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Thursday, September 4, 2008
Mailbag: The case for Deacon Jones

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill from Pearl River writes: It is inconcievable to think that Deacon Jones did not get the best ever all-time Ram player ever! I'm a lifetime 48 yr old Ram fan from NY and I loved Faulk(played half with Colts) but there is nobody even close to the Daec! when and who voted for this? Was it the typical 22 yr old uneducated ESPN junkie? or was it the equally uneducated media?

Mike Sando: My unofficial exit polling showed 44 percent of ESPN.com poll respondents owned advanced degrees in engineering or biological sciences. Another 32 percent were published NFL historians. Seriously, though, what about Merlin Olsen?


Will from Salem, Mass., writes: Mike, thanks for the insights all summer on the NFC West teams and specifically the Rams. Regarding predicting their '08 record, I think you're close. I see them as 7-9. Game-by-game is hard to predict, but I see 3-3 vs. the NFC West, 1-3 vs. the NFC East, 1-3 vs. the AFC East, and 2-0 vs. Chicago and Atlanta. 6 and 8 wins are both possible, but either one depends on if the Rams are healthier or more injured than average.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Will. I actually picked the Rams as a wild-card team last season. I was looking for a team that would break through somewhat unexpectedly. I narrowed my choices to the Packers and Rams. We all know how that one turned out. The Rams wound up using 18 combinations on their offensive line. As a result, I might be a little gun-shy on the Rams this season. Their depth isn't very good, it appears, and the schedule seems to stack up unfavorably early in the season.


John from Bremerton writes: do you think the seahawks will unload T.J. Duckett before the second or third game? He seems like a player who will be the odd man out since between Leonard Weaver and Omar Schmitt they seem to have three short yardage go to guys

Mike Sando: That would surprise me. The Seahawks clearly signed Duckett with more than one season in mind. That's why they gave him guarantees in 2009. Maurice Morris' contract is up after this season. Duckett gives them another potential guy to share carries with Julius Jones.


Matt from Seattle writes: Sando, who is this Matt Williamson cat? I would love to hear why he thinks that two-thirds of the league is better than Seattle. Before doing any research at all, I'm guessing he probably covers the AFC or NFC East, maybe a Cowboys beat writer, maybe a Jets guy. Because he obviously hasn't seen the Seahawks play ball.

Mike Sando: Matt Williamson works for Scouts Inc. He worked as a scout for the Cleveland Browns and previously worked at the University of Pittsburgh. He wrote about Shaun Alexander in April.


Ken from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Deion Branch might play in the season opener (that's in 4 days) despite not having really tested his knee or practiced in 7 months? How is this even an option for them?! Not worth the risk to try to rush him back into the line up only to potentially cause more damage (in my opinion). Do they really lack that much confidence in their young receivers to rush Branch into the starting lineup?

Mike Sando: I don't expect Branch to play in the opener. Doctors have cleared him to return. Now he needs to get comfortable, first on the practice field.


Peter from parts unknown writes: Hey Mike, the blogging is cool. keep it going. You're coverin' the NFCW, but how do u think Zorn is gonna do in DC? Were u surprised/is it good choice for the skins? I don't have confidence in Campbell, but portis is a legit back. thanks.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Peter. I'm pretty sure Zorn will be good for the offense. He is very creative. Mike Holmgren also filtered some of that creativity. I wonder what an unfiltered Zorn offense might look like. The head coach can't think like a coordinator or position coach. That is the challenge for Zorn, taking command of a team and seeing the whole picture. That is a tough job in a high-pressure environment with an owner not known for his patience.


Brandon from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Hey Sando- I know you are busy but I was wondering if you were going to do an "All NFC West Team" like the AFC North blogger did (sorry forgot his name and too lazy to look). It was pretty cool. Just a thought.

Mike Sando: James Walker broke out the AFC North preseason honors. Maybe I'll put together a variation now that you asked. Would you run a 3-4 defense or a 4-3 defense?


Jay from Seattle writes: Mike- There has been lots of talk about Leroy Hill this preseason, both locally and now nationally, for good reason. What do you think the chances are that the 'Hawks sign him to an extension this season? My favorite play that epitomizes Hill was his sack of Todd Collins in the 2nd quarter (3rd and 10 play with 4:50 left) of the wild-card game last year. He blitzed up the middle and blew through Mike Sellers and sacked Collins with one hand, while Sellars was pinned between Hill and Collins. I finally found a highlight video of the game that inclueded it on NFL.com. No one ever seems to mention this play. Am I the only one who was impressed? Keep up the good work!

Mike Sando: Thanks much. You are right. That was a brutally effective play. One of the best I've seen from a Seattle linebacker. Yes, I do think the Seahawks will make an effort to sign him. They have a lot of money wrapped up in the position already, but Hill is a keeper.


Webber from parts unknown writes: Mike, Looking at your prediction of the Rams record this year, you show the Rams as playing the Seahawks in Seattle both games.

Mike Sando: Didn't you hear? The schedule makers really stuck it to the Rams this season. Wait, you're right. The Week 15 game against Seattle is indeed at St. Louis. Thanks for the catch. You win the good hands award.


Josh from Lacey, Wash., writes: I wanted to follow up on the Dave Wilcox story and send you some stats for Wilcox.However first let me point out his only recorded stats are that he had 14 career INT's. He was a 7x Pro Bowler,and 8X All Pro. Nicknamed the "Intimidator",stood at 6'3" 241 LBS. In 1974 (his last year) he record
ed 104 solo tackles, four forced fumbles, and tackled opposing ball carriers for a loss 13 times. He also missed only one game in his career.He truly was regarded as the premier OLB of his time. To further show his athletic ability he did not play LB until joining the 49ers in 1964. So even though Ronnie Lott is without a doubt in my mind the best DB to ever play, I believe overall Wilcox was the better defensive player.

