Opening the mail: Tampa Bay edition
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Since I've started down that road, we'll post the mailbags in the same order as the NFC South standings. Atlanta and New Orleans mailbags will come tomorrow, so hit the mailbag if you still want to get one in on the Falcons or Saints. Here's the mail on the Bucs:
Ramon in parts unknown writes: I think the best kept secret on the bucs is donald penn. He has faced some of the best pass rushers in the game and i think he's only allowed one sack all season and that was against john abraham, and on that play penn played abraham perfectly, he only got the sack because greise held on to the ball to long. So that's john abraham, jared allen, demarcus ware, and julius peppers and only one sack. this guy has been playing great and nobody other than the bucs and the opposing team has even taken notice.
Pat Yasinskas: Glad you brought that up. It's an excellent and overlooked point. Donald Penn might be one of the best unsung players in the NFL. He's done a very solid job this year and wasn't bad after first moving into the starting role early last year. At a left tackle position where most people think you have to have a first-round stud, Penn has shown he's an exception to the rules. Is he a Pro Bowler or will he ever be? Probably not. But he's become a very nice player within Tampa Bay's system. He's going to be a restricted free agent after this season and I wouldn't be surprised if the Bucs try to lock him up with a long-term deal. That would be a wise move.
Grant in parts unknown writes: Pat, Thanks for all the good work that you do. Now that Graham looks to be done for the year, what free agent running backs are out there that fit Graham's and/or Tampa's style?
Pat Yasinskas: The Bucs were supposed to work out Alvin Pearman and Noah Herron on Tuesday. Haven't heard yet if they signed either one or had anybody else in. The pickings are very slim this time of year and you're not going to find a guy on the street who can come in and do what Earnest Graham did. I think what you'll see is the Bucs using a three-headed backfield for at least the next few weeks. I think they'll use veteran Warrick Dunn as much as they can, but try to lighten his load by using rookie Clifton Smith and slowly working Cadillac Williams into the rotation. I'm guessing Williams might only get a handful of carries the next two games (against Detroit and New Orleans). But I think you might start seeing a healthy dose of Williams on Dec. 8, when the Bucs travel to Carolina for a Monday night NFC South showdown.
Travis in Phoenix writes: I just wanted to comment on your blog obout Lynch...I am a Carolina fan who hates Tampa Bay but I still respect the way he played the game...He was a great player who should be in the Hall of Fame...I just wanted to mention how well I thought the 2 blogs were written...It was incredable the way you emphasized certain points...I know as a writer you mostly hear people complain about what you write but I just wanted to let you know I think you do a great job and to keep up the great work...we all appreciate it...
Pat Yasinskas: I really respect a fan that is big enough to give props to a player for another team. Thanks for the compliments, but the thanks should go to John Lynch. Those items were easy to write and that's because I was writing about Lynch. I had the incredible fortune of beginning to cover the NFL for The Tampa Tribune at about the same time Lynch joined the Bucs and I got to observe the early years of his career up close and was happy I could be at his press conference Monday (although I did start to feel like I'm getting old). I've covered a lot of good people in my previous life covering the Bucs and Panthers for newspapers. But I can't say I've ever met a player who was a better all-around person than Lynch.