NFC South: Shann Schillinger

Bucs, Falcons make most of injuries

December, 4, 2012
When a team’s season goes bad, one common response is to point to injuries.

Sometimes that holds merit and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t have to look any further than the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to see that.

At least at the moment, the Panthers lead the division with 13 players on injured reserve. They are linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Ron Edwards, cornerback Chris Gamble, center Ryan Kalil, defensive end Thomas Keiser, cornerback Nate Ness, linebacker Kenny Onatolu, receiver Kealoha Pilares, guard Mike Pollak, safety Sherrod Martin, defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite, running back Tauren Poole and tackle Lee Ziemba.

The Buccaneers are right behind them with 10 players on injured reserve. They are receiver Arrelious Benn, linebacker Quincy Black, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, safety Cody Grimm, guard Davin Joseph, guard Carl Nicks, tight end Danny Noble, receiver Sammie Stroughter, tackle Jeremy Trueblood and offensive lineman Desmond Wynn.

Beason, Edwards, Gamble and Kalil were starters and Pilares was the kick returner. No doubt those injuries have hurt the Panthers.

But, guess what? Tampa Bay’s injury situation is virtually the same. Black, Clayborn, Joseph and Nicks were starters and Benn was returning kicks before he went down.

The difference is Tampa Bay has used its next-man-up philosophy, especially on the offensive line, and fared pretty well. The Panthers are 3-9 and I’ve got a hunch their record might be pretty close to the same even if all the injured guys were healthy.

Injuries matter but they’re not a cover-it-all excuse. We can look to the other two NFC South teams for proof of that. The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints each have eight players on injured reserve.

Atlanta’s injured players are fullback Bradie Ewing, tight end Tommy Gallarda, receiver Kerry Meier, tight end Adam Nissley, guard Garrett Reynolds, safety Shann Schillinger and tackle Will Svitek.

New Orleans’ injured reserve list includes linebacker Chris Chamberlain, receiver Chris Givens, tackle Bryce Harris, tackle Marcel Jones, defensive end Greg Romeus, guard Andrew Tiller, receiver Nick Toon and tackle Fenuki Tupou.

Grimes was a starter for the Falcons and Ewing might have been. Reynolds was starting up until his injury, but I think there’s a chance the Falcons still might have put rookie Peter Konz into the lineup. Chamberlain might have been a full-time starter for the Saints, but none of the rest of their injured guys would have been key players.

You could make a case the Falcons were hit harder than the Saints by injuries. But the Falcons are 11-1 and the Saints are 5-7.

NFC South afternoon update

August, 23, 2012
It’s time for our afternoon look at what’s going on across the NFC South:


The Bucs have rearranged their locker room so that players are no longer surrounded by their position group. Coach Greg Schiano wouldn’t go into a lengthy explanation. But I think you can read between the lines with one example -- LeGarrette Blount's locker is now next to Ronde Barber's. I think it’s fair to say that Blount’s a guy that hasn’t always been completely focused, while Barber’s a veteran with a reputation for being a dedicated professional. It’s pretty obvious the Bucs are hoping some of Barber will wear off on Blount.

The first wave of roster cuts (to 75 players) don’t have to come until Monday. But the Bucs went ahead and released three of their undrafted free agents.

Although he’s only practiced three times since being claimed off waivers, receiver Jordan Shipley is expected to get some playing time in Friday night’s preseason game. The Bucs might as well throw Shipley out there and see what he’s got because they’re going to have to be making more roster decisions pretty quickly.


Mark Bradley looks at the Falcons schedule and projects how they’ll fare in the regular season. He has them going 12-4 and winning the NFC South. It’s at least possible. One thing to note -- Bradley has the Falcons going 6-0 against division opponents.

Safety Shann Schillinger will miss the preseason game with the Dolphins due to a foot injury. This is somewhat significant because Schillinger seemingly is in a battle with rookie Charles Mitchell for the final safety spot.


Running back Mark Ingram said he doesn’t think that his development has been hurt as the Saints have limited his practice time during the preseason. Ingram said he still does mental reps during practices. The Saints have been cautious with Ingram because he dealt with several injuries as a rookie last year. I think the goal is to just make sure Ingram is totally healthy for the start of the season.

Special teams coordinator Greg McMahon said the kicking battle between Garrett Hartley and John Kasay will go right down to the wire. This is one of the best kicking battles I’ve ever seen because it features two guys who have made some very big kicks. Whichever one loses out in New Orleans will end up kicking for someone else this season.


Coach Ron Rivera said receiver Steve Smith’s injured foot is improving, but the team will be cautious on when he returns to the field. That’s the only way to go on this one. Smith’s a veteran and doesn’t need preseason games to prove anything.

Falcons sticking with 'the process'

September, 6, 2010
When I was on the phone with John Clayton on Sunday night working on our Great Debate for Wednesday, he threw out a great stat.

