|ESPN.com: NFC West||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jose from Anchorage, Alaska, writes: Alright, I have been a hardcore Cardinals fan for a long time. And boy have I been through some bleak years. However, I really do think this year it is different.
I mean, honestly, the defense is one of the best in the league. We got playmakers like Adrian Wilson, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and Antrel Rolle's move to FS should pay dividends. Also, the additions of a healthy [Bert] Berry and [Chike] Okeafor on top of the rookies [Calais] Campbell and [Kenny] Iwebema should only help. The only problem I see is our DB depth. So my question to you is, barring any huge injuries to key players, are the Cardinals poised to have a top ten defense this season?
Mike Sando: The Cardinals ranked 17th in yards allowed last season and 27th in points allowed. I'd be surprised if they finished in the Top 10 for either category, but I do expect their defense to improve. As far as this season being different, hey, last season was different. The team got to 8-8. I see a similar record this season if the final seven games wind up being as difficult as they look from this vantage point.
Mike Sando: I would rank Wilcox among the top two, with Ronnie Lott, based on what I know. Both are in the Hall of Fame. Wilcox played before my time. The impressive thing about Lott was that he dominated from the secondary, which is very difficult to do. He played both cornerback spots and both safety spots. He landed a spot on the 75th Anniversary team, and he won all those championships. I would be interested in hearing the case for Wilcox.
For the uninitiated, Joe Thomas was the 49ers' general manager during some lean seasons.
Mike Sando: I do see Kent getting playing time early in the season, but things probably get tougher for him once Deion Branch and Bobby Engram return. Kent made strides this preseason. He must perform well early to justify a continued spot in the rotation. He has as good a shot as any of those guys.
Mike Sando: Not sure how your league scores things, but David Garrard has done a very nice job protecting the football. He hasn't thrown many interceptions. Warner would be more apt to suffer turnovers from week to week. Warner will probably throw more touchdown passes. I would wait and see on Tim Hightower. He fumbled just enough during the exhibition season to make me wonder if he'll be consistent early in the season.
Mike Sando: I would be surprised if Branch played in the opener without practicing much this week. The Seahawks have not named a punt returner. Wallace would be an ideal candidate, even if the team put him in fair-catch mode. I do think Frye showed enough to warrant using Wallace under these very dire circumstances. But we probably won't know until the team practices Wednesday.
Mike Sando: No plans at this time, John. My wife has too many things going now that our kids are getting a little older and involved in so many activities. Plus, she would probably beat me.
Adam from New York writes: Love your blog Mike--keep up the good work! If the niners have a successful season this year (big emphasis on IF), what are the chances Mike Martz will stick around for another year? Please tell me they're better than slim-to-none.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Adam. I think Martz would probably stick around if the 49ers enjoyed a strong season. The 49ers would presumably want to build on any success offensively. And I'm not sure one good season would necessarily vault Martz back into the head-coaching fraternity. The last four head coaches hired had never been head coaches at this level: Jim Zorn, Mike Smith, John Harbaugh and Tony Sparano.
Mike Sando: Mare has been named to handle both duties for the regular-season opener. The team would not keep two kickers active for a game because those 45 roster spots are precious on game days. Hope that helps.
Mike Sando: Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan and Chris Myers are working the Cardinals-49ers gam
e for Fox this week. I've found them to do a good job. In general, though, the No. 1 crews work the best matchups.
Mike Sando: DirecTV offers its Sunday Ticket package over the Web. It's very cool if you have a fast enough connection. You can go from game to game at the click of a button.
Mike Sando: Watch out for those 49ers this season. They could surprise Seattle. Remember what happened to the Seahawks when they went down to Arizona last season for what they thought would be another victory in the desert. Let's see if Seattle overlooks the 49ers at Candlestick.
Bill from parts unknown writes: Geez, Sandman, it's like you went on IR for a year and now you're back on the playing field. Hope your wife and kids are fine, school is good, and you continue your tireless efforts in exceling in your profession. Thanks for your work.
Mike Sando: Thanks much for the kind words. My wife has instituted a curfew this year to make sure I don't work through the night, so everything should be OK.
Kraig from Puyallup, Wash., writes: What's different about a waiver claim from just plucking a player off the practice squad later? In other words, What does it mean to "clear waivers" when a player is just as available on the PS as he is right after he was waived?
Mike Sando: The waiver claim comes in handy if other teams have interest in the player. For example. the Saints waived 2007 third-round guard Andy Alleman. Seven teams submitted waiver claims. The Dolphins got him because they had the worst 2007 record among teams that submitted claims. Also, teams that win waiver claims inherit the player's contract as it stood with his previous team. Players on the practice squad do have the freedom to sign anywhere. Waived players must clear waivers before enjoying that freedom.