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Mailbag: Questioning Rams' firepower

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kyle from St. Louis writes: I have to disagree with you on the Rams not having the offensive personnel to move the ball down the field. Granted, my biased opinion is factoring in health and Jackson being there. Still, Holt's knee is better, and at 32, he still gets it done. With protection, Bulger is as accurate a QB as there is. Jackson in a beast. Bennett is serviceable at WR, but Avery and Burton should provide explosiveness. They also have Brian Leonard at fullback/running back, and Randy McMichael at tight end, and Al Saunders knows how to utilize that position. Please don't tell me you think Seattle, for example, does have the weapons to score more so than StL.
Mike Sando: I think we're on the same page here, Kyle. I meant the Rams lacked the firepower to move the ball consistently in this second exhibition game because Steven Jackson and Torry Holt were not playing. I also agree about McMichael. However, I'm less impressed by the Rams now than I was a month ago. This team lacks depth. Dante Hall is the third receiver. Can Holt's knee hold up for a season? What about Orlando Pace? Bringing back Jackson will help a great deal, but Marc Bulger already looks like a guy worried about getting hit.


Matt from Kansas City writes: Mr. Mike Sando. I have a life or death problem. I can not tell what games Fox or CBS for that matter will show in my area of the many they are showing. I know you work for ESPN but if there is a way to find out which game is on in my city I would appreciate it. Matt
Mike Sando: If I understand your question correctly, the stations in your market make those decisions during the weeks leading up to the games. You will of course get every Chiefs game that is either on the road or sold out at home. If any of our TV-savvy readers can help out, by all means let us know in the comments, or hit the mailbag. Thanks.
Teppy from Colorado Springs writes: Hey Mike! I'm a Cardinals fan for life, and I am a little nervous about Al Johnson going down along with other injuries along the offensive line, do you think the lack of experience on the O-line is going to come back and bite the Cards in butt? And what do you think of their 7th round pick Brandon Keith, does he have a chance at breaking into the starting lineup on that right side?
Mike Sando: The Cardinals' line is a concern. You should feel good about its long-term prognosis with Russ Grimm coaching it, but the depth isn't there. I think it's problematic if Keith becomes good enough to start on the right side as a rookie. The dropoff from Al Johnson to Lyle Sendlein is not huge, so I think the Cardinals should be OK as long as they don't suffer additional injuries. Keep your fingers crossed on that one.


Brad from Seattle writes: Okay, so I was just inquiring what the rules for who you could put on the practice squad and how the waivers worked for claiming players off of them worked. Thanks, Brad
Mike Sando: Players with zero accrued NFL seasons are eligible for the practice squad. A player must be on the active roster for at least six games in a season to receive credit for an accrued season. Players with one accrued season have practice-squad eligibility as long as they were on the active roster fewer than nine games. Players can spend two seasons on practice squads (a season being defined as at least three regular-season or playoff games). Players can spend a third season on a practice squad as long as the employing team keeps 53 players on its active roster "during the entire period of his employment" (according to the CBA).
Players on practice squads are free to sign with the 53-man roster of any team that will have them. Practice-squad players can refuse to sign with an interested team.


Teppy from Colorado Springs follows up: Hey Mike, I've been a Cardinals fan forever, and I think Ken Whisenhunt is the guy that can FINALLY turn this team around, what are your thoughts on Whiz and do you think he is the guy for the Cardinals?
Mike Sando: Whisenhunt does strike me as the right guy from what I have seen so far. He seems sharp and in control. The job does not appear to big for him.


Teppy from Colorado Springs is at it again: Hey Mike, Tim Hightower has had a goal line touchdown in both his first pre-season games with the Cardinals. How much value to put to this guy, and do you think he has a legit chance to take over the starting spot when Edge is done in Arizona?
Mike Sando: I'm taking three questions from you today because that's how desperate we are for questions about the Cardinals and Rams. Tim Hightower does look like the leading candidate to succeed Edgerrin James. We won't know for sure until we see him play in real games, but the Cardinals are very much encouraged.


