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Friday, January 9, 2009
Mailbag: Seahawks and a 3-4 defense

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Hannan from Hershey, Pa., writes: Hey Mike, I've been reading your blog and I had this wacky thought for next year. What if the Seahawks switched to a 3-4 scheme with Jim Mora Jr.? Think about it, we have Kerney on one end, Jackson/Tapp on the other. We can let R. Bernard walk in free agency, I think Mebane has earned a starting job. J. Peterson can be our pass rushing OLB, while Hill (he must be resigned), Tatupu, and another ILB to be named (possibly DD Lewis) can stop the run. It's a crazy and bold idea, but to me it makes sense.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks are looking at coordinator candidates with 3-4 backgrounds, but Jim Mora will run the defense. His background is with the 4-3.

This sets up the possibility of at least running hybrid-type schemes or having the flexibility to use some 3-4 fronts and packages. I see no advantage in making a full conversion to a 3-4, based on the personnel and based on Mora's background.

Patrick Kerney and Darryl Tapp aren't nearly as big or physical as the typical 3-4 defensive ends. Brandon Mebane might be able to play the nose, but the rest of it would be a stretch on a full-time conversion, in my view.

Running a hybrid defense sounds good in theory, though I would rather have a defense play one style effectively than two styles less effectively.


Rich from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Heya, Mr. Mike. About the Cards-Panthers game this weekend. Everyone is talking about how the Cardinals' defense will have to match its intensity and discipline and all from last week in order to have a chance this week. But is that really realistic? How much of last week's heroic defensive effort was due to intensity and discipline, and how much was due to them having a "tell" that let them anticipate the snap? Since they won't have that against Carolina, how much of a chance do they really have to match up?

Mike Sando: The Cardinals' ability to get a jump off the snap helped but was not necessarily the difference in that game against the Falcons. More broadly, though, I do think it's unrealistic to expect the Arizona defense to have the same energy level for a full game, minus the home crowd. But we shall see.


Joe_cool585 from Davis, Calif., writes: Sando, following up with the Hall of Fame speculation piece written about the Cardinals players currently in the playoffs. My question to you is what NFC West players, if any, do you think are for sure Hall Of Fame worthy?

Mike Sando: Walter Jones could retire at any time and become a Hall of Famer. That might be all. Orlando Pace's recent injuries aren't helping, but he would be another candidate. Some of the younger players need to sustain their current high levels of play for several more years.


Steve from Bellingham, Wash., writes: Mike, Mike, Mike. Kurt Warner for the Hall of Fame? First, how many complete seasons should a quarterback play before he is even considered for the honor? What if we are generous and say three quarters of season is a full one? Do you think a quarterback with four such seasons under his belt is even worthy of consideration? Second, how should a quarterback's receiving talent be factored in? Consider the following comparison: the very best wide receiver that Matt Hasselbeck ever worked with was Darrell Jackson. Now here is a list of wide receivers that Warner has worked with in his career who are unquestionably -- UNQUESTIONABLY -- better than Jackson: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Amani Toomer, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and you could at least argue for Steve Breaston.

Neither Warner nor Hasselbeck have had much tight end talent to work with. Warner did have Shockey for a year in New York, and Hasselbeck had Carlson in '08.

Now for running backs as receivers. Warner had Marshall Faulk, Tiki Barber, and Edgerrin James. All three are unquestionably better receivers out of the backfield than anyone Hasselbeck has had to work with. In fact, you can make legitimate cases for all three of these to have been among the best receiving running backs of all time.

To complete the list of Hasselbeck's best ever receivers; Bobby Engram, Koren Robinson, Joe Jurevicius, Deion Branch. Jackson, Robinson, and Jurevicius all had by far their best seasons with Hasselbeck. Engram had some good years both in Chicago and seattle. Branch has been roughly as productive with Seattle (when healthy) as he was with Tom Brady. Bruce has been great with or without Warner. Holt has been great with or without Warner. Toomer has been great with or without Warner. Boldin has been great with or without Warner. Fitzgerald has been great with or without Warner. Faulk has been great with or without Warner. Barber has been great with or without Warner. James was better with Peyton Manning. Seriously, Warner isn't even the best quarterback in his division. Hall of Fame???

