A quick look at the news being generated at training camps around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers division:
All four teams in the South are currently facing the same challenges, working through one round of roster cuts and preparing for another while also getting ready for their respective preseason finales on short weeks. Most teams are of two minds during this final week of the preseason, getting their youngest players ready to see most of the action in the last warm-up game and simultaneously working with their starters on the opponent they'll be facing in Week One of the regular season.
In Atlanta, the most notable name in the cutdown to 75 was probably John Parker Wilson, who has served as the team's third quarterback for the last three years. He was on the roster and a game-day inactive for all of the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, and then rode out the 2011 season on the practice squad as the Falcons, like most teams, chose to keep only two passers on the active roster. This time around, Atlanta has apparently chosen to take a longer look at rookie Dominique Davis of East Carolina, who remains on the roster behind Matt Ryan and his long-time backup, Chris Redman. The Falcons also put defensive tackle Corey Peters on the reserve/NFI list, which means he'll miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season. That's a tough loss for the defense, as Peters has started 30 games over the last two seasons and been a very consistent performer in the middle. It could work out for the Falcons, however, if 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry can come into his own. Jerry suffered a knee injury two games into his rookie campaign and has struggled to make an impact since, but he has apparently made the most of the extra practice time with Peters out, getting a lot of first team snaps and saying he feels as if he's "over the hump." Head Coach Mike Smith has been impressed. "He did a real nice job in the offseason program, came back in really good shape and I think you really see his suddenness and play-making ability in the two preseason games," said Smith. "I think he's in the best shape that he's been in. He's really worked extremely hard."
In Carolina, there's a youth movement afoot in the kicking game. The team's cutdown to 75 players included just two veterans who were "released" (no waivers) as opposed to young players who go through the waiver system, and both were kickers. Nick Harris, a 12th-year punter, and Olindo Mare, a 16th-year placekicker, are out in favor of, respectively, rookie punter Brad Nortman of Wisconsin and first-year kicker Justin Medlock of UCLA. Medlock has actually been around for some time, though his regular-season experience consists of just one game with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007. Nortman was the Panthers' sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft, so it's no surprise to see him win the job, even less so because he has out-kicked Harris in the preseason, with a gross average of 45.7 yards per punt. Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney said the decisions were not easy to make. "It came down to the fact that we have two young kickers with very strong legs who had very good training camps and did well in the preseason," said Hurney. "It was an extremely difficult decision because Nick and Olindo also did very well." The Panthers' reduction to 75 players also involved putting second-year cornerback Brandon Hogan on injured reserve and placing third-year wide receiver David Gettis on the reserve/PUP list. Gettis, already returning from an ACL injury that cost him all of 2011, has also been dealing with a hamstring injury and will now have the first six weeks of the season to continue his recovery.
In New Orleans, there were two veterans released, as well, including former Buccaneers quarterback Luke McCown. McCown was something of a late addition to the Saints' quarterback battle, and he was let go in favor of 2010 seventh-round pick Sean Canfield, a former Oregon State standout. Canfield will continue to battle incumbent Chase Daniel for the primary reserve spot behind All-Pro Drew Brees. The other Saints veteran cut was defensive tackle Remi Ayodele, who has started 42 games over the past three seasons, contributing 4.0 sacks. Apparently it was the play of rookie Akiem Hicks and second-year player Tom Johnson that made Ayodele, who re-signed with the Saints in the offseason, expendable. The Saints also had to make some practical plans in the face of the potential arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac. That included cancelling Monday's practice at their headquarters and leaving for Cincinnati a day early. The Saints will practice in Cincy on Tuesday and have a walk-through on Wednesday before their preseason finale against the Bengals.