NFC West: Chris Houston
So the fact two veteran cornerbacks were released Friday can't go unnoticed. Kansas City cut Brandon Flowers and Detroit jettisoned Chris Houston. Flowers is likely more intriguing because he has been the better player, while Houston is coming off an injury.
Ultimately, I'd expect Flowers to get a better deal elsewhere. But I could see the 49ers considering the idea. They have some salary cap room and as previously mentioned, there are questions at the position.
Still, a pursuit of Flowers wouldn't necessarily be a certainty. Flowers is 5-foot-9 and the 49ers are trying to get bigger and more physical at the position. Plus, even though the 49ers have questions at cornerback, there are pretty full there.
Chris Culliver, coming off a torn ACL, is expected to start opposite Tramaine Brock after Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers departed this offseason. First-round pick Jimmie Ward will play the nickel cornerback. The 49ers also have veteran Chris Cook, Eric Wright and Perrish Cox and drafted three rookie cornerback (one, Keith Reaser, is not play because of an injury).
If the 49ers are nervous about what they've seen so far in the offsason they could make a run at Flowers, but I'm not sure they will think it's worth the financial investment.
I mean, how many other games this week feature two teams coming off victories the previous week? Only one other game does, and that would be ... Arizona at San Francisco. OK, then, let's hit some chat highlights:
Travis from Tucson, Ariz., wonders how Carlos Rogers could stand only fourth in fan voting for the Pro Bowl. He asked to see vote totals, available through Nov. 15.
Mike Sando: Charles Woodson leads the way with 298,376 votes in fan balloting through Nov. 15. Chris Houston is next with not quite 150,000. Nnamdi Asomugha is third with around 125,000. Rogers is fourth at 78,072 and Charles Tillman is close behind at 70,496. Rogers just needs to keep doing what he's been doing. A big game at Baltimore on Thanksgiving would serve notice on a national stage.
Jason from Rochester, N.Y., thinks the Seattle Seahawks' approach at quarterback could suggest they're waiting for Green Bay's Matt Flynn to become a free agent after the season. Seattle general manager John Schneider has ties to the Packers, and under this scenario the Seahawks could draft a pass-rusher in the first round.
Mike Sando: It's an interesting theory, but I'm not yet convinced the Seahawks' management thinks enough of Flynn to make him the starter. The point you raise is worth keeping in the back of our minds. I just think the team will be more likely to draft a quarterback with more obvious physical talent.
Matt from Wilmington, N.C., sees Laurent Robinson playing well for San Diego and wonders why the St. Louis Rams did not keep Robinson.
Mike Sando: Robinson had trouble staying healthy. He also had only 6.8 receptions per drop last season, which ranked 63rd out of 83 players with at least five receptions in 2010, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He simply wasn't very good with the Rams.
Steve from Palisades Park, N.J., asks which game on the 49ers' schedule looks most like a "trap" game.
Mike Sando: Let's start with this one Sunday against a Cardinals team that has won its last two games, has shown an ability to strike down the field, is getting better pressure on opposing quarterbacks and has the ability to score on special teams. I've been wondering if the 49ers would have an off game, or a game where the other team surprises them. Has not really happened yet. Do not think it is likely to happen, but with a Thanksgiving game against Baltimore on the horizon, it's possible.
This would be a bold week to pick a Cardinals upset. Imagine the quarterback discussion in Arizona if John Skelton emerged with his third consecutive victory in Kevin Kolb's absence.
- Which one is Suh again? Corey Williams, not Ndamukong Suh, was the Detroit defensive tackle posing the most problems. That was the word from a scout I spoke with earlier in the season. It sounded like a contrary opinion, but after charting the 49ers' handling of Suh through the first half of this game, nothing much about him stood out. Of the 28 first-half plays I charted, Suh was not on the field for eight of them. He made one play on the remaining 20 snaps, shedding 49ers guard Adam Snyder to tackle Frank Gore for a short gain. That was it. The 49ers assigned a true double-team to Suh one time in the half. On one play, tight end Delanie Walker surprised Suh with a wham block to free Gore for a 47-yard gain. Walker sealed Suh with a similar block to spring Gore's 55-yard run in the third quarter. The Lions have allowed three 100-yard rushers since Oct. 10.