Steve from Bellingham, Wash., writes: I'm sure you're getting a lot of inquiries on this subject, and here's another. How do you keep Forsett off the active roster after tonight? Which of the other RBs is in the direst straits?
Mike Sando: The Seahawks need to hold a roster spot for Justin Forsett if for no other reason than to uphold the idea that training-camp performances matter. I don't care if it means keeping six running backs. Forsett absolutely deserves to land a spot on the 53-man roster. This is a situation whereby unexpectedly good drafting has created a logjam at a position. You just don't expect a seventh-round choice to play the way Forsett has played so far.


Kevin from San Diego writes: Sando - What's the skinny on Leroy Hill's contract situation? It's obvious that he's in his final year and hopefully the seahawk brass will sign him long term. Heck, they can have my stimulus check if it will help out, just please don't tag him with that transition tag. Thanks
Mike Sando: Paul Allen's business ventures have a spotty track record, indeed, but I'm thinking he's got enough cash to take care of Leroy Hill on a long-term deal. Lofa Tatupu is the most important linebacker on this team. Hill might be the most dynamic talent at the position. That is saying a lot because Julian Peterson is a force, too. But organizations simply cannot hit big on third-round choices and then let them walk in free agency. Contract talks haven't gone anywhere yet (by all accounts), but there is time.


Jim from Linwood, N.J., writes: Mike, Huge Seattle Seahawk fan in NJ, so your blog is my camp coverage, and its great i must say. But how are you going to do a Camp Confidential on the Seahawks, and not even mention Matt Hasselbeck one time throughout the article??? I mean, thats just crazy. The guy is their leader on offense, and has been for the past 5 playoff appearances. Is he not the most underrated QB in the NFL? He still doesnt get the proper respect by the general public cause he plays in the horrid NFC West. Show him some love!
Mike Sando: That's a great point. I didn't go into the story with any sort of quota for mentioning all key players, but you would expect a mention of the starting quarterback. It's probably a reflection of the level of detail in coverage these days. We can get so into the little things that the big things get taken for granted. I personally struggle a little adjusting from the micro view of a blog to the general overviews found in the typical preview. Your email is a helpful reminder.


Mark from Rochester, N.Y., writes: Hey Mr. Sando, thanks for the answers to my questions throughout training camp. I
hope I have at the very least given you something to think about that you haven't thought about before. I have a question now about the financial parameters of Alex Smith's contract. With either a starting job or bench spot this season, Mike Nolan and Co. probably will not pull a Jack Del Rio and cut him before the season to avoid competitive distractions. Assuming he LOSES this QB battle (which I'm guessing is mostly up to Mike Martz), what kind of financial penalty will the 49ers take if they cut Smith at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season? Did he have any contract stipulation/incentive quirks in his rookie contract that will make it hard to release him? I know rookie contracts aren't exactly incentive filled, but I was just wondering if you had any economic opinion on the matter.
Mike Sando: Smith has about $20 million in incentives that he could earn in 2009 and 2010. But if he doesn't hit those incentives, the 49ers could cut him after this season and reduce his cap charge. Smith's deal is scheduled to count about $12.3 million against the cap in 2009. The 49ers could reduce that figure to between $2.66 million and about $5.3 million by releasing him.


Toby from Granada Hills, Calif., writes: Mike, thanks for the responses on my emails about Reggie Smith. New topic... what's the scoop on WR Jason Hill? Extremely productive college career at a school not known for WRs, and then he ran a surprisingly fast 4.35ish at the combine. A basis of production and speed, will he break out with a year under his belt and Martz running the O?
Mike Sando: The 49ers hope so, but Josh Morgan has clearly stolen Hill's thunder. I know the 49ers have been pleased with improvements Hill has made to his game. Hill appears much smoother and more comfortable in his route running. I would not expect big things from him this season, but he should improve.


Leesters from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike.. I still can't figure out if the Cardinals are going to be a 3-4 or a 4-3 base defense. They are very hybrid in their various schemes, but they still have to have a base. What's the scoop?
Mike Sando: I consider them to be a base 3-4, but I don't feel 100 percent right about categorizing this team that way. Clancy Pendergast, their defensive coordinator, is a bit of a mad scientist. The Cardinals' flexibility can confuse even their own offense, according to some recent reports. I'll look into this a little more closely when I head down to Oakland to check out the Cardinals this coming weekend.