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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Dan from Knoxville writes: Mike, I have been a 49ers fan since birth. I think that Mike Nolan is a great coach. Think of that HUGE mess he had to fix when he arrived. He has drafted some fantasic players and has this team so close. I have been reading that many are troubled with the future of the staff. The offense will improve this year and the defense will be scary good, just wait. If Nolan leaves, just hire Martz as the coach/OC and its problem solved. I hope to be rollin' with Nolan for a long time. Great Job on the blog. By the way, Alex Smith should lose his job. He is terrible.
Mike Sando: Mike Nolan is obviously a very good football coach. The question is whether he's a good head coach in the NFL. That distinction stands until Nolan proves he can handle all aspects of the job. The situation with Alex Smith last season was unfortunate for all involved. The head coach ultimately bears more responsibility than the then-23-year-old quarterback.
Nolan isn't to blame for losing Norv Turner. That one change might be as responsible as anything for derailing Smith's career.
Mike Sando: Yes, I do think Jackson is good enough to make that kind of difference. Without Jackson, I would put the Rams fourth in the division. With Jackson, I think the Rams have a chance to be better than that. Their depth still might be the worst in the division, but the Bulger-Jackson combination is a good one. Protection is always the key for Bulger. He's not the sturdiest guy and he's not the same when he's getting hit.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Jason. Much appreciated. The added depth on defense is certainly a positive story for Arizona. Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans should help that team. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a positive story. Tim Hightower's running has been another positive development for this team. I'll be at the Cardinals-Raiders game on Saturday night, keeping an eye out for other developments, good and bad.
Aaron from Redmond, Wash., writes: Hey Mike! I was wondering what your thoughts are as far as the current jogjam at running back. Do any of them have any trade value? I know you have stated, and I totally agree, that Justin Forsett has done enough to earn a roster spot. But if the coaches disagree, there isn't much chance of him clearing waivers and signing him to the practice squad, is there? You stated in your coverage of saturday's game that there were scouts from 11 teams at Qwest, not including the Bears (who really need a RB). Surely more than 1 of them would take notice if he became availible. Considering we got him in the 7th round, wouldnt it be better to try and at least get back our investment by trading him for a 7th round pick? Or maybe even get a better pick, since I'm sure if the draft was done over today, that he would not last till the 7th round this time. What do you think? Are there any trade possibilities for the Hawks at RB? (preferably Duckett if anyone would want him) Or will we have to risk losing a promising young guy to another team? Thanks!
Mike Sando: Forsett is an interesting case. No team is likely to sign him as a starter. He simply isn't big enough to be that 20-carry player, most likely. The most likely scenario, I think, would be to keep six this season.
Jake from San Jose, Calif., writes: I frequently hear about retired veteran players who have relationships with current players from the same team. Most recently, Steve McNair and Vince Young as well as PacMan Jones and Michel Irvin. Do the current 49er quarterbacks, particularly Alex Smith, have any mentors to turn to from the 49ers? Joe Montana and Steve Young are two hall of fame quarterbacks who would be outstanding mentors for anyone. My question is do the 49ers have a system for connecting current players with former players who could help guide them through the trials in the NFL?
Mike Sando: The 49ers do have an alumni board featuring Steve Bono, Guy McIntyre, Jesse Sapolu, Keena Turner and Eric Wright. Mentoring is one of their roles.
Mike Sando: I do think they need to keep him, particularly after what he showed on special teams. Yes, the Seahawks have pretty good depth. But what message are you sending the rest of the team by releasing a player who produces so demonstrably?
Steve from parts unknown writes: Mike, JT was drafted in the 6th round by New Orleans. It is not a hard item to find out. Read his profile.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Steve. Shaun Hill was undrafted in 2002. J.T. O'Sullivan was indeed a sixth-round choice of the Saints that same year. I'm about to do 10 pushups off to the side while the rest of the team continues practicing.
Mike Sando: Ray McDonald has stepped up this summer.
The team says it's happy with Balmer, too, but we haven't seen him make plays the way McDonald has made them so far. If you count Justin Smith as a defensive lineman, he would be a natural leader simply by how he plays and practices.
Mike Sando: They've had to fill in with stopgaps recently. Darrell Jackson fits into that category. Isaac Bruce, a great player in his prime, probably falls into that category simply because of his age. You should feel some optimism about Josh Morgan and Jason Hill. They have shown positive signs this summer. Bryant Johnson should turn into a positive addition once his hamstring injury heals.
