Mailbag: Expecting CB to reach Pro Bowl

May, 1, 2012
5/01/12
7:07
PM ET
A word for those curious about comment functionality on the blog lately: Changes made to some of the commenting infrastructure could require users to log out and then log back into ESPN.com. This did not resolve the issue for me, and I've passed along the word.

Update: Issue resolved. Looks like we're fully operational. Thanks for hanging in there.

Now, back to the NFC West mailbag.

JohnBloodletter from right here asks about the Arizona Cardinals' secondary and, specifically, what to expect from Patrick Peterson in his second season. He asks about the Cardinals' third-round corner, how the safeties are holding up and how important the secondary will be to the team's overall success.

Mike Sando: Expect Pro Bowl-caliber play from Peterson. His defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, is a former NFL cornerback and should know exactly how to bring along such a highly talented player. Peterson works hard and wants to be great, by all accounts. There should be no limitations for him. He should take a big jump forward given the advantages he'll have in terms of experience and offseason preparation time.

The NFC West sent multiple corners to the Pro Bowl last season (Carlos Rogers, Brandon Browner). Peterson should be the best of the group from a talent standpoint.

I did think the secondary would have benefited from the right pass-rusher, had the Cardinals chosen to go in that direction early in the draft. But the sack numbers in Arizona were already good. I just thought a more dominant presence at outside linebacker would have further unlocked this defense.

File this away: Arizona was the only team to select zero front-seven players in the 2012 draft.

The third-round corner, Jamell Fleming, will presumably contribute on special teams right away, with a chance to earn playing time in multiple roles on defense. Kevin Weidl of Scouts Inc. mentioned Fleming as a later-round possibility Insider for Arizona back in March.

Horton, speaking to reporters in Arizona during the draft, said Fleming's smarts were appealing. The team plans to try Fleming in some of the roles Richard Marshall played previously.

"I'm going to try him at the nickel, I'm going to try him at the corner, I'm going to try him at the safety," Horton said. "He'll get the opportunity to show me what he can do. If you don’t have this kind of depth going against the Green Bay Packers, who are on the schedule and running five wides, New England with the big tight ends, with New Orleans and the Hall of Fame game with the big tight ends -- if you can’t play more than one thing, you are kind of forcing yourself to the way of the fullback, which is a kind of an extinct position right now."


Miles from Seattle asks whether the Seattle Seahawks might be wise to sign a veteran stopgap wide receiver, or would they be OK sticking with their current group.

Mike Sando: I'd stick with the current group. Drafting a receiver would have made sense if that receiver were a special player. There was no sense in drafting another receiver indistinguishable from the group. There would likewise be no advantage to signing a veteran stopgap in free agency.

We might revisit that stance if Sidney Rice doesn't rebound from the two shoulder surgeries he underwent this offseason. But with Rice back and the team also expecting more in the receiving game from tight end Zach Miller, I'd be inclined to give the younger players a shot.

Golden Tate finished strong last season. He had no dropped passes. He has a chance to take a big step forward now that he's been in the offense for a year.

Doug Baldwin is already a good slot receiver and top option on third down.

Ricardo Lockette flashed ability late last season and has a chance to become a dynamic threat down the field (two catches for 105 yards in the final two games last season).

Kris Durham is back from injury and projects as a potential replacement for Mike Williams. He's a big receiver. Ben Obomanu is still an option. Deon Butler will get another chance.

I'd rather give snaps to some of the younger prospects than lean on a stopgap veteran unnecessarily.


Bryan from Philadelphia liked the recent piece examining where draft analysts -- all of us -- might have erred in making projections this year.

Mike Sando: The key will be to remember the errors of our ways.

We're still getting a feel for how the San Francisco 49ers will operate with Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, how the Seattle Seahawks will operate with Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider, and how the St. Louis Rams will operate with Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead.

The one NFC West pick I got right in our ESPN Blogger Mock 2.0 -- Michael Floyd to Arizona at No. 13 -- was for the team in the division with the longest-tenured head coach and general manager. That was also the easiest pick to forecast given that St. Louis and Seattle traded out of their spots.


Matt from Santa Cruz, Calif., recently came away impressed after listening to San Francisco 49ers rookie LaMichael James on KNBR radio. He wondered why James remained available in the second round. "Sounds like a really good kid, and he was a beast (and super fast) in college," Matt writes.

Mike Sando: I can think of a few reasons.

James is a change-of-pace back with limited size and questionable blocking ability. That limits his snaps in a conventional offense, diminishing his value. Teams around the NFL are valuing the passing game in general, knocking down the value for runners in general and one-dimensional ones in particular. James also came into the draft with a couple off-field concerns, one relating to a domestic incident and others to NCAA violations.

James was the fifth running back drafted, behind Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson and Isaiah Pead. Pead and James were the first change-of-pace backs selected. They were the only second-round backs selected.

The 49ers had a better feel for James because their staff coached against him in the Pac-12.

"I've seen all the things he can do and lost games to his team, in large degree because of his efforts," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters. "We felt like we knew this player. All of the background information, people that we've talked to, the tape we've watched. His reputation as a person and as a football player, is very near impeccable."

That last comment from Harbaugh will be one to file away given the off-field concerns mentioned by others.


abiRam from Simi Valley, Calif., asked before the draft about whether the St. Louis Rams should seek to acquire Mike Wallace from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The question was worth a followup, I thought, after the Rams waited until the second round to draft a wide receiver.

Mike Sando: The Steelers want to keep Wallace. I don't anticipate a trade. Wallace is doing what he can to increase his leverage, threatening to stay away until the last minute. That is typical under the circumstances.

The Rams do have four first-round selections over the next two drafts. They could dangle one or both of those picks to make an offer for Wallace, but this is probably fantastical thinking. I'll admit, the idea has appeal from a Rams perspective. Imagine injecting Wallace into the offense with slot receiver Danny Amendola and second-round pick Brian Quick. Sam Bradford would have to love that combination. But it's just not likely.

The Rams would have to overpay in draft compensation to pry away Wallace from the Steelers while Pittsburgh is trying to contend for a championship. The Rams would also have to fork over a huge contract to Wallace, disrupting their salary structure. The team's cap outlook is outstanding right now because the Rams have so many draft choices to use at a time when the rookie wage scale is depressing salaries for early draft choices.

As tempting as it might be to overpay in an effort to get better right now, that might not be the best move -- even if the Steelers were willing to let him go.

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