Chat with Mike Sando
Sando joined ESPN.com in 2007 after nine seasons covering the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. He previously covered Washington State University football and basketball for the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review. Mike grew up in Northern California before attending Whitworth College, graduating in 1992 with a B.A. in political studies. He lives in the Seattle-Tacoma area with his wife and their two sons.
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Jason, Fort Washington Md
Now that the 2009 draft is over...I know its early Mike but if you were a gambling man who do we draft with our 2 first round picks.. I got Taylors Mays (FS) and a (DT)...
Mike Sando (12:02 PM)
I must be getting to know you too well, Jason, since I know you're a Niners fan and I know you predicted Michael Crabtree would fall to them. I was reading something online last night showing how misguided the 2009 projections were when people made the right after the 2008 draft. I do think Taylor Mays would make tremendous sense for the 49ers, but if San Francisco is going to improve this season, the team might not be picking early enough. We'll see what happens, though. The 49ers do have that extra first-rounder from Carolina.
Anquan Boldin (Scottsdale, AZ)
Hey Mike, I still know I'm worth more money but how can I get a new contract and not come out the villian through the process? Q
Mike Sando (12:03 PM)
That's a tough one. I think the Cardinals hold the upper hand in every meaningful way. My advice would be: Do not sign a contract unless you're prepared to live by its terms. I know, values changed when the team paid Larry FItzgerald all that money. But it's tough to get out of a contract with multiple years remaining.
Will Deion Branch and Nate Burleson both be on the roster on opening day? If not, who is let go?
Mike Sando (12:05 PM)
I think both will probably be on the roster. Branch is ahead of Burleson at this point. He finished last season strong. We'll see how quickly Deon Butler progresses. That would be on key variable to watch in determining how expendable other receivers might become.
Robert (Latrobe, PA)
What do you think the division of carries will be between Wells and Hightower? 60-40 in favor of Wells?
Mike Sando (12:05 PM)
I would not be surprised if Chris Wells commanded a higher percentage of the carries. The one thing I wonder about is his ability to stay healthy.
nick (new york)
dude seriously.... whats up with leroy hill!!!
Mike Sando (12:08 PM)
He overplayed his hand, I think. Picture a high-stakes game of Uno (trying not to laugh here). Leroy Hill was down to his last card, feeling pretty good about his chances. But he forgot to say "Uno" and now he's had to draw a couple cards. The game has changed. It doesn't sound like he has great options at this point. I think the Seahawks can wait him out a little. Representation could be a key variable here. Will Hill's agent keep his job through this ordeal? What happens if he does not?
Tyler (Laguna, California)
Mike, thanks for all the hard work bringing us the NFC West and more imprtantly my niner news. Anyway what should niner fans expect out of our draft picks this year
Mike Sando (12:10 PM)
You're welcome, Tyler. Niners fans can expect some excitement. Michael Crabtree is an exciting pick. This draft was all about helping the offense now and helping the defense later (Scott McKillop perhaps projecting as the Ted linebacker -- eventually). I expect Crabtree and Glen Coffee to give the offense some needed juice as rookies.
I know its easier said than done, but how can the 49ers go into next season with Shaun Hill or Alex Smith at QB? With Crabtree, Morgan, Bruce, Gore, Vernon Davis, a decent O-line, and promising defense, dont you absolutely have to make a play at QB?
Mike Sando (12:12 PM)
On paper, yes, but the 49ers haven't seemed too concerned. They like Shaun Hill. They couldn't really name Hill their starter because they needed to promise Alex Smith a chance to compete for the job in exchange for reducing his contract. And of course they are still holding out hope that Smith will develop. The 49ers weren't going to make a move at QB unless they were convinced they would be upgrading the position. They didn't think Jeff Garcia would be better than Hill. A lot of us might disagree, but Hill was 7-3 as a starter last season. He was effective on third down. There's a feeling he'll be competent, if not excellent.
Hey Sando, I know ranking 30th in the league on defense is what gets you the label of being a terrible defense. But seriously, the Seattle defense isn't terrible, they have a lot of talent. But weren't their main problems a) poor scheme, and b) the fact that they were supremely undersized? If you ask me, both of those deficiencies were aggressvely addressed in the offseason. They bulked up on the defensive front, and got a larger corner. With a new D-coordinator, would it suprise you to see the defese become a top 10 caliber unit??
