NFC South: LenDale White
Pat Yasinskas: While it’s true the Saints lost power back Mike Bell in free agency, I think they’ve got Lynell Hamilton ticketed for that role this season. He showed some promise last year. Yes, White fits the profile of a big back. But there have been reports he faces a four-game suspension. That’s probably not going away. Whenever the Saints or anyone else signs him, White still will have to serve that suspension.
Stephen in Raleigh, N.C., writes: What do you think the chance of Charlotte getting a Super Bowl in the next 10 years are now? They cannot say it is too cold anymore. Would the Panthers need to upgrade the stadium to get the Super Bowl, or is Bank of America Stadium sufficient?
PY: Considering I lived in Charlotte for nearly nine years, I’m trying not to appear biased and hope I’m giving you a comprehensive opinion on this. I think Charlotte would make a wonderful Super Bowl host. First off, the location of the stadium is perfect. It’s in Uptown Charlotte (which would qualify as downtown in other cities) and right in the middle of everything. That kind of proximity helps tremendously with logistics. I’ve seen Charlotte on plenty of game days and, although I’m not a NASCAR fan at all, I’ve been in Uptown during race weeks and this city is set up nicely for big events. The weather used to be the main excuse, but giving New York the 2014 Super Bowl kind of eliminates that. I also know that, at least at one time, the Charlotte area didn’t meet the NFL’s minimum requirements for hotel rooms. I know several large hotels have been added in recent years, so I don’t know if that’s still an issue. Bottom line for me, I’d be happy if Charlotte got a Super Bowl.
Michael in St. Petersburg, Fla., writes: I just wanted to follow up on the fan’s question about Ronde Barber being a possible Hall of Famer. Definitely. He’s the only corner in NFL History with 20+ sacks and 20 picks. He’s been a playmaker almost his entire career, and with the distinction of the only 20/20 corner, that should be enough in my book to vote him into the HOF. Just my thoughts.
PY: You’re entitled to your opinion and I’m not saying it’s wrong. I just disagree. I think Barber’s been a very good player, but not a Hall of Famer. Just my thoughts.
Russell in Denver, N.C., writes: Jerry Richardson finally addressed the media and fans, and I understand the route they're taking with free agency and releasing players. He said it had nothing to do with the CBA. So, why not go ahead and lock up players like Richard Marshall and DeAngelo Williams? I think he only addressed half of the issues the fans have, and I think they're taking chances on players we can't afford to lose.
PY: First off, Richardson addressed the fans, not the media. The conversation was in the team’s official magazine, so it’s fair to speculate certain topics might have been off limits. But at least Richardson did address some of the questions many fans have. I disagree with him saying the labor issues aren’t factors in the team’s football decisions. He’s not paying people like Marshall or Williams big money now because he doesn’t want to give big signing bonuses as he prepares his franchise for the possibility of a lockout.
Eli in Los Angeles writes: Do you think the Falcons will be implementing Kroy Biermann into the rushing scheme some more this year, as last year he was a total beast coming off the edge when he got the chances?
PY: Yes, I do. The Falcons have to generate more of a pass rush and they didn’t really add anyone to do that in free agency or the draft. That means they’re counting on Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury to step up this year. Both players have the tools to rush the passer and they’ll get the chance to show if they can.
Bobby in Burlington, NC writes: Keep feeding us these GREAT articles about the Cats!! First King Julius(a masterpiece) and then the one on our two-headed monster. Glad to know it's premium fuel they run on. Glad Marty Hurney and John Fox picked DeAngelo Williams over that idiot Lendale White. One prime example of excellent drafting. Too bad they don't make more decisions like this. DeAngelo defintely needs a raise though!!
Pat Yasinskas: Be patient. I think DeAngelo’s raise will be coming. The flip side of this purge is you could see guys like Williams, Jon Beason and Thomas Davis end up with long-term contracts. By the way, DeAngelo actually used the term “supreme’’ fuel.
Chris in Harrisburg, PA writes: I have been reading how everyone is wondering why the Glazers aren't spending any money on UFA's and I am kind of sick of hearing fans bash the Front Office for not pursuing guys like Dunta Robinson, Brandon Marshall or Julius Peppers. Don't they know that they need to save money to resign some of their own key players like Tanard Jackson, Davin Joseph, Barrett Ruud, and yes maybe even Geno Hayes?
Pat Yasinskas: Chris, I’m with you -- to a large degree. It’s very easy to sit there and call the Glazers cheap. Too easy and too many fans just do that because they can. Now, there may be something to be said about their frugality, but I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to say it until you look at all angles. You’re making a good point about keeping some of their own players and I’m glad you did. As far as pointing to Manchester United and saying the soccer team is draining the football team, I think that’s a huge leap. If someone out there has actually seen the books -- and not just read a few stories about Manchester United’s debt -- and you know for sure the Bucs are cheap, then let me know. But don’t just speculate about it. In other words, if you want to talk, be able to back it up.
Mookie in Snellville, GA writes: Pat, I know the chat is over. But I had to leave a comment to you on the 02' Bucs vs. 09' Saints. If my memory serves me correct, Aaron Brooks and the 02' Saints swept the 02' Bucs that year. Drew Brees and Co. woulda crushed them easily !!!
