NFC South: Rhys Lloyd
We’ve already said this could prompt the Carolina Panthers to consider going without kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd, who has taken up a roster spot in recent years. But what else does it mean?
Well, Football Outsiders Aaron Schatz has an extensive analysis and you can also check out what our Canadian friend, Brad Gagnon, has to say about how the rule change is playing in Toronto.
But for the moment, let’s take a look at some stuff that was just passed to us from ESPN Stats and Information. In 2010, there were 2,448 kickoffs from the 30-yard line and 16 percent of those resulted in touchbacks. There also were 27 kickoffs from the 35-yard line (due to penalties) and 37 percent of those went for touchbacks.
Since 2001, 11.1 percent of kickoffs from the 30 have resulted in touchbacks. In that same time span, kickoffs from the 35 have had a 31.7 percent rate of touchbacks. Since 2007, four out of every 10 kickoffs from the 35 were not returned.
Here’s a quick look at touchback percentage since 2001 on kickoffs from the 30-yard line.
- 2010, 16.0
- 2009, 15.4
- 2008, 14.2
- 2007, 12.1
- 2006, 12.5
- 2005, 8.6
- 2004, 8.0
- 2003, 7.5
- 2002, 7.6
- 2001, 8.8
It’s easy to note the increase in percentage of touchbacks in recent years. Couple that with the new starting spot and it’s really not hard to imagine a 2011 touchback rate of well over 40 percent.
That’s something his predecessor John Fox did for much of the last four years by carrying Rhys Lloyd. But today’s news from the NFL competition committee that the league is proposing some major changes to kickoff rules could have a big impact on Lloyd’s value to Rivera or any other NFL coach.
The competition committee will ask teams to vote at next week’s owners meeting on a proposal to move the point of the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. In other words, kickers will start five yards ahead of where they have been. The proposal also includes switching the point of a touchback from the receiving team’s 20-yard line to the 25-yard line.
This could make Lloyd expendable. He already was coming off a rather unimpressive 2010 season. Lloyd produced just 11 touchbacks. He had 21 in 2009 and 30 in 2008.
Veteran place-kicker John Kasay might not have the leg strength he once did, but he might be able to get the ball close to the end zone if he’s kicking off from the 35-yard line. Punter Jason Baker also has handled some kickoffs in the past.
As expected, the Panthers re-signed kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. They released Todd Carter, who was supposed to replace Lloyd, but injured his back.
Green Bay signed running back Dimitri Nance off Atlanta’s practice squad. The Falcons filled the spot by signing center Rob Bruggeman, who had been cut from the 53-man roster earlier this week.
After Aqib Talib served his one-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct code, the Buccaneers have placed him on the active roster and he’s expected to practice today. To clear a roster spot, the Bucs released Erik Lorig.
Rhys Lloyd, the kickoff specialist the Panthers let walk away in free agency, is coming back to Charlotte today for a workout.
Jeff Duncan has his weekly film study on the Saints. Duncan’s been a friend for years and I’ve always thought he’s a heck of a writer. But I’m starting think he could make a living as a scout, if he ever feels the urge.
The Bucs still are kicking around who they want to play at left guard. Keydrick Vincent got the start in the opener, but Jeremy Zuttah remains in the mix.
Tom Brady wasn’t the only NFL quarterback involved in a minor car accident last week. Turns out Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman had a little traffic trouble, too.
Before we get into the questions, let me start with a little blanket statement. I know it’s very easy to sit out there and think of trade scenarios on this one and I do it, too. But to actually pull off a deal for Haynesworth would be very complicated and expensive. I know the Washington Redskins already are on the hook for a large chunk of Haynesworth’s existing contract, but the thing was so huge that there’s still a lot left. In case you haven’t noticed, NFC South teams haven’t exactly been spending much money this offseason. Plus, most of the teams in the division really aren’t looking to give up any of their draft picks. Also, keep in mind that although Haynesworth has been a very good –- dominant at times -– defensive tackle, there have been a few things that make you question his character. Again, character is a hot-button issue with most of the NFC South teams right now, so that could scare some suitors off.
With that said, let’s move on to some of the Haynesworth questions and we’ll move address some other issues further below:
GPM in Toronto writes: What are your thoughts on the idea of the Bucs going after Haynesworth? Could they swing a trade for him by offering a couple picks?
