NFC South Notes and Quotes

Courtesy of Bucsblitz.com and the Sports Xchange, here are the best notes and quotes out of the NFC South for the past week:

Atlanta

— TE Alge Crumpler visited with a knee specialist in early August because of the onset of discomfort in his surgically repaired left knee. No major problems were discovered but Crumpler was shut down for the foreseeable future. Coach Bobby Petrino said a week's rest could be enough for things to calm down with Crumpler's knee.

The setback comes after Crumpler did not take part in any of the team's three mini-camps or OTA's while he rehabilitated his knee, which was scored shortly after the season to repair cartilage damage and remove debris. Dwayne Blakley has started in Crumpler's place.

— The Falcons had major problems in kickoff coverage against the Jets, a problem, coach Bobby Petrino said, that stems from an overhaul in personnel and an infusion of young players. The Jets averaged 46 yards per return. Leon Washington also posted an 86-yard return before being dragged down at the 8-yard line by rookie cornerback David Irons.

"We've got a lot of work to do on special teams," Petrino said. "We've got a lot of young guys in there and we've got a long way to go."

— With nose tackle Grady Jackson sitting out of the preseason opener because of conditioning reasons, second-year player Tommy Jackson opened with the first unit. The move came as somewhat of a surprise, since Darrell Shropshire was Grady Jackson's main backup last season. Tommy Jackson is a stocky, high-motored player who does hold the point of attack better than Shropshire, who has shown to be more disruptive as a pass rusher.

Coach Bobby Petrino said coaches wanted to see how Tommy Jackson would fare against New York's physical front and initial indications were that he did okay. However, the Jet's interior line was able to get players on middle linebacker Keith Brooking, which could end up being a problem should Grady Jackson and fellow tackle Rod Coleman (thigh surgery) but less than effective or out for a prolonged period.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I'm a fan of (quarterback Michael) Vick on the football field. He's kind of an idiot off the field but I'm a fan." -- Falcons fan Harrison Tedoff, 24.

Carolina

Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney recently warned reporters of his young receiving corps: "Guys, don't forget about Taye Biddle."

The New York Giants sure did.

Biddle, who played in two games last season for the Panthers, sprung himself free for touchdown receptions of 23 and 85 yards in Saturday night's preseason game against the New York Giants.

Biddle, who joined the team as an undrafted free agent last season, played in two games in 2006 and caught three passes for 37 yards, but showed a good mix of speed and quickness, justifying Hurney's optimism that he can be a contributor on offense.

On his first score, Biddle ran a hitch-and-go along the right sideline and the defender completely lost track of him as he hauled in a 23-yard scoring strike from David Carr on the final drive of the second quarter. Biddle came back on Carolina's first drive of the third quarter and nabbed a pass from Brett Basanez over the middle and out-raced several defensive backs the final 60 yards for an 85-yard score.

Panthers left tackle Travelle Wharton quietly made his return to the field after missing 15 games last season with a torn ACL. Wharton did a great job of opening up holes in the running game and protecting Jake Delhomme.

— Coach John Fox on Jon Beason's first NFL preseason game: "I saw him fly around and make a couple of quick pops. But until we watch the tape and evaluate, I won't really know. He has a lot of work to do and so do we."

— If new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson's has his way you'll see plenty of screens this year. While much of the talk has revolved around the team's zone-blocking scheme, the team has worked just as hard installing screen passes. Back in the team's three-week mini-camp, Davidson installed at least one new screen pass per day and a few more have been added since the start of training camp.

"I think we have two backs that can really get it done," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "I think our guys can run with the ball when they get it in their hands out in space, and they catch extremely well. Having those two guys (catching screen passes) could be pretty big."

Both Williams and Foster have proven adept as receivers, combining for 65 receptions last season, although very few of those were on set screen passes.

— Wide receiver Keary Colbert, who worked some with the first team offense last week, is trying to put two terrible seasons behind him and re-emerge as a receiving threat.

Colbert started 15 games as a rookie in 2004 and caught 47 passes for 754 yards and five touchdowns, but over the past two seasons his production has fallen off the map with only 30 receptions for 338 yards and two touchdowns despite starting 19 games.

Colbert caught just five passes for 56 yards in 2006 and was inactive for four games late in the season.

"It was pretty difficult because of my natural competitive nature," said Colbert, who did not catch a pass in the second half of the '06 season. "I wanted to be out there competing, helping my team win. It was tough in that sense but as far as from an organizational standpoint we were trying to do other things as a team. It was a situation where you can't be too selfish and realize what is going on and just accept it."

During the off-season, there was even some speculation the Panthers had given up on Colbert and might release him. But so far the team is happy with his play at camp.

Drew Carter began training camp as the starting No. 2 receiver, but over the last three or four practices Colbert has been lining up and running with the ones. However, Carter started Saturday night against the New York Giants.

