NFC West: D.J. Hackett

Larry Fitzgerald's arrival with the Arizona Cardinals via the 2004 NFL draft serves as the starting point for the latest item looking at recent NFC West choices.

Fitzgerald already has 613 receptions, far more than any other NFC West receiver over the last seven seasons.

In fact, the wide receivers with the most receptions for the Cardinals' division rivals during the same time period -- Torry Holt (St. Louis), Bobby Engram (Seattle) and Arnaz Battle (San Francisco) -- have long since moved on. I ran across Engram in the 49ers' main lobby Wednesday; he's a quality control coach with the team.

History tells us receivers carry more risk than some other positions. For every Fitzgerald, there seems to be a Koren Robinson, David Terrell or Troy Williamson -- high picks that never came close to realizing their potential. Mike Williams' revival with Seattle last season was an exception.

The charts break down every receiver NFC West teams have drafted since 2004. Will the St. Louis Rams add Julio Jones to their list of drafted wideouts?

As in the past, I'll preface each chart with thoughts from the teams' perspectives.

Immediate needs don't matter so much when front-line talent is available ...

Time to start finding replacements for veterans who might not fit into our plans (Terrell Owens for the 49ers, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt for the Rams) ...

These guys might not start, but every team needs secondary options in the passing game ...

We're getting late enough in the draft to consider grabbing a receiver while a few with decent potential remain on the board ...

Time to fill out the roster and hope we find depth for special teams ...
The Seahawks, seeking to salvage their season at Arizona in Week 10, last won a road game against the Cardinals on Nov. 6, 2005.

Shaun Alexander carried 23 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns during a 33-19 Seattle victory at Sun Devil Stadium. The Seahawks, headed to Super Bowl XL after that season, picked off Kurt Warner three times and sacked him four times.

A couple things about these teams have changed since that game. I had some fun sifting through those 2005 rosters.

Players no longer with Seattle

Offense (20): Bobby Engram, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, Joe Jurevicius, Jerheme Urban, Mack Strong, Shaun Alexander, D.J. Hackett, Maurice Morris, Leonard Weaver, Floyd Womack, Ryan Hannam, Jerramy Stevens, Peter Warrick, David Greene, Wayne Hunter, Darrell Jackson, Itula Mili, Josh Scobey.

Defense (18): Bryce Fisher, Chuck Darby, Marcus Tubbs, Grant Wistrom, Jamie Sharper, Kelly Herndon, Michael Boulware, Marquand Manual, Jimmy Williams, John Howell, Niko Koutouvides, Kevin Bentley, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Joe Tafoya, Rocky Bernard, Etric Pruitt, Rodney Bailey, Andre Dyson.

Specialists (3): Josh Brown, Tom Rouen, J.P. Darche.

Players still with Seattle

Offense (6): Walter Jones (injured reserve), Sean Locklear, Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, Chris Spencer, Ray Willis.

Defense (6): Jordan Babineaux, Craig Terrill, D.D. Lewis, Lofa Tatupu (IR), Leroy Hill, Marcus Trufant.

Players no longer with Arizona

Offense (23): Bryant Johnson, Leonard Davis, Nick Leckey, Alex Stepanovich, Oliver Ross, Eric Edwards, Marcel Shipp, Adam Bergen, J.J. Arrington, Josh McCown, John Navarre, Reggie Newhouse, LeRon McCoy, Fred Wakefield, James Jackson, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Harold Morrow, Jarrod Baxter, Adam Haayer, J.J. Moses, Elton Brown, Teyo Johnson, Reggie Swinton.

Defense (16): Langston Moore, Ross Kolodziej, James Darling, Robert Tate, Robert Griffith, David Macklin, Antonio Cochran, Darryl Blackstock, Orlando Huff, Eric Green, Antonio Smith, Lamont Reid, Quentin Harris, Isaac Keys, Lance Mitchell, Aaron Francisco.

Specialists (2): Scott Player, Nathan Hodel.

Players still with Arizona

Offense (5): Reggie Wells, Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner, Jeremy Bridges, Anquan Boldin.

