Mailbag: How the Rams can rebuild


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Hiztory from St. Louis writes: now that the rams are out of playoff contention can we look to the future? we obviously need a QB for the future so what about JP Losman? we need at least two more like three good lineman, one to replace pace, challenge barron and an interior lineman, one more DE to back up little and another DB.

who do you see that the rams would go after? any coaches? and i know this makes this a rather long post but, i think the rams should become a zone blocking offense with a one cut and go system. and a hybrid 3-4/4-3 system and stand little up. get a bigger back to pair with jackson and a young qb. it's like a smash mouth philosophy where we run %60-%70 and throw %40-%30. wha do you think? sorry for the long message. thanks for reading.

Mike Sando: Thank you. Your note gets moved to the front of the line given that we don't hear from Rams fans all that frequently.

I'm not sure the organization can afford to give up on Marc Bulger even though you find it "obvious" that the team needs a new quarterback. The financial commitment to Bulger is such that I think he's the guy for next season. Given that resources are finite, I would focus on building a better team around him. Some of this is going to be dependent on what happens with the coaching staff.

You are absolutely right about the Rams needing to focus on upgrading the offensive line. They need players at every position on the line. I would look to find at least three new starters for 2009. They paid Jacob Bell, so he probably needs to be there at left guard. And Richie Incognito has come on a little at right guard. Still, I would want to upgrade at center, one guard spot and at least one tackle spot. Orlando Pace can't stay healthy, so it's time to develop a prospect at that position.

The Rams should be OK at the skill positions with Bulger, Steven Jackson, Donnie Avery and Randy McMichael. They'll probably need another receiver given that they are phasing out Torry Holt. I would want another tight end, particularly if Al Saunders' system remains. Could be time to part with Joe Klopfenstein and give someone else a chance to grow into that position.

Defensively, the Rams need bulk in the middle. Otherwise their linebackers aren't big enough. They need to turn over the strong safety position. They could use cornerback help.

JS from Cookeville, Tenn., writes: Do you think the 49ers go after another Quarterback early in the draft or do you think they will stick with Shaun Hill. Also, it is a foregone conclusion they will release Alex Smith after the season, how much will this affect their cap space?
Mike Sando: Hill would have to finish very, very impressively for the 49ers to install him as the starter for 2009. I could see Hill and possibly even Smith returning next season. The 49ers will probably draft a quarterback, but probably not in the first round. And then they could bring in a veteran to help them get through the next year or two while the younger prospect learns his trade. Speaking of trades, the 49ers could always identify and pursue a young quarterback that way. Seattle went that route with Matt Hasselbeck. Houston did it with Matt Schaub.

Ian from Denver writes: How can you have the falcons rated 5 spots higher then Denver after Denver just beat them?
Mike Sando: Good question. I wasn't happy with that aspect of my rankings.

Ryan from Denver writes: I don't know how much you see the other espn cast members but the next time you see boomer could you thank him again for picking the Hawks to win the Super Bowl this year. Even though the results have been poor, I always liked that at least one of the cast on Sunday NFL countdown would pick the underachieving Seahawks. With all the east coast bias I never thought I would see Boomer do that. Thanks
Mike Sando: It seems to be working.

Erik from Olympia writes: Sando, I usually don't comment on the power rankings, but.....can you explain why you ranked INDY at #5? They have only had one dominate win this year every thing else they just skeaked by. Why the jump after beating the Texans?
Mike Sando: The Colts have a proven record of success in recent seasons, so when I think they're showing signs of being back, I move them up faster than I might move up another team. I think they'll get to 10 wins this season based on their schedule, with a chance to win more than that.

Mike from Seattle writes: Any word on how Marcus Tubbs is doing? Does he have a shot at coming back to Seattle? When healthy, he was one of the best interior d-linemen in the league.
Mike Sando: Haven't heard, but that knee situation did not sound promising. I question whether he'll ever become a full-time player again.

Harold from parts unknown writes: A cnn writer has the Cards getting the second seed with 11 wins - it sounds like a plausable / reasonable point.
Mike Sando: I've been saying 10 wins since Week 6 but I could see 11 if the schedule falls right. They might need to win at Philadelphia. It's certainly possible with this team.

