NFC South Hot Spots

Every week, we do team-by-team mailbags on Thursday and a division-wide mailbag on Saturday. But it seems like every week, the number of letters in the mailbag increases and I like to answer as many as possible.

That's why I'm starting a new -- and probably occasional feature -- Tuesday. In an effort to cover more of what's on your mind and do it in a timely manner, I present NFC South Hot Spots.

Luke in San Ramon, Calif., writes: I think people need to slow down on the Josh Freeman bandwagon. Although much improved, I think Freeman is more suited for a Pittsburgh style of offense with a ball-control running attack. Until Freeman starts delivering three- or four-touchdown games, I think Freeman is still a work in progress with tremendous upside.

Pat Yasinskas: Totally agree Freeman still is a work in progress. After all, this is his first full season as a starter. Also agree he has tremendous upside. But jump off the bandwagon? I'll respectfully disagree with that one. Look at Tampa Bay's roster. Overall, it's not very talented. But the Bucs are 8-5 and very much in the playoff picture. There is one -- and only one -- reason for that. It's Freeman. He has carried this team all season. Give Mark Dominik another offseason to improve the roster and Raheem Morris and his staff another offseason to coach their young players up and the games where Freeman throws three or four touchdown passes, while running for a touchdown or two, will come. Freeman is way ahead of the rest of his team. When the Bucs catch up, that's when the numbers will come.

Hank in Montana writes: That was an excellent article about Marques Colston. I've been voting for him often to go to the Pro Bowl, and I think its great that you decided to do a little campaigning for one of the most positive role models in the entire NFL. I also thought that was a nice jab at Steve Smith for his comment about Jimmy Clausen. Steve Smith just has a loud mouth, and that kind of stuff won't help your rookie quarterback.

Pat Yasinskas: Thanks, but give the real thanks to Colston for conducting himself the way he does. I have covered more than my share of attention-seeking wide receivers through the years and the fact Colston is the opposite of them and as productive as just about anyone is one of the reasons I have enormous respect for the man. In fact, Colston's demeanor reminds me of one of the few decorations that exist in the spartan NFC South Blog Headquarters. I've got a framed copy of part of one of the best stories I have ever read about sports or anything. It's by Sports Illustrated's Gary Smith and it's about the late Pat Tillman. I've got one page of that article framed with one excerpt highlighted in yellow marker. It's something Tillman once said to his roomate at Arizona State -- "Let people find things out about you. Don't tell them." That's pretty much what Colston does. He doesn't tell the world he's great. He simply goes out and shows it. As far as the other receiver you mention and his comment about Clausen, I'll just borrow a quote from Carolina coach John Fox -- "It is what is is.'' It's always been that way.

Kerry in Ellebell, Ga., writes: I'm thinking you will do another article about least in penalties this week because the Falcons only had one that was accepted for 10 yards. If you do, will you throw something in there about how the Falcons are putting smarter players on the field and not just the most athletic? Yes we are copying the Patriots, but to me, that's a pretty smart team to follow by example. That's why Arthur Blank went after Thomas Dimitroff. Yes, it does have to do with good coaching also, but smart teams are good teams.

Pat Yasinskas: I'm thinking you're probably right. As soon as I get updates from ESPN Stats & Information, I'll show where all the NFC South teams stand in penalties. Nothing wrong with copying the Patriots because they've had a lot of success and Dimitroff was schooled in that system. He looks for smart football players and so do his coaching staff and Mike Smith. One thing the current Falcons regime puts some heavy stock into is if a player actually graduated from college. Talent is a great thing, but so is intellect. If you ever get the chance to meet and talk to players like Thomas DeCoud, Michael Jenkins, Curtis Lofton or Matt Ryan (and I'm just using those guys as a few examples), you'll see what I mean.

Shannon in Raleigh, N.C., writes: I have followed you since your Charlotte Observer days in the Queen City and respect most of your columns. I have a problem with your effort to give Jimmy Clausen any type of hope in NC. You have influence with our fan base and some of our bigwigs inside the organization. Please, please stop trying to find hope in this guy.

Pat Yasinskas: I never have said I think Clausen is the answer. All I've said (repeatedly) is I think it's impossible to judge him on his performance this season because of the entire meltdown all around him. Maybe he ends up being a bust and maybe he ends up being a decent starter in the NFL. I just don't think you can tell much of anything at this point. Also, part of the reason I write that is because, yes, I do talk to some people in the organization who will still be around next year and some of them actually believe Clausen can be good. Part of my job is to let you know what the decision-makers are thinking. We don't know what the new coach will see in Clausen, but I'm just trying to let you know that some important people want to see what he can do when given a fair shot in a legitimate NFL offense. I don't know if that's a good idea or a bad idea, but Carolina fans might want to start facing reality and bracing themselves for more of Clausen.