Mike Sando (12:14 PM)
The size issue is overrated from a weight standpoint. I track average weights by position and offense/defense. The Seahawks' players were not undersized in the front seven by current NFL standards for 4-3 defenses. I think the diminished pass rush, compromised by Patrick Kerney's injuries and the offense's inability to score enough points, exposed an undersized secondary. This is a situation where a little more help from the offense can help put the defense in better position to rush the passer and be aggressive. And if Kerney does come back strong -- a big 'if' in the equation -- I think the defense can improve. As for becoming a top 10 unit on defense, that would surprise me. I've been watching this team closely since 1998 and know better than to expect the top 10.
adam : (Gettysburg)
Chuck just who do you think they can make a play for at QB? Farve, Lineart, there is no one out there worth the amount they would have to give up. Let Smith and Hill battle it out and see what happens then if needed deal with the issue next year.
Mike Sando (12:15 PM)
The 49ers' point exactly. It's not like teams are dangling good QBs. I suppose they could have made a huge push for Jay Cutler, but we've crossed that bridge already.
Sando, great job covering the division! Any chance the niners make a play for julius peppers? McCloughan said he isnt done making moves this offseason.
Mike Sando (12:17 PM)
Thanks, Dustin. I thought Matt Barrows' thoughts on the matter were interesting. I never bought the idea that extending Parys Haralson fixed the pass rush, given that Haralson was already on the team when the pass rush needed upgrading. The 49ers do seem to project the attitude that they are not finished, or at least not concerned. I think they will try to upgrade the roster further.
With a much needed change for the defensive coord in AZ, how do you see the Cards defense schemes changing from last year?
Mike Sando (12:19 PM)
We'll see a more conventional 3-4 scheme with more traditionally defined OLB roles, instead of having one OLB and one pass-rushing DE and a hybrid feel. But I do wonder if the team has personnel ideally suited to pull it off right away. Is Clark Haggans going to stay healthy and productive at this stage of his career?
James, St. louis
Hey Mike, I keep reading articles about how the Rams need to strengthen the running game to keep SJax healthy and I completely agree. My question to you is what do you think of Edge coming to the Rams to help us out?
Mike Sando (12:20 PM)
Edgerrin James didn't like sharing carries with Tim Hightower. I can't picture him standing on the sideline while Steven Jackson does more than Hightower did to keep James off the field. That said, the reality might hit James at some point here. Teams aren't going to hand him the keys to their offense. He will likely settle for a situational role if he continues playing. But given how much he wants to play, I think he'll look for a team with a less established starter.
I feel pretty confident with Seattle's defense with or without Leroy, but of course I'd like to keep him. What I'm wondering is, do you see our O-line/running game as our biggest concern going into this season?
Mike Sando (12:22 PM)
I rank the Seahawks' concerns this way: QB health, pass-rush viability, OL depth and who starts in the third LB spot if Hill departs.
Edge should just go to Denver and be their 17th running back.
Mike Sando (12:22 PM)
And their 65th player past age 30.
Paul (Albany, OR)
Why did the Rams go for an Ohio State linebacker in the draft. It is not like they have proven themselves in the NFL since who, Spielman. I cannot figure that front office out. Are they headed in the right direction?
Mike Sando (12:26 PM)
OK, you got me on this one. I just dialed up the most recent Ohio State linebackers in the draft: James Laurinitis and Marcus Freeman this year, Larry Grant in 2008, A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel in 2006, Robert Reynolds in 2004, Cie Grant and Matt Wilhelm in 2003, Courtland Bullard in 2002, Na'il Diggs in 2000, Andy Katzenmoyer in 1999, Mike Vrable in 1997 -- hey, we found a terrific one. Looks like you have made a decent point, sir.
Who starts the year as the 49ers "change of pace" back... Clayton or Coffee? Also, would Robinson be the 3rd down back or will one of these two take that role?
Mike Sando (12:27 PM)
Glen Coffee, in my view. As for the third-down role, I have not spoken with the 49ers about that one.
