Kicking off my Insider blog

Here's an idea of how things have gone and will go at ESPN: got a blog before I got a desk.

Time to get busy with entries. Back when I reported for The Denver Post, one of my favorite online experiences was the interaction with you, the reader. It was the first thing I volunteered to do at ESPN -- a mailbag. Would like to do mailbags, chats, answer fans' questions, you name it. So I'll do mailbags every week, sometimes more than once, and it only makes sense to kick off this blog with one.

To get involved, please e-mail me questions or leave them here in the Conversation. I'll get to as many as I can -- promise. So here we go with some thoughts from a pile that already has landed in the Insider inbox since I arrived.


Sean in Detroit: Mark Sanchez may have the better team, but with Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew, Matt Staffordcould get something special going in Detroit. Who do you think is going to be a better QB in '09?

Sean: I think Sanchez is set up to have a better season for a few reasons. He has the better offensive line. He has the better running backs. He has the better defense. And he has the better team. Love Stafford's future; think the Lions hit there. But I think Sanchez will be more effective this year.

On the same topic:

T in Westchester: Uh, are the Jets going to call Al Toon? Seriously, why start a rookie minus a single "plus" wide receiver?

T in Westchester: It's not as if there is some receiver out there the Jets can bring in. They explored Plaxico Burress -- he's going to jail. They looked at other wide receivers such as Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Bowe, and the cost of those trades was too prohibitive. They're looking still. Just that it's tough to come up with a quality WR at this time of the year.

Bill in Tuscaloosa, Ala.: The 49ers looked good under Shaun Hill, and now we may get another "look" at Alex Smith. Why? Is there no legitimacy to the feeling between Niners fans that we actually have a little momentum going into this year (that we got with Hill)?

Relax, Bill. Hill will wind up winning the Niners' starting quarterback job, no matter how many looks the team gets at Smith until the regular season begins. It's going to be Hill's job. Breathe deep ... exhale.

JD in Pullman, Wash.: Great football year in Washington last year (yikes), but seriously, the Seahawks played practice squad guys last year. There can't be a team better suited for a huge bounceback season.

Agreed, JD. I think Seattle might be the team to beat in that division. It has owned it for a long time. Arizona was impressive in 2008, but we've seen how Super Bowl losers fare the next season -- not well. If Arizona can't buck history, Seattle is the favorite to win that division. I think the Seahawks will have a good season. I'm high on them.

MillsLane25 in Colorado Springs, Colo.: I feel like Josh McDaniels, given his, um, entertaining start to his tenure in Denver, is setting himself up to not be allowed to struggle. Say the Broncos are 4-12 this year (could happen, sadly) and improve to 8-8 next year. You bring in a new coach, a roster overhaul takes place, it happens again. Is there any reason to hire a guy anymore if you won't commit to, really, about 4 years? (Especially when they could be drafting a quarterback next April.)

MillsLane25: The one thing we've seen in this league is that, outside of Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin and Tom Coughlin, there's no coach who is automatically safe from one year to the next. Saying that, I think McDaniels will survive this year, next year and well beyond. He's getting a lot of heat now, but someone who knows coaches well predicted to me that McDaniels is going to be one of the greatest NFL coaches ever. Strong words, I know, and we'll see. But I think he's going to be a real good one.

Eric in Albuquerque, N.M.: I keep forgetting my Cardinals were barely even a playoff team last year. Are we the perfect foil for the Super Bowl runner-up curse, or the typical victim? I can't figure us out on paper.

Eric: They have the talent and the coaching. But I thought the Patriots did in 2008, and they didn't make the playoffs. And I thought Seattle could overcome that curse in 2006, and it couldn't. Just seems like every year, you think, "This is the year that the Super Bowl loser overcomes." And it doesn't. Saying that, I think Arizona can. But history says it won't.

