Time for another edition of the NFC South mailbag.
Justin in Indiana writes: What happened to Sean Jones? I didn't see him at all in the preseason game. (Could have been just me.) Though I thought Sabby Piscitelli was pretty solid for a preseason game.
Pat Yasinskas: Jones did play last night, and was credited with one tackle and one assist, but I also didn’t see him do anything that jumped out. I saw Piscitelli a couple of times, particularly noticed him making a solid open-field tackle and also providing good coverage on one pass play. The strong safety position remains very much up for grabs. Although the Bucs gave Piscitelli the start, they haven’t seen major improvement in camp. Last night might have changed things a bit. They know what Jones can do. But they want to see more of Piscitelli before making a decision. Piscitelli’s got some physical talent, and the Bucs want to give him one last chance to put it all together. If it doesn’t happen, they’ll go with Jones.
Miles in Houston writes: I was looking at your recent post saying Derrick Brooks is the best all time player in the NFC South. So I looked back at the recently inducted Rickey Jackson and I felt his stats justified him being in the conversation with Brooks. I know people look at the fact that Jackson didn’t win the big one, but I don’t see how that is as relevant to a player's worth as people like to make it out to be. In Jackson's case, his team’s lack of success had to do more with the offense than a defense that gave up less yardage in 1991 than the much heralded 2000 Raven's defense.
Pat Yasinskas: By no means am I selling Rickey Jackson short. The guy was a tremendous football player and the fact he is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame says a lot. But I said Brooks is the best player in the history of the NFC South (by the way, that means any player ever with any team now in the NFC South) and will continue to say that. Drew Brees might change that in a few more years. But, right now, there’s no one even close to Brooks in this category. He spent his entire career with Tampa Bay, was the driving force behind the turnaround of a dismal franchise, and his 2002 season was as good as any defensive player ever has had as he led the Bucs to a championship. Jackson did a lot of great things in New Orleans, but he also spent a pretty good chunk of his career in San Francisco.
Rob in Houston writes: Regarding your post about worst to first in the NFC South, I think it's worth nothing that the one exception in 2008 (Atlanta) was in the hunt, almost won the division, and made the playoffs. Maybe Tampa does have a shot this season. I'm watching their preseason against the Dolphins at the moment, and they are showing some flashes.
Pat Yasinskas: Hey, stranger things have happened. That Atlanta team you referenced was in total disarray when Mike Smith took over, and virtually everyone had the Falcons ranked No. 32 in the league before the season started. They wound up going 11-5 and would have kept the worst-to-first streak alive if Carolina had not gone 12-4. History has shown anything can happen in the NFC South.
Jordan in Greensboro writes: I'm a Panthers fan and was impressed with Jimmy Clausen’s performance in the Ravens game. However, it seemed like a lot of his passes were very wobbly. Is this a concern, or is it no big deal?
Pat Yasinskas: The rain might have been a bit of a factor. But I also saw Clausen throw some very sharp passes. From what I know, the Panthers like his mechanics and arm a lot, so I don’t think this is a big issue.
Jesse in Trezevant, Tenn., writes: In Derrick Brooks' retirement speech, he mentioned that there we a handful of teams seeking his service (and a few perhaps tried to sign him). Do you know which teams? It is hard to think of Brooks being in any other jersey.
Pat Yasinskas: The New Orleans Saints and the Oakland Raiders were the two teams that were mentioned in connection with Brooks last preseason. Those were the only two I heard about. Not sure an actual offer was made by either team.
CCE in Los Angeles writes: Just wanted to know your thoughts about the play of Dominique Franks in last night's first preseason game. I really thought that he was a steal for Atlanta in the fifth round. I watched the preseason game with Kansas City, and it seemed like I heard his name called a lot. Is it possible he'll be starting opposite Dunta Robinson when the regular season starts?
Pat Yasinskas: The Falcons are very high on Franks, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of him. But he’s not a candidate to start right away. He’ll be a backup, and you’ll probably see a lot of him on special teams. But it looks like Christopher Owens or Brent Grimes will start opposite Robinson.
Matt in Tampa writes: Is Mike Williams going to start for Tampa?
Pat Yasinskas: It sure looks that way. The rookie receiver has been getting a lot of first-team work, and is making the most of it. The bigger question might be who starts opposite Williams? Fellow rookie Arrelious Benn also is in the mix, but might open the season as a backup. I think it comes down to Reggie Brown or Sammie Stroughter for the other starting job.