NFC South: Seneca Wallace

Around the NFC South

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
10:00
AM ET
Time to catch up on some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

The Falcons are game planning for their exhibition with Tennessee. That’s something the team didn’t do for the first two preseason games. The starters are likely to get extended playing time. Last year, the starters played into the third quarter of the third preseason game and I think you can expect a similar scenario this time around.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Jon Beason has returned to practice and is making the transition from middle linebacker to the weak side. But coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers want to be creative in how they use Beason. His versatility could allow the Panthers to mix things up at linebacker and keep offenses off balance.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

It appears as if wide receiver Marques Colston is getting healthy. He practiced for the first time since Aug. 8.

Although the release of Seneca Wallace means that Luke McCown is the backup quarterback, McCown said he still feels like he has more to prove. McCown has had a strong preseason and he’s a veteran. The Saints are better off at backup quarterback than they have been in a long time.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Ira Kaufman writes that backup running backs Mike James, Brian Leonard and Peyton Hillis all have been impressive in the preseason. The Bucs are going to face a big decision here because it’s likely they’ll only keep two of those three behind starter Doug Martin. Hillis is the most experienced of the bunch, but he could be hurt by the fact that he doesn’t play special teams.
It appears as though Luke McCown has won the backup quarterback job for the New Orleans Saints.

The team released veteran Seneca Wallace on Monday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The two were brought in to compete for the backup job behind Drew Brees after Chase Daniel left as a free agent. But the competition never really materialized.

Wallace missed a chunk of training camp with a groin injury and sat out the preseason opener. McCown shined while getting extended play in the first preseason game.

Wallace made his debut last week against Oakland, and things didn’t go well. The Saints turned the ball over on all three of the possessions he was on the field for.

Observation deck: Saints-Raiders

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
11:14
PM ET

The early part of Friday night’s 28-20 victory by the New Orleans Saints over the Oakland Raiders made me flash back four years.

Back in a 2009 preseason game the Saints went out to Oakland and humiliated the Raiders. I ended up writing a post in which I said New Orleans looked like it was heading for the Super Bowl. When the Saints got to the Super Bowl some five months later, some New Orleans fans pointed back to that post and said I was clairvoyant.

The truth was I wrote that tongue in cheek. I was complimenting the Saints, but I also was pointing out that the Raiders looked terrible.

I’m doing the same things now (based mostly on the way the Saints dominated the first half, which is all that matters in a preseason game). But, hey, if the Saints do end up going to the Super Bowl again, you can say you heard it here first.

Some other observations on the Saints:
  • For those worried about the pass rush, relax a bit. The Saints produced five sacks in the first half. You can put some of the blame on the makeshift Oakland offensive line. But the Saints deserve some credit, too. The first-team defense looked very good.
  • Inside linebacker Curtis Lofton sat out with an unspecified injury. Ramon Humber took his place and came up with a tackle for a loss on a running play and a sack. With inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma also missing some time after knee surgery, Humber might have a chance at some playing time in the regular season.
  • One of the more intriguing competitions is for the Saints' third-receiver spot. Rookie Kenny Stills and second-year pro Nick Toon both played well. Toon, who isn’t a prototypical deep threat, caught a 56-yard pass from Drew Brees early in the game. Stills, who does have the tools to be a deep threat, caught a 16-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
  • Running back Travaris Cadet didn’t help his chances of landing a roster spot as he lost a fumble in the third quarter. Cadet had another third-quarter fumble, but the Saints were able to recover that one.
  • Quarterback Seneca Wallace, who is competing with Luke McCown for the backup job behind Brees, didn’t have a good outing. The Saints turned the ball over three times while Wallace was in the game. McCown appears to have the inside track for the backup job.

Around the NFC South

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
9:37
AM ET
Time for our morning run through the news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Roddy White, who left Thursday night’s game with an ankle injury, gave a thumbs up on Twitter. But coach Mike Smith wasn’t ready to address any injuries.

