Mailbag: Sloppiness an issue for Cards?

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Chris from Phoenix writes: After the Cardinals outstanding preformance, I can't help but be worried about the lazy and sloppy ending to the game. The body slam by the rookie cornerback and the ill advised penalties just made the Cardinals look vulnerable. How worried should us fans be if we see this kind of play against teams such as the Giants?

Mike Sando: I would differentiate between these transgressions. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie apparently thought Torry Holt was still inbounds when he slammed him down. Bad play. Rookie mistake. Not likely to happen repeatedly.

The penalties should concern you. On offense, the Cardinals sometimes have problems lining up and snapping the ball on time. They just do. I chart the penalties and it's not pretty. Steve Breaston couldn't get lined up right two or three times earlier in the season. Arizona had another one of these Sunday.

Those types of things matter a lot more when the stakes are higher. I think Arizona needs to clean up that aspect of its game for the postseason. The Cardinals also need to finish plays more consistently on defense. Too often a lapse lets an opponent turn a big gain into a huge one. Steve Smith, Marion Barber and Derek Stanley come to mind.

Dave from Washington, D.C., writes: Hi Mike, great work with the blog. I was looking through the Cards-Rams box score and noticed that Adrian Wilson got credit for a 7 yard reception. I don't remember seeing this during the game, and I wondered if a) Wilson had ever caught a pass on offense before and b) will the Cards use him out there again?
Mike Sando: Thanks, Dave. Ken Whisenhunt seems to weave in these plays as if hoping to give opponents something extra to worry about in their preparations. I wouldn't expect to see Wilson or another defensive player get extensive snaps on offense as long as the team has so many obviously superior options at receiver. Rodgers-Cromartie was a receiver earlier in the season. Wilson had never caught a pass in an NFL game before Sunday.

Update: Tim Hightower caught the pass in question (one reason you couldn't remember that play). I didn't immediately remember it either, but in checking the gamebook provided by the NFL, sure enough, Wilson was credited with the catch. I even double-checked this information on Wilson's official NFL.com bio page, and the reception was showing up there as well. The Cardinals have informed me that was recorded in error and that Hightower caught the pass.

Ikee from Philadelphia writes: What's up Mike... two questions here... it seems like Cleveland may have jumped the gun too early when they gave Derek Anderson that big contract last year... Do you think that they will/can afford to keep him and Brady Quinn paying both of them starter money? If not do you think the 49ers may be interested in Anderson since he will be the one to go if Cleveland has to get rid of one? And 2nd... I keep hearing rumors that Alex Smith wants to come back next year now that Nolan is gone, if he takes a paycut do you think the front office wants him back?
Mike Sando: The 49ers' front office would presumably take back Alex Smith at the right price. As for the Browns, that will depend on how well Quinn plays. The better he plays, the more available Derek Anderson becomes.

Opformaster from Pocatello, Idaho, writes: Sando, I really enjoy your blogs. I wanted to get your opinion on something. With Leinart waiting in the wings in AZ, and Bulger struggling. What do you think the chances are with Kurt finishing up his contract going back to St.Louis?
Mike Sando: The Rams have poured a lot of money into Bulger. The next coach in St. Louis probably needs to make that work. The best money Warner can get is probably in Arizona.

Collin from Syracuse writes: From what i have seen on MNF Leftwitch looks better than he has in a while. In your opinion what has the best chance of happening next year for the 49ers. Leftwitch comes in via trade or FA (don't know his current contract), Alex Smith is the next year starter and they give him another chance, or they draft another on in the first or second round and hope to get what they thought they had when they got smith. Great work with this, i always come here first when i get on my computer its great. thanks Mike
Mike Sando: Thanks much, Collin. Free-agent options tend to be very limited at the quarterback position. The 49ers need to make sure their offensive identity reflects their personnel. The front office did not build this team with a Mike Martz system in mind. Is Martz back next season? Either way, the 49ers need to make sure the quarterback fits the system. If Leftwich or another veteran fits, then consider it. If not, move on.

Cam from Kelowna, B.C., writes: Hey Mike The Seahawks offense is terrible this year, and people often blame injuries. I'm a Seahawks season ticket holder and I might seem like the anti-christ for saying this but I feel that the Seahawks having a bad offensive talent pool has a lot to do with its struggles too.
Sure, Jones is a HOF, but he's barely a pro bowler right now. No one on the OLine is that great outside of that. The receiver position isn't great. Engram is good, Burleson has promise, but Branch's best season was 2004 when he caught 78 balls for 998 yards and 4 TDs (correct me if I'm wrong). Julius Jones is no Shaun Alexander (when Alexander was good) and Hutchinson is gone.

