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Saturday, May 1, 2010
Mailbag: Pace, Holt getting proper due?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Seth from Newport News, Va., writes: As a Rams fan I am excited for the new draft class, but to hand out Orlando Pace's and Torry Holt's numbers should not happen. While I am hoping Rodger Saffold and Mardy Gilyard will be good, I don't agree with giving them those numbers.
Mike Sando: I'm with you to an extent, particularly with the Seahawks retiring Walter Jones' number upon his retirement Friday. But with more than 90 players in camp, a few players are already doubling up and teams can't realistically withhold jersey numbers for every top former player.

I also think it matters how a player leaves an organization. The Rams' new regime cut Pace and Holt. Might things have been different if both players had retired as Rams instead of moving on to play elsewhere?

The Cardinals traded all-time receiving leader Anquan Boldin to the Ravens, then gave his No. 81 jersey to seventh-round rookie tight end Jim Dray. Seahawks rookie Russell Okung is wearing Steve Hutchinson's old No. 76 jersey. Roger Craig was a Hall of Fame finalist this year; the 49ers gave his No. 33 to rookie sixth-round running back Anthony Dixon.

At least the Rams had the good sense to give tight end Brandon Manumaleuna's old No. 86 to rookie tight end Mike Hoomanawanui.


Glenn from Seattle writes: Mike, on the ESPN homepage top stories links, the title of the Walter Jones link is, "Seahawks' four-time All-Pro tackle Jones retires." So, was he in FOUR Pro Bowls as they said there? Or was he in TEN, as you said in your article?

Mike Sando: My pieces on Jones actually said he was a nine-time Pro Bowl choice, which was accurate. He was also a four-time All-Pro choice. There is a distinction. The Associated Press holds voting for All-Pro honors, which are more exclusive because they are league-wide honors, whereas Pro Bowl honors are conference-based. Fewer players earn All-Pro status than Pro Bowl status. Former Rams great Isaac Bruce was a four-time Pro Bowl choice, but he was never selected to an Associated Press All-Pro team.


Jeremy from Phoenix writes: Hey, Mike. My question is in regards to the Cardinals' cornerback situation. With the Bryant McFadden trade, Greg Toler clearly becomes the starter opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. I'm no expert, but I think Toler will develop into a good starter. Beyond that, there is a clear depth issue. It appears as though the third and fourth corners on the depth chart will be Michael Adams and sixth-rounder Jorrick Calvin.

I'm not too comfortable with that idea and I'm confident many other Cards fans aren't as well. What do you think about the Cardinals pursuing Adam "Pacman" Jones? He would come at a reasonable price and could potentially provide solid depth once he gets re-acclimated to the game. He could provide some competition for punt/kick return duties.

The Cards seem to have the coaching staff and locker room that can handle a character like Pacman. Who knows, maybe Pacman is finally serious about getting his career on track and living up to the potential he came into the league with. Why not take a chance on a guy of his potential talent, at a position of need, for a reasonable price?

Mike Sando: I agree that the cornerback situation appears worse without McFadden. Sure, McFadden was making lots of money and Toler's emergence could provide a cheaper alternative, but the depth did take a hit along the way.

Adams was working with the first unit when the post-draft minicamp opened, but Toler is clearly the player Arizona expects to emerge eventually. This is a case where the Cardinals know their young, unproven depth and like it better than outsiders would.

I see little reason to waste anyone's time with Pacman Jones. The Cowboys already gave him that second chance and it didn't work out. Jones has not played since the 2008 season and he has not played well since the 2006 season. I think the Cardinals' track record shows they can develop younger players. Jones' track record shows he isn't going to develop at all, most likely.


Connor from Tampa, Fla., writes: Hey Mike, great blog! Is it conceivable that Taylor Mays is a better fit at linebacker for the 49ers? All I hear about him are his lack of coverage skills, but that he is excellent against the run, what are your thoughts?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Connor. I think Mays could be good against the run -- for a safety, but not for a linebacker. The conversion from run-support safety at USC to run-support safety with the 49ers would be easier than the conversion from run-support safety to all-around linebacker.

It's not like Mays was horrible at USC. People just thought there was a big gap between his physical talent and his actual production, particularly against the pass.

The 49ers need to help Mays become more well-rounded for the long term. In the short term, they need to find ways to use the skills he does offer as a safety. Seattle is doing this with first-round pick Earl Thomas. They will make Thomas a coverage safety because that role suits his skills and relatively small frame. They will not pretend he's an enforcer.

Mays should become a hard-hitting safety for the 49ers, not an underpowered linebacker trying to learn a new position. League-wide, the distinction between strong safeties and free safeties has largely gone away. Teams generally want their safeties to be good in coverage. The 49ers will not want to leave Mays exposed in coverage, at least for now.