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Monday, March 30, 2009
Mailbag: Replacing Julian Peterson

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Brett from Anacortes, Wash., writes: Hey Mike, long time follower from the TNT days. I was wondering if you foresee the Hawks bringing in a veteran backer like Derrick Brooks to fill Julian Peterson's shoes?

I think competition between D.D. Lewis, Will Herring, David Hawthorne and Lance Laury for that starting spot could be healthy and good for the team in the long run. Of course, we could address the need in the draft, depending on how the chips fall, but I don't necessarily think investing a lot of money in Aaron Curry would be wise unless the team doesn't feel a long-term deal with Leroy Hill is imminent.

Is it realistic to think with our draft position, we should be able to bring in 3 quality starters for the 2009 season? The answer to that may hinge on whether we pull the trigger to a Hasselbeck replacement in the first round, who would obviously have to hold a clipboard for a few years. But if you do feel it is realistic, which three positions could you see a young player coming in and challenging for a starting spot right away?

Mike Sando: I wouldn't expect the Seahawks to consider Brooks until after the draft, if at all. The team will most likely try to find a young prospect in the draft. As you know, the Seahawks have done pretty well drafting linebackers in the second and third rounds. If the team can find another one, Brooks presumably would not be on the radar -- even though the Seahawks' personnel people hold Brooks in very high regard.

Seattle should get two rookie starters out of the draft. Three would be outstanding. Running back would be one position where the Seahawks could conceivably find a starter or at least a part-time starter. Linebacker would be another now that Peterson is in Detroit. The linebacker candidates you mentioned -- those already on the roster -- don't stand out as difference-makers. If the Seahawks drafted Michael Crabtree, I think he would probably start right away, even if it were from a three-receiver personnel grouping.


Nick from Kansas City writes: Sando! Im a huge Rams fan. I just wanted to ask your opinion on talent. See, I think that most players at the NFL level must be pretty athletic and have a high degree of talent. Do you think that coaching and chemistry are the biggest x-factors for success, or is it mostly the players on the field?

My old high school football coach said "you can't make chicken salad with chicken [you know what]!" I see that point but I'm not sure that is true at the NFL level. It seems like the system and the atmosphere make a better salad in the NFL. I see the Rams poised to be much better next year, despite all the "holes". Your thoughts.

Mike Sando: Coaches play a critical role in getting the most from the available talent. Great coaching by itself isn't going to overcome horrible talent at quarterback or in other critical positions. But I agree with your premise.

In 2007, I thought the Dolphins were a six- or seven-win team that won only one game. Last season, the Rams were a five- or six-win team that won only two games. Once things fall apart in the NFL, not every coach can pull things together, particularly if he's working within a flawed organization. I think that was the case for Jim Haslett in St. Louis last season.

The fresh start in St. Louis should help the Rams win more games in 2009. This could be a five- or six-win team that wins five or seven games. We'll have a better idea after the draft. I still have questions about the talent and even the coaching. The Rams have first-year coordinators and a first-year head coach. They have much to prove.


Chad from Dubuque writes: I read earlier in a John Clayton article that the Broncos were looking for a system quarterback in any deal for Jay Cutler. Do you think that that the Broncos would accept Alex Smith the #10 pick and our second next year for Cutler? Also if they did pull that off they should then draft Ramses Barden, he could develop into a Brandon Marshall.

Mike Sando: Alex Smith and Mike Nolan reunited? I'm thinking that might not be a good idea.


Kevin from Columbus writes: What do you think the chances of San Francisco taking Beanie Wells are? He would be a great complement to Gore, and Sing would help toughen him up.

Mike Sando: Wow, that would give the 49ers two starting-caliber backs, but it wouldn't really address a primary need. I'm not sure that would be the best use of the 10th overall pick from a need standpoint. The 49ers might be better served if value and need lined up a little more conveniently for them.


Jeff from Seattle writes: Mike, What's with the "public" drive to change overtime rules? Both teams had plenty of opportunities to score more points in regulation. Both teams could have gone for it on 4th down rather than punting. They could have gone for a touchdown instead of a field goal. The game ends up tied and now people feel like they should get extra chances? If teams are winning the game on the first possession of OT less than 40% of the time ... is that really a problem?

