NFL Nation: Mikke Smith

NFC South afternoon update

January, 2, 2013
Time for a run through some odds and ends from around the division:


There’s apparent good news on the injury front. Cornerback Dunta Robinson (concussion) said he expects to be ready for the Jan. 13 playoff game. Coach Mike Smith already has said he expects defensive end John Abraham (ankle) and cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder) to be ready for the playoff game. Safety William Moore hasn’t returned to practice after missing the final four games of the regular season with a hamstring injury, but the Falcons seem optimistic Moore will return soon.


Quarterback Cam Newton got banged up in the season finale. But the team said tests revealed no fractures of his ribs or ankles. That means Newton won’t be rehabilitating any serious injuries and should be ready for the start of the offseason program.


Linebacker Jonathan Vilma took great exception to a story in which an anonymous player said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo should be fired. What jumps out at me is that Vilma’s major problem seems to be with the use of an anonymous source. He doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to dispute what the source said. Also, I don’t know that Vilma should be lecturing anyone about the use of anonymous sources. He seemed to be the benefactor of information from anonymous sources at various times during the bounty scandal.

Gregg Williams, who was at the center of the bounty scandal, reportedly has been fired by the St. Louis Rams even though he already is suspended indefinitely. If St. Louis coach and longtime Williams friend Jeff Fisher is giving up on the defensive coordinator, I think it’s a long shot Williams will ever return to the NFL.


The Bucs have signed eight players to futures contracts. Somehow, I don’t think quarterback Adam Weber is the guy coach Greg Schiano was talking about when he said the Bucs could bring in some competition for Josh Freeman.

NFC South midseason bests/worsts

November, 7, 2012
We rolled out our All-NFC South midseason team Wednesday. Now, it’s time to run through some other bests and worsts from the first half of the season.

Best job by a head coach: Atlanta’s Mike Smith is 8-0. You can’t even consider anyone else.

Best job by a general manager: Atlanta’s Thomas Dimitroff. See above explanation.

Worst job by a general manager: Carolina's Marty Hurney. He took the fall after a 1-5 start.

Best signing: Tampa Bay paid dearly for Vincent Jackson. But Josh Freeman finally has a true No. 1 receiver, and it’s paying dividends.

Worst signing: You could make a case for New Orleans defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. But I think the fact that the contract extension coach Sean Payton signed more than a year ago was voided by the NFL is a fiasco. Maybe this will get resolved happily. But how can you have a coach, who was supposed to be under contract through 2015, sitting on the verge of possible free agency? (Note: Carolina’s signing of running back Mike Tolbert, when the Panthers already had a crowded backfield, gets honorable mention).

Best non-move: Atlanta fans were screaming for the Falcons to sign free-agent defensive end Mario Williams. Dimitroff didn't listen. Ask Buffalo fans how much Williams has helped the Bills.

Rookie of the Year: This one’s become easy after the past few games. Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin has a chance to become one of the NFL’s best and most complete running backs.

Most Valuable Player: Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is the only name fit to appear here.

Biggest disappointment: You can’t hang all of Carolina’s problems on quarterback Cam Newton. But you can put a lot on him. He hasn’t stepped forward at all after a very promising rookie season. This team has been among the biggest disappointments in the NFL. When that happens, the quarterback has to shoulder some of the blame.

Best trade: I still am stunned that Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik was able to get anything more than a week of free cab rides in exchange for troubled cornerback Aqib Talib. Dominik had to give up a seventh-round pick next year along with Talib, but he got New England’s fourth-round pick in 2013.

Best coordinator: It’s a tough call between Atlanta’s Mike Nolan on defense and Dirk Koetter on offense. They’ve both been fantastic. But I’ll give the nod to Koetter, because he made two important discoveries -- the screen pass and the fact that Sam Baker can play left tackle in the NFL.

Worst coordinator: It would be too easy to go with New Orleans’ Steve Spagnuolo. Besides, I don’t think he has the personnel he needs to really make his system work. Instead, I’ll go with Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. There’s no question he has personnel to work with, but the results haven’t been there.

Best equipment manager: This time, and this time only, I’m going with Atlanta’s Brian Boigner. We all know that Carolina’s Jackie Miles is the best equipment manager in the history of the NFL, and probably will be a first-ballot selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Miles hasn’t lost his fastball. But Boigner really stepped up a few weeks ago, when he and his assistants jumped into overdrive and got the Falcons out of Philadelphia before Hurricane Sandy arrived.