- Talent, scheme enable key safety. Aldon Smith's talent came into play on the safety he collected midway through the second quarter. The scheme was another factor. The Lions lined up with three wide receivers. A tight end and running back flanked quarterback Matthew Stafford in the shotgun. The 49ers' Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald were down linemen on the left side of the defensive line. Defensive end Justin Smith stood upright about 2-3 yards off center Dominic Raiola, with linebacker NaVorro Bowman behind him. Linebacker Patrick Willis lurked behind Brooks and McDonald, across from the tight end in the backfield, Brandon Pettigrew. Aldon Smith leaned forward from a two-point stance over the left tackle, Jeff Backus. At the snap, Aldon Smith rushed into Backus, then disengaged from him with great suddenness, sidestepping the veteran tackle and rushing toward Stafford while Backus stood there without recourse. Raiola appeared acutely aware of Justin Smith before the snap. Not long before, the 49ers' Pro Bowl end had thrown Raiola to the ground.
- Whitner times up his blitz perfectly. Veteran safety Donte Whitner gives the 49ers a strong presence against the run. He was 10-plus yards off the ball before rushing into the backfield on a second-and-3 play. Whitner crept toward the line of scrimmage before the snap, but he was still seven yards off the ball when the play began. He knifed through a gap in the line and the Lions did not account for him. The run was to the opposite side, but Whitner was in the backfield quickly enough to bring down Maurice Morris for a 1-yard gain. Whitner latched onto Morris and brought him down decisively with an alligator roll. The 49ers' defense is playing with attitude.
- 49ers' linebackers due for interceptions. The 49ers have eight interceptions this season, but none by linebackers. That figures to change given how close Bowman, Willis, Brooks and Aldon Smith have been to picking off passes. They all had chances against the Lions. They'll have more chances if they keep playing at a high level.
- Crabtree's blocking shows up again. Receiver Michael Crabtree was sprinting some 50 yards downfield on Gore's 55-yard run when he dipped his shoulder and drilled unsuspecting Lions safety Louis Delmas. The block wasn't really necessary at that point because cornerback Chris Houston was about to make the tackle, but it showed Crabtree's mentality. He's been blocking well all season.
Making it through a 49ers observations item without mentioning Alex Smith stood out to me. I think it reflected the degree to which the 49ers played this game without relying on him heavily, at least until the final two minutes.
Dorsey gives the Rams the potential game-changing tackle that they need, and justifies the Sam Bradford pick at No. 1. Carriker gives Kansas City the end the Chiefs need in the 3-4, and what is turning out to be a very valuable 33rd pick. Thanks for taking the question.
Mike Sando: Good thinking, Tom. I don't know if the Rams would value Dorsey high enough to make that move, but if they thought he could basically be close to Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, why not? The quick reaction would be to dismiss any such comparisons, claiming Suh and McCoy are much better prospects. But a lot of prospects look better before they line up against NFL players week after week. Dorsey was considered a top-five talent when he entered the draft.
Here is what Scouts Inc. said about Dorsey when he was coming out of college:
"A squatty defensive tackle prospect with a thick build and very good quickness. Anticipates the snap well, explodes out of his stance and generally will win one-on-one battles with his initial burst. He plays with a non-stop motor. Stays active, using swim and rip moves to get off of blocks when necessary. Displays good upper-body power and the ability to knock linemen back on their heels with initial pop. Does a fine job of locating the ball once he's in the backfield and flashes good change-of-direction skills for his position. A powerful tackler when he can line up a hit. Also does a better job of taking on blocks in the run game than he gets credit for. He can be washed out by some bigger OL, but generally does a good job of staying low and holding his ground when asked to."
Durability concerns were singled out as the primary weakness. Dorsey has played in 31 of 32 games with the Chiefrs, starting 30 of them. The Scouts Inc. report said Dorsey would fit best in a one-gap scheme that would allow him to get upfield and disrupt offenses. The Rams are running that type of scheme. The Chiefs are not. You're right in suggesting that Carriker could fit better at end in a 3-4 scheme. Durability is a big concern with him, but that 33rd overall choice would have to tempt the Chiefs.
Michael From Lynchburg, Va., writes: Why or what is Seattle waiting on? They need running backs, defensive backs, offensive linemen, a wide receiver, but no movement. Is the draft going to be their best bet?
I have been a fan since 1983, and since then I have seen draft pick after draft pick be a bust. Thomas Jones would have been good for us. Chester Taylor could have helped and Brandon Marshall would definitely be an upgrade from Deion Branch and Nate Burleson. I think Darren Sharper or Antrel Rolle would have been good for us, or Anquan Boldin at wide receiver. I would just be happy with some kind of movement.
Mike Sando: It's human nature for fans to crave action once the signing period begins, but a lot of money has been spent foolishly in free agency over the years. The Redskins will be paying a $21 million bonus to Albert Hayensworth shortly and he might not even fit the scheme they are implementing.
