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Breaking down Martz, Jackson and more

7/30/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Pat Yasinskas and I broke away from training camps briefly Tuesday to shoot an ESPN Insider segment on the divisions we cover. Reischea Canidate asked me about Mike Martz, Steven Jackson, Julius Jones and the Seattle defense (sorry, Cardinals fans, but your team didn't come up this time). I went through and transcribed my portion. I paraphrased the questions, but the answers are verbatim.

Q: What should we expect from Mike Martz in San Francisco?

Sando: I think they'll come out of the gates fast because that is what Mike Martz does. He goes into places and they get better offensively. Longer term, I'm anxious to see if the fit is right. You've got probably their best players on offense being Frank Gore the running back and Vernon Davis the tight end, and I'm not sure we've seen Mike Martz run an offense where those are your two best guys. Can he feature those guys the way they need to be featured give the fact that the 49ers really aren't loaded elsewhere on the offensive side of the ball. I think that is the big thing to watch long term.

Q: Martz will probably go through air-attack withdrawals.
Sando: Yeah, they are going to get Frank Gore the ball. They have to. When you look at the other guys they have, yes, adding Bryant Johnson is going to help them, Isaac Bruce is a very savvy veteran who is going to help them, but I don't think anyone looks at the 49ers and is afraid of their guys on the outside. They are going to have to get the ball to Gore first and then they are going to have to find ways to get it to Vernon Davis, who is a tremendous talent and had a decent year last year but the offense was so bad, you really didn't get to enjoy it.

Q: What about Rams running back Steven Jackson? What is the latest with him?
Sando: Well, it's unusual for somebody who is a veteran and not a franchise player to miss training camp. It just doesn't happen. The fine is $15,000 a day. I think he's up to $60,000 already. Sort of a little-known part of the collective-bargaining agreement, as pointed out by Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Tuesday], is that he has to be in camp within 30 days of the season opener, which I believe would be Aug. 8 or else he doesn't get credit for this upcoming season; he wouldn't be a free agent after the end of the year. So I think that is the timetable here. We should expect to see Steven Jackson in camp by the eighth.

Q: Seattle has a new ball carrier in Julius Jones. How is he fitting in?
Sando: He is just raring to go. He is expecting a huge breakout season and he has said as much. He said the Cowboys made a mistake in letting him get away. The reality in Seattle right now is that Mike Holmgren hasn't committed to a starter. It's either going to be Maurice Morris, it's either going to be Julius Jones. I kind of think Jones will emerge as the guy. They brought him in for a reason. And right now the honeymoon is definitely ongoing. They like him for what Shaun Alexander wasn't at the end. He's an every-down back, he's a versatile player, he can catch the ball and he hits the hole quicker than Alexander did. So, everyone is happy right now. Let's see how it settles out. I think overall it's a good fit because they've done a nice job of upgrading their coaching on the offensive line. I think he'll have a good season in Seattle this year.

Q: Seattle's defense was pretty good last season. What are they doing to take the next step?
Sando: There's a couple things. John Marshall, their defensive coordinator who has been around a long time, would like to see them develop a killer instinct and just get a little bit sort of meaner, in a good way, across the board defensively. And then I think on the road, they have to find a way to make their speed, their team speed on defense, translate on the road. When they are at home at Qwest Field, it's loud and they play off that crowd and they are dominant. They get on the road and they are a little hit-and-miss. We saw in the playoff game last year at Green Bay they were a lot of miss. So they have got to fix that a little bit in order to really be recognized as an elite defense.