Defense (6): Chike Okeafor, Darnell Dockett, Bernard Berry, Karlos Dansby, Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle.

Specialists (1): Neil Rackers.

Note: Thanks to spaumi10 for noticing that Aaron Francisco and Lance Mitchell were initially listed on offense. There was a little cutting and pasting involved with this entry. Missed those two. Thanks!

Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Floyd Womack, Jerheme Urban, Leonard Davis, Itula Mili, Joe Tafoya, Wayne Hunter, Josh Scobey, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Francisco, Mack Strong, Bryant Johnson, Jerramy Stevens, Larry Fitzgerald, Leroy HIll, Chike Okeafor, Darryl Blackstock, J.P. Darche, John Navarre, D.D. Lewis, Joe Jurevicius, Chris Gray, Lofa Tatupu, Ray Willis, Darrell Jackson, John Howell, Robbie Tobeck, Elton Brown, David Macklin, Marcus Trufant, Leonard Weaver, Seneca Wallace, Kevin Bentley, Karlos Dansby, Oliver Ross, Eric Green, Marcus Tubbs, Nick Leckey, Kurt Warner, Antonio Smith, Josh McCown, Jordan Babineaux, Neil Rackers, Sean Locklear, David Greene, J.J. Arrington, Maurice Morris, Bryce Fisher, Scott Player, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Marcel Shipp, Etric Pruitt, Chuck Darby, Antrel Rolle, Niko Koutouvides, Michael Boulware, Andre Dyson, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Bobby Engram, LeRon McCoy, Grant Wistrom, Shaun Alexander, Craig Terrill, Darnell Dockett, D.J. Hackett, Reggie Wells, Chris Spencer, Alex Stepanovich, Jimmy Williams, Tom Rouen, Lance Mitchell, Nathan Hodel, Josh Brown, Rocky Bernard, Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Jeremy Bridges, Ryan Hannam, Peter Warrick, Jamie Sharper, Kelly Herndon, Marquand Manual, Rodney Bailey, Eric Edwards, Adam Bergen, Reggie Newhouse, Fred Wakefield, James Jackson, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Harold Morrow, Jarrod Baxter, Adam Haayer, J.J. Moses, Teyo Johnson, Reggie Swinton, Langston Moore, Ross Kolodziej, James Darling, Robert Tate, Robert Griffith, Antonio Cochran, Orlando Huff, Lamont Reid, Quentin Harris, Isaac Keys, Bernard Berry

Posted by's Mike Sando

Joe in the Army (overseas) writes: The blog is great. Keep up the great work. Some of the best 49er and NFC West info around. I was reading the e-mails and see the NFC West fans are getting ready and all seem to feel good about their teams. The 49ers are looking great under Iron Mike. The Cards are coming off a Super Bowl year. The Hawks seem to look strong after a injury-plagued year. The Rams ... well, let's just just say all the NFC West teams have been in that rebuilding state.

So, with at least three teams looking real good, is the NFC West finally going to get some respect? Are we done hearing about the weak west, the soft west or the NFL's worst division? I know I'm tired of hearing that.

NFC West Team 2008 Division Record 2008 Non-Division Record
6-0 3-7
SF 3-3 4-6
SEA 3-3 1-9
STL 0-6 2-8

Mike Sando: Thanks, Joe. NFC West teams need to enjoy more success against non-division opponents. The Cardinals were 6-0 in the division and 3-7 outside the division last season. Their 3-1 postseason record outside the division deserves recognition, but NFC West teams still have much to prove.

An Arizona victory over the Colts in Week 3 would help. A 49ers victory at Minnesota, also in Week 3, would help. The Seahawks visit Indianapolis in Week 4. The 49ers are home against Atlanta in Week 5. Let's see the NFC West win a few of these games before wondering why the division doesn't command respect.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Mike Sando

Jeff McLane's story on suggests the Cardinals sought first-, third- and fifth-round choices from Philadelphia for receiver Anquan Boldin, according to Eagles coach Andy Reid.

