Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando stopping by to talk about the latest NFL happenings.
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.
Send your questions now and join Sando on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
Sando, Can you please explain to me why the niners have been so bad at getting to the quarterback... and please don't give me the same reasons as all the other analyst, Personally i think we need to add different schemes instead of the old school approach of win the one on one battle.
Mike Sando (12:59 PM)
The scheming should be the easy part given that the players have been running this system for a few seasons. At a certain point, players do need to win those battles. The Steelers have a terrific scheme, but there wasn't much scheme to James Harrison's effective rushes in the Super Bowl. You need the players to rush the passer well consistently. The 49ers did not address that aspect of their team during the offseason.
Mike, with Chris Spencer going down do you think Steve Vallos will be able to hold the interior line together, because he was a late round pick and only has a little experience from last year.
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
Steve Vallos has a little Robbie Tobeck in him. I like his chances over the long term even though he'll lose some one-on-one battles physically, as Tobeck also would. Chris Spencer is a different caliber of athlete, but I think Vallos could develop into an effective member of a promising young interior on that line.
Robbie (Manhattan Beach)
Hey Mike if Seattle ends up trying to sneak Nick Reed onto the practice squad, do you see another team picking him up? Would that be a dumb move by Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
It would be a dumb move from a public-relations standpoint. Imagine if another team signed him and Reed turned into a player for them.
From what you have seen so far... Was Jason Brown's worth the money that StL gave him in the offseason? His contract is pretty HUGE!!!
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
It's ridiculously early to make a judgment there. The money spent for Brown reflects a broader philosophy. The Rams were very weak at center, affecting investments at both guard spots and at quarterback and at running back. Steve Spagnuolo wanted to get bigger and more physical up the middle on both sides of the ball. Brown is a big part of that philosophy. He might never justify that investment based purely on what he contributes individually as a blocker. The Rams signed him to be more than that. From what I saw at camp, Brown seems to have a winning personality and good leadership potential. Those things also appeal to the Rams as they rebuild.
Scott Allen (raisingzona.com) (Arizona)
Sando, do you think the Cardinals struggles in the preseason will carry over any to the regular season, given the coordinator changes?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
The coordinator changes should not be the reason for issues early in the season. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis was on the previous staff. He knows the personnel. There's no excuse for a huge adjustment period there. On offense, Todd Haley will be missed. I think he knew how to challenge players. But Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm were the top two offensive coaches when the Cardinals hired this staff. That means there's no excuse for a huge adjustment period. Whisenhunt even called the plays previously.
Cpl Peak (US Marine)
I seen alot of coverage on back uo QBs. Who do you think is the best Back up in the division??
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Seneca Wallace would be my choice to play one game or finish a season. Matt Leinart would be my choice (among NFC West backups) to start a franchise.
Ken (Scottsdale, AZ)
You think Calais Campbell will make Cardinal fans forget about Antonio Smith? Granted Smith was nothing more than a "good" player.
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Campbell does appear to have that ability. The Cardinals appear to have done a good job coaching him and developing him. Most defensive ends are not 6-foot-8. The height creates leverage liabilities. For Campbell to show so much this preseason -- he has looked good most of the way -- suggests he can step right in and be productive. Consistency over the course of the season will be his challenge and I'm not ready to say for sure he'll be able to provide that as a first-year starter.
E.J. (Manhatan Beac)
Mike, in looking at Urban's list of potential cuts for the Cardinals, I was surprised to see Spach as an "IN." After watching the Packers game, Spach seemed to play like the "same ol Cardinals" with untimely penalties and dropped passes. What are your thoughts as to who the Cardinals will keep at the TE position and could you explain the difficulty in finding 1, just 1 good TE?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
The Cardinals would love to have a versatile player at tight end, but if they have to choose between an above-average receiving TE and an above-average blocking TE, they will favor the blocking TE (logical when you have so many good wide receivers). Stephen Spach is a very willing blocker. He fights and scraps out there. Watch him closely and you'll see why coaches like him.
What's up Sando, loving the blog daily... I remember you doing a NFC West Fantasy Team a little while back... Right now today, who are your Top 5 NFC West Offensive and Top 5 NFC West Defensive players... in order please...
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
Thanks. Off the top of my head, I would go with Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Matt Hasselbeck and T.J. Houshmandzadeh on offense. There goes seven on offense. Defensively, it depends what you need for your fantasy team. I'm not as prepared to answer that one. And of course I don't want to give away too much heading into the Gridiron Challenge.
Scott (Bowling Green KY)
What would Coffee have to do in order to raise the amount of touches he gets in Regualr season Play?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Two possible things: Break a couple huge runs early, or benefit from an injury to Gore.
