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Thursday, November 12, 2009
Mailbag: Nothing but love for Rams

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Sam from Dallas writes: C'mon Sando, don't be hatin'! Two straight weeks and the Rams have not been on the "Silver Linings" list! How about a little recognition!

Mike Sando: This might be my favorite mailbag submission of all time. It's certainly understandable for a Rams fan to assume these files were produced every week regardless of the result.

I produce Silver Linings files only after NFC West teams lose. I produced them for 17 consecutive Rams games because the team lost every game. The Rams are not entitled to Silver Linings files when they win or have a bye week, although I did have some fun with the subject a while back.


Mark from Antioch, Calif., writes: There aren't a lot of offensive lineman or secondary available for next year's free-agent class, but there are some pass rushers. Shawne Merriman, Elvis Dumervil and even Julius Peppers. The first two are already proven talents in a 3-4 defense, and Peppers would have the entire offseason to adjust to the role of a pass rushing outside linebacker. I see Denver giving an extension to Dumervil before the season is over. Peppers is definetley leaving and Merriman could be gone as well. Peppers is having a better season and is less of a risk, but he'll also probably cost more than Merriman.

Do you see the Niners going after a proven pass rusher in free agency like Peppers or Merriman, or do you see them taking the approach they had last season and continue to build through the draft? If they took one of those two, they could use their picks to address o-line or secondary while worrying less about pass rush early in the draft.

Mike Sando: The 49ers seem to have moved past the big-ticket signing mentality. They think their talent is good enough to win. Perhaps they will reconsider if the team fares poorly down the stretch. Right now, though, the pass rush doesn't seem to be a limiting factor for this team.


Kraig from near Mt. Rainier writes: The draft discussion about offensive linemen got me thinking of Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell's tendency not to pick that position in the first round. But what if Ruskell's contract won't be renewed? And in that case, what happens to all the scouting work that's gone on? Does a new GM get to use it, or does he bring all his own stuff with him and have it together in time for draft day? Switching front offices seems like a huge deal. I doubt it'll happen.

Mike Sando: The new GM often keeps most personnel people around through the draft. The new GM then decides which personnel people to retain. I am not sure how the Seahawks will handle this situation, but any new GM would presumably have to fit with Jim Mora.

The current speculation regarding Seattle's front office is natural when a team struggles and an organization offers no clues about long-term plans. Ruskell's contract as GM runs through this season. The team has previously let executives work through their contracts before offering new ones.

Leaving the GM to dangle in the wind can fuel tension and mistrust within an organization. Is Ruskell coming back? How would a change impact Mora? Is Mike Holmgren really a candidate? You can bet people within the organization are asking those questions. Holmgren's agent, Bob LaMonte, also represents coach Jim Mora. LaMonte attended the Lions-Seahawks game Sunday. He was in the locker room after the game. Say what you want about the decisions Ruskell has made -- that is another discussion worth having -- but having Holmgren's agent around had to be a bit uncomfortable for Ruskell.


Adam from Las Cruces writes: Hey Mike, first of all, I Just want to say that I enjoy reading your blogs near daily. I think you are one of the best writers at ESPN, and your coverage on the division is always well-thought out and fair. My question regards my favorite team, the Cardinals. During the Cardinals' rout of the Bears, Kurt Warner was pulled in favor of Matt Leinart after the Cardinals pulled ahead with a large lead. Leinart then threw an interception, and this prompted the Cardinals to put Warner back in.

I seem to recall that this happened earlier in the season as well and Warner had to come back in the game to secure the Cardinals victory. Is it fair to say that Leinart is not going to be the future of the franchise? I have to say that I was always a Leinart supporter, but if he can't finish games where the Cardinals already have a huge lead, what is his future like? Thanks in advance for answering.

Mike Sando: Thanks for the compliments, Adam. The check is in the mail. On your question, the Jaguars rallied a little bit after Leinart replaced Warner, but Leinart finished the game and Arizona won decisively. I think it's tough to evaluate or judge a quarterback when he's thrown into a lopsided game on the road. In both cases, the Cardinals were basically saying they thought they had the game won. The other team then senses an opening and pounces. Leinart may or may not be a good quarterback in the future. I just do not think we can know either way based on what we have seen this season.