"That's a lot of picks, No. 1," Reid said in McLane's story. "And then you're going to pay the guy $10 million. So you get hit on both sides of it."

Such a price would seem prohibitive, but what if we knew which players those first-, third- and fifth-round choices would become? We cannot know this in advance, but we do know which picks the Eagles held in those rounds. I singled out the 21st, 85th and 157th choices for the sake of this exercise. I then looked at which players those picks returned in past drafts to see if a team might rather have those picks or Boldin.

Sometimes the picks hold more promise before teams make forgettable selections with them. I think the Eagles would rather have Boldin than the players those picks returned in 2005.


21st pick: Alex Mack, C, California (Browns, with pick from Eagles)

85th pick: Ramses Barden, WR, Cal Poly-SLO (Giants, with pick from Eagles)

157th pick: Victor Harris, CB, Virginia Tech (Eagles)


21st pick: Sam Baker, T, USC (Falcons)

85th pick: Craig Stevens, TE, California (Titans)

157th pick: Roy Schuening, G, Oregon State (Rams)


21st pick: Reggie Nelson, S, Florida (Jaguars)

85th pick: Brandon Mebane, DT, California (Seahawks)

157th pick: David Clowney, WR, Virginia Tech (Packers)


21st pick: Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota (Patriots)

85th pick: Brodie Croyle, QB, Alabama (Chiefs)

157th pick: A.J. Nicholson, LB, Florida State (Bengals)

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Posted by's Mike Sando

Rick from Charleston, West Virginia, writes: Hey Mike! As I'm seeing all these 2009 NFL Draft grades immediately hitting the presses, I'm reminded of what I heard a long time ago -- not sure who gets the credit -- you cannot judge a draft for 5 years. With that in mind, I went back and looked at each NFC West team's first 5 picks in the 2004 Draft.

Maybe you could post this and get some reader feedback. The numbers in parenthesis are the round, followed by overall pick:


Marcus Tubbs, DT, Texas (1,23)

Michael Boulware, SS, Florida St (2,53)

Sean Locklear, G, NC State (3,84)

Niko Koutouvides, LB, Purdue (4,116)

D.J. Hackett, WR, Colorado (5,157)

San Francisco

Rashaun Woods, WR, Oklahoma St (1,31)

Justin Smiley, G, Alabama (2,46)

Shawntae Spencer, CB, Pitt (2,58)

Derrick Hamilton, WR, Clemson (3,77)

Isaac Sopoaga, DT, Hawaii (4,104)

St. Louis

Steven Jackson, RB, Oregon St (1,24)

Anthony Hargrove, DE, Ga Tech (3,91)

Brandon Chillar, LB, UCLA (4,130)

Jason Shivers, S, Arizona St (5,158)

Jeff Smoker, QB, Michigan St (6,201)


Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pitt (1,3)

Karlos Dansby, LB, Auburn (2,33)

Darnell Dockett, DT, Florida St (3,64)

Alex Stepanovich, C, Ohio St (4,100)

Antonio Smith, DE, Oklahoma St (5,135)

My two initial impressions were that:

  1. The Cardinals had a GREAT draft. You could argue they hit a home run on 4 of their first five picks, and a grand slam on their #1 (Fitz.) Of course, they were picking high, and you would expect the #3 overall pick to be an impact player 5 years in. By all accounts, though, this would probably measure up quite well against ANY NFL team's draft over the last five years.
  2. The Rams seem to have done themselves a disservice by trading their 2nd, 4th, and 6th round picks (Chillar and Smoker were both compensatory selections.) They made a great first-round pick (Jackson) but by trading away a couple of picks, their 5th selection (201 overall) was a whopping 66 picks lower than the Cardinals (135).
Taking these two things into consideration, I'm wondering if your readers think there's any correlation between the 2004 draft and the Cardinals Super Bowl appearance (as well as the Rams 2-14 record.) Some bonus tidbits from the 2004 draft: The 49'ers drafted the only 6th round player to make a Pro Bowl (Andy Lee, P, Pitt.) Also, Pro Bowlers Wes Welker, Willie Parker, Jason Peters, and Mat McBriar were all undrafted.

