Mailbag: Ruskell and the roster

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Mike B. from Los Angeles writes: I can't believe what I just read in the mailbag. Mike Holmgren doesn't even have control over his own roster?! Let me get this straight: The guy who let a HOF player (Steve Hutchinson) get away because he was trying to play games and save $500k on the salary cap decides who gets cut? A guy who has never coached a game in this league decides over a coach with 3 Super Bowl appearances? Say goodbye to Justin Forsett. Timmy! Ruskell will never admit he screwed the pooch on Duckett.

Mike Sando: Well, Ruskell was the one who drafted Forsett. No one would be complaining about Duckett, at least to this degree, if Ruskell and his personnel people, notably Ruston Webster and the college scouts, hadn't hit on Forsett.

I'll play devil's advocate here because I think it's important to see both sides. Holmgren had control of the roster from 1999 through the 2002 season. Ownership decided at that time that things weren't working out as expected. Ruskell came aboard in 2005, changed up the defense and the team went to the Super Bowl that season. Ruskell rebuilt the defense to a level never seen during Holmgren's run as general manager.

Yes, Ruskell was involved in the Steve Hutchinson transition-tag game, but so was Holmgren's right-hand man, Mike Reinfeldt. Holmgren was ticked off at losing Hutchinson, but no one foresaw the poison-pill mess.

Jesse from Walla Walla, Wash., writes: With Josh Morgan and Jason Hill playing at a high level do you see either starting the season at the WR position? Who would you project as the starters? Also, with Baas missing all of camp and Snyder being hurt, do you see any changes being made at the guard position? Possibly the always progressing Rachal or Wragge? Thanks...
Mike Sando: I see Morgan having a better chance than Hill. How quickly can Bryant Johnson get that hamstring healthy? How well will Isaac Bruce hold up? Morgan should be pretty well established by season's end if the grind of an NFL season isn't too much for him.

Jason from Beaverton, Ore., writes: Hi Mike, your blog helps me get through the week. Keep up the good work. Football related question: With Justin Forsett looking more and more like a player who has earned a roster spot, will there still be room for Jordan Kent on the roster? (I'm a duck fan so I'm rooting for him). Football unrelated question: what's with some of espn's writer's profile pictures? & I would think you'd choose more flattering photos?
Mike Sando: Thanks, Jason. I wouldn't bank on Seattle saving a roster spot for Kent at this point. He's on the bubble, but coach Mike Holmgren wants to get some of the other receivers more involved Monday night. As for the photos, you are right. Mine isn't very flattering. It's never been that important to me but I'll probably update it at some point.

Mike from San Diego writes: Hi Mike! Great job! Here's my theory on the 49ers... O'Sullivan is going to start the first 2-4 weeks of the regular season. Once Smith becomes more comfortable with the new offensive scheme, I think he will take over the QB position. What do you think? O'Sullivan seems limited. He might have a big heart, but he just doesn't look the position like Smith does. And I'm an Aggie alumni!
Mike Sando: Thanks, Mike. I apologize for getting to your question after O'Sullivan lit it up against the Bears. I do think it's premature to write off Smith for the season, and I do expect him to start at some point (either through injury, performance, etc.).

Shane from Boston writes: Hey Mike. Of course as usual this has been the best preseason wait ever because of your coverage and the fact that I care about how people are doing day-to-day rather than just waiting for the season. I am going to be headed to Buffalo for the opener and even though I am ever-optimistic about this year and a possible 11-5 or better record, I am worried about the Hawks' road woes of recent. Have you seen anything that would indicate a change in philosophy in playing on the road? Please tell me we won't lose to bad teams on the road again.
Mike Sando: The Seahawks are very much aware of their road problems. Improving in that area is a huge priority for the team, particularly on defense. That should give you some optimism. The realist must acknowledge, however, that games played at 10 a.m. PT put the Seahawks at a disadvantage. Sometimes they'll appear sluggish or just not quite ready to go at that hour. It's going to happen. The Seahawks' hope is that it won't happen so often.

Jermaine from parts unknown writes: What is your opinion on potentially the Niners being a surprise and winning the division due to the West being a terrible division?
Mike Sando: The West might be weak overall, but Seattle has consistently won playoff games. I think Mike Nolan has it right. The 49ers should worry about trying to beat Arizona in the opener before they start thinking longer term. I would be surprised if the 49ers won this division in 2008, though I am interested in seeing what Mike Martz can do with this offense.

Matt from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Hey Sando, Why doesn't Seattle try to trade for Boldin? (No, I'm just kidding. Keep dreaming Seahawks fans.) I'll never forget the morning of the 2nd draft day this year. I was at my buddy Andrew's house, still nursing a hangover from a long day of drinking on day 1. Right before the Cardinals picked, Andrew called the pick "Doucet." I didn't think it would happen, considering the Cardinals were still looking for a quality backup RB at the time. But sure enough, Andrew was right. After the pick was made, Andrew and I speculated that the Cards were selecting the heir apparent to Boldin because they are the exact same type of receivers. Anyway, how much of this Boldin drama going on right now is because of that pick? Did the Cardinals know something like this would happen? Was Boldin upset with the pick? Everything seemed to be amicable between Boldin and the Cards until after the draft.
Mike Sando: I don't see a direct connection between Boldin and Doucet. The Boldin issue predates Doucet. I'm basing this on the timeline Boldin has provided.

Now, do the Cardinals feel less inclined to pay Boldin because Doucet is onboard for the future? Possibly. But I think they would feel better about Doucet if Doucet had been practicing and making an impact.

So, for now, I would separate those two issues. Boldin would not feel threatened by a rookie third-round choice, certainly not to this point. Bryant Johnson's departure made the Doucet pick more natural.

Inforthefun from New Orleans writes: Who, in your opinion, will win the starting QB job in Arizona?
Mike Sando: Ask me after the Oakland game. I think Matt Leinart can play himself out of the starting job. Until he does, Leinart has the edge.