Pat Yasinskas: I’m not going to say that would be a good or bad move by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’ll just say I don’t think you’ll see it happen. Although Tampa Bay reportedly made a huge offer to Haynesworth last year, I think that was before coach Raheem Morris, general manager Mark Dominik and ownership really grasped what the idea of the youth movement they came up with was really all about. Not saying they have knocked it out of the park yet or ever will, but it seems like they now have a common vision that the way they want to build is through the draft. Dominik and Morris keep pointing to the 11 picks they’re holding and I don’t see them letting go.
Brian in New Orleans writes: I know this is a pipe dream, but I can’t help but think about an Albert Haynesworth for Jammal Brown/draft-pick trade. Both obvious needs and would help both sides.
Pat Yasinskas: Pipe dream, probably. But I’d say it’s less of a pipe dream with the New Orleans Saints than Tampa Bay. For that matter, I’ll go ahead and say New Orleans is the only team in the division I think would even consider something like a Haynesworth move. Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is focused on the labor situation so I can’t see him taking on Haynesworth’s contract -- no matter how much of it has already been taken care of by the Redskins. Besides, coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney never have been big on quick fixes. They weren’t there at the time, but they still are haunted by the ghost of Sean Gilbert. Sort of the same for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons made their move for this year (Dunta Robinson) and they’re focused in on the draft. Back to New Orleans -– I know a lot of fans think Brown is expendable because the Saints won a Super Bowl with Jermon Bushrod playing in his place. But they did that with a lot of smoke and mirrors. You really think the Saints want Bushrod protecting Drew Brees’ blind side for the long term? Yes, Haynesworth would be a nice addition to the defensive line. But if the Saints put a decent draft pick or a mid-level free agent next to a healthy Sedrick Ellis, there’s no glaring need.
JM in Charlotte writes: In your opinion, what position will the Panthers draft first? Could it be wide receiver or defensive line/end?
Pat Yasinskas: All right, we now will move past the Haynesworth stuff. Tough call to single out a position for the Panthers because they don’t have their first pick until the middle of the second round. I’d really like to see them get a wide receiver, but given Fox’s system and history, I have a tough time seeing a rookie receiver come in and make an instant impact. Fox’s back is clearly against the wall this season. When you’re in that situation, you go back to basics. Fox is a defensive coach at heart. I see him pushing for a defensive end or a defensive tackle. I’d lean toward a defensive tackle because the Panthers think Everette Brown and Charles Johnson might step up on the outside. They’ve got some very ordinary guys in the middle, but nothing to build around.
Mike in Atlanta writes: I really enjoy reading your blog. I have a very pedestrian but important question-who is going to be the Falcons' kicker this year? Is the team settled on Matt Bryant or are they looking for other options?
Pat Yasinskas: Agree with you because that is an important question for Atlanta because the kicking game was an issue last year.Matt Bryant’s going to get the first crack at the job and hopes are high. Bryant had some injury issues when the Bucs let him go. He’s healthy now and the Falcons would like to see him win the job. But last year showed they can’t afford to sit back in this area. I’m sure they’ll bring another kicker to camp and will continue to scour what’s available in case they don’t like what they see in the preseason.
Ryan in Boston writes: I was wondering what you think the signing of Todd Carter means for the Panthers. Is he just another kickoff specialist like Rhys Lloyd, or do you see him eventually taking over for John Kasay? I think holding a roster spot for a kickoff specialist proved pretty detrimental to the Panthers' depth last season.
Pat Yasinskas: For the moment, the Panthers are just hoping Carter can do what Lloyd did the last couple years -– kick off. But Carter has visions of someday being a field-goal kicker and Kasay can’t go on forever. This is a chance for Carter to get his foot in the door, but he’s got to show he can kick off and make the roster first. By the way, earlier today, I spotted what has to be –- and probably will continue to be unless he kicks his way to the Hall of Fame –- the most extensive story ever written about Carter.
The Falcons sent out a release a bit earlier with the dates and times for all of their preseason games. But they quickly called back to ask that we hold off a bit on the announcement because one of the games was not fully finalized. As soon as we know it’s official, we’ll let you know.
Former Carolina defensive tackle Damione Lewis officially has signed his new contract with New England.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper gives a slight edge to Ndamukong Suh over Gerald McCoy as the top defensive tackle in the draft. I tend to agree with that, but I think the Bucs would be happy to get either one.
