NFC South Saturday mailbag

Mario in Panama writes: The last time I checked, the Saints had the best offense on earth, but the 20th+ defense, yet everybody speaks about Gregg Williams and no one seems to care a bit about the work of Pete Carmichael. I guess the results of the Saints offense is not the sole responsibility of Sean Payton and Drew Brees, and if you take a careful look you'll see that the level of talent (draft) on the defense is higher. What’s your opinion?

Pat Yasinskas: You brought up an excellent point. While Sean Payton certainly plays a big role in the offense and calls the plays, Pete Carmichael Jr. is the offensive coordinator. A lot of people don’t know much about him or just overlook him. Part of that’s because he’s not a very flashy guy. But he’s very respected by the players and other coaches. Here’s a story I did on Carmichael back in January.

Panthers fan in Charleston, S.C., writes: There has been talk about the development of receiver Armanti Edwards, who is transitioning from college quarterback to NFL receiver. There are three more pre-season games left to play for the Panthers. What, in your opinion, is a relevant time-table to bring Edwards up to speed?

Pat Yasinskas: Edwards is making a major position switch. A lot of rookie wide receivers who played that position in college struggle to adjust to the NFL. That means there are a lot of obstacles for Edwards to overcome and a lot for him to learn. The Panthers are realistic about him. They believe he has great potential, but I’ve been told we probably won’t see much of him at wide receiver until at least the second half of the season.

Jerry in Fort Myers, Fla., writes: I've been disappointed recently on how much attention Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and now Sam Bradford are getting in the national media compared to Josh Freeman. I think you've done a great job pointing out that Freeman has looked like he's made a lot of strides this off season and might be poised to have an improved season, but I'm wondering why you think Freeman gets so much less attention. Do you think it has to do with the small market? Disrespect for the NFC South? Or are the other young signal callers just that much better?

Pat Yasinskas: I think Freeman can be as good – or better – than any of the quarterbacks you mention. Markets and draft position can play a factor in how much attention a player gets. But, if I had to put my finger on one reason why Freeman’s not getting a lot of attention right now, it would be Tampa Bay’s 3-13 record last season. That pretty much made them disappear from the national radar. If they go out and win some games, Freeman and the Bucs will get attention.

Alan in New Orleans writes: I must say I've been surprised to see you enthusiastic about cutting the preseason down to two games in favor of an 18-game season. As a Saints season ticket holder and a general NFL fan, I'm all for more meaningful games (especially when I'm paying to attend). Having watched a fair amount of preseason football these past two weeks though, I don't recall seeing a single team that looks ready for the real thing yet. After watching the Falcons last night, for instance, can you say they're ready to play a game that counts next Sunday? In my view, having four preseason games gives coaches time to evaluate players, plays, schemes, and packages that they might not be willing to experiment with in a regular-season game, making the product on the field for weeks 1-16 that much better. I'm not sure the trade-off is worth it for two additional mediocre games between teams that are still trying to find a rhythm.

Pat Yasinskas: Your points are all taken. But I think the NFL is headed for an 18-game season. The league’s been making a lot of noise about that and cutting two preseason games would be part of that package. I’m not a big fan of preseason football, and neither are most coaches and players. If the preseason is cut to two games, I think you’ll see coaches treat the exhibitions a little differently. There will be more urgency to get the starters ready. I also think that you would see a lot more teams doing combined practices or scrimmages. Some coaches think those are as valuable as preseason games.