NFC South Blog
Carolina might have drafted a gem when selecting rookie running back Kenjon Barner out of the University of Oregon in the sixth round. Barner has shown "plenty of explosiveness and speed" according to ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas. He then speculates that the Panthers could seek to find ways to get him touches. Barner rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns in his senior season and has limited experience as a receiver out of the backfield and kick returner.
Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune lists wide receiver Kevin Ogletree as one of five players to watch during the team's mandatory minicamp this week. Cummings writes that the Bucs are "very high" on Ogletree, and that he has "flashed a lot during offseason workouts." Ogletree is vying to become Tampa Bay's No. 3 wide receiver, behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. But he will face competition from incumbent Tiquan Underwood and the inexperienced trio of Chris Owusu, David Douglas and Eric Page. The Bucs signed Ogletree to a two-year contract in March.
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin posted close to 2,000 total yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie this season. But his head coach, Greg Schiano, wants more, and he thinks Martin can give him more. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Schiano said Tuesday that Martin "looks better physically this year and can improve his game to another level in his second year."
I'll admit that whether players are lining up with the first-string offense or the second-string offense has minimal importance in June for a number of reasons. This is especially true for crowded backfields such as the one that exists in New Orleans with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. They can't all be on the field with the regular starters all of the time. Despite its meaningless, this gives me an opportunity to talk about the Saints' backfield below, so oblige me for a moment.
Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune observed that Sproles and Thomas have been spending most of the past three weeks of practices and workouts playing with the first-string offense while Mark Ingram has been playing with the second string.
It wasn't like Jimmy Graham's 2012 season was a waste. He still led all tight ends in fantasy points and caught more passes than any other Saint. But he wasn't happy, and there are good reasons. Graham's numbers fell across the board from 2011. He led the NFL with 13 dropped passes, thanks in part to an injured wrist that required offseason surgery. He also missed a game due to an ankle sprain, and the Saints missed the playoffs. This has led to an extremely cused Graham this spring.
"This is probably the hungriest I've ever been to kind of right the wrongs of last year and to prove what this team can do and maybe hush up some of the naysayers," Graham said, via the Associated Press. "So for me it's all work and doing as much as I can to be the best player I can."
Graham said his repaired wrist is not quite at full strength, but he is participating in organized team activities and expects to be fine by training camp.