Wide receiver Damian Williams reportedly will have a private workout for the Falcons on Saturday. Atlanta’s brass might want to ask Carolina’s brass about receivers from USC before getting too serious on this one.
The Falcons also reportedly will have workouts with defensive linemen Brian Price and Everson Griffen this weekend. Remember, these are just workouts. This doesn’t mean the Falcons are going to draft all these guys.
The Panthers signed kicker Todd Carter. He’s there as a kickoff specialist. If he shows enough leg, the Panthers might let him handle the void left by Rhys Lloyd’s departure. If not, punter Jason Baker is a fallback option to handle that duty.
Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson writes the team was wise to get quarterback Josh Freeman in last year’s draft rather than waiting until this year to take a quarterback. Completely agree, and as Carlson also points out, Freeman is way ahead of anyone in this year’s draft.
- The Falcons have re-signed long-snapper Joe Zelenka.
- The Panthers have signed wide receiver Wallace Wright. Don’t get too excited. He’s not even close to a candidate to fill the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver spot, something the Panthers desperately need. Wallace was pretty much just a special-teams player in his time with the Jets.
- Safety Darren Sharper still is saying he would like to re-sign with the Saints. He also recently had minor knee surgery.
- Although the Falcons frequently talk about the “process,’’ Daniel Cox points out the signing of cornerback Dunta Robinson shows the team is moving with a sense of urgency.
- The Saints reportedly are showing interest in defensive tackles Jamal Williams and Maake Kemoeatu. Sounds like Williams is the first target.
- Former Carolina kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd has signed with Minnesota. Lloyd did a nice job handling kickoffs for the Panthers the past two years. But the Panthers have been shedding a bunch of luxuries and a kickoff specialist no longer seems like a necessity. Field goal kicker John Kasay and punter Jason Baker have handled kickoff duties in the past, but neither excels in that role.
A quick trip through Friday’s final reports on the status of the injuries that matter most in the NFC South.
The Saints have said defensive tackles Sedrick Ellis and Kendrick Clancy will not play Sunday. With only two healthy defensive tackles on the roster right now, look for the Saints to make a roster move. If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll bring DeMario Pressley up from the practice squad. Receiver Lance Moore also will be out. That just means more passes for the rest of the New Orleans army of receivers.
Tampa Bay receivers Michael Clayton and Antonio Bryant both are listed as questionable. Fill in your own punch line. I say go ahead and start rookie Sammie Stroughter – now and for the rest of the season. At least we know he’ll be around next year.
Carolina kicker John Kasay is listed as questionable. The Panthers can turn to kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd for field goals and extra points. But you might be shocked by the drop off in accuracy between these two.
The Falcons are listing 10 players as questionable. But the good news is coach Mike Smith indicated receiver Roddy White and tackle Sam Baker should be able to play.
Time for a quick run through the most significant injuries in the NFC South. Surprisingly, as we approach midseason, there aren’t that many of note.
As expected Tampa Bay return man/running back Clifton Smith was out after suffering a concussion during Sunday’s big hit by Carolina’s Dante Wesley. Look for Smith to be out at least one game and look for rookie Sammie Stroughter to handle return duties. The other injury of note is that defensive tackle Chris Hovan sat out with an ankle injury. Not sure how significant the injury is and Hovan’s nearing the end of the road, but the possibility of being without a starter is not good news as the Bucs get ready for the Patriots.
The Falcons may have to do some shuffling in the backfield as they prepare for Dallas. Jerious Norwood (hip) and Ovie Mughelli (calf) sat out practice and starting running back Michael Turner (chest) was limited. We’ll assume Turner will be ready to go, but the Falcons may have to start Verron Haynes at fullback and let Jason Snelling be the top backup at both running back and fullback.
No surprise that New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita (calf) sat out. The injury looked somewhat serious when it happened Sunday. Troy Evans filled in for Fujita on Sunday and it looks like he’ll get the start against Miami on Sunday. Tight end Jeremy Shockey (shoulder) was limited, but the veteran might have been just getting a little rest.
Carolina remained relatively healthy, but kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd (ankle) did not practice. If he can’t kick, punter Jason Baker or field goal kicker John Kasay would have to handle kickoffs.
|G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images|
|After recording 14.5 sacks last season, Julius Peppers said he wanted out of Carolina. The defensive end eventually agreed to play for the franchise tender.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The good news is the Carolina Panthers were 12-4 last year and return 20 of 22 starters.