Dominique Davis showed huge improvement in the second preseason game. Davis might have done enough to wrap up the backup job behind Matt Ryan.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Linebacker Chase Blackburn had to leave Thursday night’s game with a back injury. After the game, Blackburn said he had a back spasm and that he should be all right in a day or two.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

We’ll get a much better idea of where things stand in the backup quarterback competition Friday night. Seneca Wallace is scheduled to play after Drew Brees. Wallace didn’t play in the preseason opener as he recovered from a groin injury. Luke McCown turned in a solid performance in the opener, and Wallace will have to turn in a strong showing if he’s going to beat out McCown.

Coach Sean Payton confirmed that Jonathan Vilma had knee surgery, but wouldn’t give any more details or a time frame for the linebacker to return. Given Vilma’s age and injury history, I’d say the Saints better make sure David Hawthorne is ready to start if needed.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Scott Reynolds writes that defensive end Da’Quan Bowers needs to answer the wake-up call that coach Greg Schiano has been sending. Schiano has repeatedly made it clear Bowers needs to play more consistently if he’s going to be an every-down defensive end. The ability is there, but Bowers needs to step things up to solidify his role.

The Bucs will have one half of their guard tandem playing in Friday night’s preseason game. Carl Nicks, who missed half of last season with a toe injury, is expected to make his debut. But Davin Joseph, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will sit this one out.

NFC South Stock Watch

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
11:00
AM ET
Now that the first round of preseason games are over, let’s take a look at whose stock is rising and falling around the NFC South:

RISING

Luke McCown. The New Orleans backup quarterback had a productive outing. He’s competing with Seneca Wallace for the backup job behind Drew Brees. Wallace has been slowed by injury. McCown has used his opportunity to put some distance between himself and Wallace.

Josh Norman. The Carolina cornerback had two interceptions in the preseason opener and returned one of them for a touchdown. Norman has spent most of camp working with the second team, but his performance could put him in contention for a starting job.

Paul Worrilow. The Atlanta rookie linebacker opened some eyes by making 11 tackles. Worrilow’s not a candidate to start, but it’s looking like he has a shot to make the roster as a backup and special teams player.

FALLING

Dominique Davis. Atlanta’s backup quarterback didn’t have a good outing against Cincinnati. The Falcons still have high hopes for Davis, but if he doesn’t show a little more in what’s left of the preseason they may be forced to bring in a veteran backup.

Da'Quan Bowers. Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano already has made it clear he expects more out of Bowers. The Bucs want the third-year player to be an every-down player at defensive end. The Bucs obviously believe Bowers has that kind of ability or else they wouldn’t have let Michael Bennett depart through free agency. But it’s time for Bowers to start living up to his potential.

Tampa Bay's special teams. Three bad special teams plays by the Bucs handed Baltimore 17 points. Special teams coach Dave Wannstedt has to get things cleaned up before the start of the regular season.

Film of the NFC South chat

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
9:36
AM ET
Let's take a look at some team-by-team highlights from Friday's NFC South chat:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Van (Georgia): Pat, do you see the Falcons increasing their search for a veteran backup QB given how Dominique Davis still struggled a bit last night?

Pat Yasinskas: Think they'll take another long look at DD next week. If he doesn't perform better, then I see them bringing in a veteran once teams start making roster cuts.

Luis (Albuquerque): Hey Pat, Liked what I saw from Matt Ryan and Co. Want to see the line get more of a push on 3rd and short, but a few more games to get that fixed. My concern is still Mobile QB's. Josh Johnson put on a clinic with his legs, continuing drives, long gainers. Any concern from you?

PY: Yep, the mobile QB thing was what I led my post with last night. They've got to get that fixed because they face several mobile QBs on this year's schedule.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Brent S (Raleigh, NC): What have you heard/seen about Shulas offense? Will it be similar to Chuds? Hopefully they will not run the read option to much.

PY: Think it will be similar to what they did the last eight games or so of last season. Think there will be less read option.

