Saturday, May 7, 2011
Hitting the NFC South hot spots
By Pat Yasinskas
The NFL draft and its busy aftermath prevented me from getting a look at the NFC South mailbag for a bit. But it's time to catch up on the mailbag. I tried to pick questions that seemed to be on the minds of multiple readers.
Brian in Surprise, Ariz., wrote to say he knows I don’t like the Atlanta Falcons’ pick of Julio Jones or any of the team’s draft picks and goes on to explain how he sees Jones and running back Jacquizz Rodgers fitting into the offense.
Pat Yasinskas: Brian, I’ve got a surprise for you. I do like Atlanta’s draft. I like it very much. The only thing I can surmise as to why you think I didn’t like the draft was that I mentioned the cost of trading up to get Jones was steep. There’s no denying that. But Jones is a very talented receiver, and he’s coming to a team that wanted to add an explosive receiver. Rodgers should be a great fit in an offense that hasn’t really had a speed back the past few years. He should be what Jerious Norwood was supposed to be. I don’t see a true weakness on this offense.
Matt in Camden, N.J., wrote to ask why we’ve made such a big deal about Drew Brees organizing workouts with the Saints while there has been only casual mention about Josh Freeman and some of the Buccaneers working out together in Tampa.
Pat Yasinskas: Excellent question, so let me explain the difference. Brees assembled roughly 40 Saints at Tulane University and opened the first day to the media. It was a large-scale event, magnified by the fact that the Saints truly are the only thing that matters in New Orleans. (I know the Hornets are there, but they exist in the hefty shadow of the Saints.) Freeman’s been doing things a little more quietly and not on nearly as large a scale, and I salute him for going about his business quietly. Freeman’s gone out to the University of South Florida and worked out with some receivers and a few running backs. He’s also gone down to a private training facility with some teammates near Bradenton. The Tampa Bay media’s been kind of tied up with NHL’s Lightning and MLB’s Rays, so Freeman’s workouts haven’t been a huge local story. Some members of the Panthers and Falcons also are working out in smaller groups. But like the Bucs, they’re not getting as much attention because they didn’t bring in most of the roster and open up a whole session to the media.
Will in Middletown, Conn., asks what the Saints must do differently this season if they’re going to get back to winning the Super Bowl.
Pat Yasinskas: There were two big differences I saw between the 2009 season and the 2010 season for the Saints. In 2009, the defense produced turnovers in bunches and capitalized on them. That didn’t happen nearly as often last season. The other difference was on offense. The running game in 2010 just wasn’t as consistent as it was in 2009. Injuries played a big role in that. In theory, the Saints addressed both issues with their first two draft picks. Defensive end Cameron Jordan should bring more pressure up front, and pressure on quarterbacks should lead to more turnovers. Adding Mark Ingram to the backfield also should give the Saints more depth and consistency in the running game.
Michael in Perry, Ga., asks what I think about the Carolina Panthers possibly bringing back Jake Delhomme to serve as a mentor to Cam Newton.
Pat Yasinskas: On the surface, there are some merits to that suggestion. Delhomme’s a good guy to have in your locker room and he has plenty of experience. I respect and like Delhomme as much as any player I’ve ever covered. But I think fans get a little too caught up in the “mentor’’ role. Like just about any athlete, Delhomme’s a competitive guy and he’s going to do his best to try to get on the field. I’m not saying he would do anything to undercut Newton, and he could provide some help. But the Panthers are moving far away from their past, and I don’t think it would be productive to bring back Delhomme. In fact, I’ll say I don’t think the Panthers need to add a veteran quarterback at all. They’ve got Newton, Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike. Adding a veteran would mean they’d have to unload a young guy with upside. I think the “mentor’’ thing is overrated. The Panthers have Rob Chudzinski as their offensive coordinator and Mike Shula as their quarterbacks coach. They can be the mentors. I know everybody's talking about how young the Panthers are at quarterback, and that's true. But the fact is, their current group of quarterbacks has more career starts (10 by Clausen last season) than last year's group. The Panthers opened last season with Matt Moore, Clausen and Pike as the three quarterbacks on the roster. Moore had eight career starts entering the season, and Clausen and Pike were rookies.