Mike Sando: I don't think the current overtime rules are a problem at all. The current situation offers more compelling drama because the game can end on any given play. I like it.


Jon from Seattle writes: Have you heard anything about Torry Holt? where he might sign? i was thinking 49ers or giants.

Mike Sando: He has visited the Jaguars. The Titans might make sense. I think Holt carries pretty good value at a low price.


Graylin from San Diego writes: Would it be such a reach to draft Larry English with the 10th pick? He seems to be everything the 49ers need: a pass rusher (32.5 sacks and 57 tackles for a loss), and a fierce outside linebacker that would excel with Patrick Willis. I don't see anybody else stand out at 10 that could really bring in the abilities he would. I think taking a receiver like Maclin would be nice, but I believe the receivers we have (Josh Morgan, Jason Hill, and Brandon Jones) could provide us what we need for now. Thanks.

Mike Sando: The 49ers' Trent Baalke reportedly attended English's pro day, if that makes you feel any better. The 49ers would have to project English's skills as a 3-4 outside linebacker vs. a 4-3 defensive end. The higher a team picks, the less projecting the team should have to do. I think that's the question with English. I still haven't seen people projecting him higher than the second half of the first round. Have you?


Tigloki from Ashland writes: Sando, thanks for helping me assuage my relentless hunger for Seahawks news during the off season. Between you and the TNT's Seahawks Insider I manage to stay as sane as I ever am. By my count (well, your count, since this is where I get most of my info) we have lost a peck of good players. Other than TJ haven't really signed anyone that I have ever heard of. I keep trying to console myself that the people making the decisions on who to keep and who to pass on not only do this for a living, but have been doing it for a living for, in most cases, decades.

But presumably the same could be said of the people making decisions in Detroit and look where that's got them. Are we getting better? Do *you* have confidence in the new coaching staff? Mora inspires high hopes. His near fanaticism is infectious -- at least to me. Do you get the sense that the team will get infected too? Can he translate that enthusiasm at the podium to the field? Thanks again for the great work.

Mike Sando: You're welcome. Mora will have little trouble translating his energy from the podium to the field. It's just his nature. The questions you raise about the roster are legitimate. I think the Seahawks are banking on 2008 having been a star-crossed year on the injury front, and the 2009 team will improve by default. Throw in the upgrades made in free agency with whatever the Seahawks get in the draft and, voila, Seattle contends for the division title again. That appears to be the plan, anyway.

On offense, it's going to come down to Matt Hasselbeck's health and the Seahawks' ability to protect the passer. I would not take either for granted. On defense, the Seahawks should become tougher against the run. I still have questions about their pass rush, but rushing the passer becomes easier if the offense scores enough points to build some leads.


Joe from Everett, Wash., writes: Hey Mike. The Seahawks seemed to fill many needs in FA setting them up to take the BPA. In your mind, who are the top 4 prospects to fill that first pick? Mine are Curry, Crabtree, Smith and Orakpo. Thanks.

Mike Sando: I like your list, but must admit I haven't broken down the prospects by watching their games and researching their backgrounds.


Jason from Stroud, Okla., writes: With the switch to a zone blocking scheme, I was interested in which of the Seahawks O-Linemen this will be more beneficial and which ones might not fit this type of blocking scheme. Keep up the awesome job, living in Oklahoma you are my number 1 source on my Hawks.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Jason. Chris Spencer would benefit because he would have fewer line calls to worry about, in theory. I would want to speak with Greg Knapp and Mike Solari after minicamps to get their feel for the other linemen. We need to know to what degree the Seahawks are going with the zone approach.


Joe from parts unknown writes: Hey Mike what do you think of the niners moving Manny Lawson from OLB to LE, then drafting Maybin to fill the LB position. this would really give us a dominent front seven. SMITH, SOAP, LAWSON. WITH HARYLSON,SPIKES,WILLIS, AND MAYBIN.

Mike Sando: The 49ers are going with more of a 3-4 defense. That means they'll want bigger ends. Lawson would project as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. That would be my feel, anyway.