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Saturday, September 18, 2010
Mailbag: Assessing Rams' Sam Bradford

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Doug from Fairfax, Va., writes: Mike, great blog, and good take on Sam Bradford-Mark Clayton. One angle to their immediate connection that I think is worthy of further consideration is the University of Oklahoma angle: It's more than just that they both went to OU. Clayton, I believe, regularly came back to campus and participated in drills with Bradford. Additionally, Bradford would have heard over and over from OU guys how much Clayton was a trusted, reliable receiver. Put that experience and that confidence together, and it's only natural that Bradford and Clayton were immediately and will be a great tandem. Keep up the great reporting.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Doug. I should have asked Clayton about that aspect. I'm interested in watching Bradford again in Week 2 to see how he progresses. He looks good, but the more he plays, the more information defenses will have for preparation.

Some thought Bradford might face a considerable adjustment period learning to make plays from within the pocket. The play Clayton singled out as one of Bradford's best Sunday was the fourth-and-goal rollout to the right, punctuated by a perfect strike to Laurent Robinson. Bradford really did look his best on the move. I'll be watching Sunday to see how much damage Bradford can do without rolling out and throwing on the move, and whether he rolls out too frequently. I want to see how the Rams structure the offense for him and, specifically Sunday, whether Nnamdi Asomugha defends Clayton or picks a side.

Clayton's addition is looking like one of the better moves in the division this offseason. He appears to fit this offense. I know the Rams' staff is excited about him. Clayton thinks Bradford is "special" and he anticipates maintaining a very productive rapport. So far, so good, but it's a long season.


Matt from San Francisco writes: Hey Sando, I breathe your blog, so thanks for maintaining a completely reliable source for my daily/hourly 9er fix. I saw that 'Sing' eluded to the "rat" being outside the building regarding the Yahoo! story on Jimmy Raye's communitation. I think there is another rat situation that no one has discussed. This may be the same rat (Mr Robinson and friends), but I got the impression that the Seahawks knew what the 49ers were doing on most plays. There were no surprises, just player vs. player battles. Yes, the Seahawks played well and the 49ers played poorly, but is it possible the Seahawks benefited from all the former 49ers currently on staff? How much do new players share when they go to a new team, especially if the new and old team play each other? I've never heard this discussed and so am curious if there is an unsaid rule about not sharing info or if it's all free game with new players. Thanks in advance for any light you can shed.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Matt. Players can and definitely do share information. Picking up a quarterback would help more than picking up the typical running back or linebacker. Seattle might have benefited more than usual in this case because this was a season opener and the Seahawks have a new staff. But you can bet that staff probably watched every 49ers game from last season. I just don't think the difference would be decisive. With all that knowledge, Matt Hasselbeck came out and threw an interception on the Seahawks' first offensive play. It was the adjustments Seattle made -- based on information collected during the game, not during interrogation sessions with former San Francisco players -- that helped the team prevail.


Scott from Washington, D.C., writes: Sando, it looked like the Niners' offensive line had some major problems with Brandon Mebane. My question is whether that's a testament to Mebane or an indictment of the Niners' OL. Is he a special player? Or is it too early to tell either way?

Mike Sando: Mebane is a good player. I would not call him special, but I would say he's a good defensive lineman, probably better than a lot of people realize. I wouldn't judge the 49ers' offensive line after one game.


Willie from South Bend, Ind., writes: I don't know if you've addressed this in the past, but if I remember correctly, the last time the Seahawks played the AFC West, they played Kansas City and San Diego at home and Denver and Oakland on the road. Aren't they supposed to alternate home and away games? Did the schedule maker drop the ball on this? If brought to someone's attention, is there anything that could/would be done to rectify the situation. After Super Bowl XL I doubt the NFL would even admit the mistake.

Mike Sando: Perhaps Bill Leavy can apologize on behalf of the schedule-makers. Seriously, though, the schedule rotates every 12 years, not every eight years, and this leads to some unexpected pairings. It's not by accident.


Shawn from Phoenix writes: Sando, you called the Cards' defense vulnerable. Without the two fumbles deep in Rams territory, this wasn't even a game. The Rams had to throw 50 times to get 250 yds passing, and the Cardinals held Jackson to 3.7 yds per carry. The Rams were also max-protecting and still gave up two sacks. The loss of Antrel Rolle is the most overrated of the offseason, and Karlos Dansby never made a Pro Bowl. Watched the game and despite four fumbles, the defense gave up 13 points and that's vulnerable? You're nuts!

