Jim in Chino Hills, Calif. writes: To expand further on the impact of the Harry Douglas injury last year: the Falcons also missed Jerious Norwood for most of the season, and Roddy White was not at his best.....that's pretty much all of your speed playmakers right there, and largely explains why Matt Ryan kept throwing short to Tony Gonzalez again & again. They didn't appear to add any speed in the offseason, so they really need to hope those guys are recovered and/or don't get hurt again.
Pat Yasinskas: All very true. Believe me, the Falcons had big plans for Douglas before he got hurt last season and have big plans for him again this year. He and Norwood are the two true speed guys on this offense and having them healthy will make it easier on everyone else, especially offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.
Justin in Carson, Calif. writes: Do you feel, with all the talent in the NFC South, people tend to forget about Cadillac Williams? If not for injuries from his rookie season, his future possibilities seemed to be endless. Now that he is a year off the injuries from his past, do you think that explosion and tenacity in his game will be back in contention for the Bucs? What is your opinion on the guy based on what you saw from OTA's?
Pat Yasinskas: If anybody’s forgetting about Cadillac Williams it's probably just because the Bucs had so many other problems last season. My opinion is you can’t overlook Williams. He’s shown his toughness and ability to come back from injuries. He held off Derrick Ward, who, essentially, was brought in to replace him. With a little more stability expected in Tampa Bay’s offense, I expect a big season from Williams.
Chris in Harrisburg, Pa. writes: I know with the NFL still not coming to an agreement on the CBA and players not receiving long term deals, such as players from the NFC South and all players around the league. However, I have been reading articles from many sports web sites saying players who were tendered this off season may in fact hold out throughout the season. I mean, don't these players love the game of football anymore or is it really all about money?
Pat Yasinskas: I’m trying to think of a nice way to put this and am not having much luck. Not everybody wears rose-colored glasses. We’re talking about professional sports and money. That also means we are talking about agents and egos. There are lots of players who truly love the game, but that often gets over-romanticized. I’ve been around pro sports since the early 1990s and have seen a lot of things behind the scenes that would knock heroes off pedestals or at least disappoint you. All this makes me think back to one of the best sports stories I’ve ever read. It was about the college-basketball point-shaving scandals from the 1950s and Sports Illustrated got two former Seton Hall teammates together years later. The one teammate who was not involved in the scandal asked the one who was what he said when talking to young players. The response: “(It) would be easy if kids would remember how it was before they became so good, before they got such big heads. How they used to shovel the snow off the court in the winter because they loved the game so much. How they could make 10 in a row in the dark all alone." That’s a quote that has stuck with me and I thought this might be a good time to bring it up again. Hope some players and owners see that one.
Lee in Ottawa, Canada writes: I noticed during the Friday chat that you listed without any hesitation William Moore as the Falcon's breakout player of the year. Would love to know more since I don't recall you talking about him much this offseason.
Pat Yasinskas: Moore was Atlanta’s second-round pick last year. Much like Douglas, Moore got hurt and didn’t have much of an impact last season. The Falcons are happy with Thomas DeCoud, but not thrilled with Erik Coleman. They believe Moore has great physical tools and upside and are hoping he can claim a starting job.
Wayne in Columbia, Md. writes: How are the Panthers young DE's looking so far? I know none of them really have the raw talent that Julius Peppers had/has, but they are what we've got and I am curious if you think they'll be effective this year.
Pat Yasinskas: It’s tough to compare anyone to Julius Peppers, just in terms of athletic ability. But the Panthers have been preparing for life without Peppers for a few years and that time is upon them now. Everette Brown and Charles Johnson are both pretty good athletes. John Fox is a good defensive coach. I’m not saying Brown and Johnson will do what Peppers did (in his good years), but I think they can be a decent combination.