NFC South: Shelton Quarles
General manager Thomas Dimitroff tells D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the Falcons are not in a rush to get a contract together for quarterback Matt Ryan because, "We all know that Matt is going to be here for a long time."
For those who are interested in the Falcons' new stadium, the Atlanta Business Chronicle presents two slideshows that illustrate the proposed designs, as well as an illustration of how the stadium could spur more development.
Can Panthers quarterback Cam Newton continue to evolve into a marketing star? ESPN.com's Kristi Dosh examines where Newton stands and what it will take to cash in on more endorsements.
"Regardless of what type of season (Jon Beason) has, the Panthers should cut him at the end of the season. He won’t help them, so they shouldn’t help him," writes Brett Jensen of CBS Charlotte.
New Orleans Saints
Defensive tackle Tom Johnson tells the Sun Herald he's primed for a new position in the Saints' new defense, and he's ready for his role to expand.
Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt was one of many current and past Saints coaches and players who took part in the Black & Gold Classic on Friday, the Times-Picayune reports. "I came to support the cause and these great players," Vitt said of the event, which benefits the Green Beret and Navy Seal Foundation.
Cameron Jordan is ready to take on new coordinator Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense, a change from last season’s 4-3 alignment under Steve Spagnuolo that led to historically infamous results.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is Josh Freeman feeling the pressure to win in 2013? If he's not, the Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman writes the veteran quarterback should be.
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon talks about his goals for his first season with the Buccaneers.
Shelton Quarles, Jon Gruden, Josh Freeman and Doug Martin were just a few of the participants in a Celebrity Waiter Night to benefit Quarles' IMPACT Foundation.
- Josh Freeman became the first Tampa Bay quarterback to throw for two or more touchdowns in five consecutive games since Brad Johnson in 2002.
- Freeman compiled a 137.5 passer rating. He how has a passer rating over 100 in each of his last five games and is the only quarterback in franchise history to have such a streak reach five games.
- Freeman also has thrown a touchdown pass in 12 consecutive games. Freeman previously set the franchise record with a touchdown pass in 15 straight games during the 2010 and ’11 seasons.
- Leonard Johnson’s 83-yard interception return was the fourth-longest in franchise history. Shelton Quarles set the record with a 98-yard return in 2001 and Derrick Brooks had a 97-yard return in 2002. Sabby Piscitelli had an 84-yard return in 2008. But Piscitelli’s return didn’t go for a touchdown. The ones by Quarles, Brooks and Johnson did go for touchdowns.
- In the second quarter, Dekoda Watson blocked a punt and Adam Hayward picked it up and ran 29 yards for a touchdown. That was the first time the Bucs scored on a blocked punt since 2009.
- The Bucs scored a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams. That’s the first time they’ve done that since Oct. 18, 2009. It is only the fifth time in franchise history that the Bucs scored in all three phases.
- Rookie running back Doug Martin had 119 yards of total offense. That’s the sixth time this season that Martin has produced at least 100 yards from scrimmage. He’s done that in each of the last five games.
- Speaking of rookies, linebacker Lavonte David led the Bucs with 14 tackles and now leads the team with 81 on the season. Sunday marked the third time David has recorded 10 or more tackles in a game. He also had 16 last week against Oakland. David also leads the Bucs with 12 tackles for a loss.
Tampa Bay coordinator of pro scouting Shelton Quarles, also a former linebacker for the Bucs, reportedly was charged with driving under the influence early Friday morning.
D. Orlando Ledbetter has his latest mock draft and he has North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn going to the Falcons. Quinn may come with some baggage, but Ledbetter says the “good guys’’ in Atlanta’s locker room can keep him straight. Judging by what I’ve seen of Atlanta’s locker room, I’d tend to agree. I also think Atlanta’s coaching staff does a nice job of setting the tone for how players act.
Charlotte merchants say a labor lockout could have a devastating impact on their businesses. I think we’re safe to assume it would be the same for businesses in Atlanta, Tampa and New Orleans.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank is optimistic that a new labor deal can be reached and that there will be a 2011 season.
Here’s a look at Atlanta’s offense and some thoughts on why the play calling may be too conservative. I’m in partial agreement here. I’ve often said I’d like to see the Falcons open things up just a little bit more for quarterback Matt Ryan. But, at the same time, I realize coach Mike Smith believes in a system that includes a healthy dose of the running game. When you’ve got a running back like Michael Turner, you don’t totally abandon the running game.
Here’s one measure that says the Falcons and Buccaneers got the most out of their payrolls, while the Panthers got the least. I believe this formula has some truth to it in the case of the Falcons and the Bucs. But with the Panthers, I think the fact they won only two games, puts a pretty strong clamp on how you can quantify their use of payroll.
Former Tampa Bay linebacker Shelton Quarles talks about his rise to the position of coordinator of pro scouting for the Buccaneers.
Jim Skipper, who had been running backs coach for Carolina during the John Fox tenure, interviewed with new Panthers coach Ron Rivera. But it reportedly doesn’t look as if Skipper will remain with the Panthers. He has a standing invitation to join Fox’s staff in Denver.