Pat Yasinskas: I promise, that will be factored in later this summer when we do our project on the best NFC South team ever and the best single-season team in the history of all four franchises.
Nate in Palmer, Alaska writes: The Bucs depth at running back seems pretty good this upcoming season. It appeared last season Derrick Ward was supposed to be the man at RB for the Bucs Carnell Williams returned with such force and energy. As a long time Bucs fan, I think he was one of the very few highlights of our 2008/09 season and wouldn't mind seeing him get the starting nod this year. What are your thoughts on this?
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, Ward was brought in to be the starter and got big money. He never really produced like the Bucs had imagined. Williams did produce. He won the starting job last year and I don’t anticipate that changing.
|Crystal LoGiudice/US Presswire|
|Versatile running back Reggie Bush may be ahead of his time.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
They are not the same guy.
If you still want to compare Bush to someone, stay in the Gulf Coast region, but switch sports. Think basketball. Think Pete Maravich.
Think about guys who were, depending how you look at it, either on the cutting edge or ahead of their times. About 40 years and a sport apart, Bush and Maravich might have a lot more in common than you think.
I picked up a copy of Mark Kriegel's fine book "Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich'' in the Tampa airport before I flew to New Orleans for Saints minicamp last week. I was somewhat intrigued because I have some vague memories of Maravich playing in the NBA in the mid-1970s when I first became interested in sports. I kind of recalled that Maravich had been a pretty good player at Louisiana State.
Kriegel filled me in on the rest and it was a lot. The short version of it is that, back in the late 1960s, Maravich introduced basketball to a region that only had known football. Maravich made passes behind his back, dribbled between his legs and averaged around 45 points in his college career. He set himself up for a high draft selection and a contract that seemed absurd at the time. Although Maravich had a very good NBA career (including a stint with the New Orleans Jazz), the tragic undertone of the book is that he was born 10 or 15 years too soon.
The suggestion is, had Maravich played in the NBA in the glory days of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, his talents might have been fully appreciated because they would have fit the time frame. Instead, Maravich never quite lived up to the hype and expectations that followed him out of college.
That's where Bush comes in. When he came out of USC as the No. 2 overall pick in 2006, the natural assumption was that Bush would run for 1,500 yards a season because that's what great running backs are supposed to do. Instead, Bush has run for 1,550 yards -- in three seasons.
But let's not go calling Bush a "bust" because he hasn't run for 1,500 yards a season. There's still time for him to be a whole lot more.
"I think the direction where the NFL is headed toward, you don't see those type of running backs anymore,'' Bush said between minicamp practices Saturday. "You see guys splitting time. Guys who are able to play running back and multiple positions. I think those days of the one-running back system are over.''
Think about it a bit and look around the NFL. The days of the Saints giving the ball to McAllister up the gut 25 or 30 times a game are over in New Orleans. They may be over in a lot of places. Look at Carolina's "Double Trouble'' with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart or Tennessee's "Smash and Dash'' with LenDale White and Chris Johnson.
Maybe Bush is right. Maybe this is a turning point in the NFL, a time when running backs don't have to fit the profile of Earl Campbell or Jerome Bettis.
"I hear it debated about because I think the framework of how people try to fix the position and we don't have to worry about that,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Since he's been here, we've changed a lot in how we move the football. The most important thing is, are we scoring points and are we moving the football? If the answer is yes to that and he's a big part of that, then all that other stuff will sort itself out.''
There are some people who will say Bush isn't a true running back and can't run between the tackles. Let's get this out of the way now because Bush resents that.
"I can run the ball between the tackles,'' Bush said. "Anybody can run the ball between the tackles. I don't feel like that is going to make me or break me. I don't feel like running the ball between the tackles is going to win us the Super Bowl or help me win the MVP. It's being versatile, being able to run the ball between the tackles, outside the tackles, returning punts, catching the ball out of the backfield and catching the ball down the field. That's what I do. That's who I am.''
Maybe, just maybe, Bush realizes who he is before the rest of the world. He's right about the versatility thing. Think about it -- there have been running backs who could catch the ball out of the backfield (LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk for example) and running backs who could return punts (Gale Sayers).
But has there ever been a running back who could line up at receiver and beat just about any cornerback in the league, who could return two punts (almost three in one half against Minnesota last year) and run inside and outside the tackles?
Go ahead and say Bush is less than a running back. I say he's more than a running back.
Give him a full and healthy season. Bush missed six games last year and four in 2007 because of injury. As a rookie, he sat a lot because of McAllister.
"(The coaches) know I can run the ball between the tackles,'' Bush said. "That's not a question. It's just a matter of me staying healthy. I think that's more of the question.''
Give him a full season of Pierre Thomas sharing the duties at running back. Give him a full season with quarterback Drew Brees. Give him a full season with Payton, who just might be the most progressive offensive mind in the league. And give him a season where the New Orleans' defense gets off the field every now and then.
Let it all come together and let Bush be Bush. Maybe then Bush can avoid the same fate as Maravich. Maybe Bush isn't too late or too early. Maybe Bush has arrived at just the right time to redefine the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas