NFC South: Wildcat offense

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

January, 22, 2011
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We've got a weekend with no football in the NFC South. So let's reach into the mailbag and see what's on your minds.

Alvo in Washington, D.C. asks if the Carolina Panthers might give Armanti Edwards a shot at playing quarterback.

Pat Yasinskas: No. He was drafted as a receiver and a return man and that’s where he’ll get his shot. He doesn’t have the size or arm strength to play quarterback in the NFL. The people who drafted him, mainly general manager Marty Hurney, hope that Edwards can start contributing as a receiver and return man after doing almost nothing as a rookie. Besides, look at who the Panthers hired in their key offensive coaching positions. Coordinator Rob Chudzkinski and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula have nothing in their backgrounds that would suggest they're going to suddenly turn to a wildcat offense.


George in San Francisco says he’s a Saints’ fan and it pained him not to see Drew Brees as NFC South MVP. But he says Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman was worthy of winning the honor.

Pat Yasinskas: George, thanks for being an open-minded fan. As I pointed out in the article, I’m, by no means saying Freeman is a better quarterback than Brees. I’m just saying Freeman had more value to the Bucs this season. George also said he’s scared by Freeman’s upside and what that could mean in the NFC South for the next decade. I agree. I think we’re only seeing the beginning of how good Freeman can be, and if the Bucs can upgrade the rest of their roster, they can be a real contender very soon.


Hank in Montana says he also is a Saints’ fan, but has no problem with Freeman getting the award. However, Hank says I wasn’t accurate when I said Brees and Matt Ryan did what was expected of them and didn’t do anything special. He also asks who was the runner-up to Freeman.

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t want to undersell what Brees and Ryan did this season. It’s incredibly difficult to have a good season as an NFL quarterback, and both had good seasons. That’s why they’re going to the Pro Bowl. But I still believe Brees and Ryan pretty much did what was expected of them, largely because their past performances set the bar pretty high. Their teams each lost in their first postseason game. That’s why I’m saying they didn’t do anything special. As for a runner-up, I really don’t have an answer for you. I was trying to choose between Brees and Ryan when I thought about Freeman and his “value’’ to the Buccaneers. I saw Brees and Ryan basically even. If I hadn’t gone the Freeman route, I probably would have flipped a coin between Brees and Ryan. Or I might have gone in a different direction and given the award to Roddy White.

Josh Johnson in Wildcat?

June, 3, 2010
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TAMPA, Fla. –- From a media standpoint, Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris is the best coach in the NFC South.

Unlike Sean Payton, Mike Smith and John Fox who politely won’t tell you much about their football teams, Morris still is pretty open and honest as he heads toward his second season as a head coach.

After Thursday morning’s workout, Morris got on a roll about a couple of things.

First, he revealed that, even though Josh Freeman is the franchise quarterback, Josh Johnson still could get some playing time.

“Don’t be shocked if you see them playing together,’’ Morris said.

Morris then went on to say Johnson could be used in some Wildcat formations.

“(Johnson) is dynamic enough to do some of those type things,’’ Morris said.

Morris also was asked about cornerback Aqib Talib, who was spotted by the media doing some individual running after practice.

“It would never be his idea to go out there and run, I’m not going to kid you,’’ Morris said.

When asked if the extra running had anything to do with discipline because Talib has had some previous off-field issues, Morris said that wasn’t the case. He said Talib has had some past problems with hamstring injuries and the running is an attempt to improve his conditioning to guard against future injuries.

In other news, Morris said defensive tackle Brian Price, a second-round pick, has not been taking part in workouts. As part of an agreement between the NCAA and NFL, Price is not allowed to practice until UCLA has finished its semester.
All right, Carolina fans, let’s go ahead and stir it up. The Panthers reportedly had a meeting with University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow at the Senior Bowl this week.

Go ahead, start the Tebow-to-Carolina rumors and go ahead and buy your No. 15 Carolina jerseys with Tebow’s name on the back. Word has it the Charlotte City Council soon will hold a vote to change Mint Street to Tebow Terrace and go ahead and book your Super Bowl tickets for next year because the Panthers probably will never lose another game once the savior arrives. We’re going to hear all about this scenario from now until April.

But, you know what? The Panthers also have met with other quarterbacks (and players at every other position, too) and they’ll continue to do so. Just because a team meets with a prospect doesn’t mean he’s going to be drafted there. Every year, word leaks out about who met with who and fans get all excited and assume the guy automatically is coming to their team.

It doesn’t work that way. Every team meets with a lot of players. That simply is called doing your homework. Scouts and teams keep a file on every player that’s going to be in the draft and they meet with lots of them to get a feel for their personality and character. That’s just normal procedure.

