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Mailbag: Fixing Seattle's defense

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Good action in the mailbag lately. I'll dip in for this initial offering, then come back for more.

Dan from Seattle writes: While coach Holmgren has been stating there are going to be changes, and after seeing the poor performance from the defense this past Sunday, what do you think needs to be done to shore up the d? Is John Marshall on the way out after this year? Thanks, Dan

Mike Sando: Staff changes were possible in 2009 even before the recent struggles. I expect Jim Mora to favor a more aggressive approach, and I won't be surprised if he makes additional changes to the staff. That's what new head coaches tend to do.

As for shoring up the defense, well, the best players are already playing. This is not an aging defense for the most part. The coaches have few choices personnel-wise.

The struggles might force the Seahawks to re-evaluate their talent on that side of the ball. They will probably part with Rocky Bernard in free agency. They miss a healthy Marcus Tubbs. I also think we're not seeing Lofa Tatupu at his best on a consistent basis. Whether it's injuries or something else, that needs to change.


Eli from Seattle writes: Mike, Do you think that the Seahawks might start considering looking for a new GM? I know the ties between Tim Ruskell & Mora Jr exist, but it seems from every forum I read that it's not only me that wants him out. Does the organization care about what the fans want or are they trying to replay what happened in Atlanta? It seems that he's bent too much on character then overall talent and has brought the organization down since taking over in 2005. Remember, he had nothing really to do with all the success for that year. Put this out as a headliner in your blog & watch how many fans will respond, countless! Great blog by the way!
Mike Sando: Thanks, Eli. It's unfair to say Tim Ruskell had nothing to do with the team's Super Bowl season. That team never would have reached the Super Bowl without Tatupu, in my opinion, and Ruskell drafted him. Ruskell also brought in Joe Jurevicius, another key player in the Super Bowl run.

Ruskell and his personnel people put together this defense. The defensive struggles will ultimately reflect poorly if things do not turn around.

Any sort of leadership change would surprise me a little given all the injuries this team has faced. Losing all those receivers and a starting quarterback makes a difference. Now isn't the time for rash judgments, no matter the frustration level.


Brett from Pensacola, Fla., writes: JAGS at 4??? Are you kidding me?? buffalo beat them and you have them at 7....Indy beat them and you have them at 8....how are you employed?
Mike Sando: I liked the Jaguars heading into the season and felt as though they had gotten things right after winning three of their last four. We're deep enough into the season to make any rankings have a tough time holding up in court. Someone has to be fourth. I figured I would take my chances with the Jaguars for now. Tune in next week. I'm sure we'll have more changes, and a few controversial ones.


Kevin from Atlanta writes: So you rank Atlanta behind Chicago even though not only did Atlanta win, they were clearly the dominate team for 47 minutes of the game. That doesn't make sense.
Mike Sando: Like I said, these rankings aren't going to hold up in court. I took into account venue. The game was in Atlanta. I also had in my mind the Bears' victories over Philadelphia and Indianapolis, and the close loss at Carolina. The Falcons have beaten Detroit, Kansas City and Green Bay. I think they are good enough to overcome my ranking.


Harold from Columbia, Mo., writes: Mike - good blog by Kent Somers in the Arizona Republic - he gives some significant statistics in the fourth quarter and in the game where Kurt Warner made plays despite pressure. This is in line what I have been thinking - Steve Breaston is getting a lot of publicity and rightfully so. However, it can't be understated how effective Kurt Warner is running this offense. Case in point would be Az Zahir Hakim, Warner's 3rd receiver in St. Louis during their glory days. He didn't do much after leaving St. Louis. Randy Moss is also a good case in point - w/o Tom Brady - he isn't quite the factor. T.O, on the other hand, is just T.O. Your thoughts! H-
Mike Sando: I see what you are saying. Kurt Warner has indeed done a very good job getting the ball to Steve Breaston and everyone else. The Rams had so much talent offensively that defenses couldn't defend everybody. Az-Zahir Hakim benefited from that. I think Mike Martz did a nice job using his personnel, too.


Chris from parts unknown writes: Thoughts on what the Niners need to do to improve? We've been in every game, just haven't found ways to get off the field and get wins. 3rd downs seem to be our biggest problem on both sides of the ball. My question is, what is Manusky doing with our CBs playing 10+ yds off the line of scrimmage every play?!
Mike Sando: I haven't confirmed the 10-yard cushions on every play, but the 49ers do lack speed at safety. I'm not sure press coverage is the answer.

Mike Nolan would be responsible for those things at this point. He's the head coach and a defensive-minded one. His team is struggling. His job is on the line. He needs to fix whatever ails the defense from a scheme standpoint.

On offense, I think we're seeing what happens sometimes when you turn over the offense to a journeyman backup quarterback.


Crixtopher from Richmond, Va., writes: Mike, don't think I've chimed in with my own .02 but yes, your blog is one of the rare sports writing gems, I check in daily, please keep this going! That said, how about two questions. Regarding alternate/throwback uniforms, who makes the call whether teams wear them and what are the criteria? I was hoping to see the Cards come out in all red unis for their huge Dallas game. Also, since you saw it firsthand, would you say the Cards dominated the line of scrimmage, and if so isn't it odd that didn't also dominate ball control?
Mike Sando: Thanks much. I did think the Cardinals' defensive line dominated much of the time. The officiating error on the sack and forced fumble might have robbed Arizona of a touchdown and a chance to open up the score, thereby forcing the Cowboys into less favorable situations offensively. That's one thought. I also think the Cardinals' defensive line did not dominate throughout. The Cowboys had that 8-minute drive to open the third quarter.

On the uniform front, here's a rundown with some details. It's a team-driven thing, in my understanding. Some teams
don't want to revisit their dark pasts. In Arizona, Ken Whisenhunt and the organization want to build a new tradition. I'm not sure they want to remind anyone of the Boomer Esiason era.


RJ from parts unknown writes: Kitna back in Seattle??? Please say it won't happen. Will Seneca be under center this week since the Great #8 will again be sidelined with bulging back discs-to-knee issues? Frye cannot throw it downfield we know that, seneca can at least make a play with his athleticism. I just want a sign that shows the hawks aren't giving up, and certainly Kitna is not the answer...Remember that TD-INT ratio?
Mike Sando: Jon Kitna has a bad back. The Lions placed him on injured reserve. He is done for the season. Seneca Wallace will start the game against Tampa Bay as long as things go OK in practice.