NFC South Saturday mailbag

Shawn in Dunedin, Fla., writes: I have heard a lot of talk about that the Bucs like Gerald McCoy more and more since they drafted him. What is it that they are attributing it to? His play on the field or is it something else?

Pat Yasinskas: I’ve heard the same things from important people within the Bucs. McCoy’s looked great on the field, but it has only been through workouts and minicamp and there’s no real hitting going on. It’s more his personality, intelligence and work habits. The Bucs knew McCoy was in good shape in all those departments when they drafted him, but they’re seeing even more good things. This guy can end up being a leader right away for a team that desperately needs leadership.

Adrian in Georgia writes: with the Falcons having back a healthy Peria Jerry, William Moore, and Harry Douglas, Dunta Robinson, Michael Turner, and Matt Ryan for all 16 games, do they beat out the Saints for the division? Remember the Saints won two squeakers without those guys and the Saints was fully loaded.

Pat Yasinskas: I’ll save my predictions until right before the season. But I think you have to look at the Saints right now as the favorite to win the division. They won the Super Bowl and their roster hasn’t changed all that much. But I also think the Falcons, if healthy, can be a serious challenger.

Rob in Sarasota, Fla., writes: Any word on the relations between Derrick Brooks and the Bucs? Was there an official announcement that he retired after no one picked him up last year? Has the dust settled enough to honor him as the second inductee in the Ring of Honor? Or at least something similar to what they did for Mike Alstott?

Pat Yasinskas: There has been no official announcement on Brooks’ retirement, even though it’s pretty obvious his playing days are over. This is kind of unfortunate because Brooks deserves a proper sendoff. He’s the best player in the history of the NFC South, although Drew Brees is gaining ground fast. At one point last season, the Bucs were starting to prepare some sort of major ceremony, but Brooks backed off because he thought he might end up playing somewhere else. It didn’t happen and I don’t think anything’s going to change this year. Quite frankly, Brooks is a guy with a tremendous amount of pride and it’s difficult for a guy like that to admit it’s over, but Brooks needs to accept the facts. The Bucs will give him a sendoff at least on a par with what they gave Mike Alstott and John Lynch and they’ll probably do even more for Brooks, but they’re waiting for him to give them clearance.

Charlie in Princeton, N.J., writes: Do you expect Jammal Brown to be starting? Or do you think he will be traded for a 2011 draft pick? Jermon Bushrod filled in admirably, but he got a lot of help so I'd be inclined to hold onto Brown.

Pat Yasinskas: With Brown not showing up at workouts and wanting a new contract, I think the Saints will at least entertain the idea of trading him. Brown is clearly a couple of notches above Bushrod as a player, but you have to factor in things like team chemistry. Brown’s been a good left tackle, but never has been dominant. Last year showed the Saints can get by with Bushrod, even if they have to give him lots of help. They could go the same route again and I think Brown needs to be careful what he wishes for because it just might end with him getting traded to a bad team.

Josh in Louisiana writes: Can’t wait to hear your preview of the Saints. I know their minicamp is coming up in a week or so, but judging from what you have seen this offseason, what do expect from the Saints defense?

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I’ll be heading to Metairie for their minicamp, which starts Friday and am anxious to see the Saints. On paper, I like what they’ve done with their defense this offseason. Yes, they lost linebacker Scott Fujita, but they’ve got plenty of candidates to replace him. I think defensive ends Jimmy Wilkerson and Alex Brown can be upgrades over Charles Grant and the secondary is absolutely loaded with talent. I’ll give you a more thorough analysis once I see the Saints on the field next week.