Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Chat wrap: Fitzgerald, Sims-Walker, WRs
By Mike Sando
Seven hours of NFL chatting wasn't quite enough. I'll break out a few NFC West highlights from our ESPN.com marathon session and offer additional thoughts at the end:
Charlie from Austin, Texas cannot wrap his brain around Pete Carroll's decision to go with Tarvaris Jackson as his starting quarterback. He is seeking counsel.
Mike Sando: This is a transition year for the Seahawks and was going to be one whether the quarterback was Jackson or Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst. The Seahawks know this. They're willing to take their chances this season and come back to the table for a QB next offseason. That's what I think is happening. In the meantime, they're being held to the same standard as teams who have identified franchise quarterbacks. The same thing has happened to a degree in San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh is not betting his future on Alex Smith. These are one-year rental situations with an expectation both teams will have different starters in 2012, most likely.
Austin from Katy, Texas wants to know whether I think Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson will have the better season in 2011.
Mike Sando: In my mind, Andre Johnson overtook Larry Fitzgerald as the game's top wideout over the last couple seasons. Some of that had to do with Kurt Warner's retirement. I'm higher on Fitzgerald with Kevin Kolb in the picture. Kolb is going to feed the ball to Fitzgerald as long as he's out there. We saw that during preseason. The Cardinals are also a team that has tried to get stats for some of its top players late in the season. I could easily see Fitzgerald getting 100-plus receptions this season.
Mike from Buffalo Grove, Ill., thinks the NFC South's overall record last season reflected favorable matchups against NFC West teams. He wonders whether the NFC East could benefit similarly in 2011, possibly producing both wild-card teams.
Mike Sando: That is one thing John Clayton and I have discussed this offseason. If you ask John, that is one reason he's a little higher on the Cowboys. There is still validity to that thinking, but I suspect the Cardinals will be a tougher opponent this season. The Cardinals have to visit Philadelphia. That's a likely defeat. They should have a decent shot at Washington in Week 2. And then they get the injury-riddled Giants at home early in the season, and the Cowboys at home later in the season. The Cardinals could realistically go 2-2 against the NFC East this season. We'll have a better feel for the bigger picture after the Rams play the Eagles in St. Louis to open the season. That is a potential upset special for you.
Brian from Ridgefield, Conn., asks how much the 49ers should expect to improve with Jim Harbaugh replacing Mike Singletary as head coach.
Mike Sando: The 49ers went 1-4 in games decided by three or fewer points last season. I think Harbaugh will make them better in those types of games. They should win a couple more games under Harbaugh compared to what they would have won under Singletary, with the potential for more hinging on what kind of short-term magic Harbaugh can work with Alex Smith.
We had an interesting Rams-related question about their wide receivers, specifically Mike Sims-Walker. The St. Louis receivers' matchups against the Philadelphia Eagles' all-star collection of cornerbacks looks like a tough one. It'll provide an early test for coordinator Josh McDaniels' philosophy on valuing versatility over specialized talent at the position. One game will not serve as a referendum, of course, but if the Rams make big plays in the passing game against that secondary, critics of their approach to personnel at receiver will have to take note.