Ed Hoculi, Chat ref
Delay of Chat, Mike Sando, 5 yard penalty, repeat 2nd down
Mike Sando (12:28 PM)
Wouldn't be the first bad call you'[ve made. Haha.
will crabtree do you think the niners will open up the offense a little
Mike Sando (12:29 PM)
Relative to what? They will not be as wide open as they were to start last season. I think this team will stay true to its run-oriented intentions. Crabtree gives them some flexibility. They will open it up more than if they did not have Crabtree, if that's what you are asking. But I think the core philosophy probably remains intact.
Kevin (Toms River NJ)
Did the Giants drafting two WRs kill any little chance left of the Bouldin to NY trade?
Mike Sando (12:30 PM)
I would think so. Not seeing likely trades involving Boldin at this point.
teams are starting to cut veterans, james from the cards, foote/steelers. anyone you can see being released this way that might have value for the niners
Mike Sando (12:31 PM)
We might keep an eye on Travis LaBoy, although I have my doubts about his ability to stay healthy.
Mackay (Pleasant Grove)
Sando - What have you heard in rumor about Todd Heap making his way to the Cardinals? That would be a huge addition, and likely put the Arizona offense at the top of my list for best offense.
Mike Sando (12:31 PM)
I have heard the Cardinals aren't smitten by the idea.
John, Los Angeles
Hey Mike, Do you know whats on tap for this weekends mini camp for the Hawks? Scrimmage, drills, classroom...? All the above? Thanks, you rock!
Mike Sando (12:33 PM)
They have one practice Friday, two Saturday and one Sunday. I'm sure they'll spend time in the classroom as well. No scrimmages this early.
Can you provide a list of the Niners' free agent pickups, as you did for the Rams and Cards? I can't seem to find it anywhere...
Mike Sando (12:35 PM)
I have blogged it previously, but here you go: Moran Norris, Marvel Smith, Brandon Jones and Demetric Evans were the UFA additions from other teams. The team re-signed UFAs Takeo Spikes and Allen Rossum. The team "lost" (in some cases intentionally) UFAs Sean Ryan, Billy Bajema, Donald Strickland, Damane Duckett, J.T. O'Sullivan, Ronald Fields and Bryant Johnson.
Sando, even though I am a Giants fan I find myself consistently reading your blog. In your opinion what teams in the entire NFC came out on top in this years draft? And even though I dislike the 49ers from the old rivalry days, I am a closest Mike Singletary fan, whats the chances he gets that team rolling?
Mike Sando (12:38 PM)
Thanks, Danny. I haven't studied every NFC team's draft well enough to answer the first part as well as I would like. I do think Seattle and San Francisco did well in adding 2010 first-round choices. Seattle in particular enjoyed a terrific first day, it seemed. As for Singletary, I think he is growing into the role after showing some flahes of being a rookie last year. Hiring Billy Nayes in an administrative role was an important step from an operational standpoint. I think it was important for him to hire an offensive coordinator he trusted, even though Jimmy Raye was not a "hot" candidate. Say this about Singletary: Players will know where he stands. He will be true to his philosophy.
cgolden: (Fort Worth, TX)
Mike, did the draft change any of your projections for the teams in the West? Every team seems like they got one good starter (maybe the Rams got two), but was any one draft that much better than the others?
Mike Sando (12:40 PM)
I was thinking earlier today about which rookies might have the biggest immediate impacts for their NFC West teams. The order might be reversed from draft order: Chris Wells, Michael Crabtree, Aaron Curry and then Jason Smith. Crabtree is the big wild card here. He has the talent to make a huge difference. I just think Wells is going to get more touches within a better offense.
cgolden: (Fort Worth, TX)
With the trade of Julian Peterson and basically a release of LeRoy Hill, is the addition of Curry really an improvement for just a lateral move, at best?
Mike Sando (12:42 PM)
That depends some on whether Curry is a much more dynamic player in terms of his ability to grasp concepts and help Seattle implement a more sophisticated defense. Lofa Tatupu is one of those coach-on-the-field guys. Curry strikes me similarly. Hill and Peterson never struck me that way. Let's see what the Seahawks' new staff does with Curry and the defense as a whole.
Have to remember that the Draft is just a bunch of projecting. Until we see results on the field, it's kind of a fruitless exercise to declare "winners" or hand out "grades."
Mike Sando (12:44 PM)
I tend to ask whether a draft fell the way teams wanted it to fall. The Cardinals wanted a running back and got one. Last year, they wanted a cornerback and got one. Things fell their way and they got highly-rated players. Teams can still enjoy strong drafts even when the draft doesn't fall their way. The 49ers wanted pass-rush help and OL help, but got neither. They still might come out with a great draft given Crabtree's obvious value.