Saad from San Jose writes: Mike, do the 49ers keep Alex Smith or JTO next year? Would AS be willing to take a paycut and stick around?
Mike Sando: I don't see J.T. O'Sullivan coming back, most likely. Smith seems interested in sticking around, and I think they would take him back at a reduced rate, without the expectations.

BS from parts unknown writes: Tony Romo has already won the NFL Skills Challenge.
Mike Sando: Ha, shows what I know. I think the scout meant Romo wouldn't necessarily be the best guy if you had quarterbacks throw for distance or velocity. Or, he might not prevail at a scouting-combine setting. He certainly has other skills.

Bill from Bremerton, Wash., writes: Well, the season is now more than half over, but it isn't hard to predict how the final half of the season will play out for the majority of the NFC West. Mike, you've followe
d the division more closely than probably most anyone at this point. Since the current season most likely will not produce a wild-card contender from the NFC West, what sort of strategies should the teams pursue now that will benefit them in the long term?
It is difficult to suggest personnel changes at this point considering the trade deadline has passed and even Ty Law is off the free-agent market, so I was thinking changes more along the line of strategic planning for the three teams. A good example being Singletary in S.F. reverting to a run to set up the pass offense. It also may be too early to suggest such a piece, but are you considering an article in which you play a mock General Manager and decide how to reconstruct each of the teams in the NFC West? I'm sure there would be a lot of suggestions as to how this might be done, and might be a boon to the blog. Thanks again for the in-depth coverage of the division.

Mike Sando: Good idea. I like it very much. For the Rams, I think the top priority has to be salvaging something for Marc Bulger this season. They need to set him up for success. If that means completing a bunch of shorter passes, fine. But I do think he needs to get something positive from this season.

The Seahawks are stuck. Their coaching situation stands as an obstacle for gearing toward next season. Ideally, this would be the time for Jim Mora to show what he might do running the defense. That is not going to happen, most likely, as long as Mike Holmgren is the head coach and John Marshall is the defensive coordinator.

Goose from Seattle writes: Mike! Hope all is well. My question is for the Seahawks upcoming draft. Assuming they pick 4-8, what do you feel is their most pressing need? Crabtree? An O-line? A beast of a cornerback? Thanks again!
Mike Sando: You're welcome. I would look at an offensive tackle in that range, given that a Pro Bowl player at that position can play a decade at a high level. I would stay away from receivers and exercise some caution with defensive ends. The offense needs to get younger and you can never go wrong building the line.

I might also consider a big defensive tackle in that range. Rocky Bernard probable leaves after the season. Marcus Tubbs' departure hurt the line up front. Getting a big body to pair with Brandon Mebane would help.

Will from Bonney Lake, Wash., writes: Hi Mike, love your insight on the NFC West. What's your take on Tim Ruskell, GM of the Seahawks? He seems to obsess with finding the high-energy guy with marginal talent and size that will spend weekends volunteering with the United Way. I know it's early, but where do you think he will go with the top 10 pick that he'll most likely have in next year's draft? Or will he trade down again to replace the 5th round pick he gave up for the recently cut Keary Colbert?
Mike Sando: The size issue on defense is overrated in my view. The Seahawks' weights on defense are in line with NFL averages for teams running 4-3 schemes. I do think they could use another big body on the defensive line, someone in the Marcus Tubbs mold.

I covered this team when Mike Holmgren was stocking the defense with players who fit traditional size prototypes. Lamar King was going to be the big, powerful defensive end. Ike Charlton was going to be a starting corner. Chris McIntosh was going to be the big, dominating right tackle. Sometimes guys don't pan out.

The moves Ruskell made on defense in 2005 helped this team get to the Super Bowl. I think he has done a decent job drafting for defense with Brandon Mebane, Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. Josh Wilson also might turn into a good player. John Carlson has shown some promise.

I'll withhold judgment until I see how this team responds to what Jim Mora has in store. Ruskell is setting up the team for Mora. Let's see how that goes before making up our minds.

