Mailbag: Fitzgerald, Crabtree, Vick and more

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Shaefer from San Diego writes: Hey Mike, love your posts. Can't get enough of them. I just moved to San Diego, but I lived in Chandler, Ariz., my whole life and have been a die-hard Cards fan and season-ticket holder since I was born in 1988.

Me and a couple buddies were discussing Larry Fitzgerald's chances when he's in the red zone. I think he's virtually unstoppable on the fade. I was wondering if you have access to the percentages of times he scores a touchdown , catches the pass, actually drops the pass, has the ball deflected, and has the ball intercepted. Any of these stats or extra info on the Cards would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for your work in the NFC West.

Mike Sando: You're welcome. Thanks for the support. I do have some pretty cool Cardinals-related data I'll be presenting on the blog soon, hopefully this week. End-zone fade percentage is not something I track. When the Cardinals go to four receivers in the red zone, though, Anquan Boldin tends to score the touchdowns. He's so tough working the inside.

Fitzgerald has improved his technique on the fade routes, though. He has made it a priority to use his body more intelligently down there, shielding the defensive back in a way that gives Kurt Warner a bigger strike zone. Warner has mentioned this specifically.

Pablo from Dallas writes: Huge Niners fan stuck in Cowsheep area of country. So, I was very excited with drafting Crabtree and had high hopes. Is it too early to give up hope? I'm thinking that his first season is pretty much shot.

Do we still give big five-year money for four years (if that) of service? Why don't we trade him now to a contender for first and third-round 2010 picks? We would have three first-rounders next year and could rid ourselves of this headache. I'm asking for two picks because only a contender for the upcoming season would be interested and that would mean a low first-round pick. Your thoughts?

Mike Sando: The deadline for trading draft rights has passed. I do think it's too early to write off Crabtree. Also, there might be a flaw in your logic. If the 49ers should trade Crabtree in part because they are unlikely to get much from him this season, why would a contending team want to add him?

While this situation is frustrating for the 49ers and their fans, the best course of action seems to be for the 49ers to wait out Crabtree, try to get a deal done and then try to get him ready to contribute in some way this season.

Anthony from Georgia writes: Everyone seems to be talking about second chances and how Mike Vick deserved one, but what about Matt Jones? Jones seems to be blacklisted by the NFL because I haven't even heard about him being invited for a tryout. He was on pace to be one of the top WRs in the NFL last season and now he cannot even get a tryout. Why is that?

Mike Sando: Michael Vick was a much better player than Matt Jones ever showed he could be. Vick also plays a much more important position. Those would be the reasons, in my view. Also, people probably worry more about Jones going back to drugs than Vick going back to fighting dogs. I'm guessing dogfighting is less addictive.

Kyle from Tempe writes: Do you think the 49er franchise would have been better off drafting Michael Oher, not making anyone in the o-line play out of position, and giving the Michael Crabtree headache to someone else?

Mike Sando: Not really. Adam Snyder looks pretty good at right tackle. Finding a right tackle is easier than finding a potential superstar receiver. Now is the time to take a deep breath on Crabtree and consider the big picture, which spans years, not days.

Tom from Soquel, Calif., writes: How will the 8th and 9th picks of the draft signing affect the Crabtree situation?

Mike Sando: Those signings would not appear to change the fundamental differences between the parties, as those differences have been reported.

Josh from Richmond, Calif., writes: You said the Niners would [likely] keep four running backs in "Gore, Coffee, Michael Robinson and Moran Norris." Why not Brit Miller? He had an awesome game on Friday with two touchdowns. Does he not deserve to be in the talks?

Mike Sando: Roster spots are too precious. Miller likely would never play on offense in a game. He could factor on special teams, which might help his chances. But if the 49ers waived Miller, they probably would not have to worry about another team signing him to its 53-man roster. It was one game, in the preseason, against backups. A good start, yes, but not enough, in my view, to suddenly rate alongside Gore, Coffee, Robinson and Norris.

John from Baltimore writes: Hey, Raven fan here. Just wanted to check up on our old QB, Kyle Boller. I always felt in the right system he could be good. How his he faring with the Rams?
Mike Sando: My first impression in camp was that Boller looked good for a backup. Physically, he is different from a lot of backup quarterbacks. I tend to agree with your perspective on him, though I haven't seen him nearly as much as you probably have. I don't think he was an outright bust in Baltimore. His signing by the Rams was a good one, I think.

Jim from Tucson, Ariz., writes: Mike, what did you think of LaRod Stephens-Howling and Michael Ray Garvin? It seems unlikely that both will get a roster spot, but one might, and I thought they both made a strong case. Stephens-Howling got a surprising 4 yards per carry and would certainly be a strikingly different change-of-pace back behind Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. Garvin averaged 10 yards per punt return and 30 per kick return -- only one game, but very impressive if he can keep it up.
Mike Sando: The third-down back or change-of-pace back should be able to pass protect to get on the field and stay there, particularly for the Cardinals, who have so much riding on Warner's health.

That said, you've probably
heard the term "numbers game" in relation to roster management. The Cardinals have been saving a roster spot for special-teamer Sean Morey in recent seasons even though he doesn't factor into the offense as a wide receiver. How many roster spots can they set aside for specialists when they know Steve Breaston can be an effective return man? I think that's another question to consider as we watch these players over the next two or three preseason games.

Conrad from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, what's the word on the 49ers' late-round selection, QB Nate Davis? He is a big QB who has the tools to succeed in the NFL. Also, would you consider the way he grips the football (away from the the laces) to be a problem?
Mike Sando: Davis is a project. They'll need to invest a couple of seasons in him before letting him compete for a more important role. The way he grips the football is unconventional. I'm not a quarterbacks coach, but if Davis can throw the ball equally well with or without gripping the laces, I wouldn't consider that to be a huge issue. Whether he grips the laces wouldn't throw off other mechanics, seemingly. Perhaps a quarterbacks coach out there can help.

Chris from Seattle writes: Hey, Mike, question for you on the Seahawks offensive line. Anyone who has had the chance to watch the practices, myself included, has noted that the offensive line looks mediocre at best. How much of that is the personnel (with the injuries, retirement, and so forth), and how much of it is just a group of guys trying to learn the ins and outs of a completely new blocking system? Thanks!

Mike Sando: It's a combination of those things. Mostly, it's not having Walter Jones out there. He solves a lot of problems up front. That is no excuse. The Seahawks were thrilled to add Mike Solari as offensive line coach. His addition was supposed to upgrade the line. Last season was a mess from an injury standpoint, with all five starters winding up on injured reserve. This is the year Seattle needs to see more production from that line.

Mike from Gig Harbor writes: Is there a position on Seattle's O-line that they have been using Max Unger more than any other? I'm having trouble putting any confidence in Chris Spencer at this point and am curious if Unger could take over the starting job sooner rather than later. Love the blog!

Mike Sando: Thanks, Mike. I see Spencer starting if he's healthy, but those last three words are key. Rob Sims has left guard locked down. Mansfield Wrotto is less established at right guard. I see Unger getting onto the field at right guard or center, perhaps via injury, and never looking back.