Thursday, May 24, 2012
Chat wrap: New questions, new answers
By Mike Sando
The most recent NFC West chat is heading into overtime thanks to Jeff from Seattle.
"I enjoyed it when the chat wrap used questions that weren't answered," Jeff wrote. "Any plans to bring that back to the feature?"
Sometimes there's not time, but this time, there is. It's May 24 and we -- OK, I -- recently ran a weather report, after all. The first section begins with a question about Kellen Winslow, but the answer touches on teams beyond Seattle. It also lets me break out a chart, always a plus.
Robert from Georgia asked whether Kellen Winslow's addition in Seattle will lead the Seahawks to use more personnel groupings with two tight ends.
"The way New England uses Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez is unbelievable," he wrote, "and while I am in no way trying to compare, does the addition of Winslow increase Zach Miller's production? Could Seattle have the second-best two-tight-end set in the NFL?"
That sounds optimistic. I expect the San Francisco 49ers to field the best two-tight end tandem in the division once again. Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker are very good together. Each is faster than his Seattle counterpart, although Winslow has obviously been more productive than Walker as a receiver (with quite a few more opportunities).
I've put together a chart showing how frequently NFC West teams and Winslow's former team, Tampa Bay, used two or more tight ends. John Carlson's injury suppressed the numbers for Seattle. The St. Louis Rams have a new coaching staff, so numbers from last season might not mean as much.
Seattle will use two-plus tight ends more frequently as long as Miller and Winslow are healthy. Winslow amassed 74 percent of his receiving yardage (565 of 763) as the only tight end on the field last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That figure mirrored the percentage of snaps when Tampa Bay used fewer than two tight ends, disregarding kneeldowns and spikes.
Miller's receiving numbers were going to climb anyway after he bottomed out at 25 receptions. Winslow has consistently been a 70-catch player. I would expect that figure to fall as he plays alongside another tight end to a degree he did not last season.
There is a chance Winslow will catch more passes than Miller.
Miller will likely be the in-line tight end, meaning he'll be more involved in run blocking. Winslow will be more of an H-back. That is consistent with assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable's vision for the offense.
Jacob from Missouri says it's easy to become optimistic while hearing good things from organized team activities and such.
"As a Rams fan, I could really use some optimism, but when is the best time to actually believe all the good things I'm hearing?" he writes.
Mike Sando: It's OK to believe the good things you're hearing now. Just remember to keep it all in perspective. For the Rams, pay close attention to the injury situation. This team was hit hard by injuries last season. It's important for the Rams to get through the offseason without starting to head down the path that led to the training room last season.
We should pay close attention to what the Rams are saying about Jason Smith at right tackle. We should listen for clues about Brian Quick's readiness to contribute right now, not just at some point in the distant future. We should pay attention to the source of information. When Jeff Fisher, a former defensive back, gushes over Janoris Jenkins and indicates he expects immediate contributions, that means something. I'd go ahead and buy into that a little bit.
Jeff from Fowler, Calif., asks whether NaVorro Bowman is the most logical young player to receive a contract extension from the 49ers.
Mike Sando: Yeah, I would think so. Dashon Goldson is operating on the franchise tag, so he could get a new deal as well. But he's been around a little longer. Bowman is younger and quickly became an All-Pro player. The 49ers should not feel pressure to do a deal with him right now, however. Bowman has the 2012 and 2013 seasons remaining on his contract. Waiting another year isn't disrespectful to Bowman. Why not get one more cheap season from Bowman and then reward him accordingly if Bowman backs up his strong 2011 season with another big year?
kualla83 from Phoenix asked whether the Arizona Cardinals' defense should be regarded on par with those from Seattle and San Francisco, even though those defenses were more consistent from start to finish.
"Obviously they have to prove it a little more on the field," he wrote, "but if the second half of last season is any indication of what is to come, I am really excited."
Mike Sando: First off, this question was one I answered in the chat. We had very few Cardinals questions and I answered them. FearTheTweetTweet even complained during the chat, asking whether I'd ever answer another Arizona question. I was looking for them and found only three (out of 140 questions, which was a low number for a chat anyway). So, we get a rerun of an answer.
It's fair to say the Cardinals should be optimistic based on the improvement they saw late in the season. It's fair to say the Cardinals have to prove it over the course of the season, which you indicated to be the case. The 49ers are in a different class defensively right now. Justin Smith and Patrick Willis were the two best defensive players in the division last season. The Cardinals do not have players quite on that level defensively. Now, they do have some very good players. The key variable, in my mind, is what production the team gets from its young outside linebackers. Again, there is reason for optimism there, but also much for the team to prove.