Mike Sando: Good work, Rick. I was playing around with some related information over the weekend. I went through the Pro Football Reference database and collected 2008 starting information for every player in the league. I then singled out draft choices still playing for their original teams, adding up how many starts they made for their teams in 2008. The totals would not reflect players released since last season, but I thought that was a minor issue and something I could work around with a little more time.

The findings backed up what you are saying. Members of the Cardinals' 2004 draft class still with the team combined for 68 regular-season starts last season. The rest of the league averaged 16 combined starts for members of their 2004 draft classes still with their original teams. San Diego ranked second with 45. The Rams had zero.

Members of the Cardinals' 2003 draft class still with the team combined for 69 regular-season starts last season, another league high. The rest of the league averaged 15 combined starts.

In fact, the Cardinals' 2003 through 2008 draft classes averaged a league-high 42 regular-season starts for their original teams last season (again, not counting any players released since last season). The rest of the league averaged a combined 25 starts last season.

This is something I'll break out in greater detail once I have time to do some more tinkering.

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Posted by's Mike Sando

A first-round scenario to consider when the NFL draft begins Saturday: The Lions draft Matthew Stafford, the Rams take a tackle, the Chiefs address their defensive line and the Seahawks draft Aaron Curry. Under that scenario, might Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree fall to the 49ers at No. 10? And if he did, would the 49ers take him?

The possibility came to mind as I looked at 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan and the receivers his teams have drafted since 1994. The names, listed in the chart by overall selection, shed light on McCloughan's philosophy.

Draft Rd. Pick McCloughan's Team Receiver
College Conference
1 9 Seahawks
Koren Robinson N.C. St.
2 56 Packers Derrick Mayes
Notre Dame
3 76 49ers Jason Hill
Wash. St. Pac-10
2000 3 80
Seahawks Darrell Jackson
3 82 Seahawks Karsten Bailey
Auburn SEC
2006 3 84
49ers Brandon Williams
Big Ten
1995 3 90
Packers Antonio Freeman
Virginia Tech
5 140 Seahawks Alex Bannister
Ohio Valley (I-AA)
5 146 Packer Terry Mickens Florida A&M
5 150 Packers Corey Bradford
Jackson St.
5 157 Seahawks D.J. Hackett
Colorado Big 12
6 169 Packers Jay Kearney
Big East
173 Packers Charlie Simmons
Georgia Tech
6 174 49ers Josh Morgan
Virginia Tech ACC
5 174 49ers Rasheed Marshall
Big East
6 175 Seahawks James Williams
181 Packers Bill Schroeder
Wisc.-LaCrosse WIAC (II)
7 213 Packers Donald Driver
Alcorn ST.
7 213 Packers Chris Miller
7 223 49ers Marcus Maxwell
7 224 Seahawks Taco Wallace
Kansas St.
Big 12

McCloughan's mentor in Green Bay, Ron Wolf, shied away from drafting receivers early. He perceived the position as a risky one.

If we look at McCloughan's history, which overlapped Wolf's tenure in Green Bay, we see his teams drafted only one receiver -- Koren Robinson at No. 9 in 2001 -- among the top 55 overall selections since 1994. McCloughan's teams have drafted five receivers between the 76th and 90th choices, zero in the fourth round and 10 between the 140th and 181st choices.

While the 49ers might be tempted to take Crabtree at No. 10, history says McCloughan might target the position in other rounds. The 49ers hold the following picks: 10, 43, 74, 111, 146, 171, 184, 219 and 244. McCloughan's history suggests he might look for a receiver at 74 and then at 146 or later. Taking Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin or another receiver at No. 10 would go against the most firmly established precedent.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Powering my way through the mailbag. Some of these were submitted prior to the start of free agency. I've singled out the ones that held up over time.