Clayton, who should have been a rocket scientist if he wasn’t so great at what he does, was breaking down rosters in every way you could imagine. According to Clayton, and this is current as of late last night, the Atlanta Falcons were tied with Minnesota for the fewest new players.

They have only eight new players on their roster. The list includes free-agent pickup Dunta Robinson, undrafted tight end Michael Palmer and the draft class -- linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Corey Peters, offensive linemen Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson, cornerback Dominique Franks and safety Shann Schillinger. Clayton’s list doesn’t include center Rob Bruggeman and running back Antone Smith because each of those guys spent time on Atlanta’s practice squad last year.

What’s this all mean? Coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff really are sticking to what they like to call “the process,’’ which basically means building through the draft, adding a free agent here and making sure you keep your core players.

It’s a formula a lot of teams talk about but don’t truly follow as they often get desperate and go outside for free agents. Entering their third season together, Smith and Dimitroff have stuck with the plan and it’s been highlighted by the spectacular 2008 draft class.

The Falcons have had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history, and their roster displays a lot of continuity. We’ll see if that translates into them winning big, but I think they’re headed in the right direction.

When you’re able to cut a player like cornerback Chevis Jackson, it shows you’ve built a roster with pretty strong depth.
Let’s take a quick look back at Atlanta’s 20-10 victory against Kansas City on Friday night. As always, it is merely preseason football, so the score and a lot of other things don't really matter. But let’s sort through what does matter.
  • The biggest question mark about the Falcons is the defense. Well, the early impressions were positive. The first-team defense held the Kansas City offense to just 15 yards on eight plays in the first quarter. Yes, it’s the Chiefs, but this was still a nice start for the defense.
  • The pass rush is the portion of that defense that everyone’s most concerned about. The early results on that were good, too. Kroy Biermann had a sack/fumble against Matt Cassel and Kansas City’s first-team offense. The Falcons have been talking a lot about how they’re going to rotate defensive linemen a lot this season. Biermann might not be a starter, but I think he and John Abraham will be the defensive ends in most passing situations.
  • Sticking with the defense, Cassel was accurate in the first quarter, completing six of eight passes. But that went for a total of 25 yards. In other words, Atlanta’s secondary wasn’t giving up any deep plays.
  • Speaking of the secondary, there’s been a quiet buzz around Atlanta’s camp about safety Shann Schillinger. That got louder against the Chiefs as Schillinger intercepted a pass and returned it 29 yards to set up Atlanta’s first touchdown. As a sixth-round pick, Schillinger was a guy the Falcons thought they might stash on the practice squad when they first drafted him. Now, they’re thinking he’s got a real shot at making the roster as a backup safety with a chance to be a real force on special teams.
  • One subtle thing that I thought was a very encouraging sign was that the Falcons used the no-huddle offense on their second series. I don’t have stats to back this up, but my general sense is they used that system a fair amount in quarterback Matt Ryan’s rookie year and seemed to have success with it. Last season, the Falcons seemed to get away from using it. I think Ryan’s a very sharp guy and would like to see him allowed to run the no-huddle offense a lot more this season.
  • Coach Mike Smith sounded happy with the debut of rookie linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. He started on the weak side as Mike Peterson sat out. Weatherspoon has been working on the strong side also. Everyone keeps asking if he’ll take Peterson’s place or be on the strong side in place of Stephen Nicholas. I don’t think the Falcons have really decided yet. But I think you still will see a lot of all three of those guys, because it sounds like the Falcons plan to rotate linebackers just like they’re going to do with defensive linemen.

NFC South links: Saints set camp slate

June, 29, 2010
Atlanta Falcons

The Gainesville Times has a Q&A with sixth-round pick Shann Schillinger.

Rookie Sean Weatherspoon is making a name for himself at the NFL's Rookie Symposium.

Carolina Panthers

Brad Rock of the Deseret News can understand Steve Smith wanting to play flag football, but he draws the line at a superstar receiver mowing his own lawn.

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees told AOL Fanhouse that he believes Brett Favre will return to play this season.

The Saints released their full training camp schedule on Monday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers check in at No. 18 in Jason Cole's rankings of the league's defensive lines.
The Falcons have taken the early lead in the NFC South -- at least when it comes to signing draft picks.

They now have signed five of their seven picks from the 2010 draft. The latest is third-round choice Mike Johnson, an offensive lineman from Alabama, who signed Saturday afternoon.

Along with Johnson, Corey Peters (third round), Joe Hawley (fourth round), Dominique Franks (fifth round) and Shann Schillinger (sixth round) already have signed.

Falcons make pair of moves

June, 10, 2010
The Falcons just announced a couple of transactions.

They have signed seventh-round draft pick Shann Schillinger. A safety out of Montana, Schillinger will get a chance to make the team as a backup safety and special-teams player. The Falcons also already have signed third-round pick Corey Peters.

The Falcons also said they have released quarterback Eric Ward. An Atlanta native, Ward played at Richmond and was signed as an undrafted free agent.