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Thursday, August 11, 2011
Chat wrap: Four new questions answered

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The latest NFC West chat came and went Thursday with fans looking forward to exhibition openers beginning Thursday night.

Check out the full chat transcript here. And because there were so many good questions left over, I'll address one more per team below instead of hitting on highlights.
Oz from Fort Lauderdale wants to reassess the "ceiling" for Kevin Kolb as the Arizona Cardinals progress through the exhibition season. While he sees Kolb in the Matt Schaub/Matt Cassel mode, he also sees some similarities to Aaron Rodgers. "I'm just worried sometimes he is too much of a gunslinger."

Mike Sando: There isn't enough evidence to brand Kolb one way or another, but if he were in the Rodgers mold, the Eagles never would have traded him. General managers I spoke with throughout the offseason thought Kolb was a good prospect, but not good enough to return a higher first-round draft choice. That seems debatable. Would you rather have a good starting quarterback or most of the players drafted early in the first round? The good starting quarterback has more value if your team does not have one. Kolb did complete 79.3 percent of his passes for 326 yards, three touchdowns and a 133.6 passer rating against Atlanta last season. He projects confidence the way a Pro Bowl quarterback does. It is possible that attitude reflects more of a gunslinger's mentality than an efficient quarterback's mentality. We cannot know yet and we're not likely to have a good idea until several games into the regular season.

John from St. Louis asks about the Rams' offensive line, specifically whether Jason Smith is poised for a breakout year and whether Rodger Saffold could suffer from a sophomore slump.

Mike Sando: The sophomore slump angle is more interesting this season because the lockout kept teams from working with players during the offseason. Saffold was good enough as a rookie to make me think he'll be at least as good this season. Smith has not seemed to be on a sharp upward trajectory. I'm not sure how much a right tackle can "break out" anyway. He should be a solid player for the Rams given his talent, but it's looking like he does not have the qualities that differentiate special tackles from merely solid or above-average ones. If Smith did have those characteristics, the Rams would be more apt to play him at left tackle. Saffold, while good, is not in the Orlando Pace mold either.

Steve from Morristown, N.J., keeps hearing about how Frank Gore feels great following recovery from a hip injury. He'd like another opinion.

Mike Sando: Gore did look very good when I was there at 49ers camp. He was bouncing around the practice field and appeared genuinely happy to be there. He hugged a fan, joked around with general manager Trent Baalke, plowed into middle linebacker Patrick Willis during drills (thunderous collisions, by the way) and spoke optimistically about the offense. He ran the ball well when asked to do so and did not appear to be favoring his hip.

Erik from Montana wants to know what stats to expect from Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson this season.

Mike Sando: He's had some injury problems in the past, so let's say he misses a few games. Let's give him 12 starts, matching his career-best total. The Seahawks will not ask him to carry their offense. They'll try to establish a running game and use Jackson's mobility. Jackson has 13 touchdowns and six interceptions over his past three seasons (20 games, including six starts). I'd guess he'll be around 12-15 touchdown passes with slightly fewer interceptions. Let's revisit this one after seeing how comfortable he appears, how well the offensive line is coming together, etc.

The Seahawks and Chargers will be kicking off at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Cardinals and Raiders kick off a couple hours later. I'll be offering thoughts following each game and am looking forward to discussing them on the blog.