It's also human nature for general manager and coach to undervalue the players they inherit. The Seahawks' previous leadership might have been more aggressive in keeping Burleson. I also think former general manager Tim Ruskell would have been more aggressive in free agency. That doesn't mean being aggressive in free agency would have necessarily served the team well, however.
This was a very weak free-agent class packed with aging, declining veterans. As I tweeted Saturday, there were 156 unrestricted free agents left and 139 would be 30 or older come September.
Seattle did finally add a tight end in Chris Baker (not a UFA, but rather a player whose contract was terminated). I thought the Seahawks might have been a little more aggressive in this signing period, given their needs and coach Pete Carroll's desire to improve quickly. But I also realize Carroll and general manager John Schneider want to go young. That's tough to do through free agency when so many of the younger players failed to hit the market as UFAs thanks to the current labor situation.
The team will probably sign an offensive lineman or two. Ben Hamilton could make sense. He lost his job in Denver largely because the Broncos were changing to a scheme that did not fit him. The Seahawks are adopting the scheme Hamilton ran for years.
The Marshall situation could take time to play out. There's no sense in the Seahawks bidding against themselves. They can afford to wait on that one, probably.
Edward from Tempe writes: Sando, you mentioned in your NFC West Draft Watch that selecting Alan Branch in 2007 was a mistake; he was the first selection in the second round that year. He missed a few games his first year but then played the remainder. He might not be what the Cardinals had hoped, but do you see him more now as a situational position player? I mean, he has shown some signs of life this past year, so maybe not all is lost.
Mike Sando: Drafting Branch didn't give the Cardinals a reliable nose tackle. The pick was a "mistake" from that standpoint. He did show some promise playing defensive end. All is not lost. And when you look at the players drafted immediately after Branch that year -- Paul Posluszny, Arron Sears, Kevin Kolb, Eric Weddle, Zach Miller, Justin Blalock, John Beck, Chris Houston, Tony Ugoh, Drew Stanton -- it's not like all were home runs.
Scott from Maryland writes: Do you think the Niners could trade away their 17th pick this year and first-rounder next year to the Browns for their first-rounder? If the Rams take Sam Bradford, there could be a good chance that Eric Berry falls to the Browns' pick. However, the Browns have so many holes and Mike Holmgren is familiar with the Niners. I think it could benefit both teams.
Mike Sando: Would that be the best use of draft capital for the 49ers, though? They would have no first-rounder in 2011, just to move up 10 spots? I wouldn't give away that future pick.
Joe stationed in Germany writes: Sando, love the blog. One of the best sources of info on the net. Please keep up the great work. With the Colts releasing Ryan Lilja, can the 49ers maybe use him? I know we really need an offensive tackle, but seems they are in need of depth and talent on the offensive line over all. I Think Lilja has proved the injury is better after a full season of starting and he has experience. My only concern is that the Colts were not a running team, but he has got to be a good pass protector. That and I was hoping for something better than David Carr for us in the free agency. Just some thoughts. What do you think?
Mike Sando: Thanks for the support, Joe, and your service. Lilja doesn't fit the 49ers' profile for offensive linemen because he's a smaller guy, listed at about 290 pounds. I just don't see him fitting what they want. At quarterback, the 49ers decided to trade what they knew -- Shaun Hill -- for a bit of a wild card in Carr. I understand their desire to shake up the position. They had tried Hill and decided he wouldn't be the starter. Could they have done better than Carr? I'm with you a little bit. Not expecting very good things from him.
Cal from Daly City, Calif., writes: What are the NFL rules on signing multiple restricted free agents? if a team wanted to, could they sign two RFAs, both with a first-round tender attached? If so, how do they work out the draft picks involved?
Mike Sando: A team could sign more than one RFA only if it had its own first-round choice and a better first-round choice available as compensation.
Blazzinhawk from Spokane, Wash., writes: Why not trade Deion Branch and the 14th to denver for Brandon Marshall and a third-rounder? Sounds good to me.
Mike Sando: My initial thoughts also focused on a way for Seattle to recoup a third-round choice, given that the team does not own one. Your proposal would allow the Broncos to get back their own first-rounder as well. Your proposal assumes the Broncos would do such a deal. I think Seattle might be waiting to see if the price is lower.
Eri from Los Angeles writes: What would you say percentage-wise is the Rams' chances of landing Michael Vick? And why do I hear Donovan McNabb as an option for the Rams as well?
Mike Sando: Looks like the Vick-to-St. Louis chatter has gone away. I wonder if the pending ownership change has diminished the team's interest. On McNabb, I still do not believe Andy Reid wants to trade him.
Jerry from Mishawaka, Ind., writes: Mike, I've read that Denver is not negotiating with any team to trade Brandon Marshall. If that's the case, then Seattle should find a team from the 12 to 23 range to trade the sixth overall pick to for that team's first-round pick and a second- or third-round pick, depending on the value of that team's first-round pick.