The Saints suffered a pretty big loss Monday night. Secondary coach Dennis Allen will leave to become defensive coordinator in Denver. Aside from the playoff loss to Seattle, New Orleans’ secondary was a strong point last season.
Interesting quote from Atlanta owner Arthur Blank as he spoke to a business group. "You judge a quarterback on how he does in the fourth quarter and the postseason. You judge a golfer on not what he does on Saturday, but how does he close it out on Sunday." Blank didn't specifically mention Matt Ryan, but that is his quarterback. Ryan's shown outstanding play in fourth quarters, but he now is 0-2 in the postseason.
New Orleans defensive backs coach Dennis Allen reportedly will interview with Philadelphia and Denver for defensive coordinator positions.
Ricky Proehl reportedly interviewed with the Panthers for the job as receivers coach. Proehl has no coaching experience, but he was a longtime NFL receiver and spent a chunk of time with Carolina at the end of his career. During the stretch Proehl was viewed almost as an extra coach and showed a willingness to help young players. Proehl also enjoyed a good relationship with Steve Smith. That could be a factor in Proehl possibly getting the job and it could help make Smith, who has been frustrated by the team's recent losing, more comfortable.
The Panthers hired John Matsko as their offensive line coach. He most recently held the same role with the Ravens.
The Buccaneers officially promoted former linebacker Shelton Quarles to director of pro scouting. Quarles had been with the scouting department and had essentially taken over those duties when Doug Williams left the team after the 2009 season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. -- The idea for this column came straight from Jon Gruden. Then, the echoes started.
Gruden's right. It is time to start talking about Barrett Ruud.
|AP Photo/Chris O'Meara|
|Underrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Barrett Ruud, right, sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte.|
"Barrett Ruud,'' outside linebacker Cato June yelled as he stood at the locker next to Ruud's. "Barrett Ruud's the best middle linebacker in the league.''
So why, if you don't live in Nebraska or the greater Tampa Bay area, have you never heard of Ruud? Well, until Gruden's public plug, Ruud might have been one of the NFL's best-kept secrets.
If you still think Gruden and June are sensationalizing things, consider these weighty words:
"Yeah, I'll back up Gruden on that,'' said outside linebacker Derrick Brooks, who's headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years after he decides to stop playing. "Barrett's just putting it all on tape right now. Nothing can be a better promotion than putting it on tape. That's what I encourage him to do. I want him to be recognized in that way.''
What Ruud put on tape Sunday was the same thing he has all season. He had eight tackles, a sack, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hurries. But forget those numbers and go with this: Largely because of Ruud, the Bucs made Adrian Peterson look ordinary.
The Minnesota back finished with 85 yards on 19 carries. Take away a 22-yard burst in the first half and Peterson would have been as close to a non-factor as the best running back on the planet can be.
"Any team that can do that has done a good job,'' Ruud said.
Thing is, Ruud and the Bucs have done a great job all season. With an offense that has been inconsistent because of rotating quarterbacks and running backs, the defense has carried the Bucs to a 7-3 record. With Peterson now under their belts, the Bucs have held seven of the NFC's top 10 rushers (coming into this week) under 100 yards.
In nine of their 10 games, they didn't allow an opposing rusher to run for 100 yards and didn't allow a rushing touchdown. The only back the Bucs have given up 100 yards to was Jamaal Charles and the only running back to run for a touchdown was Kolby Smith. They both play for the Kansas City Chiefs, so you can debate if either feat really meant anything.
Tampa Bay's defense has been dominant because, as Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber near the end of their careers, Ruud has stepped up as a bridge between the past and the future.
"He's really good,'' defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "He's only going to get better.''
Ruud's gotten very good, very quickly. After the Bucs drafted him out of Nebraska in 2005, Ruud spent his first two seasons backing up Shelton Quarles. He took over as the starter last season and has helped the Bucs make the case that they might have the best linebacker corps in the NFL.
Ruud's an every-down linebacker who makes big plays -- he has three sacks and two interceptions. He started his emergence last season, but the campaign for a Pro Bowl berth is starting to go beyond Gruden.
Brooks and June will tell you he's the best middle linebacker in the league. Coaches and personnel guys from other teams at least will tell you he's among the best.
Perhaps the only one who doesn't realize it is Ruud.
"I know we do get kind of hidden down here in Tampa for whatever reason,'' Ruud said. "At the same time, all we can do is control what we do between the lines out there. That's kind of what you play for ... after the game, the players on the other team tell you they respect how you play.''
The respect is growing and the numbers of Ruud and the Tampa Bay defense against opposing runners this season speak volumes. Still, about the only guy in the locker room who wasn't pointing to Ruud as the league's best middle linebacker was Ruud.
When told of Gruden's comments, he politely gave his vote to Carolina's Jon Beason and then said there are lots of good middle linebackers in the NFL.
"I love watching other middle linebackers throughout the league play,'' Ruud said. "I've got a lot of respect for a lot of middle linebackers throughout the league. If I'm mentioned up there near the top of it, that's an honor for me.''
Ruud has been mentioned and it's not just by Gruden.