"We don't have any reason to be bad," All-Pro offensive tackle Jordan Gross said.
The bad news is coming off a winning season has never led to good things for the Panthers. In their short existence (the franchise began play in 1995), the Panthers never have been able to put together back-to-back winning seasons. That's a fact that weighs heavily on the minds of owner Jerry Richardson, head coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney.
The Panthers have won big at times -- making the Super Bowl in the 2003 season and the NFC Championship Game in the 2005 season -- but they've also followed up with some massive flops. Take the 2006 season, when they were the trendy pick to win the Super Bowl after adding the supposed missing link (Keyshawn Johnson). Instead, with injuries and locker-room dysfunction playing big roles, they were one of the NFL's most disappointing teams.
Preventing that kind of downturn this year is a big theme in Carolina's camp. Like Gross said, there really is no reason for the Panthers to be bad. The only starters they're missing from last year are cornerback Ken Lucas, who was getting older and was released in a salary-cap move, and defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu, who went out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon on the first day of camp.
Other than that, the Panthers look a lot like the NFC South champions of last year.
"There's no doubt that back-to-back winning seasons is on the front burner for us this year," Hurney said. "We've always said we wanted to be consistently competitive and we have been. But the next step is to win in back-to-back years. We started this in '02 by saying we wanted to draft well, develop young players and keep your core players. That philosophy is probably more evident now than at any time since we started this in 2002. We were able to keep the core players we identified over the past year and, now, as a result, I think we need our young players to step up and fill those holes as far as backups and depth."
The Panthers have kept the nucleus of last year's team together, re-signing Gross to a huge new contract, extending the contract for quarterback Jake Delhomme and forcing defensive end Julius Peppers to play for the franchise tender. But those moves have come at a high cost.
With almost no salary-cap room, the Panthers didn't sign a single player in free agency and they watched as some key backups walked away. Depth is a question mark almost everywhere. Carolina has a very good starting lineup. But is that enough to give the Panthers back-to-back winning seasons?
"It starts with having enough depth to sustain," Hurney said. "Different things happened in different seasons in the past. But drafting well and having a young base is really important as far as staying ahead of the game and not having to go out in free agency and bring in guys a lot. If you draft well and bring those guys up, you have a continuity in there that should keep you competitive. Continuity is a result of bringing in the right guys from the start."
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Let's talk NFC South kickers for a bit because we probably will be talking about them a lot more once training camps get going.
There's the potential for three intriguing battles, so let's take a look at each. We'll leave Atlanta out because Jason Elam is probably as safe as any player on an NFC South roster aside from Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Steve Smith.
But it's not the same story elsewhere. Let's start in Tampa, where the Bucs could have the best battle of the kickers.
It was kind of a curious move in the offseason when the Bucs signed Mike Nugent to a $2.4 million contract for one year. That's huge money for a kicker, especially when you have an established one like Matt Bryant. But there's some solid logic behind this one.
Since Raheem Morris took over, the Bucs have made it clear they want as much competition as possible at every position. They've got it at kicker. Nugent missed almost all of last season with an injury, but he had three good years with the Jets before that. If he can return to his previous form, Nugent will provide a serious challenge to Bryant. If not, the big contract isn't that big a deal. The Bucs structured it so there would be only a minimal salary-cap hit if they release Nugent.
In New Orleans, the Saints have Garrett Hartley as the only kicker on the roster -- at the moment. Hartley was signed last October and gave the Saints some much-needed stability in the kicking game. The Saints are hoping that will continue, but Hartley only has half a season of NFL experience. If there are any signs of trouble, the Saints won't hesitate to consider other options at kicker.
Carolina has a unique situation in which John Kasay is the elder statesman of the team. Even in the cruel NFL world, Kasay probably goes out only when he decides to retire. Seriously, he's got that much credibility with owner Jerry Richardson, coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney. And Kasay's not ready to retire.
But that's where things get a little interesting. The Panthers carried kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd last year and there's no doubt he was a help when it came to field position. Lloyd also can kick field goals and extra points, but he's not going to beat out Kasay in those areas. The issue here is the roster spot. Can Fox once again afford to carry a kickoff specialist or would he consider letting punter Jason Baker, who has kicked off in the past, take on that role to get another player on the roster?
