Saturday morning mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Lots of good questions, including one from Baghdad. Here they are:

SaintsFanIn_Iraq, from Anacoco, LA, writes: Pat, I write this from Baghdad, but my hometown is Anacoco, Louisiana. I have been a Saints fan ever since I can remember watching football. Right now we have a few injuries to key defensive players (Gay, MM, Fujita, Harper). To me, the coaching staff looks like they are just preparing players for a game, and not an opponent. Is this due to a lack of experience. I am a firm believer in preparing against the opponent, and not just preparing for Sunday. I might be mistaken, but they looked very sloppy against Washington. Injured or not, we need backups that are ready, and I just don't see that yet.

Pat Yasinskas: Very interesting theory. I know the Saints scout just like every other team and I'm sure Sean Payton will tell you he and his staff devise game plans for other teams. But, after the Washington game, you have to wonder if they're doing a good enough job of it. Sure, there were injuries, but that's not an excuse because the replacements are pros, too. If they didn't prepare well enough for Jim Zorn and Washington last week, they could have their hands full with Mike Shanahan and Denver on Sunday.

Michael in Syracuse, NY, writes: Hi, Pat, thanks for the great Carolina/NFC South coverage. You just wrote, "...while waiting for Peppers to be spectacular". What if he isn't? What if he goes through the season a bit better than last, but basically mundane? That would be two seasons, plus the last quarter of 2006 in which he's pretty much disappeared. I know the Panthers are in negotiations with him now. But...could you please expound upon the various options? Such as, if he's a free agent, would there be compensation...how losing him might impact...possible replacements (free agency, draft, etc.)? I know that's a mouthful to ask, but in any event, thanks for the writing!

Pat Yasinskas: All sorts of possibilities if it plays out that way. The Panthers, starting with owner Jerry Richardson, are very fond of Peppers. Richardson previously has said he hopes Peppers spends his entire career in Carolina. If he doesn't produce, though, I could see things changing. It would be difficult (and perhaps foolish) to pay Peppers huge money if he has another season like last year. There's no immediate compensation if he signs elsewhere and it's not like the Panthers are stockpiled at defensive end. John Fox puts a premium on the pass rush. If Peppers walks as a free agent, the Panthers would probably have to go out and get another high-profile defensive end (or two) through the draft. But I don't think it will come to that. Just a gut feeling, but I think Peppers will stay in Carolina.

Chris in Tampa writes: There is a lot of talk about whether the Bucs would be better off without the Gruden/Allen cabal. But several teams have found out that the hot young assistant coach (Childress, Linehan, Cameron, Marinelli, Mora) is not necessarily the answer. Is what you're going to get really better than what you have? I'm not at all happy at what Gruden has produced here but it's better than what Alex Smith went through in SF - four offensive coordinators in four years. What do you think?

Pat Yasinskas: There's an old saying in the NFL that if you fire a coach, you better be darn sure you can get someone better. Gruden's got a Super Bowl title and has won a lot of games through the years. He also got a contract extension after last season. I know fans are polarized by Gruden -- they either love him or they don't. But, at the moment, I don't see him going anywhere. He's coming off a playoff appearance and his team is 1-1. It would take a disastrous season for him to lose his job.

Kenny in Atlanta writes: Hey Pat, I've got a question regarding the Atlanta Falcons. DT Rod Coleman was one of the game's best pass rushing tackles from '04-'05, and as of September 18, 2008, he is still a free agent. Why has no team signed him? Do you think there is a chance that Atlanta would re-sign him (they resigned big Grady Jackson? I think it would help their pass rush considerably). Thanks!

Pat Yasinskas: No doubt, Coleman was very good for the Falcons a few years back. But he finished last season on the injured list and made only seven tackles. Coleman had an assortment of injuries last year and his age and durability concerns are why he hasn't signed anywhere. He's 32, which, as a rule, is old for a defensive tackle. I know the Falcons brought back Grady Jackson, but I think the organization's philosophy is to get younger.

Nick in Alexandria, VA, writes: Pat, Thanks for doing an all falcons mailbag! The 57 of us really appreciate it. What do you think the falcons need to take the next step? I know its early, but besides Roddy White don't we need another WR and more O-Line? I love Sam Baker, but what about drafting Mike Oher from Ole Miss?

Pat Yasinskas: You're right. It's very early to be talking about next offseason. Right now, I'd say more help on the offensive line probably will be a priority. This team is committed to Matt Ryan and protecting him is very important. A lot can change as this season goes on, but I'd say defensive end (if Jamaal Anderson doesn't step up) and cornerback could be among the other top needs.

Jayson Velez in WA writes: Why is it that the Bucs never get any props when it comes to espn? It seems that they're always getting negative comments from some commentators. They're are plenty teams that get coverage that are less exciting. There are teams out there that get coverage despite that they might be playing some weak team. I just get tired of the "Boring Bucs" comments...

Pat Yasinskas: Actually, I think the Bucs have been pretty interesting to cover. The Brett Favre saga and the Jeff Garcia benching have been major stories. If the comments you're referring to are about the Bucs' offense, well, it is what it is. Joey Galloway's been injured, Brian Griese is the QB and there's nothing else glamorous on offense. If the Bucs win, though, it really doesn't matter if they're "boring" or not -- they'll get their due.