The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are up in our series of team-by-team mailbags.
Carlos in Panama writes: What has happened to Tampa's linebackers? You were singing their praises during offseason, preseason and the beginning of the season but now they seem to be dormant. I don't see Quincy Black, Geno Hayes or Barrett Ruud making big plays EVER on a game-to-game basis. Why?
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I was singing their praises because the coaches and the front office were saying they expected big things from the linebackers. It hasn’t played out that way, but I think the reason is fairly obvious. The young defensive line isn’t playing very well, and it’s not keeping blockers away from linebackers. Rookie defensive tackle Brian Price has been hurt and fellow rookie Gerald McCoy is still adjusting to the NFL game. Until the Bucs get better up front, the linebackers won’t have a chance to shine.
Gerald in Casper, Wyoming writes: Going back to the draft in which Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez were selected ahead of him, don't you think Josh Freeman is doing more with less than the other two? The reason the Bucs are winning is because of Freeman with a less than stellar cast while Stafford has been hurt and Sanchez has Pro Bowl talent at every position.
Pat Yasinskas: Well, scouts don’t always get it exactly right. But the Bucs said they had Freeman rated ahead of Stafford and Sanchez, and I know one other general manager who told me Freeman was the highest quarterback on his team’s board last year. We’ll see how the careers of those three quarterbacks play out over time. But, right now, I like Freeman the best of the bunch.
Mike in Orlando writes: Is it too soon to start making John Elway comparisons when talking about Josh Freeman? He seems to have that same knack for carrying his team to 4th quarter comebacks.
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, just a little too early. It’s still very early in Freeman’s career. But he is showing a knack for making clutch plays, and that’s extremely encouraging. I’m very interested to see how he continues to develop as the Bucs work to improve his supporting cast.
Chris in Winter Park, Fla., writes: In your blog on what Raheem Morris said in his interveiw is correct. The Bucs aren't the best in the NFC, but if they continue the way they are going by winning the rest of their away games and winning the easy home games then they just might be at the level. Also have you seen what they can do in the 2nd half is amazing -- they are shutting down teams. Finally if the Bucs find their running game and defense then they will be set, because I see what Raheem is getting at.
Pat Yasinskas: Yep, there’s no doubt Morris’ comments were, at very least, premature. But, so what? He’s showing confidence in his team, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He clearly has this team headed in the right direction.
Drew in Clearwater, Fla., writes: I liked the way the Bucs finally had some semblance of a running game in the 2nd half of the game versus the Rams. Do you think that we will see more of LeGarrette Blount as the primary back and maybe more of Carnell Williams as the 3rd down back? Blount seems to have more of a burst and is quite a bit tougher to tackle. I know that he isn't experienced picking up blitzes but I believe that he can do the job if given the opportunity. Plus it actually makes our offense 2 dimensional. What do you think?
Pat Yasinskas: I think it’s safe to expect Blount’s playing time to continue to increase. But I think he and Williams will be splitting time at running back. It’s a long season and you need at least two quality running backs. Early indications are the Bucs might have stumbled onto something good by giving Blount a shot.