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Mailbag: On my way to 49ers practice

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

I'm traveling to Santa Clara on Tuesday morning and will be spending the day at the 49ers' facility. First, a quick peek into the mailbag.

Andrew from Hong Kong writes: Sando, the 49ers hardly did anything to improve the defensive line, which I felt was a big weakness last season. During goal-line situations, opposing offenses would simply spread out the field and let their O-line physically overpower the 49ers' d-line and run it straight in. Do they really have that much confidence in the improved play of Kentwan Balmer?

Mike Sando: I thought Aubrayo Franklin played well late in the season. I also thought Justin Smith was solid throughout the season. The 49ers' defense finished last season ranked seventh in goal-to-go touchdown percentage. Only the Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Cowboys, Vikings and Patriots had better percentages.

Perhaps I am missing something here, but I didn't think the defensive line was horrible.


Jericho from Lodi writes: Hey, Mike, I was wondering if the 49ers did the right thing in taking Dre Bly over Chris McAlister in being Walt Harris' replacement.

Mike Sando: Bly has been far more durable than McAlister in recent seasons. McAlister has had knee problems. For that reason, I think Bly was the safer choice for the 49ers.


Greg from Seattle writes: Hi Mike, I'm wondering if people are overlooking the biggest [literally] offseason addition when evaluating the Niners for the upcoming season. While he has clear health concerns, if Marvel Smith can stay on the field, he will shore up what was a huge problem area for the Niners last year at right tackle. Aside from the obvious struggles in pass protection, the Niners ranked 29th in runs over right tackle last year. And if Smith can return to his pre-injury form, he looks like a huge upgrade that should improve the play of the entire OL. Am I overstating things?

Mike Sando: No, I think you've got a pretty good handle on it. A lot of us are assuming Smith will have a hard time staying healthy. That has been a problem for him. It's a huge bonus and bargain for the 49ers if he starts 16 games. The offense would benefit in a big way and Vernon Davis might have more flexibility as a receiver because the team would need him less in pass protection, at least in theory.


Adam from Seattle writes: Do you see the Seahawks having one of the top three linebacking corps in the league this year? Also, do you think Anquan Boldin will be out of the red and white by the time the season starts?

Mike Sando: On paper, yes, the Seahawks could have one of the top three linebacker corps in the league. On the field, we'll see. Lofa Tatupu and to a lesser extent Leroy Hill do not meet expectations last season. I think they'll be better this season, but let's see them prove it first.

On Boldin, I don't think the Cardinals will trade him this offseason after investing so much in Kurt Warner. They are better with Boldin and unlikely to upgrade the roster by trading him.


Daddy Sal from San Antonio writes: Hey there, I read your article on the Rams trying to be sold! I would love to have a team here in San Antonio. Los Angeles had already struck out twice!!! Give us a shot! There are other states that are smaller that have 2 or more!! We are a big city & one of the fastest growing cities. Yet, there are other smaller cities with teams. When we had 3 games here 'cuz of Katrina, we sold out every one! Even the Lions game! PLEASE help us, we are a football state!

Mike Sando: Those things might be true, Daddy Sal, but money talks. Let's see who steps up.