Susan in San Diego: Am I wrong for being ridiculously overconfident that San Diego has this division wrapped up by November? It's not that we're so good -- but [JaMarcus] Russell, [Matt] Cassel and [Kyle] Orton, all with new-ish systems? I just don't see the competition.

It seemed that way last season, too, Susan, and the Chargers barely managed to win the division. I agree; it seems like a cakewalk for San Diego. But nothing is as it seems in this league, which is why it is so compelling. Some team, either Denver or Kansas City or Oakland, will surprise some people this season and challenge San Diego. Don't expect any of them to overtake the Chargers, but there will be a challenge.

Nick in Gary, Ind.: Aren't people overstating the Bears' lack of WRs? Great QBs make great receivers -- besides, [Jay] Cutler's favorite target a lot of last year was Eddie Royal. He seems like he makes enough plays where he doesn't need Calvin Johnson or T.O. to be successful.

Nick: First and foremost, you're vastly underrating Royal. He is going to be one of the game's top receivers -- watch. Beyond that, Cutler will need some help from the position. I think Devin Hester and Earl Bennett can provide some, and let's not forget the two tight ends, Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. They're not true wide receivers, but Olsen is capable of being the Bears' leading receiver this season. They're not deep at wide receiver, but if Matt Forte is running well, Cutler is not making mistakes and the defense is back, Chicago can win. With the receivers it has.

Ryan in New York: Is it me, or does Dick Jauron inspire about as much confidence as Eeyore? How does a team perpetually "Have a long was to go"?

I'm going to guess, Ryan, that when the Bills got out to the good start they did last season, there weren't many questions about Jauron. The Bills didn't have any. They signed him to an extension. And remember, Jauron once was the coach of the year when he was with the Chicago Bears. He is a good coach, a very good coach. But funny how a coach oftentimes can be as good as his players.

On a similar note:

Nolan from the Great White North: I think Trent Edwards has some talent, but he definitely doesn't have the cache of a [Tony] Romo or [Donovan] McNabb (or even Jeff Garcia) ... I think you know where I'm going: A few bad balls, and doesn't T.O. run him over with the team plane, much less the bus? (Thus, cue mass media hysteria.) Please tell me I'm wrong.

Nolan: That certainly is the history, and we can only go by history. What worries me about Buffalo, though, is its offensive line. Is it going to hold up and give Edwards the time he needs to find T.O. and Lee Evans? (Let's not forget Evans -- he might be even better than T.O.) If the O-line holds up, Edwards and T.O. and Jauron and every wing-eating-Bills-fan in Buffalo will be fine. But it starts up front.

Butkus55 in Minneapolis: Rank your top 5 Wildcat offenses or likely ones (and if you skip Minnesota with [Percy] Harvin and [Adrian] Peterson, well, you lost me at hello).

Good news, Butkus. I think Harvin is going to be a major weapon. ... Did I just have you? But you have to go with the Dolphins first because they're the inventors of it. Then I'll go with the Eagles, being that they have the ultimate weapons to pull it off. Then the Vikings.

Derek in Canton, Ohio: Doesn't whoever loses the QB battle between [Derek] Anderson and [Brady] Quinn become trade bait if the Browns are smart? If this just goes on like this forever, I feel like you're just wasting future draft picks and money (or both).

Hope this isn't actually Derek Anderson from Cleveland sending in this question. If it is, sorry, Derek. Somehow I see this franchise tying itself to Quinn this season and, if he plays well, in future seasons. My guess would be that Anderson is the odd man out. But there's no sense to do anything just yet. Anderson will have greater trade value in March than now. So for now, you'll have both. Which is good. How long did Cleveland not have any quarterbacks?

Denard in Brooklyn, N.Y.: Early line on offensive and defensive ROYs?

My offensive ROY -- and Butkus in Minny is going to love this -- is Percy Harvin. I think he's going to have a major impact on the Vikings. And my defensive ROY -- and Butkus in Minny is not going to like this -- might just be Packers DT B.J. Raji. I've seen some early highlights of him, and the man is a load to block off the ball.