NFL Nation: Taylor Mehlhaff
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The news that left tackle Sam Baker's hip isn't responding to treatment and he's seeking additional medical opinions is more than a little concerning. The rookie has played very well when he's been able to play. But Baker also had problems with a concussion earlier in the season and the Falcons don't have a lot of depth on the offensive line. Veteran Todd Weiner filled in for Baker on Sunday, but his knees are shaky. Look for the Falcons to go out and sign a tackle shortly.
Hardy Nickerson and Doug Williams are among five former Bucs on this year's Hall of Fame ballot. But they're all very long shots. The second Tampa Bay player to follow Lee Roy Selmon into the Hall of Fame will be either Warren Sapp or Derrick Brooks.
Coach John Fox almost always defers to veterans, but there could be an exception on the horizon. Fox is going to have to choose between second-year pro Dwayne Jarrett and D.J. Hackett as the third receiver when the Panthers get back from their bye. Jarrett made a key catch against Arizona and finally may have worked his way out of the doghouse he's spent his career in. It also helps that Hackett has been injured and hasn't done a lot when he has played.
The team reportedly has cut punter Ben Graham and kicker Taylor Mehlhaff. That's not all that surprising because the Saints have shown very little patience on special teams and the holder/kicker duo was part of a missed extra-point attempt Sunday. Although Mehlhaff, who was a draft pick, has a chance to return at some point (maybe even on the practice squad), the Saints probably have seen the last of Graham. He was a one-game solution, mainly because he had a passport and it was easy to get him to London. The passport could have been the reason the Saints signed Graham, instead of someone like Todd Sauerbrun -- the best punter to ever live, breathe and reportedly hit a cab driver -- on short notice. The Saints will use the bye week to find a new kicker and punter.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
A look at the day's events in the NFC South.
It looks like another week of Geoff Hangartner at center and Jeremy Bridges at right tackle. Starters Ryan Kalil and Jeff Otah sat out another practice with injuries. With a bye coming up after Arizona, the cautious approach with Kalil and Otah might be the best long-term move by the Panthers.
After missing five games because of injury, it looks like receiver Joey Galloway could make his return Sunday against Dallas. With coach Jon Gruden already saying Antonio Bryant will hold on to his starting role, Galloway could have his snaps limited and be used as the third receiver.
Philadelphia is a city known for producing underdogs (see Rocky I through whatever) and Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes is one of those. He grew up in Philadelphia, was lightly recruited by colleges and made it to the NFL without being drafted. Now, he's got a starting job. A knee injury could hold him out of Sunday's homecoming in Philadelphia but don't be surprised if Grimes ends up playing.
Just a thought here, but doesn't it seem like the Saints are taking a bit of a gamble with their special teams? I mean, I understand letting punter Steve Weatherford go at some point. But why sign Ben Graham as the replacement right now. Graham may be just fine as a punter. But he also has to take over as the holder on field goals and extra points. To summarize, the Saints have a rookie kicker (Taylor Mehlhaff), a new holder and the very real possibility of wet weather at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Sounds like a possible formula for disaster.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
NEW ORLEANS -- Random halftime thoughts from New Orleans where the Saints lead, 10-3.
- Drew Brees' completion streak is over. He completed his first 16 pass attempts.
- Oakland is airing it out. Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell has thrown the ball 16 times. Oakland has rushed the ball 11 times and hasn't gotten much going on the ground at all.
- Oakland return man Johnnie Lee Higgins is underrated. He always seems to come up with something nice. He had a 35-yard punt return in the first quarter.
- Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed field goal attempts of 57 and 59 yards late in the first half. However, both kicks were much closer than that 76-yard attempt at the end of the first half in Oakland's last game.
- New Saints kicker Taylor Mehlhaff has struggled. In his first game in New Orleans, he missed a 31-yard field goal and he booted a kickoff out of bounds. He did redeem himself with a 44-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining in the first half.
- There was some controversy at the end of the first half when Brees hit Billy Miller at the Oakland 26. Television replays showed there was one second remaining but the officials said time expired in the half. Brees and Saints coach Sean Payton passionately argued to no avail.
- The New Orleans defense dropped three easy interceptions in the first half.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
When the Saints decided to keep Martin Gramatica over Taylor Mehlhaff right before the start of the season, they said Gramatica won the job by being automatic in the preseason. They also said they wanted an experienced kicker, who had won some big games.
Now, there's lots of room to question that decision. Sure, Gramatica won some games with Tampa Bay a long time ago, but he also missed some kicks and lost some games. That's why the Bucs didn't hang onto Gramatica.
The Saints invested a sixth-round pick in Mehlhaff and he had plenty of leg and upside. He just wasn't quite as accurate as Gramatica in the preseason. Maybe the Saints should have taken a chance on Mehlhaff's upside because he probably would have kept getting better.
Gramatica could only get worse than he was in the preseason. The Saints probably could have foreseen that if they looked at Gramatica's streaky pass. That came back to bite the Saints on Sunday.
Gramatica missed two field-goal attempts, including a 43-yarder that could have won the game. As long as we're questioning decisions by the Saints, let's wonder aloud about the decision by the coaching staff to go conservative at the end of the game. With Drew Brees and the passing game putting up huge numbers, the Saints elected to run the ball three straight times before Gramatica's missed field goal. Pierre Thomas got stuffed on a third-and-1.
That leads to another question; why not use Deuce McAllister in short-yardage situations?
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