- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Patterson in Atlanta writes: Do you think the Falcons have any interest in Antonio Bryant, now that they have a somewhat shorter depth in wideouts?
Pat Yasinskas: No. There were reasons why Bryant was released by Cincinnati even though he was guaranteed $8 million. The question about his knee is just one of a lot of questions about Bryant. I know Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff are pretty smart guys and they’ve got a scouting department that does a nice job. I don’t see any way they go after Bryant. Besides, I really don’t think they’ve got a need. Michael Jenkins is going to be healthy for the first game and he and Roddy White will be the starters. Harry Douglas can be a very nice No. 3 receiver and Brian Finneran and Eric Weems provide solid depth. Yeah, the Falcons had hoped rookie Kerry Meier would factor in, but he's out for the season with an injury. Tight end Tony Gonzalez almost counts as a wide receiver and there’s only one ball to go around in the passing game. Besides, Arthur Blank has learned from past mistakes and Dimitroff and Smith are fully on board with him when it comes to avoiding guys who are potential headaches.
Keith in Cary, NC writes: I just saw that the Bengals released Antonio Bryant. Do you think the Panthers might take a look at him since the offense has struggled so much? The young guys haven't stepped up yet and Bryant could help. Your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: See the above answer and I’ll elaborate a bit more and steer some of the same things toward the Panthers. Yes, they’ve got no certainties at wide receiver besides Steve Smith. But how can anyone count on Bryant at this point? Owner Jerry Richardson is even more firm on character stuff than Blank. Yeah, the Panthers may bend the rules a bit on Smith, but they do that because he also brings a lot of positives. Bryant's never earned that sort of goodwill anywhere he's been, so I don't think the Panthers will be cutting him any slack. Also, memo to Tampa Bay fans: Please don’t start asking if it’s possible the Bucs might bring back Bryant. I think I already have made it abundantly clear why there’s absolutely no chance of this happening.
Jeff in Charleston, SC writes: Does any part of you think the coaches and Dimitroff were just using this "hamstring injury" as a cop-out to mask their fear that their prized off-season pickup, Dunta Robinson, might incur a completely different injury from playing in the preseason? I definitely understand their logic, but do you think there is a possibility coaches/trainers/GMs make up injuries during training camp and preseason for older veteran players to ensure they make it to at least Week 1?
Pat Yasinskas: No, I don’t think any team makes up injuries. Now, I think just about all teams can be very cautious with certain players participating in meaningless preseason games. All indications I’ve received out of Atlanta are that Robinson has gotten back to full strength and will be ready for the season opener, which is all that really matters. I wouldn’t count on seeing him or many of Atlanta’s starters in the preseason finale.
Eric in Canton, Conn. writes: How can Panthers fans be voting for Jake Delhomme? That's pathetic. What a bunch of short-sighted thankless fans. I'm ashamed to be a part of the group.
Pat Yasinskas: Eric’s writing about the upcoming project we’re going to do on the most-disliked figure by fans of all four NFC South teams. I’ll have an announcement of the parameters and will be asking for votes on that soon. But, yes, I’ve already seen some votes fly in for Delhomme and that made me feel the same way Eric does. Yeah, Delhomme had a horrible final season in Carolina. But the guy was the best quarterback in franchise history and took the Panthers to their only Super Bowl. He also was a fierce competitor, a great leader and one of the classiest players I’ve ever dealt with.
Russell in New Orleans writes: Because of Scott Shanle's age do think the Saints might run a 3-4 this year with Shanle and Jonathan Vilma in the middle and the young guys on the outside? With those two in the middle they can help put the younger athletic LB's in better positions.
Pat Yasinskas: I see what you’re saying, but I sincerely doubt you’re going to see a team coming off a Super Bowl victory suddenly switch defensive schemes and it sure hasn't seemed like they've been putting in much time working on it in any of their public practices in training camp. Gregg Williams mixes things up from time to time and you might see a few situations where the Saints use a formation like that, but it’s not going to be the norm. Also, remember, Vilma became pretty much irrelevant and ineffective in the 3-4 when he was with the Jets. That’s why he landed with the Saints.
Robbie in Murphy, NC writes: Is this Carolina defense for real? They have registered 18 sacks in three preseason games. The defense was supposed to be our Achilles heel but now it's looking like our strong point. How concerned should we be with the offense?
Pat Yasinskas: Be encouraged by Carolina’s defensive performance so far. But, remember, it’s only the preseason. The offense? Same deal, but flip it around. The offense hasn’t looked good, but it’s not like the Panthers are game planning like they will in the regular season. They’re just testing some things out. Even more significant, the Panthers have been playing without Smith, Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah. I think the presence of those guys in the regular season automatically make the offense a lot better than it’s been in the preseason.
James in Morehead City, NC writes: Is it safe to say the Panthers defense is going to be just fine without Julius Peppers in the mix? They've looked as good as I've seen since '96.
Kyle in Montgomery, Ala. writes: Do you have any idea why the Saints are getting so little respect in preseason projections? I can't remember a defending champ getting this little respect. Am I the only one who feels this way? In your opinion, what's the deal?
Pat Yasinskas: No, you’re not the first New Orleans fan I’ve heard this from. But I’ve got a little problem with fans saying their team is getting no “respect’’ when it comes to predictions. People in the media throw out predictions because that’s their job. They’re not doing it to respect or disrespect anybody -- at least not in most cases. In the case of defending Super Bowl champions, I’d guess and say a lot of media members just like to be trendy and go with somebody new. As I often say, I don’t put much stock in predictions. But you’re going to see my predictions for the season very soon and, whatever they might be worth, I’ll throw you a hint and say I think you’ll like the “respect’’ I’m showing the Saints.