The NFC South mailbag got pretty full while I took my last bit of time off before training camps open, so let’s go ahead and get to some of your questions.
Jordan in New Orleans wrote to ask if Reggie Bush could be primed for a big season if he stays in New Orleans.
Pat Yasinskas: We’ll go on the assumption that Bush and the Saints work out a way to handle his contract and answer your question. Part of the reason that Bush has never put up the kind of numbers so many people expected is because he has dealt with a variety of injuries during his career. I think he’s a guy who possibly could benefit from the lockout. He’s had an entire offseason to let his body recover and get fully healthy. Let’s say he stays that way. Bush has only played a full 16-game season once in his career. That was 2006, his rookie season. Combine his rushing and receiving numbers from that season and you come up with more than 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns. I expect Mark Ingram to sort of fill the old Deuce McAllister role. In 2006, McAllister and Bush made a nice tandem. Plus, I think Sean Payton has had an entire offseason to come up with different ways to utilize Bush’s talents. I think it’s possible he could put up numbers similar to what he did as a rookie, if he can stay healthy all year.
Dustin in San Diego asks about the possibility of Tampa Bay pursuing Atlanta free-agent tackle Tyson Clabo.
Pat Yasinskas: Not out of the realm of possibility. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is a free agent and he lost his job to James Lee last season. I don’t think the Bucs are going to make a huge effort to re-sign Trueblood. Atlanta may try to keep Clabo, but the Bucs might be wise to make a run at him. Clabo would be an upgrade over Trueblood or Lee.
Jason in Winston-Salem, N.C., asks if there’s any chance of the Panthers keeping quarterback Matt Moore.
Pat Yasinskas: I just don’t see it. Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen are guaranteed roster spots, unless they get injured. The Panthers also have Tony Pike and have talked about signing a veteran to mentor the young quarterbacks. Moore has a little experience, but not enough to really be the true mentor type. I still think Moore can be a decent NFL backup. I just think it’s in his best interest to go somewhere else and get a fresh start.
Jill in Atlanta wanted to know my thoughts on Ricky Bell as a potential member of Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor.
Pat Yasinskas: I think Bell is someone who should get in to the Ring of Honor in the next couple of years, if the Bucs continue to go in some sort of chronological order. Bell was a little before my time and I was in junior high school in Pennsylvania most of the time he played for the Bucs. But, even from a distance, I remember Bell in the same category as Lee Roy Selmon and Doug Williams, especially in that wondrous 1979 season. That might have been Bell’s finest season and he had several good years. Sadly, his career was cut short by illness and he died in 1984. I’ve talked to several former teammates about Bell and they all say he was a marvelous talent and wonder what he could have done if he had a longer career. I think he did enough to earn a spot in the Ring of Honor.
Brian in Athens, Ga., inquired about the status of Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry.
Pat Yasinskas: I’ve asked that question of coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff several times this offseason. Every time, each of them has given the same answer: they’re expecting big things from Jerry, their first-round pick in 2009. He had a major knee injury early in his rookie season. Jerry came back last season, but was only a situational player with rookie Corey Peters playing ahead of him. Smith and Dimitroff have admitted the plan was to go slowly with Jerry last season. They firmly believe this is the season his knee will be totally healthy and they think he can finally be the player they thought they were getting when they drafted him.
Mike in Chapel Hill, N.C., said he’s read a lot about players working out on their own or in groups during the offseason, but wonders what coaches have been doing during the lockout.
Pat Yasinskas: Excellent question and not much has been written about this. Around the league, coaches were more involved in the draft than in past years. They’ve also spent a lot of time working with personnel staffs to prepare for free agency. I think that’s one bright side of the lockout because coaching staffs and personnel staffs have had more time to get on the same page about who they want in free agency. Beyond that, I’ve heard that coaches have spent a lot of time reviewing the players they already have and thinking about ways to make them better. I’ve also heard coaches have done a lot more advance film work on their opponents for this season.