AP (Charlotte): Which is more likely in Carolina? Armanti Edwards finally putting it together with the lights on this year or David Gettis recreating his rookie success?

PY: Shocked I'm saying this, but I'll go with Edwards.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

ramon (mexico city): yeah sure. i have one...why are my saints front office not looking for an outside verteran option at QB..Seneca Wallace? Luke McCown? I mean, god forbid but if Brees goes down...i see neither of them carrying the complex Peyton offense.

PY: They went with Chase Daniel as backup the last few years. McCown and Wallace are better than Daniel ever was.

Daniel (Nashville): How did Hicks look when you were in NOLA for training camp? Do you think he will end up benefiting the most with Coleman out for the year?

PY: Thought Hicks looked very good. Saw him make some nice plays against the run and swatted down a couple of passes. I think he'll start in Coleman's place.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Darin (Louisville, Ky): Hey Pat. If Hillis can stay healthy, u think the Bucs could have the best RB tandom in the division?

PY: Not sure they'd be looking to use Hillis in tandem. More like insurance. They want Martin to be a work horse.

David (Raleigh): Mike Glennon looked pretty decent last night for the Bucs. Will he start at some point this year?

PY: Didn't think he looked good enough that we'd be getting this question already. Freeman would have to really bomb for Glennon to start this year.

Here’s the complete transcript of Friday’s NFC South chat.

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.
Three things to watch for when the New Orleans Saints play the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday:

1. The wide receivers. With Joe Morgan lost for the season, the competition for the third wide receiver spot is wide open. Veteran Steve Breaston was brought in, but the Saints want to take an extended look at some of their young receivers, including Nick Toon and Kenny Stills.

2. The backup quarterbacks. Drew Brees likely will make only a quick appearance because the Saints are well aware of what he can do. But they need to get a look at Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace in game conditions. McCown might have a slight edge because Wallace missed some practice time with an injury, but this competition remains wide open.

3. The left tackles. Charles Brown has gotten virtually all of the first-team work in training camp. But he doesn’t have the starting job locked down just yet. Brown needs to perform well under game conditions and the Saints also want to take a look at rookie Terron Armstead.

NFC South afternoon update

August, 2, 2013
8/02/13
2:49
PM ET
Time for an afternoon run through some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Defensive end Cliff Matthews added about 10 pounds in the offseason at the team’s request. The Falcons want to move Matthews inside on some of their packages. I think you’re going to see the Falcons rotate their defensive linemen even more than they have in the past.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are competing for the starting right cornerback spot. Although Trufant was the first-round pick, Alford might have an early advantage because he was able to take part in all of the offseason program while Trufant had to sit out some of it due to NCAA and NFL rules.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Frank Kearse both left practice with sore backs and receiver Domenik Hixon left with a hamstring injury. Coach Ron Rivera has talked about various ways he’s tried to prevent camp injuries. But this is the point of camp where fatigue sets in and injuries are bound to follow.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

A fan was arrested after trying to get on the field during Friday morning’s practice.

Reserve quarterback Seneca Wallace (groin injury) is among eight players that won’t take part in Saturday’s scrimmage.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Undrafted cornerback Rashaan Melvin has been one of the pleasant surprises of camp. He faces an uphill battle to make the roster. But he has a chance if he continues to perform like he has and shows he can contribute on special teams.

NFC South afternoon update

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
4:37
PM ET
Time for a spin through some odds and ends from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The team moved punter Michael Koenen to the active roster. Koenen had been on the inactive list at the start of camp due to a toe injury.

Martin Fennelly has a nice column on Annie Roberts. She’s the mother of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and undoubtedly played a big role in shaping his career.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Forbes reports that Saint owner Tom Benson will collect about $400 million in state subsidies through 2025. The report says the lease agreement Benson signed for the Mercedes-Benz Superdome four years ago is one of the most complex and lucrative in NFL history.