Obviously, the Panthers would like for second-round draft pick Dwayne Jarrett to step up and assume that role. Jarrett, however, is still learning the offense and suffered a minor setback on Wednesday when he tweaked his hamstring. It's considered minor and he's listed as day-to-day.

— The temperature at Panthers training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., hit 103 degrees last week with a heat index of 115 on the field, three shy of the all-time record, according to team officials. New safety Chris Harris can't believe the difference in temperature from here to Bourbonnais, Ill., where he spent his first week of training camp with the Bears.

On Tuesday, former Bears teammate Mark Bradley called to say how hot it was in Illinois.

"He said, 'Chris, they're trying to kill us out there. It's so hot," Harris said.

Harris just laughed.

"I said to him, 'Don't complain to me about being hot. Yesterday we practiced at 3 o'clock with a 110 heat index.'" Harris said. "He just shut up after that."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a good start and that's all it is. It beats the alternative of going out there and going three-and-out. The guys have been working hard and they have a confidence level and it was good to see." -- Coach John Fox on Carolina's offense, which opened the preseason with an 81-yard touchdown pass and scored three touchdowns in a 24-21 win over the Giants.

New Orleans

— A morning away from the practice field didn't go as smoothly as Saints coach Sean Payton would have liked when he took his team to a water park on Aug. 8.

Strong-side linebacker Scott Fujita bruised his right heel and reserve tight end Billy Miller suffered a cut over his right eye during the outing to the park in Brandon, Miss. -- not far from their training camp in Jackson.

While both players sat out two practices, Payton said neither was seriously injured. Fujita's foot was bandaged and he was on crutches, while Miller had a bandage over his eye. Fujita also missed the team's exhibition game with the Buffalo Bills two days later.

For the second straight year, Payton gave weary players a break from the rigors of training camp. He arranged the trip the night before after the Saints went through two practices with the heat index soaring to 110 degrees under a broiling sun.

When asked how Fujita was hurt, Payton said it got a "little competitive" in a contest that pitted the offense vs. defense. Payton said the injuries won't prevent the team from visiting the park next year. "Hey, it was a good break," he said. "The contest might be a little different."

— After splitting first-team reps with incumbent starter Hollis Thomas early in training camp, newcomer Kendrick Clancy moved into the starting lineup last week at nose tackle.

Clancy, who was signed by the Saints on June 7 after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals, moved ahead of Thomas based on Clancy's play in the Saints' exhibition opener in the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 5. While he played well, Thomas hasn't helped himself by being overweight.

"(Clancy) played pretty well," Payton said. "There's a reason Hollis has got a weight (to make), and when he's that much above the weight, it's hard for him to be effective. Clancy played pretty well last weekend and I want to take a look at him.

"He hustled to the ball," he added. "I thought he was active and he made some plays down the field."

— The Saints are taking their motto for this season to heart, with the words "Earn It" emblazoned on T-shirts many of them -- including Payton -- are wearing.

"We're in the 'earn it' business, and each year you have to earn it," Payton said. "I've been part of many teams that weren't picked to do well. In 2000, when I was with New York, we went to the Super Bowl and we had a good year last year. I've also been part of some teams that were picked to finish strong and underachieved and didn't finish as well.

"I think the message is each year you have to earn it and there's a fine line in being 12-4 or 8-8," he said. "We have to do the little things well and we have to earn it."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wanted to see that energy and I thought we had that early on. The execution on both sides was pretty crisp. I don't like the fact that we lost the game. I don't like the fact it was sloppy in the second half with penalties. I don't like the fact we had (two) turnovers." -- Saints coach Sean Payton on his team's improvement in a 13-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills in their second preseason game.

Tampa Bay

— The Bucs need to find a way to keep Cato June on the field. The guy is miscast as a strong side linebacker in the Tampa Two defense. His best position would be weak-side linebacker, but 10-time Pro Bowler Derrick Brooks is there for at least one more season, maybe two.

This is known as the Ian Gold syndrome. Gold, the former Denver Broncos free agent, is one of the league's elite outside linebackers. But in his only season with Tampa Bay in 2004, he was forced to come off the field on passing downs because the Bucs use Brooks and their middle linebacker in pass coverage. He returned to Denver after one season.

June excels in pass coverage. But at 6-foot, 227 pounds, he might get pushed around by the league's better blocking tight ends.

June wasn't officially credited with a tackle Friday night, but he enjoyed his debut.

"I got to put on the new colors, new teammates, new stadium, and just everything is new," June said. "It was good just to get a feel for things.

"We were flying to the ball. We have people who are hungry. We were hitting, running and we seemed ready to take what we learned on the practice field and translate it to a game situation."

Jovan Haye did a nice job at under tackle against the run with four tackles against the Patriots. But the Bucs defensive line did not generate enough pressure on the passer. Gaines Adams showed good instincts batting down a pass from Tom Brady. But he needs more than an outside move to make it in the NFL and learning technique is the key.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If he had played like this last year he would've been our starter, no question." -- Bucs coach Jon Gruden on QB Luke McCown.


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