Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Thursday, September 1, 2011
Chat wrap: Andrew Luck questions already

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The latest NFC West chat flew past, which means the regular season must be approaching. Lots to consider. Please do check out the full transcript. I'll address four additional questions/comments, ones that slipped through the cracks during the hour-long chat period, in the space below.
Derek from parts unknown asks whether the St. Louis Rams' schedule hurts them by pushing back all division games past Week 8, allowing younger and/or less established NFC West rivals time to develop.

Mike Sando: This thinking seems logical to me. Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle are all breaking in new coordinators. Two of them have new quarterbacks. All have questions on their offensive lines. The Rams might have been better off playing these teams early in the season. On the flip side, though, the Rams might be best off playing Philadelphia in Week 1. The Eagles figure to improve and hit stride as the season progresses. Getting Philadelphia in the opener and in St. Louis gives the Rams a good opportunity to make a statement early.

Ken from San Francisco read a report suggesting the 49ers hadn't watched Texans tape in preparation for the third preseason game. He wondered what the logic would be behind such a move.

Mike Sando: I don't know specifically what the 49ers did to prepare for Houston, but some coaches turn the focus on their own teams at this stage. Also, in my experience, coaches running West Coast offenses have focused more on their own execution than on what opponents might be doing. This would be particularly true during a preseason game and while installing the offense. Also, coach Jim Harbaugh might not want to tip off opponents as to how the 49ers will block certain looks. For now, he might be more concerned seeing how players hold up without scheming. Like the Seahawks, he has gotten his answer.

Kevin from Arizona questions whether the Cardinals have done enough defensively this offseason to improve on that side of the ball.

Mike Sando: They will have a new starting nose tackle in Dan Williams. They'll be better at inside linebacker now that Daryl Washington has played and Stewart Bradley is part of the rotation, if not a starter outright. They should be better across the board up front with Darnell Dockett healthier and Calais Campbell having finished strong last season. They got more talented at cornerback on paper with Patrick Peterson's addition, though we might not see results right away. They brought in a new coordinator with ties to Dick LeBeau and the Pittsburgh Steelers. And then the Cardinals helped out their entire team, including the defense, by improving at quarterback. So, there is potential for improvement. On the down side, the team appears marginally better or the same in the outside pass-rushing department. Williams has been overweight. Adrian Wilson is injured. Peterson has not yet emerged. Bradley hasn't cracked the lineup, counter to expectations. There are real concerns, too. They've got to upgrade the outside pass rush next offseason.

Mort from Scottsdale sees the Seattle Seahawks' Tarvaris Jackson as the 2011 version of Derek Anderson in the NFC West. "Wouldn't it be ironic," he asked, "if the Seahawks played so horribly that they got the first pick and Carroll gets to pick Harbaugh's boy, Andrew Luck?"

Mike Sando: Now that would be unreal, for sure. It gets at a question teams must consider when rebuilding. Would a team be better off scratching and clawing for a couple extra victories that mean nothing in the bigger picture, or would they be better off sometimes going young across the board, not with an eye toward a high draft choice, necessarily, but more in an effort to develop young talent? Seattle is taking that latter route.

Thanks for keeping the conversation moving.