Mike Sando: It's tough to argue with the points you have made. Mike Nolan has made it clear this is about which quarterback gives the 49ers the best chance in the next game. That might be unfair to Smith, but that is the approach.
Mike Sando: You present a convincing case and I think you stand a good chance of being right when this shakes out.
Mike Sando: Adding another quarterback to the mix would make sense if the current three aren't the answer. A player might have a hard time picking up the Martz system quickly enough to start right away, but that would change over time.
Mike Sando: It's definitely possible. Last I heard, Hill said he was unaware of substantive talks recently. The Seahawks definitely want him. Tim Ruskell drafted Hill. The team realizes Hill might be, at times, the best linebacker on the team. You do wonder how much money a team can pour into one position. That would be the only potential limiting factor in my estimation.
Mike Sando: It's never an upset when Seattle loses in the Eastern time zone. I've seen it happen too many times. Jack Youngblood did play with a broken fibula. The NFL still has lots and lots of players who play and practice through painful injuries. Steve McNair was legendary that way. I've seen players sneak off the bench and into the game after injuries when they hadn't even been cleared to play. Chuck Darby did that a couple years ago. He sneaked back onto the field, beat a double-team block and forced an Eli Manning interception.
Mike Sando: I'm reluctant -- but not all that reluctant -- to include such a self-serving note in the mailbag.
Mike Sando: You're welcome. The spreadsheets are a passion of mine. Takeo Spikes definitely looks the part. He is put together. I might question his ability to hold up physically for a full season at age 31. If healthy, I think he helps this defense. The pairing with linebackers coach Mike Singletary has the potential, on the surface, to be a good one. I'm not sure about Alex Smith and this offense. Le
t me explain. Coaches I know have told me they think Smith became gun-shy after getting hit (and hurt) over the last couple seasons. One coach told me he thought Smith might need a full season working behind a competent offensive line before he felt comfortable enough to function at a high level. Martz's system has produced fantastic stats over the years, but the sack numbers have jumped as well. If the trend continues, perhaps Smith might not be ready to face that this season. Just a thought.
Mike Sando: Forsett has probably been proving people such as me wrong his whole life, but I don't see him projecting as an every-down back at his current size. Again, he could prove otherwise. He certainly looks good so far. But some have wondered if Maurice Morris is big enough to take the pounding. Forsett is smaller.
Mike Sando: Thanks much, Brett. I loved working at the News Tribune and had a great experience there. The sports editor there, Dale Phelps, remained strongly committed to Seahawks coverage even amid tightening budgets.
As for Solari and those blocking schemes, I don't think the change is dramatic in that way. The Seahawks are not changing their offense for Solari, in other words. They are asking Solari to teach within the framework of the offense as it existed. Solari's impact comes from his teaching style, enthusiasm and knowledge of what it takes to play the position well on a consistent basis. The assistant line coach, Mike DeBord, is also making an impact. From what I have seen, they make for a very efficient and effective team.
Mike Sando: I agree with you. The only thing working against Morris, potentially, is that he predates the current personnel braintrust. Sometimes personnel people are less attached to players they didn't bring in. I'm not saying that is the case here, but it's just something to consider along with everything else.
Mike Sando: Patrick Kerney is 31 years old and coming off surgery for the second consecutive offseason, and he wore down significantly last season. Was that enough to scare you? I doubt it. Adding Lawrence Jackson in the draft made a lot of sense. This defense definitely has the makings of another strong season. As I've pointed out, Seattle was the only team in the NFL to place starters at defensive end, linebacker and cornerback in the 2008 Pro Bowl.
Mike Sando: Jones did expect to start even though Mike Holmgren made it clear nothing was promised. Jones views himself as an every-down back with elite potential. He didn't like sharing so much time with Marion Barber in Dallas, but those are the breaks if the other running back is productive. No question, Morris has looked better in the exhibition season. That matters now, but let's see how they do against defenses that game-plan for the offense. Jones will have his chance to prove himself when it counts. I wonder if Morris will be appreciably better given expected improvements in the offensive line.
Mike Sando: Not high.
Mike Sando: Thanks for listening. I see no reason for Alexander to retire if he thinks he has unfinished business. Now, do I expect him to enjoy success somewhere else at this stage of his career? Not particularly. Mike Holmgren probably has the right approach when he rests Hasselbeck to make sure the back issue subsides. The Seahawks have become a defense-led team over the last couple seasons. They do not need to be passing for 300 yards per game to beat Buffalo or most teams. Seattle put lots into upgrading its running game this offseason. Let's see how that works early in the season.