Mailbag: Sizing up 49ers' offensive line

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Adam from Sacramento writes: The game is won and lost in the trenches no matter who ends up being the QB. Realistically, how solid can the 49ers O-line be this year? Barring injuries of course (although this may be way too much to ask considering the very recent history LOL)

Mike Sando: Barring injuries, the 49ers' line could be better. Frank Gore somehow produced last season even without the type of line play the 49ers expected. That tells me pass protection is the key. The 49ers have adjusted personnel to help that aspect of the game. But we have also seen Mike Martz-coached offenses take more sacks. I'll be at 49ers practice beginning today. I'd like to have a better idea after watching them work and talking to people.

Chris from Denver writes: Mike, after observing the Cards how do you see the season shaking out? Improvement on 8-8? Please tell me we have a chance to win the division. Local AZ paper saying Cards will finish 10-6 and make the playoffs. Give me something, please.

Mike Sando: I think the Cardinals have improved since last season. I think they are the second-best team in the division behind Seattle. Arizona has the talent -- but perhaps not the depth -- to push Seattle in the division. Depth matters most late in the season. Take a look at the Cardinals' final seven games: at Seattle, vs. NY Giants, at Eagles, vs. St. Louis, vs. Minnesota, at New England, vs. Seattle. That's a tough way to finish. This team could be better, but the record might not show it.

Brandon in Bellevue, Wash., writes: I was curious as to how you think the NFC West defenses stack up against the New England Patriots? I think the NY Giants showed a good formula to shutting down Tom Brady (mostly) and who, in your opinion, has the best scheme and personnel to duplicate what the Giants did?

Mike Sando: Seattle has the defensive personnel to get pressure against the Patriots, particularly at Qwest Field. In doing some research recently, I discovered Seattle was the only team in the league with a 2008 Pro Bowl starter at defensive end, linebacker and cornerback. Patrick Kerney's health is an important variable here. Rocky Bernard is in a contract year. The last time that happened, he dominated as an inside pass rusher, setting a career high with 8 1/2 sacks. The Seahawks went to the Super Bowl that season.

J in San Jose writes: Please keep an eye out for WR Jason Hill and DE Ray McDonald when you observe the 49ers camp! I'm very interested to see whether these 2 are continuing to develop.

Mike Sando: You've got a deal.

Andrew in Newport Beach, Calif., writes: Hi Mike, just started reading your blog. My question is if Martz gets the 49er offense in gear would the ownership consider dumping Nolan and making Martz the head coach.

Mike Sando: I do not know. Speaking in general terms, it's not unusual for a team to interview an existing assistant after dismissing a head coach. But if Martz gets the offense going, the 49ers would presumably be good enough for everyone to keep their jobs.