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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scott Injury Thins DL; Robinson Hurt

The week rounded out with more of the same, for the most part - but two early injuries have shown some flaws to the team's depth. Ian Scott, who was starting with top 3 DT Damione Lewis, Maake Kemoeatu, and Darwin Walker nursing minor injuries, went down with a knee injury. Then, so did Ryne Robinson.

Scott's injury is minor. Robinson's injury, though without an MRI as of yet, should be minor. Still, it leaves the team without its top returner and a key reserve at DT - when the top 3 are already hurt. While some don't believe in Lewis or Kemoeatu, try on the fearsome duet of Gary Gibson and Stephen Williams, a potential starting duo in the Indianapolis game.

Plus, the team has to find a return man while Robinson heals. Either Scott or Robinson could be out through the first regular season game.

And while those two are hurt, perennially injured backups Nate Salley and Adam Seward are hurt again, too. Seward, who could've started last year at MLB with Dan Morgan out, couldn't stay healthy as long as Morgan and Jon Beason was moved inside. Salley was expected to start last year at FS and never saw the field. While I find a lot of hope in Seward still, the team has options that are healthier and better than either of these players.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


  • Keydrick Vincent, originally thought to be the likely starter at RG, had seemed to lose out to Toniu Fonoti recently. However, Vincent has been with the first team for two days now.
  • Na'il Diggs is still getting much of the time at SLB, but Landon Johnson's been getting a lot of play there recently as well.
  • The team practiced in pads, but was missing some of the beef. Starting DTs Damione Lewis and Ma'ake Kemoeatu, and top backup Darwin Walker sat out. In their place, Ian Scott and Gary Gibson were starters, possibly a sign that Nick Hayden isn't picking things up quite yet. Charles Spencer didn't work out either.
  • Nick Goings did return to camp. Labrandon Toefield has had some problems holding onto the ball, so Goings' reliability will be a plus if he can be somewhat healthy. The team needs a veteran RB presence, and Toefield's usefulness did decline with drafting of big-back Jon Stewart - they wouldn't fill the same role, but why would you give carries to a big back that's not Stewart?
  • Remember Tim Shaw from last year? He's gotten no mention at all. James Anderson, either.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Simplifying The Defense

John Fox's relative denials notwithstanding, the defense has simplified. Reaction is key again; the two-gap ideals inside are gone, responsibilities have lessened and it's back to playing fast football.

The statements from camp about lightening the mental load of the defense echoes similar statements from Jon Beason's first few weeks as a middle linebacker - the team made things easier to cope. Undoubtedly, starting rookie Charles Godfrey means keeping things simpler as well. To add, the corners and SS Chris Harris are the only players besides Beason to start in the same spot as midyear last year.

So was the defense too complicated last year? Fox says no, citing the change in philosophy to add a greater role for young players. “We had some guys who'd been with us for some time – the Dan Morgans, veterans,” Fox said. “But now we have those youthful guys. You've got to simplify it some so they can operate and play. You can't be out there thinking in this league.”

Still, critics of Mike Trgovac state this as a problem. Of course, the defense has to remain fluid; the 2003 defense looked nothing like the early 2002 cover-2 of Jack Del Rio, from the same playbook. It looked nothing like the 2006 defense with two huge DTs, which looks nothing like the 2008 starting lineup or alignment.

But the team must remain at least strategic enough - nursing a next-to-last pass rush from last year, the team has to continue to rely on John Fox' trademark of disguising coverages, while bringing more blitzers than ever imagined in 2002-03.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Updates

  • Tyler Brayton has been seen rushing from DT on passing downs. Brayton has gotten high marks so far for atheleticism, while getting low marks for getting leverage and holding his ground.
  • Damione Lewis is getting noticed as more of a DL leader, and the rumors cite him being able to grow into the idea with the loss of overbearing DT Kris Jenkins. Having also lost notorious trash-talker Mike Rucker, this is good news.
  • Julius Peppers is getting noticed as a stronger, more able looking player than this time last year, when rumors of sickness or disease were already running around. Peppers' quickness has also returned, though it's hard to say if reports of him beating Jordan Gross is a good thing.
  • Looks like Stanley McClover is the situational end, though that wasn't unexpected. So Charles Johnson needs to get with the program, since the opening may be there for him to play on run downs.
  • At RB - Nick Goings is hurt. Deangelo Williams has gotten noticed for making some quick moves to get by the edge; Jon Stewart has gotten moticed for a good stiff arm and leaving some hits (and taking a few, noting Thomas Davis' two). So, the two that are playing are getting some good notice in of their respective ideals.
  • The Observer has a note about Natrone Means being the assistant RBs coach and working with Stewart.
  • Ryne Robinson is the only guy working fielding punt returns. Jason Carter is also working kick returns, but nothing for Stewart, Williams, or anyone else.