Seneca Wallace, who is competing with Luke McCown for the backup quarterback job, missed Wednesday’s practice with a groin injury.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Scott Fowler writes that defensive end Greg Hardy could end up being the most outlandish character in franchise history. Read Fowler’s column and you’ll understand why. The Panthers haven't gotten a lot of attention in recent years. But, if they start winning, Hardy has the potential to become a darling for the national media.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Daniel Cox has a story on former Atlanta offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka, who is pursuing a career in professional wrestling.

The team had the day off and will return to practice Thursday.

NFC South backup QB situations

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
12:02
PM ET
With NFC South teams heading to training camp later this week, let’s take a look at the backup quarterback situations around the division.

Aside from Carolina, where Derek Anderson seems set as Cam Newton’s backup, nothing else is definite.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After some awkward moments early in the offseason, coach Greg Schiano finally made it clear that Josh Freeman is the team’s starter. But the competition for the backup job could be one of the most intriguing things in training camp. Rookie Mike Glennon will compete with veteran Dan Orlovsky for the backup job. If Glennon can beat out Orlovsky, he could be looking at playing time if Freeman gets off to a bad start.

Atlanta Falcons. The team is high on Dominique Davis, who looked great in the preseason last year. But the Falcons traditionally have carried a veteran as Matt Ryan’s backup. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Falcons bring in a veteran from elsewhere later in the preseason.

New Orleans Saints. Chase Daniel is gone and the Saints have veterans Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace and rookie Ryan Griffin on the roster behind Drew Brees. It’s likely the Saints will keep only one of the veterans and they could keep Griffin around as a developmental project.

Carolina Panthers. Anderson probably is the division’s best backup. Jimmy Clausen, who started in 2010, is a distant third on the depth chart as he heads into the final year of his contract.

Links: Freeman 'content' to leave Bucs

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
9:38
AM ET
Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons signing of Steven Jackson was the top offseason move, according to Adam Schein of NFL.com.

The Falcons have announced their training camp schedule. They'll open on July 25.

Carolina Panthers

Chris Canty, who most recently played defensive lineman for the New York Giants, was hoping to catch on with his home town Panthers, but it didn't work out. “They needed a lot of players. I think the direction they wanted to go was to get as many quality players as they could at a bargain price,” Canty said. “Quite frankly, I wasn’t going to be able to come in and play for what they would have liked, what they could have afforded.”

New Orleans Saints

The Washington Post's Football Insider blog previews the upcoming season for the New Orleans Saints, writing "with [Sean] Payton back and [Rob] Ryan on board, it does not seem unrealistic to believe the Saints will be back in contention for an NFC playoff spot."

Saints backup quarterback Seneca Wallace is more than happy to help in a secondary role. "At this point, everybody know it's his team," Wallace said of [Drew] Brees.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With the Bucs holding out on a contract extension for Josh Freeman until the end of 2013, the quarterback told a local radio station he'd be "content" if he moves on.

Bucs coach Greg Schiano lost a good friend in actor James Gandolfini with his passing on Wednesday. Schiano and Gandolfini became an unlikely tandem in a 2001 Rutgers commercial.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints just finished the first practice session of their minicamp.

