow to Seattle near the start of camp. The deal was conditional and could have earned the Bucs as much as a sixth-round pick if Winslow played well. It could have earned them a seventh-round pick if Winslow simply made the roster. He did neither, so the Bucs aren’t getting anything in return. The Bucs parted with Winslow in the first place because he wasn’t coach Greg Schiano’s kind of guy. I’d imagine Schiano is even less of a Winslow fan now that the tight end has cost him a draft pick.

Nick Toon, wide receiver, Saints. He’ll spend his rookie season on injured reserve. It’s strange, but New Orleans has a bit of a history with young receivers getting hurt at the start of their careers. It happened with Robert Meachem and he wasn’t much of a factor his first few seasons. It happened with Adrian Arrington and just now might be getting his first real chance to contribute.

Garrett Reynolds or Peter Konz, guards, Falcons. These two have been competing for the starting job at right guard throughout the preseason. The Falcons still haven’t named a starter and I don’t take that as a good sign. If either Reynolds or Konz was running away with the job, I think we already would have gotten an announcement. I think what it’s coming down to is the Falcons are deciding if they’d rather guy with a converted college center that might be having more trouble adjusting than they expected or if they’d rather stay with a guy that was mediocre as the starter last year.

RISING

Travaris Cadet, running back, Saints. He led the NFL in rushing with 246 yards during the preseason. Yeah, preseason stats don’t matter. But Cadet was so impressive that he absolutely forced the Saints, who already had Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, to keep him on the roster. It’s a little tough to get touches for five running backs, but the Saints already were pretty good at distributing the ball. Now, they just need to add one more guy to the equation.

Matt Ryan, quarterback, Falcons. Again, preseason stats don’t matter, but the Falcons led the NFL by averaging 280.2 passing yards in their four exhibition games. Yeah, undrafted rookie Dominique Davis was responsible for a chunk of those yards. But when Ryan did play, he looked as sharp as he ever has. Ryan’s always been focused and he has a fantastic supporting cast. I’m not having much trouble picturing a big season out of Ryan.

Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator, Saints. Although he wasn’t chosen as the interim-interim head coach, Spagnuolo obviously is carrying a lot of clout right now. The Saints made a late roster move that had Spagnuolo’s finger prints all over it. Cornerback Elbert Mack had a nice preseason and initially appeared to have made the team. But the Saints claimed cornerback Jerome Murray off waivers and released Mack. Murphy played for Spagnuolo in St. Louis, so it’s pretty safe to assume he went to the front office, said he wanted his guy and was granted his wish.

Armanti Edwards, receiver/return man. Panthers. A lot of people didn’t think Edwards would make the roster and I was one of them. But Edwards still is with the Panthers, even though they have depth at receiver and plenty of options in the return game. The Panthers didn’t keep Edwards just to have an Appalachian State product on their roster. They sort of did that the last two years as they kept hoping Edwards would develop into something. They’re at a point in their development where every roster spot is precious, so you have to believe Edwards is in their plans.

Arrelious Benn, receiver, Tampa Bay. He missed most of the preseason with an injury and just returned to practice this week. But the Bucs must have a pretty good feeling that Benn is close to being ready to be their third receiver after Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. They released Tiquan Underwood, who had a very nice preseason and kept Preston Parker and Sammie Stroughter as their only other backups at receiver. I didn’t see anything special from Parker or Stroughter in the preseason and they might have made the roster mainly because they can contribute on special teams. Benn still may have a little work to do to get back into shape, but I don’t think it will be long before he’s established as the third receiver.
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.

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