Matt from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Hey Sando, Can you talk a little bit about what type of access you have to the players, coaches, and staff? Are you allowed to view practices? Are you allowed in the locker rooms after games? What about interviews? Is the media pool small enough where you can build rapport with them? Are you able to initiate contact on non-media days (texting/cell phones/etc)? It would be awesome to get some insight in this area.
Mike Sando: I'd be glad to answer that one. In general, reporters line up phone interviews with players and coaches through team public relations staffs. I'm scheduled to speak with Patrick Willis at some point Thursday. I set up that interview by going through the PR staff.

Players are available in person at their lockers following practice on most days. Some teams allow their local beat reporters to watch practices during the season. Out-of-town reporters almost never get that type of access.

Locker rooms are generally open to reporters after practices. Locker rooms are always open to reporters following games. Team officials will bring the head coach and quarterback into a separate room, one after the other, for postgame interviews in most cases. The rest of the players are available at their lockers. Some answer questions while they change clothes. Others prefer waiting until they're finished dressing before answering questions.

I know some players, coaches and front-office people well enough to call, text or e-mail them directly. But I would generally go through a team's PR staff to set up something formal.

I've been around the teams in this division enough to develop a rapport with some players and coaches. I obviously know the Seattle people better from covering that team every day for nine seasons beginning in 1998.

Jay from Gainesville, Fla., writes: Love the blog; makes it easier for me to follow my beloved niners here on the east coast. My question's this -- what is the best case scenario for the niners this offseason with regards to the coaching situation? I'm leaning towards at least some continuity, especially on offense where the system has gotten changed every year. What do you think the best route for them is? Keep Singletary and maintain some semblence of continuity or clean house? Thanks for all the hard work.
Mike Sando: Thanks, Jay. That is a tough question. I do think continuity on offense would really help that team. But I also think the 49ers might need a clean break from the past. I would lean toward hiring an offensive-minded head coach who calls the plays. That way the 49ers could protect themselves from losing another offensive coordinator unexpectedly. Losing Mike McCarthy and Norv Turner set back this organization immeasurably. I think the 49ers need to protect themselves from that type of situation.

Sharell from Raleigh, N.C., writes: With the Seahawks already promising Mora the job, doesn't that go against the "Rooney Rule"? Not sure if you have spoken to this before, but why even promise the job to Mora? He was an ok coach in ATL, not an outstanding coach, so why even go there especially with the emergence of the Cardinals and the decline of the Seahawks? Did the Seahawks shoot themselves in the foot last year by announcing they have a coach in waiting? Will the organization look in "disarray" if they decide to interview other candidates?
Mike Sando: The Rooney Rule doesn't apply to teams that sign their future head coach while the current head coach remains on the job. The Rooney Rule only covers jobs that come open. Seattle will not have to interview other candidates. The decision to name Mora hasn't worked out as expected, but I'll reserve judgment until I see the results beginning next season. Some head coaches have fared better the second time around.

PaulieP from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Full disclosure, I am a Seahawks fan. Adrian Wilson's hit requires a suspension, not because of the hit, but because of the NFL's notification to Wilson from his last hit (on Trent Edwards). They told him that the next hit would carry a $50K fine and a suspension. The rules state that you cannot hit a QB in the head. He did. Is the rule fair? Is it a "pansy" rule? Maybe. But unfortunately it's the rule, and it's not subjective.
Mike Sando: Except that it is subjective. The league does not view all contact to the head in the same way. In this case, the league determined Wilson acted within the rules.

Ryan from Denver writes: Sando, thanks for answering my last Rams question, got another one for you. What's up with the Bulger hate? I know he hasn't played well but who exactly do these haters think will do a better job with no O-line and no running game? The only guys who survive in those situations have last names like Brady and Manning. Seriously if Gus Ferrotte, Rob Johnson, Kerry Collins, Dan Orlovsky, JT O'Sullivan, Dante Culpepper, Sage Rosenfelds, and Seneca Freakin' Wallace have all started for NFL teams this season who exactly do the Bulger haters expect to come in and function in the train wreak that is the St Louis Rams?
Mike Sando: I agree with you on this one, but I do think Bulger could do more to endear himself to the fans. His body language isn't particularly inspiring. If I were a fan, I'd like to see him show some more confidence during games.