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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Chris from Phoenix writes: After the Cardinals outstanding preformance, I can't help but be worried about the lazy and sloppy ending to the game. The body slam by the rookie cornerback and the ill advised penalties just made the Cardinals look vulnerable. How worried should us fans be if we see this kind of play against teams such as the Giants?
Mike Sando: I would differentiate between these transgressions. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie apparently thought Torry Holt was still inbounds when he slammed him down. Bad play. Rookie mistake. Not likely to happen repeatedly.
The penalties should concern you. On offense, the Cardinals sometimes have problems lining up and snapping the ball on time. They just do. I chart the penalties and it's not pretty. Steve Breaston couldn't get lined up right two or three times earlier in the season. Arizona had another one of these Sunday.
Those types of things matter a lot more when the stakes are higher. I think Arizona needs to clean up that aspect of its game for the postseason. The Cardinals also need to finish plays more consistently on defense. Too often a lapse lets an opponent turn a big gain into a huge one. Steve Smith, Marion Barber and Derek Stanley come to mind.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Dave. Ken Whisenhunt seems to weave in these plays as if hoping to give opponents something extra to worry about in their preparations. I wouldn't expect to see Wilson or another defensive player get extensive snaps on offense as long as the team has so many obviously superior options at receiver. Rodgers-Cromartie was a receiver earlier in the season. Wilson had never caught a pass in an NFL game before Sunday.
Update: Tim Hightower caught the pass in question (one reason you couldn't remember that play). I didn't immediately remember it either, but in checking the gamebook provided by the NFL, sure enough, Wilson was credited with the catch. I even double-checked this information on Wilson's official NFL.com bio page, and the reception was showing up there as well. The Cardinals have informed me that was recorded in error and that Hightower caught the pass.
Mike Sando: The 49ers' front office would presumably take back Alex Smith at the right price. As for the Browns, that will depend on how well Quinn plays. The better he plays, the more available Derek Anderson becomes.
Mike Sando: The Rams have poured a lot of money into Bulger. The next coach in St. Louis probably needs to make that work. The best money Warner can get is probably in Arizona.
Mike Sando: Thanks much, Collin. Free-agent options tend to be very limited at the quarterback position. The 49ers need to make sure their offensive identity reflects their personnel. The front office did not build this team with a Mike Martz system in mind. Is Martz back next season? Either way, the 49ers need to make sure the quarterback fits the system. If Leftwich or another veteran fits, then consider it. If not, move on.
Sure, Jones is a HOF, but he's barely a pro bowler right now. No one on the OLine is that great outside of that. The receiver position isn't great. Engram is good, Burleson has promise, but Branch's best season was 2004 when he caught 78 balls for 998 yards and 4 TDs (correct me if I'm wrong). Julius Jones is no Shaun Alexander (when Alexander was good) and Hutchinson is gone.
So here's my question: Assuming the team doesn't suffer injuries like they did this year, are they a good offense? Also, what areas have been the weakest for Seattle this year defensively? Finally, who do you see brought in and shipped out at the end of this year personnel wise? I honestly can't see the Seahawks continuing to spend as much as they are on Branch. Later
Mike Sando: This is a good offense without the injuries. The Seahawks produced pretty well on offense last season, and I thought they upgraded the running game. They are finding out how tough running can become when no one fears the passing game. But if you put Matt Hasselbeck out there at full strength and give him starting-caliber receivers, the running game opens up.
As for who leaves after this season, I don't see a mass exodus. The team hasn't done anything to pacify Engram, but there's no reason he couldn't return as part of the group.
We are going to find out how easily Tim Ruskell gives up on players he brought in. It's always easier to give up on another g
uy's players (Jerramy Stevens, Koren Robinson the first time, etc.). Branch's contract counts $7.5 million against the salary cap next season. If he's healthy by then, I think he probably stays.
Mike Sando: I do not see that as likely at all. The plan is in place for Jim Mora to take over. Holmgren has promised his family to step away from the NFL next season.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Kevin. I look for the Seahawks to draft a quarterback anyway. The plans for Wallace could change based on how Seattle addresses the receiver position this offseason. I like that idea, though.
Mike Sando: Jim Mora has a contract to become head coach in 2009, so we can forget about Holmgren returning in 2010. That seems unworkable. As for the Seahawks rallying to the playoffs, that would absolutely shock me at this point. I'd be impressed if they finished 6-10.
Mike Sando: They said Peterson was trying to incite a false start. The rules prevent defensive linemen from jumping for those purposes.
I asked Holmgren about the McNabb play and he said it wasn't reviewable because officials ruled the play dead.
Mike Sando: Mike Martz had autonomy over the offense when Mike Nolan was head coach. That changed when Nolan left. Singletary has tightened his grip, but the personnel department might also have more influence now. The team does need to see some of those players perform over the remainder of the season. Those types of changes make sense.
Mike Sando: I like the combination for Arizona and think the offense is more dynamic. They'll still struggle running on their own terms against some teams, but these backs have more breakaway potential. They fit better into what the Cardinals have decided to do with Kurt Warner at quarterback.