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
For months now, Marty Hurney and John Fox have been getting credit for some of their big moves (their handling of the Steve Smith-Ken Lucas fight in training camp and the drafting of Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah), but those weren't the only key moves the Carolina general manager and coach have made.
|Kevin Terrell/Getty Images|
|John Fox and the Panthers host the Cardinals Saturday night.|
Time for a look at four other (some subtle, some pretty major) moves Fox and Hurney have made to put the Panthers where they're at:
1. They blew up the offensive line and made it better. Drafting Otah was only one in a series of moves the Panthers made as they ended up with new starters at each of the five positions. They started by trying to play to strengths -- putting Jordan Gross at left tackle and Travelle Wharton at left guard, the spots where they're most effective. They plugged in Otah at right tackle, cleared the way for second-year pro Ryan Kalil to take over at center and let Keydrick Vincent arise from a handful of candidates for the right guard spot. It's all worked out with Carolina having the most physical offensive line in franchise history.
2. They didn't try to overdo it when the defensive line blew up. Mike Rucker retired and Kris Jenkins wanted out of Charlotte more than the Panthers wanted to get rid of him. Fox and Hurney didn't panic as a defensive line once filled with big names dwindled down to Julius Peppers. They stuck with defensive tackles Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis, who already were on the roster and went out and signed end Tyler Brayton, who had been a bust in Oakland. Throw in second-year pro Charles Johnson and the Panthers found strength in numbers, instead of names. Of course, it also helped that Peppers bounced back from whatever slowed him last year.
3. They took a chance. Fox and Hurney are two of the most by-the-book guys in the NFL. That's why it was more than a little surprising when they burned a roster spot by keeping kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. But that's turned out to be an excellent move. Lloyd set a record (at least in the K-ball era) with 30 touchbacks.
4. They went for the sure thing. Faced with the annual rite of finding a receiver to complement Smith, the Panthers reached back into their past and signed Muhsin Muhammad. Deduct a point for also signing D.J. Hackett, who's been worthless, but give them at least two points for bringing back Muhammad. He's been a solid possession receiver and has brought a strong veteran presence to the locker room.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
This is a nice touch by coach John Fox who lets non-captains become captains when they're playing a game with special meaning. Although Lloyd gets a lot of attention for being English, he played his college ball at the University of Minnesota.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
This will be the final mailbag before the start of the regular season. Your questions were great and keep them coming.
David in Charlotte writes: What do you think of Rhys Lloyd? I think if Carolina is going to be successful this year Lloyd will be a HUGE part of it. I haven't seen him kick a kickoff yet that wasn't inside the five, and he routinely plants them 5 yards deep in the endzone. The difference in opponents starting field position will be huge for the panthers D this year. Your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: Short kickoffs have been a problem for several years. That's why John Fox broke from tradition and sacrificed a roster spot to keep Lloyd, a kickoff specialist. I think it definitely will help in the field-position game.
Ronald in Lynchburg VA writes: I've got $100 bet on this. Do you think the Atlanta Falcons can win the NFC South? especially with the major injury questions for the other teams in the division.
Pat Yasinskas: I don't know if Virginia has a state lottery or if you're anywhere near a casino. I'd go one of those routes. Your odds are better. Or see if you can get out of the bet and save $100. Seriously, the Falcons may be better than we all expect, but that would be like a five- or six-win season. The division? Even thinking about that is a year away.
Daryl in Alberta writes: All I've heard all summer is that Moore is an up and comer and potential future starter. I've also been reading that Basanez is in that Romo-mode, unknown who has the mental attributes to surprise, a poor man Delhomme. All of a sudden your knocking them though? I dont get it chief, you gotta explain that one.
Pat Yasinskas: If I'm "knocking'' the Panthers, it's because I'm simply pointing out they went through their entire offseason at quarterback going with three guys in one direction. Then, Moore goes down with an injury and they suddenly feel the need to trade for an "experienced'' quarterback in Josh McCown. No knock on him, but he's being thrust into an offense with less than a week to learn it. They also cut Basanez with the implication being he wasn't developing in the way they thought he would. Then, because of the Moore injury, they turn right around and sign him to the practice squad. Just seems like some panicky moves from a team that seemed to be so set at quarterback. Of course, it will all be moot if Jake Delhomme stays healthy all year.