Thomas from Antigonish writes: Hi Mike. The Rams are well documented in not drafting pretty much any good players, and so one draft pick of the old regime -- Ron Bartell -- has finally developed, and the team will probably lose him to FA ... this just seems so disappointing.

Mike Sando: The Rams might come out OK on this one, after all. Bartell left the Saints without a contract. The Rams would appear to be in better position to re-sign him as a result. They wanted him. They just couldn't justify paying established corner money to an emerging corner their coaches didn't know very well.

I understand both sides on this one. The corner market was hot enough for Bartell to take a look, but if he didn't find what he wanted, perhaps the Rams will find him more affordable.

Jason from Greeley, Colo., writes: Hey, Mike. With free agency upon us, can you give us some insight into its importance. Who would say have been the biggest free-agent pick ups in the NFC West in the past 3-4 seasons?

Kurt Warner comes immediately to mind, but who else do you feel has made a big impact in the division as a free agent? I am going to assume that there wouldn't be that many names as most of the time impact players are built through the draft and not found in free agency.

Would you agree that more often than not free agents do not meet expectations, i.e Edgerrin James in Arizona?

Mike Sando: Yes, I would agree that most free agents do not meet expectations. Teams pay so much more money for free agents than they do for draft choices.

Nate Clements is a good cornerback for the 49ers. Has he met expectations? No. Edgerrin James pretty much met expectations. Kurt Warner exceeded them. Patrick Kerney met them until injuries intervened. Julian Peterson has generally met expectations. Justin Smith played well for the 49ers last season, albeit at a high price.

The Steelers generally are not big players in free agency. They're confident enough in their drafting ability to let players leave instead of overpaying. The Steelers have also won two of the last four Super Bowls. Meanwhile, the Cowboys collect Pro Bowl players at great expense. They haven't won a playoff game since the 1990s.

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Posted by's Mike Sando

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times says the Bucs prevented quarterbacks coach Greg Olson from pursuing the Cardinals' job as offensive coordinator. Biggs, via a source: "Olson, who is under contract to the Bucs through 2009 and was originally hired by ousted coach Jon Gruden, had an opportunity to go to Arizona and fill the vacancy created by [Todd] Haley's departure for Kansas City." The Bucs are known for blocking such interviews.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic puts into perspective the Cardinals' negotiations with Kurt Warner. An agent foresaw the current stalemate months ago.

Darren Urban of says the Cardinals' inability to re-sign Warner to this point is all about the money, as usual.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe analyzes Jason Licht's departure from the Cardinals' front office to take a job with the Patriots. Reiss: "The Patriots did not have a director of pro personnel last season. Brian Smith served as a pro scout, and Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli and director of player personnel Nick Caserio presumably had their hand in pro scouting as well."

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind sizes up the Cardinals' tight ends. He expects the team to hold a roster spot for Stephen Spach even if the tight end rehabs his knee injury into the regular season. I think that probably depends upon what moves the team makes this offseason. The Cardinals will almost certainly try to upgrade the position.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat provides a rundown of the 49ers' players scheduled to become free agents. The 49ers appear unconcerned about losing former Cardinals receiver Bryant Johnson.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation makes a few predictions heading into free agency. He hopes the team pursues Igor Olshansky for the defensive line.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer does not expect the Seahawks to pursue former Seattle receivers Joey Galloway and D.J. Hackett now that both have been released.

John Morgan of Field Gulls renews his pleas to unseat Brian Russell as the Seahawks' free safety, calling him easily one of the worst in the league. The Seahawks obviously think he's better than that.

VanRam of Turf Show Times says the Rams' decision to release Drew Bennett probably has no bearing on Torry Holt's situation. I would agree. VanRam: "All reports indicate that Holt is unwilling to restructure his contract, a must if the Rams are going to hang onto him. On top of that, Holt hasn't been real excited about the prospects of remaining in St. Louis, and, understandably, doesn't want his career to wind down with a team in the rebuilding process."

How ties can bind in NFL free agency

February, 25, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

NFL teams routinely sign players with ties to their organizations. Those ties become more difficult to track this time of year because so many coaches and personnel people have changed teams recently. But we'll make an initial attempt here.

