NFC South: NFL Roster Analysis 2011

Carolina Panthers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:42
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Carolina Panthers’ roster moves.

Surprise move: The Panthers waived fullback Tony Fiammetta, their starter last season and the man who had the misfortune to replace fan favorite Brad Hoover. Fiammetta didn’t do a lot to endear himself to the old coaching staff and that didn’t change after Ron Rivera took over.

The Panthers recently went out and signed Jerome Felton. Presumably, Felton will move right into the starting lineup. Being the lead blocker for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could make him look pretty good.

No-brainers: The Panthers released defensive tackles Nick Hayden and Corvey Irvin, who had gotten a fair amount of playing time in recent years. That leaves them with only three defensive tackles, which was the weakest spot on the roster the last few years. There was no sense holding onto Hayden or Irvin because the Panthers already knew they weren’t the answer. This is a position where the Panthers are far from done. Although they have high hopes for rookies Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, they’ll take a look at who else around the league is available. It’s a safe bet they’ll sign a defensive tackle -- maybe two.

What’s next: In addition to defensive tackle, there’s still work to do on this roster. General manager Marty Hurney was very aggressive coming out of the lockout. Look for him to jump back into that mode quickly. The Panthers need a starting right guard after placing Garry Williams on the injured-reserve list. They could also use help at cornerback and wide receiver.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
6:46
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster moves.

Surprise move: Perhaps the biggest surprise came Friday when the Buccaneers released middle linebacker Tyrone McKenzie. He came to training camp with an apparent shot to win the starting job after the Bucs let Barrett Ruud walk in free agency. McKenzie had helped organize players-only workouts during the lockout and ran the defense during that time.

But the fact the Bucs released him shows they’re more than content to go with rookie Mason Foster as their middle linebacker. He’ll start off as a two-down player, and outside linebacker Quincy Black, who will be an every-down player, will wear the radio helmet and call the defensive signals at least at the start of the season. But it looks as if the Bucs have total confidence in Foster. Adam Hayward, who can play outside or inside and on special teams, probably will be Foster’s backup.

A few other pleasant surprises who made the roster were cornerback D.J. Johnson, defensive end George Johnson and safety Devin Holland.

No-brainers: Like a lot of other teams, the Bucs decided to go with just two quarterbacks, waiving Rudy Carpenter. They may try to bring Carpenter back to the practice squad. But the fact they’re willing to expose him to waivers tells you all you really need to know about how the Bucs view Carpenter. He’s a smart guy who knows the system, but he has no upside because he lacks arm strength. If the Bucs truly thought Carpenter could become a No. 2 quarterback, they would have kept him around because backup Josh Johnson can become a free agent next year. Johnson probably will move on because he knows there’s no chance of starting as long as Josh Freeman is around.

What's next: General manager Mark Dominik isn’t likely to be plucking the waiver wire as much as he did last season. But he’ll keep his eyes open, and you could see a move or two. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs bring in a running back, particularly one who fits the profile of a third-down back. Veteran Earnest Graham can fill that role, if needed, but the Bucs also like to use him at fullback.

New Orleans Saints cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
6:37
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the New Orleans Saints’ roster moves.

Biggest surprises: Although the Saints almost certainly will have the NFC South’s oldest opening-day roster, they did show they’re not stuck on having a bunch of veterans. They released linebacker Clint Ingram and safety Pierson Prioleau.

Both had deep ties to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and Prioleau was the special-teams captain last season. But the release of Ingram shows the Saints believe the younger legs of Will Herring, Martez Wilson, Ramon Humber and Jonathan Casillas can cover more ground at outside linebacker. By releasing Prioleau and safety Chris Reis, the Saints are showing a lot of faith in undrafted rookie Isa Abdul-Quddus.

No-brainer: The Saints, who ran out of running backs in last seaosn’s playoffs, are determined not to let it happen again. Even though Chris Ivory was put on the injured-reserve list, the Saints kept Joique Bell to go along with Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.

Bell had an outstanding preseason and made it impossible for the Saints to cut him.

What’s next: Don’t be surprised if the Saints bring in another tight end, and look for it to be a guy who specializes in blocking. They currently have only two tight ends on the roster. Jimmy Graham is likely to be used mostly as a pass-catching specialist, and David Thomas is a jack of all trades. The team wants to get back to a more consistent running game, so a run-blocking specialist would be a good fit.

Atlanta Falcons cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
5:41
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Atlanta Falcons’ roster moves.

Surprise move: The Falcons waived quarterback John Parker Wilson, meaning they’ll go with only starter Matt Ryan and backup Chris Redman. There’s been talk that more teams will carry only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster because teams don’t have to declare an inactive third quarterback anymore.

Wilson could end up back on the practice squad, but this move shows the Falcons aren’t all that high on him. They might be better off looking for a developmental prospect to put on the practice squad. Ryan’s secure as the starter for a long time, but Redman is nothing more than a career backup. It might be time for the Falcons to start developing a new backup.

No-brainers: At the start of camp, there was some uncertainty that seventh-round draft pick Cliff Matthews would stick because the team was deep at defensive end and there was a lot of uncertainty that undrafted cornerback Darrin Walls would have a shot at a roster spot. Both made it. But those moves don’t really come as surprises because Matthews and Davis were excellent in camp and the preseason. They probably won’t get a lot of playing time right away, but Matthews has the potential to challenge Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury for a spot in the rotation eventually. Walls might get a shot on special teams right off the bat, but the team must think he has upside as a cornerback. The Falcons still aren’t sure about Chris Owens and Dominique Franks in the long term and that’s probably why the decision was made to keep Walls.

What’s next: The team already reinforced the secondary by signing cornerback Kelvin Hayden and safety James Sanders. There’s really not much more work to be done. Perhaps the most encouraging sign was that the team released center Brett Romberg. That might be a sign that the injury to veteran starter Todd McClure isn’t that serious. The team already has said McClure would miss the season opener, and second-year pro Joe Hawley is expected to start in his place. The Falcons also have Rob Bruggeman as a backup, but they wouldn’t have let Romberg go if McClure’s injury were going to keep him out for a long period.

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