NFC South mailbag

Before I begin getting ready to make the quick trek to Raymond James Stadium to watch Thursday night’s game between the Buccaneers and Patriots, let’s run through some items from the NFC South mailbag.

Josh in Ohio wrote to say thanks for the history lesson on the Bucs and said the team has too bright a future to be receiving undue criticism.

Pat Yasinskas: Agreed. I think the Bucs clearly are headed in the right direction. I think what some fans are failing to realize is that the team currently is using a very calculated plan that goes away from what Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen did (spend money on free agents and use them as patchwork) and getting back to something closer to the formula Tony Dungy and Rich McKay used (build through the draft and keep your core players for the long term). Although there's no real meddling in football operations, ownership is more involved in forming philosophies than fans realize. I think the Glazer family realized the Gruden/Allen formula wasn’t one that brought consistent success. I believe the Glazers might have instructed Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik when they were hired that they were to follow this kind of plan.

Ryan in Tampa asks if the Bucs might take a shot on Terrelle Pryor since backup quarterback Josh Johnson can become a free agent after the season.

Pat Yasinskas: I’m not sure what Tampa Bay’s scouting department thinks of Pryor. I know some other scouting departments around the league have mixed opinions. Some think he can develop into a decent NFL quarterback over time. Others think he might have to move to tight end or receiver to have a chance in the NFL. I’m sure the Bucs, like every other team in the NFL, have done their homework on Pryor. If they see a fit at the right price, he might be worth a shot.

Dan in Omaha says I’m wrong in calling Cam Newton’s first performance “solid." He says Newton is a project and Jimmy Clausen should be the regular-season starter.

Pat Yasinskas: As always, you’re free to disagree with me. But I thought Newton was solid. I didn’t see him throw any interceptions (and I saw Clausen have one returned for a touchdown) and several of his throws were either dropped or on target, but broken up by good coverage. I thought Clausen had some good moments as well. But, hey, it doesn’t really matter what you and I think. The decision will be made by Ron Rivera and his staff. From everything I’ve heard, they likely will go with Newton as their opening-day starter if he doesn’t make a bunch of major mistakes in Friday’s preseason start at Miami.

Lloyd in Baton Rouge, La., says he’s worried about the Saints’ tackle situation and became even more worried after the release of Jon Stinchcomb.

Pat Yasinskas: It’s a legitimate worry, but sometimes you have to get younger to get better. Stinchcomb’s play dropped off last year and the Saints must feel as if Zach Strief or Charles Brown can be an improvement over him in the long haul. I know people also criticize left tackle Jermon Bushrod and say he’s nothing special. There’s some truth to that, but he must be doing something right. The Saints have done pretty well in the two seasons Bushrod has started. Plus, Sean Payton has a pretty strong offensive mind and his system is built more toward having the strength of the offensive line on the interior.

Chugs in Memphis asks why it seems like the Saints are bringing along rookie defensive end Cameron Jordan so slowly.

Pat Yasinskas: The Saints seem to be bringing all their rookies along slowly, except for running back Mark Ingram. If you look at recent history, that’s not all that unusual for New Orleans, which is in a different situation than a team like Tampa Bay that relies on immediate help from the draft. The Saints didn’t play Malcolm Jenkins all that much as a rookie and he became a star last season. Last year’s top pick, Patrick Robinson, didn’t play a great deal as a rookie, but there’s hope he can blossom this year. That said, I still think you might start seeing more of Jordan, especially if Will Smith is suspended for the first four games of the season.

Matthew in Atlanta asks for my early impressions on Julio Jones.

Pat Yasinskas: Nothing but positives. A lot of times, colleges and NFL teams inflate a players’ size on the roster. Jones is listed at 6-foot-3. I was introduced to him in the cafeteria at Flowery Branch and stood face to face with him. I’m almost 6-3 and definitely felt like I was looking up at Jones. Out on the practice field, he was more impressive. I saw him making plays in the deep game and in some shorter routes. I also didn’t see any of the drops he supposedly had a problem with at Alabama. In the preseason opener, he was electric, gaining first downs the first three times he touched the ball. You can’t ask for a better start than that.