Time for another edition of the NFC South mailbag. Kind of interesting that the first three questions all come from Texas. Could we be taking over the territory of “The Beast’’?
Brendan in Dallas writes: How do you feel about Darren Sharper coming off this knee surgery? Do you think that he'll be able to have the great season like he did last year or should we expect more of Malcolm Jenkins this season? I myself like how Jenkins' been doing this preseason so I wouldn't mind having a younger guy like Jenkins out there.
Pat Yasinskas: I am extremely interested to see what the Saints do about Sharper in the next few days. All indications are he’s not ready to contribute right now and the Saints will have to make a difficult decision. I think the likely scenario is they’ll place him on the physically-unable-to-perform list, hope he can heal up and bring him back as insurance for the second half of the season. But I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Saints cutting Sharper or him deciding to retire. It’s been very clear for some time now that Jenkins will open the season as the starter at free safety. Jenkins is young and very talented. I don’t think it’s out of the question that he can put up numbers similar to what Sharper did last season.
Victor in El Paso, Texas writes: Now that the Bucs have cut Derrick Ward do you think the Bucs will get another running back?
Pat Yasinskas: I would not totally rule out the Bucs picking up a running back when other teams make their cuts. The Bucs constantly monitor the waiver wire and are always looking to upgrade a roster that clearly still needs some upgrading. But I don’t think it’s an absolute necessity that the Bucs get a running back. They appear content to head into the season with Cadillac Williams and Kareem Huggins as their top two running backs. Clifton Smith might factor in as a situational player. Plus, fullback Earnest Graham has some history at tailback and can always move back over there.
Robert in Dallas Texas writes: Keep up the great work! Two quick questions for you: Do you think the Bucs should make a move on a trade for Matt Leinart? Would he be an upgrade compared to Josh Johnson?
Pat Yasinskas: I’m not completely sold on Josh Johnson as a No. 2 quarterback yet. I think he’s a legitimate No. 3 with upside. I would like to see the Bucs add a backup with some legitimate NFL experience. But I’m not sure Leinart is the guy they should be looking at. First off, if Arizona’s trying to trade the guy they went through the offseason planning to start, that should raise some serious red flags. He’s a guy that was a high draft pick and has never done much in the NFL. We might be looking at another Heather Shuler or Ryan Leaf. I’d rather see the Bucs pick up some veteran with a little bit of starting experience that can come in, accept his role as No. 2 to Josh Freeman and fit well in the locker room. If the Saints, who may carry only two quarterbacks, decide to cut Patrick Ramsey, that's a guy I think the Bucs should be all over.
Harris in Weaverville, N.C. writes: I am a hard-core Panthers fan. However, I can't say that I keep up with every team in the NFL enough to know the answer to this question: Are there any teams in the NFL that are so loaded with wide receivers that there will be some decent pickings when the final cuts are due on Saturday? What are the chances that the Panthers will make a WR move from the waivers?
Pat Yasinskas: You can bet that Marty Hurney and his staff will be watching to see what wide receivers get cut by other teams by Saturday afternoon’s deadline. Given the fact the Panthers don’t have a lot of depth at receiver, I think a move is entirely possible. Just to throw a couple of names out there from other NFC South teams that might be available -- Tampa Bay’s Michael Clayton and New Orleans’ Adrian Arrington. Yes, Clayton largely has been a bust in Tampa Bay, but he could fit better in Carolina’s system. He is a good run blocker and might be a scaled-down version of Muhsin Muhammad. Arrington’s a guy who’s been held back by injuries and a very deep receiving corps in New Orleans, but he’s got plenty of upside.
Greg in Tampa writes: Can you explain to us Bucs fans why the NFL waited a whole YEAR to suspend Aqib Talib? One would think the league would act when the courts do.
Pat Yasinskas: A good question and something I’ve also wondered about. More than anything, I think this one got caught up in red tape. It took some time for the legal system to play out and that’s why the NFL didn’t take action last year. But couldn’t this suspension have been determined much earlier this year? You would think so. But I’m guessing Talib’s file was a little lower on Roger Goodell’s desk than Ben Roethlisberger’s. Goodell has the ultimate say on all suspensions and it sometimes takes some time for that to happen. But it’s not like the Bucs didn’t see this one coming. They pretty much knew from the end of last season that they’d be opening the season without Talib.