Wally in parts unknown writes: Hey Pat, You are the NFC South blogger, you have seen the teams first hand. Gene Wojciechowski recently had a predictions article where he picked the Saints 3rd in the division and said the following: "[The Saints can win the division] But none of it happens unless the Saints' offensive line (this time without center Jeff Faine, who signed a free-agent deal with the Bucs) do a little something we like to call "pass blocking." Don't get me wrong, there are valid reasons to pick the Saints third, but pass blocking is FAR from it. The Saints allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL last year while Drew Brees was throwing the ball more then anyone in the NFL. To me that translates to the Best Pass Blocking OLine in the NFL. Would you kindly report this fact to Gene. I would hate to think that an ESPN columnist of his stature was writing such articles with out a fact checker.
Pat Yasinskas: You are correct, the Saints did allow the fewest sacks in the league last year and I'll pass that on to Gene if I ever get to meet him. But I don't think all the credit should go to an offensive line that's not that dominating. Brees is helped by the fact that New Orleans rarely throws the deep ball and he's not exposed to pass rushers for long. The bread and butter of this offense is the quick passing game where rushers don't have time to get near Brees. Plus, Brees does a good job of unloading the ball before anyone can get to him.
JP in Yadkinville, NC writes: Ok ... Understand you are trying to pick a single player for a position but with the increased use of dual RB's in the same backfeild why not compare them to individual stand out's at the position. For example ... why not compare a tandem RB's from one team if they get the same production frome a dual back system???
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I was just basing it on single backs when I picked my preseason All-NFC South squad. But you bring up a good point because it's crucial to have two good backs on a team these days. I think the NFC South is primed to do that with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood in Atlanta, Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in New Orleans and Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett in Tampa Bay. I won't rank them now because I want to see how things are divided in each situation. But I'll rank them and do a post on that around midseason.
Someone who didn't include their name in Raleigh writes: Hey Pat, keep up the good work covering the NFC South. In my opinion people are being a little bit too critical of the Panthers defensive trench. The unit has played well all preseason. I know they won't come out and destroy opposing o-lines, but at the very least they can be solid enough to free up our linebacking group, which has more depth than perhaps anyone with Beason, Davis, Diggs, Johnson, Seward, and rookie Conner. If the road-graders can do that the defense should be successful in my opinion. What are your thoughts on that and also do you think the defensive playcalling will finally utilize our linebackers in the blitz more often to cover up any deficiency the line might show?
Pat Yasinskas: Carolina's defensive line was promising in the preseason. If that carries over into the regular season, this could be a great defense. But let's see that line play that way in the regular season first. Love the linebackers and, yeah, I think you'll see more blitzes, particularly from Thomas Davis.
Hammock62 in parts unknown writes: Having seen the Falcons this preseason do you think the OL is good enough to allow Ryan the time to Throw the ball deep?
Pat Yasinskas: I have no doubt Ryan can throw the deep ball, but I don't think that's going to be practical from the start. They've got rookie left tackle Sam Baker protecting Ryan's blind side and Baker's going to have some ups and downs. He's also going to get attacked by every defensive front in the league. If I were calling the shots for the Falcons, I'd stick to a short and medium passing game just to keep Ryan from getting too beat up.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Some random thoughts as cutdown day comes to an end.
More than a little surprised the Panthers kept kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. A move like that is out of character for coach John Fox who usually plays things straight by the book. By keeping Lloyd, the Panthers will only carry four running backs (DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, fullback Brad Hoover and Nick Goings, who can play both positions). But I think Fox made a good move because short kickoffs have been a problem for the Panthers in recent years.
The Bucs kept four quarterbacks, but you still have to wonder if they have a true quarterback of the future. As long as Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese are around and healthy, Luke McCown's not going to get on the field. Rookie Josh Johnson's not even close to being ready to contribute. No matter how this season plays out for Tampa Bay's quarterbacks, don't be surprised if Jon Gruden, who is more than a little infatuated with quarterbacks, goes out and addresses the position again after the season.
To the surprise of many, the Saints kept cornerbacks Jason David, Jason Craft and Aaron Glenn on the roster. That gives the Saints seven cornerbacks, but don't expect them to go through the entire season with this many. Carrying the extra help might be nothing more than an early precaution because Mike McKenzie is coming back from major knee surgery and Usama Young has been battling an injury.
The Falcons kept six wide receivers, but that decision wasn't because the team expects Brian Finneran or Adam Jennings to catch many passes. Finneran, who missed two seasons with knee problems, stuck because he's expected to play a big role on special teams. Jennings stayed because he's likely to be the punt returner.