So here's my question: Assuming the team doesn't suffer injuries like they did this year, are they a good offense? Also, what areas have been the weakest for Seattle this year defensively? Finally, who do you see brought in and shipped out at the end of this year personnel wise? I honestly can't see the Seahawks continuing to spend as much as they are on Branch. Later

Mike Sando: This is a good offense without the injuries. The Seahawks produced pretty well on offense last season, and I thought they upgraded the running game. They are finding out how tough running can become when no one fears the passing game. But if you put Matt Hasselbeck out there at full strength and give him starting-caliber receivers, the running game opens up.

As for who leaves after this season, I don't see a mass exodus. The team hasn't done anything to pacify Engram, but there's no reason he couldn't return as part of the group.

We are going to find out how easily Tim Ruskell gives up on players he brought in. It's always easier to give up on another g
uy's players (Jerramy Stevens, Koren Robinson the first time, etc.). Branch's contract counts $7.5 million against the salary cap next season. If he's healthy by then, I think he probably stays.

PaulieP from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Hey Mike, just wondering what you thought about the idea that one Seattle radio station is floating around about Paul Allen possibly asking Holmgren to come back for one year. In your experiences with Holmgren, does this sound like something he would consider? Part of me worries that you'd have the same mental and emotional problems you have right now, but I would hate to see him end a fantastic tenure in Seattle on such a down note.
Mike Sando: I do not see that as likely at all. The plan is in place for Jim Mora to take over. Holmgren has promised his family to step away from the NFL next season.

Kevin from Vancouver, B.C., writes: Hey Mike, great job on the blog (and thanks for doing it!) Let's say Seneca Wallace starts next week's game (which is highly likely) and continues to lead the offense anywhere. I know he is signed through 2010 but with Mora taking over next year, what do you think the chances are they try to convince Seneca becoming a WR and look for a backup QB in this years draft?
Mike Sando: Thanks, Kevin. I look for the Seahawks to draft a quarterback anyway. The plans for Wallace could change based on how Seattle addresses the receiver position this offseason. I like that idea, though.

Dan from Seattle writes: What do you think the Seahawks' chances are of still getting the division title? Any thoughts on Mike Holmgren possibly delaying his retirement?
Mike Sando: Jim Mora has a contract to become head coach in 2009, so we can forget about Holmgren returning in 2010. That seems unworkable. As for the Seahawks rallying to the playoffs, that would absolutely shock me at this point. I'd be impressed if they finished 6-10.

Aaron from Tacoma writes: Sandman, maybe you can clear up some confusion we had in the stands on Sunday. Beginning of the second quarter, Julian Peterson jumps into the neutral zone, and two guys away the guard moves. Why is this a neutral zone infraction instead of a false start? Secondly, why did McNabb's potential fumble not get reviewed at the end of the first half, especially after the Hawks called TO to try to force it?
Mike Sando: They said Peterson was trying to incite a false start. The rules prevent defensive linemen from jumping for those purposes.

I asked Holmgren about the McNabb play and he said it wasn't reviewable because officials ruled the play dead.

Barney from Sacramento writes: Hi Mr. Sando, I appreciate your column and wanted know your opinion on Coach S changing the OLs to now include Baas at LG, Rachal at RG, and Snyder at RT. I heard this on KNBR from Scot McCloughan. Very interesting, no?
Mike Sando: Mike Martz had autonomy over the offense when Mike Nolan was head coach. That changed when Nolan left. Singletary has tightened his grip, but the personnel department might also have more influence now. The team does need to see some of those players perform over the remainder of the season. Those types of changes make sense.

Julian from Frankfurt, Germany, writes: Hey Mike, what do you think about the Cards running game after the St. Louis game? You could argue it's "only" St. Louis and that it could as well be a fluke, but Tim Hightower looked great and had the burst the run game lacked all season. Even J.J. Arrington made some nice plays out of the backfield. If not for some penalties they could have had close to 600yrds total offense, but the 510 they got is pretty scary, too.
Mike Sando: I like the combination for Arizona and think the offense is more dynamic. They'll still struggle running on their own terms against some teams, but these backs have more breakaway potential. They fit better into what the Cardinals have decided to do with Kurt Warner at quarterback.