Mike Sando: Football is the ultimate team sport, but the Hall of Fame is for individuals. Quite a few Hall of Famers played with other great players. We generally do not hold this against them. Johnny Unitas had Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore. They helped make him great. We don't hold that against Unitas. Other quarterbacks played with lesser teammates. We do not evaluate their Hall of Fame chances based on what they might have done with better teammates. My point is that production and accomplishments do not come with asterisks.


Pablo from Dallas writes: Niners fan stuck in Texas. I heard that the Saints trade for Vilma was conditional and that they might have to send Jets 2nd rounder, in addition to 2nd round pick to Giants. is this true? if so, i'm hoping the Niners get in the action by offering this year's 2nd a
nd future 2nd or 3rd for Saints #14 pick. I would like to see hybrid Everette Brown of FSU and Taylor Mays of USC. Those two additions along with tough training camp will have a strong defensive unit ready to wreak havoc on the rest of the league.

Mike Sando: You are really thinking this thing through. The second-round choice to the Giants would have been part of the Jeremy Shockey trade. The conditional fourth-round choice sent to the Jets for Vilma could become a second-rounder instead. As for packaging the picks in that manner, a lot of things would have to happen. Getting a couple of defensive players would certainly help the 49ers.


Tristan from parts unknown writes: hey mike your a great analyst and im always interested in what you have to say, so i was wondering if you could give me some information on qb alex smith of the 49ers. can he return and if he does could he start?

Mike Sando: Such flattery! Thanks. The 49ers have left open the door for Smith to return under a reduced salary. Their priorities at the position could change depending upon what happens in the draft and free agency. But right now, Smith's chances for returning are as high as they've been in months.


Marcus from Memphis writes: mike. who do you think the 49ers will pick with the 10th pick in the draft?

Mike Sando: Too early. I do not know. General manager Scot McCloughan does not know. The team doesn't even have an offensive system in place for 2009.


Joey from NYC writes: Mr. Sando, A happy new year to you and your family. I have read a lot of grumblings with regards to what Seattle's offense will resemble with Greg Knapp calling the shots, but I think the move is good for two reasons.

1) comfort level for both Knapp and especially Jim Mora Jr. in his first year as HC. Less headaches for JMJ to worry about knowing he has Knapp running the offense.

2) Knapp's success in SF during the 2001-2003 seasons. With Jeff Garcia at QB, Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow at RB and no top offensive lineman (Best OL during those seasons was Ron Stone in 2003 and his career was going on the downside after that season) he had a top 10 offense (got to give T.O. some credit there)

What are your thoughts on turning this offense around after watching a year of Julius Jones (eeek!), TJ Duckett, and the banged up offensive line? Regards, Joey Scott (NYC)

Mike Sando: Thanks, Joey. Knapp's addition instantly changes the dynamic between quarterback and head coach. Mike Holmgren liked to keep some distance between himself and players. Hasselbeck didn't have much direct influence on the game plan. That reflected Holmgren's style. Knapp will be much more involved with Hasselbeck. I think that is a potential positive given Hasselbeck's experience and understanding of the game. It could energize Hasselbeck. The change has the potential to breathe new life into the offense.


Simpsonian from Seattle writes: dude. what is happening to my seahawks? should i be worried or excited with the coaching and system turnover?

Mike Sando: You should be worried and excited. I don't know if the new staff will make everything better overnight, but if things got a little stale after 10 seasons, change could provide at least a short-term spark. It's not like the team is making wholesale changes after a 12-4 season.