The Bucs' decision to release Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway and Cato June raises questions about the Seahawks' potential interest. Seahawks president Tim Ruskell and vice president Ruston Webster were with the Bucs when the team drafted Brooks and Dunn. New Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was with all four released players last season.

The Raiders' recent moves -- releasing Gibril Wilson, Kalimba Edwards, Ronald Curry, Justin Griffith and Kwame Harris -- raise questions about the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers. Wilson played for new Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo with the Giants.

  • The Rams have quite a bit invested in free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, making it unlikely they would invest heavily in Wilson. But the ties between Spagnuolo and Wilson are still worth mentioning.
  • Harris played for the 49ers before signing with the Raiders. San Francisco is looking to upgrade its depth on the offensive line. The team also needs a starting right tackle. Harris would not be the answer as a starter.
  • Curry played for new Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland last season. The Seahawks will be looking to improve their depth at receiver. I do not know what Knapp thinks of Curry, but he would be familiar with him.

The Panthers' decision to release receiver D.J. Hackett makes available a familiar name for the Seahawks. Seattle appeared lukewarm in retaining Hackett last offseason. The interest might be cooler given changes to the Seahawks' staff. Mike Holmgren and his coaches knew Hackett, but the offense will be different under Knapp.

These are a few connections to keep in mind. Please offer up others if you have them.

Free-agency recap: How Seahawks fared

February, 12, 2009
Posted by's Mike Sando

Seahawks Player
How Acquired/ Lost Bad move?
Julius Jones
UFA Addition
T.J. Duckett
UFA Addition
Omare Lowe UFA Addition
Floyd Womack
UFA Re-sign No
Leonard Weaver
RFA Re-sign
Marcus Pollard
UFA Lost
Ellis Wyms
UFA Lost
D.J. Hackett
UFA Lost
Chuck Darby
UFA Lost
Niko Koutouvides
UFA Lost
Kevin Bentley
UFA Lost
Josh Brown
UFA Lost

The Seahawks took a relatively understated approach to free agency heading into the 2008 season.

They paid more to T.J. Duckett than I might have anticipated, but Duckett proved effective in short-yardage situations. He also scored eight touchdowns.

The Seahawks invested in Duckett and Julius Jones with an eye toward the 2009 season and beyond. They were setting up their personnel for the post-Holmgren era. For that reason, and because they did not spend huge sums on either player, I might withhold judgment.

Re-signing Floyd Womack proved far more important than anticipated. He wound up being the Seahawks' most durable lineman, a huge upset.

In retrospect, the Seahawks would have been better off bringing back receiver D.J. Hackett and defensive tackle Chuck Darby. The injury situation at receiver made Seattle miss Hackett more than anticipated. And while Darby was nearing the end, the Seahawks arguably would have gotten more from Rocky Bernard if Darby had been there to push him.

Losing Josh Brown to the Rams might hurt the Seahawks eventually. Olindo Mare performed well enough last season to ease the sting.

Posted by's Mike Sando

CHARLOTTE -- The Cardinals named injured receiver Anquan Boldin inactive against the Panthers in their divisional playoff game.

Boldin's absence will likely affect the Cardinals' approach to this game, as discussed previously. Also inactive for Arizona: cornerback Eric Green, linebacker Victor Hobson, tackle Elliot Vallejo, tackle Brandon Keith, defensive tackle Alan Branch and tight end Ben Patrick. Brian St. Pierre is the third quarterback. If he plays, Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart could not return.

That leaves Stephen Spach and Leonard Pope as the active tight ends. Pope hasn't played much this season. He previously struggled with false-start penalties on running plays.

Inactive for Carolina: receiver D.J. Hackett, safety Quinton Teal, linebacker Adam Seward, guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, receiver Kenneth Moore, defensive tackle Darwin Walker and defensive tackle J'Vonne Parker. Matt Moore is the third quarterback.

Cardinals, Seahawks study in contrast

October, 7, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Mike Holmgren's admission that the Seahawks might have to become a run-oriented team is a bad sign for Seattle.

