Wrestling over the Cardinals' OLB talent
June, 9, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Paul ConnorsArizona LB Sam Acho should be pumped as his playing time increased heavily late last season.
Pull up a chair. Now, hand it over to Chase from Arizona and watch him pummel me with it.
A good rant can be so cathartic. This one, delivered to the NFC West mailbag, stemmed from my contention that teams tend to sign 35-year-old veterans as backups when they haven't acquired or developed younger alternatives.
I think it's a fair point, except I didn't word it the same way when offering thoughts regarding Clark Haggans' recent re-signing with the Arizona Cardinals.
"Haggans was 30 years old and his sack numbers were declining when Arizona signed him in free agency from Pittsburgh before the 2007 season," I wrote. "The fact that Haggans remains viable five years later is a tribute to him. It also reflects the Cardinals' protracted search for anyone as good, let alone better. Missing on 2009 second-round choice Cody Brown remains costly."
The wording I used wasn't as precise as it should have been, and Chase took me to task for it. Did he ever.
"Mike, why do you continually talk bad about Arizona and their OLBs?" Chase wrote. "Sam Acho had a breakout year as a rookie and played on par with Ryan Kerrigan, who everyone loves right now. Two rookie OLBs outplayed Acho: Von Miller and Aldon Smith, both top 10 picks. So, where exactly is your lack of faith coming from?"
Chase had me ducking for cover at this point.
"You mentioned it was because we brought back Haggans, but you fail to realize Haggans was brought back on a one-year contract as a backup," he continued. "What's wrong with bringing in an experienced player, one familiar with the team, the personnel and the scheme, to be a backup?"
This was getting good. And it was about to get better.
"You act like that move reflects poorly on O'Brien Schofield. Schofield, after all he went through when he was drafted til now, has emerged as a talented young LB. He had 4.5 sacks in no starts! He made key plays to help win games! He's able to drop in coverage and he's adequate against the run!"
At this point, Chase reached into his wallet. I knew what was coming. It could be only one thing. The dreaded "homer" card. Chase didn't just play it, either. He flipped it at my Pacific Northwest chest.
"But you believe Seahawks LBs are set and K.J. Wright is the man," he concluded, "even though he didn't play as well as Acho, and only played as good as Schofield. You're such a damn homer, Sando."
A good rant can be so cathartic. This one stemmed from my contention that teams tend to sign 35-year-old veterans as backups when they haven't acquired or developed younger alternatives. I think it's a fair point.
Chase took my comments about Haggans -- specifically, the part about the Cardinals' inability to find anyone better -- as a criticism of Acho and Schofield, the Cardinals' promising young pass-rushers. That wasn't my intent.
I like the Cardinals' young outside linebackers and have said so. Acho and Schofield getting more opportunities as the 2011 season progressed, as it should have been (and as the playing-time percentages indicate in the chart).
My point on Haggans was this: Ideally, the Cardinals would have a hard time finding a spot for a 35-year-old backup outside linebacker. Ideally, they would have better options with younger players. Ideally, they would be thanking Haggans for all his contributions while moving forward with someone younger. They did that with Joey Porter and it was the right thing to do. Acho's emergence hastened the move.
San Francisco took this route with Takeo Spikes last offseason. The 49ers respected and valued Spikes, who was 34 at the time, but they knew NaVorro Bowman was ready to take his place. Bowman earned All-Pro honors. The Seattle Seahawks parted with Lawyer Milloy, then 37 and another respected vet, because they were so excited about Kam Chancellor. Chancellor went to the Pro Bowl.
Arizona is justifiably excited about Acho and Schofield. There's no shame in bringing back Haggans, either. He should be a good backup and spot starter when needed. I just thought it was fair to point out the other side as well.
As for Wright and the Seahawks' linebackers, there's really no comparison to make. Wright is not an outside pass-rusher. He's a strong-side linebacker in a different scheme.
Seattle does have question marks at linebacker, in my view. The position was a need heading into the draft. We've certainly covered the Aaron Curry mistake in detail. Meanwhile, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. expressed strong reservations about Barrett Ruud, a linebacker Seattle signed in free agency.
In any event, thanks for the feedback, Chase. The chair didin't taste so bad.