NFC South: sacks
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
This will be the final mailbag before the start of the regular season. Your questions were great and keep them coming.
David in Charlotte writes: What do you think of Rhys Lloyd? I think if Carolina is going to be successful this year Lloyd will be a HUGE part of it. I haven't seen him kick a kickoff yet that wasn't inside the five, and he routinely plants them 5 yards deep in the endzone. The difference in opponents starting field position will be huge for the panthers D this year. Your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: Short kickoffs have been a problem for several years. That's why John Fox broke from tradition and sacrificed a roster spot to keep Lloyd, a kickoff specialist. I think it definitely will help in the field-position game.
Ronald in Lynchburg VA writes: I've got $100 bet on this. Do you think the Atlanta Falcons can win the NFC South? especially with the major injury questions for the other teams in the division.
Pat Yasinskas: I don't know if Virginia has a state lottery or if you're anywhere near a casino. I'd go one of those routes. Your odds are better. Or see if you can get out of the bet and save $100. Seriously, the Falcons may be better than we all expect, but that would be like a five- or six-win season. The division? Even thinking about that is a year away.
Daryl in Alberta writes: All I've heard all summer is that Moore is an up and comer and potential future starter. I've also been reading that Basanez is in that Romo-mode, unknown who has the mental attributes to surprise, a poor man Delhomme. All of a sudden your knocking them though? I dont get it chief, you gotta explain that one.
Pat Yasinskas: If I'm "knocking'' the Panthers, it's because I'm simply pointing out they went through their entire offseason at quarterback going with three guys in one direction. Then, Moore goes down with an injury and they suddenly feel the need to trade for an "experienced'' quarterback in Josh McCown. No knock on him, but he's being thrust into an offense with less than a week to learn it. They also cut Basanez with the implication being he wasn't developing in the way they thought he would. Then, because of the Moore injury, they turn right around and sign him to the practice squad. Just seems like some panicky moves from a team that seemed to be so set at quarterback. Of course, it will all be moot if Jake Delhomme stays healthy all year.
Wally in parts unknown writes: Hey Pat, You are the NFC South blogger, you have seen the teams first hand. Gene Wojciechowski recently had a predictions article where he picked the Saints 3rd in the division and said the following: "[The Saints can win the division] But none of it happens unless the Saints' offensive line (this time without center Jeff Faine, who signed a free-agent deal with the Bucs) do a little something we like to call "pass blocking." Don't get me wrong, there are valid reasons to pick the Saints third, but pass blocking is FAR from it. The Saints allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL last year while Drew Brees was throwing the ball more then anyone in the NFL. To me that translates to the Best Pass Blocking OLine in the NFL. Would you kindly report this fact to Gene. I would hate to think that an ESPN columnist of his stature was writing such articles with out a fact checker.
Pat Yasinskas: You are correct, the Saints did allow the fewest sacks in the league last year and I'll pass that on to Gene if I ever get to meet him. But I don't think all the credit should go to an offensive line that's not that dominating. Brees is helped by the fact that New Orleans rarely throws the deep ball and he's not exposed to pass rushers for long. The bread and butter of this offense is the quick passing game where rushers don't have time to get near Brees. Plus, Brees does a good job of unloading the ball before anyone can get to him.
JP in Yadkinville, NC writes: Ok ... Understand you are trying to pick a single player for a position but with the increased use of dual RB's in the same backfeild why not compare them to individual stand out's at the position. For example ... why not compare a tandem RB's from one team if they get the same production frome a dual back system???
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I was just basing it on single backs when I picked my preseason All-NFC South squad. But you bring up a good point because it's crucial to have two good backs on a team these days. I think the NFC South is primed to do that with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood in Atlanta, Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in New Orleans and Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett in Tampa Bay. I won't rank them now because I want to see how things are divided in each situation. But I'll rank them and do a post on that around midseason.
Someone who didn't include their name in Raleigh writes: Hey Pat, keep up the good work covering the NFC South. In my opinion people are being a little bit too critical of the Panthers defensive trench. The unit has played well all preseason. I know they won't come out and destroy opposing o-lines, but at the very least they can be solid enough to free up our linebacking group, which has more depth than perhaps anyone with Beason, Davis, Diggs, Johnson, Seward, and rookie Conner. If the road-graders can do that the defense should be successful in my opinion. What are your thoughts on that and also do you think the defensive playcalling will finally utilize our linebackers in the blitz more often to cover up any deficiency the line might show?
Pat Yasinskas: Carolina's defensive line was promising in the preseason. If that carries over into the regular season, this could be a great defense. But let's see that line play that way in the regular season first. Love the linebackers and, yeah, I think you'll see more blitzes, particularly from Thomas Davis.
Hammock62 in parts unknown writes: Having seen the Falcons this preseason do you think the OL is good enough to allow Ryan the time to Throw the ball deep?
Pat Yasinskas: I have no doubt Ryan can throw the deep ball, but I don't think that's going to be practical from the start. They've got rookie left tackle Sam Baker protecting Ryan's blind side and Baker's going to have some ups and downs. He's also going to get attacked by every defensive front in the league. If I were calling the shots for the Falcons, I'd stick to a short and medium passing game just to keep Ryan from getting too beat up.