Holmgren knows run-oriented teams have a hard time beating good teams without help from the passing game. It's nearly impossible for a run-oriented team to contend when its defense allows big plays, another problem for Seattle.

I'll contrast Seattle and Arizona for the purposes of this discussion. Seattle leads the division and ranks tied for fourth in the league with five rushing plays of at least 20 yards. Arizona has none. The Cardinals rank tied for sixth in the league with seven pass plays of at least 30 yards. The Seahawks are tied for 22nd with only two -- both to Billy McMullen, who wasn't even with the team when the regular season began.

The Cardinals' third receiver, Steve Breaston, has two receptions for at least 30 yards. Larry Fitzgerald has four. Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin have combined for 10 receptions of at least 20 yards.

The Cardinals' top three receivers each have receptions of at least 40 yards. McMullen, with a 34-yarder, is the only Seattle player with a reception longer than 22 yards. Last season, six Seattle players caught passes of 34 yards or longer. Three of the six -- Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and D.J. Hackett -- are injured or no longer with the team.

Mailbag: Revisiting Cardinals predictions

September, 16, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Grant from Omaha, Neb., writes: I'm looking at the schedule and thinking if the cards can get to the bye week at 4-2 they'll be in good shape. Am i dreaming or could they actually steal the buffalo or dallas game? They used to play dallas pretty tough, but i think if/ when the cards are on, they can give both teams a run for their money? What are your thoughts?

Mike Sando: I had penciled in a Cardinals home victory over the Bills before the season. However, my view of the Bills has improved since then. I was a little skeptical on a young quarterback, but Trent Edwards has been fine so far.

My feeling right now is that the Cardinals might lose at Washington, beat the Jets and then face a tough game against the Bills that could go either way. But predicting these games is like playing golf. You're in trouble right when you think you've figured out things.

Toby from Granada Hills, Calif., writes: Mike, The Niners 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks have been inactive for the first 2 games. I don't they should be immediate stars, but I do think they should be able to contribute. Do you see it as standard practice or poor drafting/coaching that these guys haven't played yet?

Mike Sando: Add Manny Lawson to that list as a recent first-round choice not playing much depending on the defensive strategy.

The 49ers are marked by a gap between Mike Nolan's short-term needs and the organization's long-term priorities. Alex Smith fell right through the divide. I wouldn't lump the other picks into that category, but it was pretty predictable that Reggie Smith wouldn't make an immediate impact as a third-round choice because the 49ers were deep in the secondary.

In looking at picks drafted between rounds two and four since 2005, we see Ray McDonald, who is looking good right now. We see Michael Robinson, a core special-teams player. We see Frank Gore, one of the best running backs in the league. We see guards David Baas and Adam Snyder, who are borderline starters. And we see Dashon Goldson, who pushed Mark Roman for the starting job and plays somewhat extensively.

The list also feature a few players who haven't done as much, including Jason Hill and Brandon Williams.

Pete from Richmond, Calif., writes: One of the biggest dangers to recovering addicts is immersing themselves in the old environment which contributed to their problem. In consideration of the story about Jerry Jones hiring "handlers" for Pacman Jones, what, if any, steps will Paul Allen & company be taking to prevent any potential issues with K-Rob?

Mike Sando: Good question. First we have to see if the Seahawks actually sign Koren Robinson. Coach Mike Holmgren has indicated he would like to sign him. Team president Tim Ruskell released Robinson previously and Ruskell would have to sign off on adding him now.

Given all that Ruskell has said about off-field expectations, the organization would have to explain itself. Short of having someone monitor Robinson 24 hours per day, I'm not sure if any precautions would be failsafe.

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Mailbag: Second-guessing personnel moves

September, 11, 2008

Posted by's Mike Sando

Eli from Seattle writes: I'd hate to say it, but the topic at hand has been Seattle's WR situation & blame is pointing it's finger at [Seahawks president] Tim Ruskell for not being more aggressive in Free Agency as well as in the draft. No WR's went in the first round, so he basically had his pick of any of the top recievers coming out of college late in the first, but of course, did nothing. He seems to be too reserved w/his moves & doesn't take chances as well as having way too much faith in late round picks.