Hey Mike, love the blog. I was reading the interview with McCloughan the other day, and I didn't realize Carolina has one of the hardest schedules in the league. If they end up being a disappointment, can you envision the Niners attempting to grab Bradford, if Hill and Smith aren't the answer?
Mike Sando (12:46 PM)
Yes, I can envision that type of scenario, especially if the rest of the 49ers' roster shows improvement and they feel as though one of those QBs projected a clear franchise QB. The mistake SF made in 2005 was pushing up Alex Smith's value because the team needed a QB and Smith seemed to be the best prospect. The 49ers likely will not make that mistake again as long as Scot McCloughan is the GM. You can't take a QB early just because you need a QB. The QB has to obviously be "the man" or you're heightening the risk of disappointment.
Looking back to last season, the 49ers offense had real problems scoring TD's in the red-zone. Do you think Crabtree's biggest impact will be in the red-zone?
Mike Sando (12:47 PM)
That makes sense to me. Vernon Davis should be more of a factor down there, but he is not consistent catching the ball or running routes, and too often the 49ers need him in protection.
cgolden: (Fort Worth, TX)
Mike, piggybacking off the question about the Panthers' schedule and possibility of the Niners receiving a high pick, what if that happens and the Niners aren't very good themselves? Can a team with two top ten picks in the draft ever survive with those two massive contracts?
Mike Sando (12:49 PM)
Perhaps they would have better luck trading out of one of those spots, as long as both were not in the top five. Didn't the Redskins take LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels 2-3 several years ago?
Mackay (Pleasant Grove)
Sando - have you heard anything about Dansby's contract or Wilson's contract? I haven't heard a peep since Dansby hired a new agent.
Mike Sando (12:51 PM)
Nothing at all, but the draft has consumed the Cardinals' attention recently. Now the team is focused on setting the roster for the post-draft camp. Perhaps we'll hear more about those situations as the dust settles.
What should Seattle expect from Ken Lucas this year? Jim Mora said this morning that he will step in from day 1 and be the starting corner across from Trufant.
Mike Sando (12:52 PM)
I will have to listen to what Mora said, presumably on the radio(?). Previously, I thought they weren't going to promise him the starting job, given what they thought of Josh WIlson. I think Trufant and Lucas make sense on the outside, with Wilson in the slot.
Jason: (Vancouver, WA)
Hey Mike, you rock. I personally thought I saw a lot of potential out of David Hawthorne in the preseason last year. He was all over the place, and he was putting some mean hits down. Think there's any possibility I could watch him at LOLB next season if Hill's not around?
Mike Sando (12:53 PM)
Thanks, Jason. I do not think David Hawthorne moves well enough to play outside linebacker. I don't think he moves well enough to play middle linebacker the way Lofa Tatupu plays it. That was just my impression watching the exhibition season.
Do you think the Rams have done enough on the o-line to have a great running attack? Do you see them being a better team?
Mike Sando (12:55 PM)
Great? Probably not. Good? Yes, I think so. They've added a big fullback, a physical center and a promising left tackle. Richie Incognito comes back at guard, where he was pretty effective when he wasn't inciting riots. They need more from Jacob Bell. All in all, though, I do think the ground game will be improved and the Rams will be improved.
Yeah, interview on KJR this morning with Mitch. He said Josh Wilson wasn't happy about it, but he hoped it would create some good competition.
Mike Sando (12:57 PM)
I will listen to that interview when the chat ends. I doubt they'll hand the job to Lucas. He might open camps as the starter, but he'll have to play well enough to keep the job.
Lyle Sendlien (RedBird, AZ)
Hey Mike, the Cardinals didn't draft a center or pick one up as a UDFA, does that mean that Whiz really does have a bunch of confidence in me or did I get lucky that two centers were drafted before the 31st pick?
Mike Sando (12:59 PM)
This validates what Whisenhunt has said previously during the offseason, which was that he liked Lyle Sendlein and thought he could develop into a good player. In Russ Grimm they trust, for sure.
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat. See you on the NFC West blog. Also, if you haven't already, add me as a friend on Facebook. That's another good way to stay in touch and keep up with what's happening on the blog.