Mailbag: Long, Curry and expectations

Paix from Seattle writes: There was a few articles before the season and recently about Aaron Curry not living up to his potential and just now turning the corner. This is his second season and it seems like some people already were thinking he was a bust. I was watching the Rams' game against San Francisco and Chris Long was getting a lot of praise for stepping up this year. Chris was the second overall pick in 2008 and his first-year stats were less then Curry's first-year stats. Was Chris considered a potential bust like Curry? I just wanted a national perspective. Thank you.

Mike Sando: Your Long-Curry comparison is a good one. It's far too early to consider Curry a bust. It was reasonable earlier this season to wonder if his career was on the right track, however. The Seahawks were taking him off the field for long stretches in a couple of games. He did not appear to have a significant role across all situations. That seemed notable given his draft status. I think Curry has a chance to develop into Chris Clemons' successor at the "Leo" position. He just needs to keep improving as a rusher.

There were definitely concerns among Rams fans that Long wasn't showing enough to justify his draft status. The Rams arguably weren't using Long as well as they could have been using him when they had him lining up on the right side for most of his first two seasons. Long appears more comfortable on the left side.

Long is also getting more favorable matchups, it appears, now that Fred Robbins is making an impact at defensive tackle. Long has also shown improvement. The Rams are more competitive overall, and that puts pass-rushers in more favorable situations than when their teams are trailing by wide margins.

Reporters in St. Louis asked Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole about Long this week. Long has five sacks in his last four games. Reporters wanted to know what had changed.

"I think any time you’re in the second year of the same scheme, guys are more comfortable," Flajole said. "I think the fact that some other guys around him have played well has opened things up. I don’t think people are able necessarily to chip or double to Chris because James Hall is doing a nice job and Freddy Robbins is rushing the passer. So, Chris is on a natural progression."

Max from San Francisco writes: It's been great to see the sudden progress that the 49ers have made over the past couple weeks, leading some to believe that an NFC West title is still within reach. But one area that they still seem to struggle with is the return game. Ted Ginn Jr. looked particularly off with punts against the Rams on Sunday, and it made we wonder about the status of Kyle Williams. He was brought in as a return specialist, but since his return from that toe injury, I haven't seen him anywhere. He does have a quick first step and sharp cutting ability that you look for in a return guy. Is there a chance we see more of him to give special teams a much needed boost/change?

Mike Sando: Williams' injury problems earlier in the season took him out of the mix. Then he muffed that punt against New Orleans in the Monday night game (correction: another rookie, Phillip Adams, was the one who struggled fielding the ball in the wind at Candlestick Park that night). Mike Singletary is all about ball security. He would rather have Ginn field the ball cleanly for no return than risk turnovers with a rookie who may or may not provide additional pop when he does return the ball.

Eric from Culver City, Calif., writes: Hey, man, just wanted to write a quick note and let you know how much I appreciate your work. I'm a life-long Rams fan and used to contribute a little in the comments section, but found the experience similar to having a conversation with a pack of alcoholic wildebeests who dropped out of middle school. Anyway, there seems to be a sentiment that Rams fans are less passionate because of their relative absence from the blog. Let me assure you, we are out here, we are reading every post, and we are living and dying with our team just like every other stupid -- er, passionate -- fan out there.

I think there's a lot of evidence to support the theory that the Rams will start dominating this division in 2011. Given the state of the other teams, that dominance can last for several seasons. When it happens, Rams fans who have been around but too depressed to speak up will show up more for the chats and comment more in the blog entries. People will accuse us of being front-runners. But, trust me, we're here right now. Just to prove it, I'm reaching out now, after our most devastating loss of the year.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Eric. My attempts to raise the level of conversation within the comments sections of blog entries have produced sporadic results. In some cases, we've taken the conversations to my Facebook page, where I can more easily control who participates. Thanks for standing up and being counted. We do need more Rams fans taking part. My hope is that technology will ultimately contribute to a more pleasant experience for all in the comments sections.

Nick from Tempe, Ariz., writes: With Michael Vick only signed for one year in Philly, what are the chances he takes off at the end year for another team? The Eagles gave Kevin Kolb the extension, naming him their franchise QB, correct? They will have to choose one, seeing as how neither wants to be a backup. If Vick leaves, how well of a fit would he be with the Cards, and should they pursue him?

Mike Sando: The Eagles will have to re-sign Vick at this rate. He's playing too well. If Vick were to somehow hit the market, yes, the Cardinals would be wise to pursue him. Vick would turn that offense around instantly. But I just do not see the Eagles letting Vick get away. Instead, I see the Eagles finding a way to get value for Kolb via trade after extending Vick's contract. Kolb's deal runs only through the 2011 season. There is no salary cap at present. Perhaps the Eagles could work out a trade.