All of the Elite/Top QB's in the league have at least one star WR, yet Hasselbeck has never had any unless it was late in their career (Jerry Rice). Ruskell's motto is to build through the draft but our Pro Bowl QB is not getting any younger. Why doesn't he make some trades (like NE last year [Moss] or CLE this year [Picks 1, 2, 3]) to pick up some proven players rather than take chances? These 5th, 6th, & 7th round pick receivers have talent but not enough to contend with playoff caliber teams in both divisions. Is this not obvious enough?

Mike Sando: You could also criticize Ruskell for being too aggressive in acquiring Deion Branch from New England for a first-round draft choice. That was an aggressive move for a receiver. Branch is injured.

Letting D.J. Hackett go was a calculated risk. That risk did not pay off.

Trading up in the draft to select Lofa Tatupu was an aggressive move that drew criticism but paid off.

Paying lots of up-front money for Patrick Kerney, then 30-ish and coming off injury, was a big gamble that paid off with a 14-sack season.

Giving up a third-round pick for Nate Burleson was a risky move that didn't pay off early, then paid off last season, then didn't look as good when Burleson got hurt this season.

The receiver position was fine before injuries wiped out Bobby Engram, Branch, Burleson and even Ben Obomanu. The later-round picks you alluded to were never expected to start. They were expected to be the fourth, fifth and sixth receivers on the roster. We should not forget this when analyzing the Seahawks' moves at receiver.

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DraftRoundPickTeamRookie WRStartsRec.Yds. TD
2003254ARIAnquan Boldin161011,3778
200413ARILarry Fitzgerald 16587808
2003117ARIBryant Johnson8354381
20025149ARIJason McAddley8253621
20057226ARILeRon McCoy4181911
20034124SFBrandon Lloyd 1142122
20034106STLShaun McDonald110620
20075142ARISteve Breaston08920
2004131SFRashaun Woods071601
20076197SEACourtney Taylor05380
2003374STLKevin Curtis14130
2007376SFJason Hill0160
20055174SFRasheed Marshall01-10
20076210SEAJordan Kent0000
20077249STLDerek Stanley0000
2006384SFBrandon Williams0000
20065144STLMarques Hagans0000
20067218ARITodd Watkins0000
20067249SEABen Obomanu0000
20056192STLDante Ridgeway0000
20057223SFMarcus Maxwell0000
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Posted by's Mike Sando

I put together this chart as a companion to the earlier entry on rookie receivers. This shows rookie stats for every receiver NFC West teams have drafted since 2002. Eighteen of the 26 started zero games as rookies. Only four reached 20 receptions as rookies. Arizona has been the only team to draft productive rookie receivers with any consistency.

A quick look at the NFC West's rookie receivers and their likely prospects for 2008:
  • Arizona: Injury problems prevented third-round choice Early Doucet from seriously challenging for the No. 3 job vacated by Bryant Johnson. Doucet should play in a reserve role. Undrafted free agent Lance Long appears headed for the practice squad if he doesn't earn one of the final roster spots. Long has impressed in camp.
  • San Francisco: Sixth-round choice Josh Morgan has been the surprise of camp. He could figure into the rotation if the 49ers continue to suffer from injuries. Undrafted free agent Cam Colvin appears headed for the practice squad.
  • St. Louis: Second-round choice Donnie Avery and fourth-rounder Keenan Burton should play more than most rookies at the position. Avery adds value as a return specialist. Undrafted free agent Matt Caddell has one catch for 5 yards during preseason.
  • Seattle: Undrafted free agent Michael Bumpus has played well enough to land on the practice squad if, as expected, he misses the cut.
The receiver position in general has confounded NFL teams. John Clayton explored some of the reasons in a previous column. As Clayton discovered, NFL teams have developed only six Pro Bowl receivers since 2001.