Let’s take a quick run through some notes, highlights and observations:
  • Cornerback Keenan Lewis was not at practice. Coach Sean Payton said Lewis was “held out’’, but did not elaborate on the reason. Update: Nakia Hogan reports that Lewis briefly was hospitalized with stomach pains, but could be back for Wednesday's practice.
  • Jason Smith, who is competing for the starting left tackle spot, limped off the field about halfway through practice and was taken to the locker room.
  • Most of the talk about the safeties has centered on veterans Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins, and rookie Kenny Vaccaro. Harper and Jenkins worked with the first team Tuesday, and Vaccaro worked with the second team. But the one safety I saw make several big plays was backup Isa Abdul-Quddus.
  • Payton has said second-year running back Travaris Cadet has some similarities to Darren Sproles. But Cadet will have to come up with some big plays to make Payton and the coaches forget about what happened on a short pass about halfway through practice. The perfectly-thrown pass went right through Cadet’s hands and was intercepted by Corey White.
  • There clearly is a competition for the backup quarterback spot between Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace. I thought Wallace had the better performance Tuesday morning. I also think the Saints might be wise to keep Wallace. His mobility could be used on the scout team to help the defense get ready for the likes of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
  • Wide receiver Jarred Fayson was the first name Payton mentioned when asked which young players stood out to him. Fayson had several nice catches. Fayson and cornerback Rod Sweeting had a brief shoving match after they collided at the end of one of Fayson’s catches.
  • Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he was impressed by the performance of rookie linebacker Rufus Johnson. He’s working behind Will Smith and Junior Galette at “Jack’’ linebacker. I saw Johnson swat down a pass, and he looks like he has some quickness.
  • Running back Mark Ingram hasn’t been much of a threat as a pass-catcher. But the Saints seemed to be throwing to him a fair amount Tuesday. I think that might be a sign of things to come.
  • I’ll have much more on Ryan and the defense in my Thursday column. But, for now, let’s just say I was impressed with how many different defensive packages the Saints put on the field Tuesday morning.
There are a lot of people buzzing about how the Atlanta Falcons should go out and sign veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour because he might be the missing link to a Super Bowl championship.

I don’t dispute that point. But I think the Falcons are missing another link and no one seems to be talking about it.

I think the Falcons currently have a huge void at backup quarterback. Yeah, everything’s great as long as Matt Ryan stays healthy.

But all the Falcons have behind him at the moment are second-year pro Dominique Davis and rookies Sean Renfree and Seth Doege. I liked what I saw out of Davis last preseason and the Falcons wouldn’t have drafted Renfree if they didn’t see something.

But the Falcons are a team that appears to be on the cusp of a Super Bowl. Let’s say Ryan goes down for a game or two. Can a team like the Falcons really afford to put their season into Davis’ hands?

I don’t think so. This is too talented a team to hand over to a quarterback that never has played in an NFL game. I think the Falcons need to add a veteran backup. That’s what they’ve had in recent years -- first, with Chris Redman and, last year, with Luke McCown. There’s not much out there right now, so I don’t think any move is imminent by the Falcons.

But, once other teams start releasing players in the preseason, I think the Falcons will pick up a veteran. It could even end up being McCown if he loses his battle with Seneca Wallace for the backup job in New Orleans.

Around the NFC South

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
9:22
AM ET
Let's take or morning run (or bike ride) through some news and notes from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

General manager Thomas Dimitroff is taking part in National Bike To Work Day. I don’t think we’ll see any roster moves out of the Falcons this morning.

Quarterback Matt Ryan turns 28 today. That’s a prime age to become one of the league’s highest-paid quarterbacks. The Falcons have stayed quiet about where negotiations are for an extension, but I suspect a deal will get done before training camp.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Linebacker Chase Blackburn figures to be a backup and special-teams player. But he’d be a starter if the Panthers were fielding a baseball team. Blackburn hit three home runs as members of the Panthers, including coach Ron Rivera, took batting practice before a Charlotte Knights game.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints have signed defensive tackle Isaako Aaitui. He’s spent time with the Dolphins and Jets, and will compete for a roster spot behind Brodrick Bunkley and John Jenkins.

Quarterback Luke McCown, who was cut by the Saints in the preseason last year, said he’s more optimistic about his chances of making the roster this year. He should be. Chase Daniel had a firm grip on the backup job last year. With Daniel leaving via free agency this year, the backup job is wide open. McCown and Seneca Wallace will compete for that spot, and McCown might have the early advantage because he knows the offense.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

With David Garrard reportedly retiring, Tampa Bay’s opener against the New York Jets could become even more of an intriguing game, Stephen Holder points out. The game already was matching up Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis against his former team. With Garrard gone, it means the Bucs could be going against rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

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