Adam from Portland, Ore., writes: Hey Mike! I am a huge 49er fan, and I am starting to get impatient waiting for the Niners to hire a O-coordinator. I have a question on what the reputation of some previous O-coordinators. What do people in the league think about Mike Solari, Jeff Jagodzinski, Chris Foerster, Bill Musgrave, and Chris Palmer. Were their stints as O-coordinators successful? Could they be candidates for the Niners job? Also, would hiring Gil Haskell be a selling point to lure Mike Holmgren in 2010 as a front office guy?

Mike Sando: Solari definitely seems better suited as a line coach. The 49ers' management had interest in him last offseason, but Mike Nolan stuck with his line coach, the since-fired George Warhop. Chris Foerster is the line coach now. I would think he'll remain in that role. Musgrave's run as coordinator in Carolina was short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful. He actually took over for Haskell in that role once Haskell left for Seattle.

Holmgren and Haskell are good pals, of course, but hiring Haskell wouldn't make the 49ers any more attractive for Holmgren. If Holmgren took a job with the 49ers, he would have the power to hire Haskell at that point.


Tom from parts unknown writes: Hey Mike, Do you think the niners will interview coach Jags now that he got fired from BC. Also does Jacob Bender have a chance to hang on with the niners

Mike Sando: I'm not aware of the 49ers' interest in Jeff Jagodzinski. The Seahawks would seemingly be a good fit for him in some capacity. He worked on Jim Mora's staff in Atlanta. Jacob Bender will probably have a hard time earning a roster spot if, as expected, the 49ers add one or more offensive linemen in the draft.


Marco from Las Cruces writes: I have seen it mentioned before but do you have any numbers on the NFCW teams and their salary cap space going into next season?

Mike Sando: I do not have confirmed, reliable numbers at this time. Cap space changes dramatically once teams make the various tender offers for franchise players and restricted free agents. I'll pass along reliable numbers when I get them. It's been on my back burner lately while I cover the playoffs. I do not expect cap space to be a severe problem for NFC West teams this offseason. I do wonder if the current economic situation will dissuade some teams from diving into the free-agent deep end.


Pmoore from Phoenix writes: Love the NFC west blog great job. quick question. Where do you get your stats from? Stats LLC has Lutui credited with 9 total penalties and you have him with 13. It is a big difference. Any suggestions on other good sources for stats? Thanks. GO CARDS!!

Mike Sando: Thanks. My penalty numbers include declined penalties and offsetting penalties. I have Lutui with 12 total penalties. That includes three declined penalties and one offsetting penalty. His penalties break down as four ineligible downfield pass penalties, four holding penalties, two false start penalties and a facemask penalty.


Eli from Tacoma writes: Hey Mike, quick question, I just read on the CNN/SI website by St. Paul Pioneer Press that the Vikings might be in the market on a trade for Matt Hasselbeck (for a second round pick). They end the article stating that the Seahawks need to rebuild. Is this speculation and/or rumors, or could this very well be true in your opinon?

Mike Sando: Speculation. Look for Hasselbeck to return in 2009.


Kalani from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, Like many Seahawks fans, I was thoroughly impressed by John Carlson's performance this past season. What will the Greg Knapp offense look like? Most analysis has been limited to saying that he likes to run the ball. I know it's early, but would you care to offer some insight in to what we can expect from him? Also, it would be great at some point to hear about what style of players seem to fit in Mora/Knapp teams. Thanks for the great information. You are truly a great asset to the Northwest. Cheers, Kalani

Mike Sando: He'll run a version of the West Coast system. I have not charted personnel use for his offenses, so I do not have a great feel for his approach at this time.


Josh from parts unknown writes: Who do you think the Rams are going to hire as their next coach? Personally I want the Rams to clean house with the coaches and get rid of all of them and hire Rex Ryan. What do you think is going to happen with the Rams coaching staff?

Mike Sando: This one is tough to read (the Rams' coaching situation, not your mailbag question). The search hasn't focused on any one individual to this point. We have a new owner in place (Chip Rosenbloom) and a relatively new general manager (Billy Devaney, hired last offseason), and we have that GM consulting with Dan Dierdorf and Marshall Faulk. All while interim coach Jim Haslett is coming to work, with his staff in flux.