Chris (Danville, Ca)
Sando--is Shaun Hill just the quarterback passing time while Alex Smith either rises, or Nate Davis rises, oe a quarterback is picked at the beginning of the draft? It seems like Hill has no potential, just will allow the 9ers to give Singletary a decent first full season as head coach.
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
I tend to agree with your general take on the situation. The 49ers also tend to agree. Otherwise they would have named Hill their starter right after the season. This is a team that named Mike Singletary its head coach without considering other candidates just because the 49ers felt they knew he was the right guy. They've given Smith every chance to beat out Hill, and Singletary has not seemed overly enthused by the play at QB.
Chris (Danville, Ca)
A lot of people are talking about picking Jackson quite highly in their fantasy drafts, but with his injuries and the Rams still trying to rebound off of a bad season, and a questionable QB/WR situation, he is far from a garantee for a good fantasy season.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
I agree with that assessment, but if you look up at the end of the year, there's a good chance Steven Jackson will have huge numbers.
Is Balmer going to get more PT this season, dosent he need to prove his worth on the field for being a former 1st rounder.
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Balmer played less than 20 percent of the defensive snaps last season. I do think his playing time will increase. The 49ers have liked what they've seen from him this offseason.
choo (st. louis)
What are your thoughts on Laurent Robinson? Word is he's excelling in camp. Is he good enough to be a #1 WR? What kind of production can we expect out of him?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Laurent Robinson looked good when I was at Rams camp. He has looked good in the exhibition games. He has good size and a couple times this summer he has used his body well to shield defenders on quick slants, which could be a staple of the offense. It's a stretch to think he would become a true No. 1 receiver, though. His skills do not jump out.
Mike, Would you consider S. Alexander a HOFer? He should at least be in the ring of honor right? thanks.
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Shaun Alexander should be an absolute lock for the Ring of Honor. He was the most productive running back in franchise history, arguably the most productive running back in the NFL over a five-year period and the best running back on the best teams in Seahawks history. I think he'll fall short of the Hall of Fame because people do not appreciate his running style -- Alexander seemed to run significantly harder in the red zone -- and some will give more credit to the offensive line.
James (East St. Louis IL)
Mike, do you think Alex Barron is the future at LT for the Rams?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
I am skeptical simply because the team used such a high choice for Jason Smith. The money paid to Smith suggests he'll be the starting left tackle eventually. Also, the team might have to overpay Barron to keep him.
Mike, would you make Alexander wait for Walter Jones to be inducted into the Ring of Honor or would you let him be inducted first?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
That would not matter to me. I'd just make sure Mack Strong, Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck and Mike Holmgren got in there. Lofa Tatupu looks like he'll get in as well.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sand-O: I saw an article on Leinart last season that outlined his first 3 seasons with several HoF QBs and Leinart's numbers were in the same ballpark. While Im not at all saying Leinart is Montana/Young, I fully think he is going to surprise a lot of people this year if Warner goes down, with good-to-great QB play, not just game management. Thoughts on Leinart?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
I have the same feel on Leinart. We overlook the fact that he was the starting quarterback through all of the 2008 offseason, and that he previously lost his job to injury. He was 7-9 as a starter. Kurt Warner was 9-7 last season. Is that a huge difference? It is not. Leinart should be better prepared the next time he steps in. He looks comfortable and confident.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
How's Aaron Curry doing lately? Is he going to start right away?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Curry will start right away. The team had grand plans for him coming into camp, but the feeling now is that Curry needs to focus on playing linebacker before he spends significant time working as a pass rusher and the like. Some of that could have to do with his health. A minor groin injury did affect him recently.
Tom (Sammamish, WA)
How is the battle at RG going between Wrotto and Unger? Why have the Hawks been reluctant to use Unger at center?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Steve Vallos seems to be a center, not a guard, while Max Unger has the versatility to play either. If they play Unger at center, Mansfield Wrotto becomes the only obviously viable option at guard.
Jack (Troy MO)
Mike, why was Tye Hill only worth a 7th round pick anyways?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Because the NFL knew the Rams were probably going to cut him anyway.
Derrick (Vicksburg, MS)
Hi Mike. A true 49ers fan disappointed by all the predictions. Do you think the 49ers will be a team everyone should be afraid of or are we a team that is going to just lay down easy?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
The 49ers look like a team that will fight and scratch its way to the 8-8 range. That is only an estimation. I offer it with no pretense of being definitive. Lots of things can happen unexpectedly. Shame on us if we
Sean (San Jose, CA)
Mike, Please tell me the Seahawks will be keeping at least 6 WRs, and who do you think those 6 will be?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
I think there's a good change the team will not keep six wide receivers. Greg Knapp will use two tight ends a fair amount and certainly more frequently than Mike Holmgren would have used them. Five could be the limit unless a sixth really shows.