I’m not downplaying the fact that I believe the Panthers are in the market for a quarterback. They can’t just place everything on Matt Moore, who showed some promise when he took over late in the season. They have to at least have a viable alternative and they recognize that’s not Jake Delhomme, who played his way out of a starting job last season. I’m not even sure Delhomme stays on the roster, even if the Panthers have to take a hit to their salary cap. Quite frankly, I think Delhomme’s days as a starting quarterback in the NFL are over.

The Panthers have to get another quarterback somewhere in either the draft or free agency. But why the heck would it be Tebow? I give the guy credit for being perhaps the greatest college player ever and I respect the heck out of the way he carries himself as a person.

But, seriously, have you seen him throw a football? He’s not a full-time starting NFL quarterback. Maybe he can be some sort of gimmick in a Wildcat offense. But do you seriously think John Fox is going to run the Wildcat on a full-time basis? No way. Fox is stubborn and whoever is quarterback is will be a game manager, who also is a classic drop-back passer when he does get the chance to throw.

That doesn’t sound like Tebow to me. If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers asked Tebow how he feels about playing tight end. If he’s got any future with Carolina, that might have to be his position.

Wildcat is rare in the NFC South

November, 18, 2009
11/18/09
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In honor of the Dolphins playing Carolina on Thursday night, we’re going to take a look at how the Wildcat offense has fared this season.

The Dolphins use it more than any team in the league and have had pretty good success with it. But the Wildcat isn’t a big hit in the NFC South. In fact, only two teams (Carolina and Atlanta) have even used it this season and it’s only been rolled out a handful of times.

The Saints don’t use it because there’s no way Sean Payton ever would take the ball out of Drew Brees' hands. The Bucs don’t use it because former coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski forgot to install it just like he forgot to install anything else on offense this summer.

Anyway, here’s a look -- courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information -- at the team’s that have used the Wildcat formation and what they’ve done out of it.

Final Word: NFC South

October, 23, 2009
10/23/09
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7:

 
 Jeff Moffett/Icon SMI
 Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking spent 11 seasons with the Falcons.
Changing of the guard? Quarterback Josh Johnson will get the start for Tampa Bay against New England in London. I’m thinking there’s a good chance this will be Johnson’s last start. He’s done some good things at times and I think he’s shown he can be a good backup quarterback. But the Bucs never have viewed Johnson as any sort of long-term answer. Since Byron Leftwich flopped, the Bucs turned to use Johnson as a bridge. He’s a fill-in until the Bucs decide to play rookie Josh Freeman and I think that decision will come soon. The Bucs have a bye after they get back from London and that would be a perfect time to get Freeman practice time with the first team. Freeman is raw and that’s why the Bucs didn’t want to play him early on. But we’re approaching the halfway point of the season and Tampa Bay needs to start showing some progress in its rebuilding program. It’s time to let the guy who’s the focal point of that rebuilding process get on the field.

Ready to erupt. Carolina receiver Steve Smith said he was no longer an asset to the Panthers after catching only one pass for four yards last week. Something tells me Smith’s going to be a lot more productive against the Bills on Sunday. Smith has always been a very emotional player and he has had plenty of outbursts in the past. History has shown the Panthers usually try very hard to soothe their best player after one of his outbursts. They will find ways to get him the ball more than once this week.

The Brooking factor. Dallas linebacker Keith Brooking probably knows Atlanta’s defense better than some of the Falcons. He spent his career with Atlanta until joining the Cowboys this year and was one of the defensive leaders as coach Mike Smith took the Falcons to the playoffs in his first season. Can Brooking’s knowledge of Atlanta’s defense help Dallas’ offense? You bet and I’m sure the Dallas offensive coaching staff tapped into Brooking this week. There’s not much the Falcons can do about that. I’m sure they’ve changed their signals, but Brooking still knows their defensive tendencies and most of the personnel.

The perfect season. The most amazing stat so far this season is that the Saints have yet to trail an opponent. They’re great at jumping out to leads and dictating the game. If they can do that against the Dolphins, they might be able to dictate Miami’s Wildcat offense out of the game plan and force Chad Henne to spend the day passing, which would play right into the hands of the New Orleans defense, which leads the league in takeaways.

A season-saver? I haven’t been particularly impressed by Carolina’s two-game winning streak. They beat Washington and Tampa Bay and struggled to do that. But the Panthers have a chance to go on a three-game winning streak if they can beat Buffalo. The NFL is all about momentum and the Panthers would have a shot at playoff contention if they can get to .500 and have momentum behind them. Yes, the Panthers have plenty of issues, but there’s still a lot of talent on this team and Carolina could be a dark horse if things start clicking.

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