Thursday morning mailbag

John in Prairieville, La., writes: A lot is being made of the "late" hits on Brett Farve. There were called late hits on Favre, two I believe. And I believe that one was missed. I also saw that a man in mid-air, as Favre passed, was called for a late hit. This extended a drive. It goes both ways. The refs did the best they could with the Vikings backfield swamped with Saint's jerseys. Which leads me to my point. The Vikings could not contain our pass rush (or hold on to the ball), this is why they lost. Not because we paid off refs our some other conspiracy. Simply put, if you don't protect your QB he will get hurt. Your opinion?

Pat Yasinskas: Football is a very physical game and I think you’re correct in saying the Vikings didn’t do a great job of protecting Favre in the NFC Championship Game. That and Adrian Peterson’s inability to hold onto the ball are the main reasons the Vikings lost. Yes, the Saints got called for some penalties and might have crossed the line at times. But, like you said, if the Vikings had done a better job protecting Favre, the Saints wouldn’t have been able to get hits on him.

Kevin in Omaha, Neb., writes: I know you don't make your predictions until closer to the season, but I was listening to Mike and Mike and they predicted that the Bucs would have a 2-14 season and 3-13 season. What are they looking at? From my view the Bucs are better at just about every position. Now I am not predicting a Super Bowl run and a playoff appearance is even far-fetched (not out of the question but unlikely) but they are going to be better than last season. What is your view?

Pat Yasinskas: Pretty much the same as your view. I think the Bucs are improved in a lot of areas and the biggest is at quarterback. Josh Freeman has a year under his belt and he’s going to be all right. Like you, I’m not ready to say the Bucs are going to the playoffs, but I think they’ll be a competitive with the potential to win five or six games.

Matt in Tampa writes: Great article on the Bucs in your Camp Confidential piece. Just one question, how is Arrelious Benn doing? He seemed invisible against Miami and I see that he is 3rd string at the Z WR position behind Maurice Stovall and Sammie Stroughter. Is he really struggling?

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think it would be fair or accurate to say Benn is struggling. He did get off to a quiet start in camp, but that happens with a lot of rookie receivers. He’s come on in practice over the last week or so and is progressing nicely. I don’t think he’s ready for a spot in the starting lineup. But, if continues to make progress, he could earn a spot in the receiver rotation.

Brendan in Kernersville, N.C., writes: What is the feeling in Panther's camp on how Dan Connor is progressing at the MIKE position?

Pat Yasinskas: The Panthers seem satisfied with Connor at middle linebacker. He’s not going to be Jon Beason, who has moved over to weakside linebacker. In other words, Connor probably isn’t going to make a lot of big plays. Beason can do that from the weak side. Connor’s main job will be to produce tackles.

Scott in Austin, Texas, writes: Junior Gallette looked pretty good in the first preseason game and I keep hearing his doing well. Do you think there is any chance they might move him to defensive tackle as opposed to end?

Pat Yasinskas: I’ve heard good things about Gallette and liked what I saw when I visited the Saints early in camp. However, I don’t think defensive tackle is in Gallette’s future. He’s not big enough to play the interior. Heck, he’s even undersized as a defensive end. He might have trouble making the regular roster as an end, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ends up on New Orleans’ practice squad.