Adam from Sacramento writes: Hey, Sando. So, the 49ers have been putting Delanie Walker on the field recently, and even though his stats don't show anything special, it seems like the offense moves when he's out there. He used to be a wide receiver in college and still has some of the receiving skills -- you've mentioned that, at least for a tight end, he's a very good route-runner -- and I remember that the 49ers tried him out as a halfback on occasion during preseason games. So why don't they try that out now? He's used primarily as an H-back in the current offense, so he's spending plenty of snaps in the backfield. Wouldn't a little misdirection help take the pressure off of Frank Gore? Off of Alex Smith? He has to be an upgrade over Moran Norris, whether rushing or receiving. Is there no room for his particular skill set in the Jimmy Raye Prevent Offense?

Mike Sando: Prevent Offense. Very good. I'll assume you wanted to know whether Walker could help at fullback. Playing him at halfback would make no sense because it would likely require taking Frank Gore off the field. Walker is not an excellent blocker. He could not hold up as a blocking fullback. Sometimes a team will take an H-back or tight end and line him up as a fullback in an offset-I formation, but often the player motions out before the snap. Those players generally are not built the way fullbacks are built. Norris is built like a tank. He is one of the more fearsome looking dudes I've seen in the NFL. Really put together. Walker is having a hard time staying healthy in his current role. He would not last in the backfield.


Mark from San Jose writes: The decision not suspend the Bears' Tommie Harris is just another example of the NFL front office East Coast bias. This same result that will come out of the 49ers' tampering charges against the NY Jets. The low- to mid-market teams and West Coast teams struggle with receiving fair and impartial treatment from the heavy-weighted East Coast teams within the NFL front office. The West Coast teams must not only beat their game-day competitors but the national media, the referees and the NFL front office to gather the respect that they deserve. Who said life was not a struggle?

Mike Sando: I know people from NFL teams who agree with your general sentiment. At the same time, East Coast bias seemed a lot less effective when Joe Montana was throwing to Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Dwight Clark, Freddie Solomon and those guys.


Dennis from Philadelphia writes: How could you not include Maurice Jones-Drew in your MVP Top 10? His stats are great and He's the sole reason the Jags are .500. Without him they win 3 games this season ... tops.

Mike Sando: I love his game, but I am not so high on the Jaguars. I think they're a bad team. The decision to favor other players over Jones-Drew reflects more on the Jaguars than Jones-Drew. Perhaps he can earn a spot if the Jaguars become a legitimate team down the stretch.


Nick from San Diego writes: Hey, Mike, I was just wondering, shouldn't Philip Rivers be in some MVP conversation?

Mike Sando: Yes, he has been on the list previously this season. I used the bottom five spots on the list to recognize a few non-quarterbacks. I took note of his three-game winning streak, but then recalled him beating the Chiefs and Raiders as part of that, then barely beating a struggling Giants team. Guess I need a little more convincing on the Chargers. There is time.


Timothy from McLeansville, N.C., writes: Why on earth do you have the Panthers 10 spots above the Jaguars and the Titans 5 spots above the Jags. Last time I checked, a 4-4 record is better than 2-6 or 3-5. Yes, the Panthers did decent against the Saints, but Jax only loss by two at INDY. The Titans may have beaten us by 17 the other week, but Jax beat them by 20 in week 4. Your rankings make no sense to me whatsoever and you should be fired for these rankings.

Mike Sando: The power rankings are not a recitation of the standings. We do not simply rank every team in order of record. We take things into account such as how a team is playing at present. I think the Panthers are playing better than the Jaguars. The Jaguars played the Colts close in Week 1. The Titans blew out the Jaguars in Week 8, then beat the 49ers in Week 9 while the Jaguars were edging the Chiefs.


Nick from Portland writes: Do you think that there is any validity to the link between the 49ers current four-game losing streak and the late arrival of Michael Crabtree? I am a Hawks fan, so I don't watch much of the Niners, but it brings back memories of the Seahawks in 1999. It was Mike Holmgren's first year and the team began the season 8-2 without Joey Galloway, who was holding out. Galloway finally arrived and it seemed like the presence of a ''me first'' guy took some of the wind out of the team's sails, while Jon Kitna tried to force him the ball. They finished 9-7 and barely made the playoffs. Some similarities here?

Mike Sando: Any similarities ended when Crabtree reported to the team in shape, ready to go and with the right attitude. Veteran embraced him right away once they realized he was prepared and had been working hard while away. Left tackle Joe Staley went over to Crabtree's locker after the rookie's first game and shook his hand. Crabtree commanded respect from the beginning. I think the 49ers would have been less competitive during this stretch if Crabtree had stayed away.