The latest NFC West chat flew past Thursday. So much to discuss. Transcript here. One question regarding each division team below:
Dave (Columbus): Wouldn't you think AZ would have known what they had in Matt Leinart by now and not had to go through the drama they are going through? Seems like the coaching staff has dropped the ball big time on this one.
Mike Sando: That is a fair criticism. There was some thought that Leinart would be a different guy once he became the undisputed starter. That was the book on him at USC and that was Pete Carroll's read on him several years ago. At the same time, Ken Whisenhunt's nature doesn't really let him commit fully to a player who has not earned the commitment. That would have been a tough sell in the locker room, anyway, because all the veterans in Arizona know the deal with Leinart. They know he's an unproven player no matter what Whisenhunt says about him. Beyond that, the manner in which Leinart has responded to his demotion was revealing and very damaging to his standing with the team. In retrospect, the Cardinals did not handle the QB situation as well as they could have handled it, although I fully understood why they wanted to give Leinart a chance.
Ben (Portland): It seems clear to me that Wilson was traded because he wasn't expected to be a Seahawk in 2011 and that a 1-year rental isn't worth more than 4th. Do you think Wilson was on the outs because he was too short or was going to be too expensive (for a nickel CB)?
Mike Sando: Josh Wilson became expendable in the Seahawks' view because the team was taking a long-range view. The Seahawks liked their young depth at cornerback and they did not envision paying Wilson for the long term, in part because Wilson doesn't fit the physical profile for John Schneider and Pete Carroll corners. I think it was a move that made them worse in the short term and a move that probably will not make them better for the long term (unless they hit on a player in the fourth or fifth round of the 2011 draft). The Seahawks' decision to select Walter Thurmond in the fourth round this year is paying off beyond reasonable expectations. Seattle will be fortunate to find a similar talent with whatever pick the team gets from Baltimore as part of the deal for Wilson.
Jerry (Folsom, Calif.): Hey Mike, faithful blog follower here, even if I don't always engage. Are the top three wide receivers for the Rams now Laurent Robinson, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, or is there someone else likely to move in there? Also, health permitting, can these three do enough to keep defenses honest (with Sam Bradford playing at least average) to keep Steven Jackson from facing eight- and nine-man fronts this season? Or will it be more of the same?
Mike Sando: Thanks, Jerry. Always appreciate your contributions. Mardy Gilyard is one guy I see as potentially getting into that mix. He might be just brash enough to command some playing time, perhaps at flanker or from the slot (where Amendola is ideally suited). Gibson's profile does rise following Donnie Avery's injury. Defenses are still going to focus on Steven Jackson, but Jackson can still get yards under those circumstances. He certainly did last season until his body wore down. I've got relatively high expectations for Bradford at this point and think Rams fans should be cautiously optimistic about the offense's ability to improve this season. The line lacks depth beyond the starters and that is a big concern. Another injury at receiver would really hurt. The Rams are fragile from a depth standpoint. But when looking at their projected starters on offense, they should be able to function better than they did last season -- particularly late last season.
Rob (belgium): Hi Mike. I believe this is my fifth question and still nothing posted, so again don't you think the Niners are one franchise QB away from contending for the Super Bowl? Cuz clearly Nate Davis has all the tools you want in a QB instead of Alex Smith and David Carr, who aren't the answers.
Mike Sando: I'll usually answer on the sixth ring, but let's waive that requirement here. You're on the air, Rob. Thanks for calling. On Nate Davis, yes, he has physical tools. But it's a horrible sign when the head coach questions any player's offseason work ethic. It's worse when that player is a quarterback. It's worse when that quarterback already has a learning disability that could, in theory, require even more work than a typical quarterback puts in. Singletary's public rebuke of Vernon Davis worked out well, but Davis always worked hard. If Nate Davis doesn't have that work ethic, or if he simply isn't mature enough yet to know what it takes, then he doesn't have all the tools.