Mike Sando: Thanks for the stats, Josh. I did read them on the Pro Football Hall of Fame site. An impressive player, indeed.


Kellen from Spokane, Wash., writes: hey mike i was just wondering if anyone has considered seneca wallace as a possible reciever this year since there are so many injuries in this position? thanx go zags and hawks

Mike Sando: Yes, the Seahawks have considered using Wallace in that capacity. All options are on the table this week.


James from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, the article about Leroy Hill being able to re-sign with the Seahawks got me thinking: with the owners voided the Collective Bargaining Agreement, what effect does this have on contracts entered into between now and when a new CBA is established? Specifically I'm wondering that since 2010 is now looking like an uncapped season, could a team like the Seahawks structure long term contracts so a large portion of the deal and bonuses are paid in 2010? What would happen if a new CBA was established before 2010 that set a cap, or even lowered it? Would a team be in violation of the new 2010 cap for deals entered into when no one knew what the cap would be?

Mike Sando: Leroy Hill would never sign a backloaded deal. Like any player, he'll want a large portion of the money in the first three years of the deal. Cap room isn't really a problem in the NFL. Teams can find ways to pay the up-front money to key players without running into cap problems.


Scott from Spokane, Wash., writes: Hello from another Whitworth Pirate alum! Any chance you can explain better the coin flip rule change? I'm no dummy, but I still don't see how this makes a dime's worth of difference to the games and their outcomes. How is there any advantage to be gained by making this rule change?

Mike Sando: "I'm no dummy" was the official Whitworth motto through my sophomore year.

I'm with you on the coin flip. Coaches can defer the choice until the second half. Does not seem like a big deal.


William from Vancouver, Wash., writes: Hey Mike, just wanted to share my opinion on broadcasters. I love Al Michaels and John Madden, however the sunday night preseason game this year, madden was horrible, i hope he was just mailing it in for preseason as opposed to losing it. Mike Tirico is great and Jaws is too but i wish Kornheiser would go, he has no business being in the booth. There is one guy I cannot stand and absolutely have to turn off the volume when i watch and that guy is Dan Dierdorf. ... I really don't like any of the CBS guys. Fox has some doosies too but I relly like Baldinger he really seems like he gets the football side and is also good on tv. Johnston is good and does his homework, matt vasgersian and JC are a good team and have good chemistry (they seem to do most of the hawks games).

Mike Sando: I like Dan Dierdorf better now than during the Monday Night days. Mike Tirico really impressed me during the Seahawks-Chargers Monday Night game when he casually broke down the long-snapping situation in Seattle after Tim Lindsey's low snap on a PAT. He knew that Tyler Schmitt was resting a back injury. When a national play-by-play guy knows the snapping situation during a preseason game, you know he's doing his homework (and possibly benefitting from sharp production people).


Xcalibur from Spokane, Wash., writes: What are the odds that Holmgren will try to go out and get another WR, since we are down to one WR that has experience?

Mike Sando: I think the odds are low this week. Let's wait to see what happens in the opener. Right now, the team seems ready to tough it out early in the season, then welcome back Bobby Engram and Deion Branch. Signing a veteran now would force Seattle to guarantee the veteran's salary for the season. That is not the case after Week 1.


Justin from Seattle writes: Will Shaun Alexander be picked up by anybody to play this year?

Mike Sando: Let's see where injuries arise.


Chris from Denver writes: Dansby of Az for your up and coming stars or Dockett. Az-SF this week, what is your prediction, take into account the spread (-3 AZ)? I like AZ 27-17. Cards will put up points with Warner at QB and the D is healthy.

Mike Sando: I'm on the record favoring Arizona as much for the 49ers' unknown situation at quarterback as anything.


Jamie from Banff, Canada, writes: Just wanted to comment on how great it's been keeping up with the division from your reports. Saves me from having to chase all the information down from several sources. Thanks

Mike Sando: Thanks, Jamie. Is there anything else you'd like to see?


John from Tacoma writes: Mike, Are Dilfer and DJack still playing for any team?

Mike Sando: Trent Dilfer is retired and recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon suffered shooting hoops. Darrell Jackson is playing for the Broncos.


Joey from New York writes: Mike, thanks for answering my question last month regarding Shaun Alexander, and as the season is 2 days away from commencing he is still not on a team which means his NFL career is officially over. 1) Do you think teams like the Jets, Bears, Bucs, Broncos etc... who have depth problems at the RB position are foolish for not giving #37 a chance to show whether he has any magic left in him? 2) Have you ever seen a top offensive player fall from grace as fast as Shaun Alexander has?

Mike Sando: I don't think Alexander projects as a backup, and teams aren't going to be excited about him after watching his production plummet over the last two seasons. I do not recall a player going from league MVP and touchdown machine to virtual host of HGTVPro.com's annual Builders Football League in two years.


Jake from Germany writes: Sando, Seahawk WR concerns... I'm comfortable with Burleson and what he brings to the table. I like him as a starter (with or without Branch) because he is a big play waiting to happen. Coaches must think Courtney Taylor has something great in him because he's been tabbed to start for like 3 weeks now despite Jordan Kent's solid preseason play. My question is: What kind of player is Taylor? Is he a big-play guy, a possession guy, sure handed, good route runner, wh
at? Because on behalf of ALL Seahawk fans, he has yet to show anything at the pro level (preseason included).

Mike Sando: The Seahawks think Taylor has big-play potential that separates him from the other young receivers. You are right, though. We haven't seen it yet.