Camp Opens With Urgency

With so many pieces new in one way or another, it's critical that camp be as productive as possible. The offensive and defensive fronts, out of 12 spots, returns two likely starters from the season finale of 2007 - MLB Jon Beason and center Ryan Kalil (who didn't start a game for the 14 weeks prior).

Of the remaining spots, 5 are returning starters moving around, two are players upgrading from reserves, one is a rookie, and three spots are up for grabs. Of those three, at least one newcomer has a very good chance of starting. That's a lot of learning, and a lot of meshing, that needs to happen quickly.

QB doesn't escape it either. Starting QB Jake Delhomme missed the last 13 weeks of last year in a new offense. Backup QB Matt Moore wasn't in camp last year; Brett Basanez spent the year on injured reserve.

In back, the team will have similar issues - SS Chris Harris was only in portions of camp last year; likely starting FS Charles Godfrey is a rookie, and his main challenger, Terrance Holt, is new.

The team dedicated itself to toughness and retooled a ton of the motive power of this team, but with camp starting, it has to create that toughness while the individual pieces learn the guys next to them.

The Saturday evening session certainly didn't seem to be the heartiest portion of a two-a-day practice. Players worked out in shorts. Rookies Jeff Otah and Jon Stewart both sat out; Jake Delhomme was limited.

Darin Gantt puts up a good statement - why was Stewart on an exercise bike during practice, when he could be rehabbing later in the day and learning by immersion during practice?

As well, DJ Hackett was given the afternoon off. Whether it was precautionary or necessary is yet to be seen, but he's missing time a day into camp. Injury has always caused Hackett a lack of consistency.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Davis Moves: Left Side Now The Right Side

Thomas Davis got significant notice today as having laid two hard hits on rookie RB Jonathan Stewart, and used that opportunity to inform the press about having moved sides. Davis, a strong safety in his first game, a nickel LB for the rest of that year, and strongside linebacker for the past two years, is now a weakside linebacker.

The team had already moved Julius Peppers to the right side, followed by former LDT Ma'ake Kemoeatu, and now Davis follows. So, as it stands, the only player who'll start in the same spot in the front seven is Jon Beason.

Otah, Then Stewart, Make It Into Camp

Jeff Otah signed last night; Jon Stewart made it a little longer. This morning both are officially under contract and ready for camp, giving us a non-holdout offseason.

The two were critical signings - the team relying on both to be a part of a running resurgence this year, the two both being first round picks, and their combined contract value being exponentially higher than the money spent on outside free agents (and similar to the value put into existing veterans like Chris Harris and Damione Lewis, already-tested second tier veterans getting extensions).

Now, with both picks in, and all the veterans and rookies reporting to camp, it seems to have been a methodical, drama-free camp.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Most Picks Signed; Shockey To Saints

Carolina signed all but their two first round picks this past week, culminating in 3rd round pick Charles Godfrey and 7th rounder Geoff Schwartz. Dan Connor, Gary Barnidge, Hilee Taylor, and Mackenzy Bernardeau were signed earlier in the week.

This leaves RB Jon Stewart and OT Jeff Otah unsigned; the deals may be formalities, or the team may have difficulty signing either. With four days until camp, the team will have to scramble to get that pair in.

Other than that, it's been a very boring month for the team, and as well for the news.


Jeremy Shockey is now a Saint, in their ever-growing stable of former University of Miami first rounders (having also acquired Jonathan Vilma and the now-retired Dan Morgan). Shockey, familiar with Sean Payton's system, also reunites Drew Brees with a good TE target - Brees fed Antonio Gates toward a Pro Bowl for each player. Shockey isn't quite as athletic as Gates, but is close, and that's not good for Carolina.

Luckily, the Saints paid a heavy price to get Shockey - a 2nd and 5th round in 2009. The deal probably comes with a pay raise/extension soon.