NFC South mailbag

Scott in Tampa writes: I've heard a lot of mixed things about Bucs rookie receiver Mike Williams. He supposedly had "character issues," yet he's already signed his contract and at least seems to be extremely focused on improving and showing his worth. Do you think he has the ability to be a quality starter in the not-too-distant future?

Pat Yasinskas: Williams has been emphatic that what happened at Syracuse last year hasn’t been portrayed accurately. He claims he didn’t quit on his teammates, but left because he was facing a suspension. He’s said and done all the right things since coming to Tampa Bay. He also has looked good in offseason workouts. I think there’s a real chance the Bucs open the season with Williams and fellow rookie Arrelious Benn as their starting receivers. Then again, there aren’t a lot of other good alternatives. Also, the Bucs claim they've done extensive research on Williams and are not concerned about his character.

Patrick in Reno, Nev., writes: I know the Saints may simply rely on Lynell Hamilton to take Mike Bell's place as the short yardage back. Do you think it makes sense for them to maybe bring in Marshawn Lynch to fill that role? They could probably get him for a 4th or 5th rounder or put a package together involving Jamaal Brown.

Pat Yasinskas: Well, let’s see what happens with Pierre Thomas’ contract situation first. Reports are that Thomas is asking for huge money and I don’t know that the Saints think he’s worth that. If they are not able to resolve things with Thomas, they’ll have to bring in another back to go with Reggie Bush and Hamilton. I think they believe Hamilton can carry the load in the short-yardage game. But, if they don’t have Thomas, I think they’ll look for a back that can do a little bit of everything.

Shaun in Calif., writes: Having been a lifelong Panther's fan since they were founded when I was 10, I am puzzled by your assessment of Muhsin Muhammad as "not genuine". I am still curious personally as to what that means. He is such a fan favorite in Carolina and always seemed like a great addition to the team from a personality and even media standpoint.

Pat Yasinskas: I covered Muhammad for much of his career and that’s my assessment of him. I know there are members of the media in Carolina and Chicago that feel the same way. In fairness to Muhammad, he is a wide receiver and almost all wide receivers have a selfish streak. Muhammad is known as “The Flower’’ in media circles because he once made a comment after his team got beat 52-9 in Oakland that “amid all the rubble, a flower bloomed’’ because he got his 100th catch of the season. Muhammad can turn on the charm for the cameras when he wants, but I’ve seen another side. That said, his coaches and teammates always have considered him a “team’’ guy.

Haile in Durham, N.C., writes: Who is running with the first time defense for ROLB? James Anderson or Dan Connor?

Pat Yasinskas: Anderson’s been getting just about all the first-team work there through the offseason and that makes him the favorite to be the starter. Connor hasn’t been getting any work on the outside, although he has the ability to play there if needed. Connor’s been working in the middle as Jon Beason’s backup.