Mike Sando: What I said during the most recent NFC West chat was, "They gave up 325 yards, for the record, but I did not see great things from the Cardinals in terms of team defense. Sam Bradford hit a couple long throws. Mark Clayton was wide open for another one, but he dropped the ball. The Rams converted 10 of 23 times on third/fourth downs. The run defense against Steven Jackson was fine for the most part. The safeties made good plays on the ball. I thought the Rams' offensive line held up better in protection than I would have imagined, and Sam Bradford got rid of the ball quickly."

As for Dansby, sounds like he fared OK for Miami in the Dolphins' opener. It's not like reporters covering the Dolphins are lamenting the loss of Joey Porter to this early point, either. We'll find out over the course of the season whether the Cardinals are good on defense. They are healthier than they were when things collapsed late last season. But there's no sense in using a season-opening performance against the Rams as concrete evidence.


Mike from Washington writes: Hey Mike, I was reading an article on nfl.com in which experts ranked the Seahawks as high as 10 and as low as 26 and the Niners as high as 16 and as low as 28. Im a die-hard Seahawks fan, but don't you think that 10 is a little too high for the Seahawks even for an optimistic fan, and 28 is a little low for the Niners? I appreciate any possible answer. Thanks.

Mike Sando: Yes, I tend to agree with your thoughts. Matt Hasselbeck is the key variable for Seattle. If they can continue to protect him as well as they did in Week 1, Seattle will be much more competitive. Hasselbeck looked like his former Pro Bowl self in that game. My outlook on Seattle will change dramatically if the Seahawks can keep Hasselbeck from danger.


Jim from Tucson writes: I've been pondering the Cardinals game, and an interesting thought occurred to me. There's no doubt that Derek Anderson looked pretty bad on Sunday, but if you ignore his passes to Larry Fitzgerald, Anderson completed 19 of 26 passes (that's 73 percent) for 254 yards. That's pretty darn solid by itself. I'm not saying Anderson was accurate, and I'm certainly not saying Fitz should have been able to catch those balls -- Anderson was way off on those throws. But that does NOT seem normal. It has to mean something. The timing/chemistry issue between Fitz and Anderson could be much bigger than anyone thinks. If so, it bodes very, very well for the Cardinals' future if those two can get used to playing together.

Mike Sando: You could be right and I do think Ken Whisenhunt is correct in saying the passing game should improve as these guys are together longer. Whisenhunt also said Fitzgerald requires a different kind of ball, so that could be in play. I rewatched the start of that game Saturday night and noticed Anderson hitting Fitzgerald in stride with a beautiful pass for a nice gain right away. They'll improve at it, but we do know Anderson will not be a consistent precision passer. That is not his game. But we also know he's going to complete more than 20 percent of his passes to Fitzgerald.


Jarrod from Port Angeles, Wash., writes: Hey Sando, love the blog, man. Keep up the good work! I was unable to watch the Seahawks beatdown of the 49ers on TV (I know, blasphemy) so I was wondering, how did Earl Thomas look? Obviously our defense as a whole did pretty good but I was wondering if you could give me any insight into how he played. Thanks!

Mike Sando: Thanks, Jarrod. Thomas looked really good. He's already an upgrade.


Charlie from Georgia writes: Sando, are you still on the Alex Smith bandwagon? After Sunday's performance, we got exactly what we expected from Alex Smith. I know you're gonna say it wasnt all his fault, but Smith overshot alot of his receivers. Heck, at times, Smith looked like the worst QB in the division. Sam Bradford looked 100 percent better in him in his first game. I know smith is due a good game here and there, but I don't see the 49ers sticking with him, say, if they start 0-2 or 0-3. There's too much on the line here. If they can't win the division now, when will they? The Cardinals aren't playing good offense, the Rams have a rookie quarterback and the Seahawks' offense wasnt spectacular, so now is the time. Six points with the likes of Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. on offense is just unacceptable. I noticed Smith kept throwing those 5-yard passes and couldn't throw those accurately and the one time he had Ginn deep, he missed him. I don't mind losing, but let's lose with someone else. Smith's days are numbered!

Mike Sando: Don't put me on that bandwagon, Charlie. I thought they should have made a push for Donovan McNabb even though I understood the whole continuity emphasis. Smith is the best option on the team right now and I think it would be premature to make a change. It's not like they have Steve Young in relief. It's also not like it's unusual for Smith to struggle at Seattle (the offense couldn't convert a third down there last season, either). The 49ers are better than they showed in Week 1. Same goes for Smith. As I've said, I do not think the 49ers have shown they're good enough at quarterback to win big games, but they can still be in that 8-8 or 9-7 or 10-6 range this season with Smith doing just enough.