Then sign Marshall to an offer sheet. Denver gets the pick it wants for him, Seattle comes out on top with Marshall and the Seahawks don't have to pay the cash for a sixth overall player, plus Seattle still has three picks in the first three rounds , and the team that got that sixth pick could get a player to replace what they lost.
Green Bay comes to mind in this scenario becaause most GMs like to work out trades with their former teams. Also, Green Bay could use the sixth overall pick to draft a defensive end to replace Kampan. What are your thoughts?
Mike Sando: The effort is appreciated, but there would be a few problems with such a scenario. One, rules require teams to possess their own pick or a better pick in the relevant round before signing a restricted free agent. Two, most teams would rather pick 12th through 23rd instead of sixth. Third, Green Bay in particular wouldn't want to move up that high, in my view. Their general manager, Ted Thompson, seems to prefer moving back to add picks (the Packers have drafted a league-high 51 players since Thompson took over in 2005).
Michael from Midland, Texas writes: Hey Sando, As an avid 49ers fan in the heart of Cowboys country, I just want to thank you for your solid coverage of the 9ers. I just wanted to bounce some ideas off of you in terms of draft/free agent acquisitions.
By my way of thinking, the 49ers have three key needs to make them a playoff contender: right Tackle, inside linebacker to pair with Patrick Willis and a cornerback to start opposite Shawntae Spencer. I know a lot of talking is being made of finding a dynamic return man, but I consider that more of a luxury than an absolute need.
Anyway, enough preamble. My actual question is, what do you think are the chances of the 49ers emerging from the first two rounds of the draft with some combo of Trent Williams/Bruce Campbell/Mike Iupati, Eric Berry/Taylor Mays and Devin McCourty/Kareem Jackson?
Also, do you know if the 49ers are taking any looks at Larry Foote or Pisa Tinoisamoa? Seems like either of those guys would be a good fit at will linebacker for the 49ers and we could probably get them relatively cheap.
Mike Sando: Thanks for the support. Good questions, too. Would Foote be better than Takeo Spikes at this point? That could be a consideration. Tinoisamoa seems too small to fit in a 3-4 defense. He goes about 230 pounds.
I could see Williams and possibly even Iupati. Berry would seemingly be gone by the time the 49ers selected. Mays could be there, but I'm not sure where teams are going to value him. He seems like a higher-risk player, but the measurables could appeal from a pure personnel standpoint.
The corners you mentioned sound promising. Jackson would be the bigger of the two, and that could be important to the 49ers. San Francisco is past due to draft a cornerback somewhere relatively early. General manager Scot McCloughan's teams haven't drafted a cornerback in the first two rounds since 2003 (Marcus Trufant, when McCloughan was with Seattle).
Don't forget about quarterback as a potential need, too. Alex Smith and David Carr aren't exactly perennial Pro Bowl players.
Mike from Seattle writes: Hey Mike, just wanted to say keep up the good work and I really appreciate on how quickly you update your stuff. Well, I have a quick question that you can clear up for me. I thought Mike Holmgren was hired to be the president of football operations, and he retained the current coaching staff. I was just curious why he made a trade for Seneca Wallace, unless he wants him at Wildcat. I was just wondering why there are articles that was written that Holmgren wanted Seneca because he knows the offense.
Mike Sando: I keep forgetting that Holmgren isn't coaching the team and I have a feeling I'm not the only one. Holmgren is a coach at heart. I even asked him at the combine how in the world he would be able to watch another coach run practice. He joked about having hired two security guards to restrain him in case his instincts take over and he feels the urge to run out there and blow a whistle.
Holmgren does want the Browns to run his offense. His offensive coordinator in Seattle, Gil Haskell, is already onboard in Cleveland. One of his other trusted offensive coaches, Keith Gilbertson, is also there. None of us should be surprised if Holmgren is coaching the team in another year or two.
Ryan from Puyallup, Wash., writes: Hey Sando, here's a kicker question for ya. Are the Cardinals planning on moving on from Neil Rackers? he's a free agent and I figured the cardinals would have resigned him. Minus the playoffs, where I belive his groin injury was still affecting him, he is a really good, reliable kicker. You think that they are just planning on drafting a kicker in the late rounds?
Mike Sando: The Cardinals would probably go in another direction if Rackers demanded a lucrative deal. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was clearly not happy with Rackers' injury situation in the playoffs, indicating he thought Rackers was healthier than Rackers wound up being. Re-signing Rackers does not appear to be a priority, although I think he could come back for the right price.