Eric (Seattle, Wa)
With Tim Hightower being declared the starting running back early in the summer, how secure do you feel his spot is with the way Chris Wells played in their last game? Is a two running back formation an option?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Teams rarely use two halfbacks at the same time. Arizona is going to put three receivers on the field quite a bit. I suspect the Cardinals will again frequently use one back and one tight end with those three receivers. Only one guy can carry the ball on a play. The other guy needs to have blocking capabilities to make that work consistently.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Who do you think has the best overall defense in the division?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
The 49ers should have the best defense now that they have a little more athleticism in the secondary. They've been running the same system for a while, which also helps. The Cardinals can be the most explosive defense. We need to see more consistency before buying into their overall effectiveness. The Seahawks are a big wild card on defense. They're bigger in the front seven. They could have a stronger pass rush depending on what Patrick Kerney gives them. They could miss Marcus Trufant. A lot to consider. The Rams have been forcing lots of turnovers. I question their depth and young talent up front.
James (East St. Louis IL)
Mike, what do you think of Cliff Ryan and Carriker in the Spags defense? Think they can hold up with his complicated defensive blitzing schemes?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
The question marks on Adam Carriker -- heightened by local reports wondering if he might be vulnerable to release -- trace directly to his inability to stay healthy. The new regime is also setting expectations.
Doesn't Leinart's contract end this year? What's the possibility he signs somewhere else?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
Matt Leinart remains under contract beyond this season.
Will Chris Long be an Impact player this yr in spagnolou d like osi,tuck was for giants?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
I am not convinced Chris Long will ever be an elite pass rusher.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Could you give your quick thoughts on what Dre Bly brings to the Niners and/or what Adrian Wilson has left for the Cardinals?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Dre Bly brings confidence, swagger and a willingness to take chances. He will give some big plays and come back for more. He is good enough to start but not good enough for the 49ers to stop looking for the next starter. Adrian Wilson has lots left if he can avoid breaking down physically during the last several years of his career. The shoulder injury he suffered last season affected him at times. He is such a physical, tough player -- and a dominant one when healthy.
any chance that "Beanie" is Cards Starter by seasons end?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Absolutely. The Cardinals went from Edgerrin James to Tim Hightower back to James last season. There are no starting jobs for life in that offense unless your name is Fitzgerald or Boldin.
Sean (San Jose, CA)
If the Seahawks only keep 5 WRs, they have to use Seneca more in the offense, right?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Teams usually keep four or five receivers active on their 45-man game-day rosters.
Brian (Seattle, Wa)
Mike, A lot of Deion Branch talk lately (trade him, cut him, restructure his contract) what are they going to do with him?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
I'm very confident the Seahawks will not release Deion Branch. I do not think they have the depth at receiver to make that move. And when Branch is healthy -- admittedly not nearly enough of the time so far -- he tends to produce. Trading him or attempting to reduce his pay at some point would always be something to consider.
Where will you be for week 1?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I will be in the press box at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, watching the first- and second-place NFC West teams from last season.
Dan (San Jose)
Mike...do you know if the 49ers would receive any compensation if Crabtree re-enters the draft?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
The 49ers would receive no compensation if Michael Crabtree reentered the draft.
Evan Johnson (Salt Lake City)
Will the 49ers use Michael Robinson more efficiently this year? The guy has talent and is very versitile. I would like to see him catch 20-30 passes this year. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
Seems to me the 49ers could find more ways to use him this season. Will it happen? I do not know. Some of that could depend on what Moran Norris can give them over the course of a season.
cjp (wa st)
How do you see the Hawks rb situation playing out, Jones hasnt really been that impressive, is Edge a potential starter at some point this season?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
The Seahawks gave Edgerrin James a decent contract for a backup. He gets a $1 million base salary with a $500,000 signing bonus and the potential to make another $500,000 in a roster bonus payable over the course of the season. That tells me the Seahawks expect him to play some. It's up to Jones, really. He fumbled too frequently last season. I think Jones should be able to play at least as well as James would play, though. James is not going to get into the game and break a 70-yarder.
Austin (Mill Creek, WA)
How much more gas does Walter Jones have left in his tank. Is it safe to assume this is his last year
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
I think there's a good chance this will be Walter Jones' final season in the NFL. When he retires, the Seahawks should retire his jersey number. I think he has been the greatest player in team history.
Randy S. (DeKalb, IL)
Mike, I feel that if Frank Gore can return to 2006 form this year, I think that this can help to open up the passing game a little more. I think this can open up the short passing game for Shaun Hill considerably, which plays into his style (short drop and quick release). Do you think the season relies more on Frank Gore's success with the ball, or possibly the unproven pass rush? Which do you think is more important?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
The pass rush is more important in this sense: We know its very likely Gore will produce in a big way. So we can take for granted a certain level of production. If they had the choice, the 49ers should choose an average year from Gore with a very good pass rush over a great year from Gore with an average pass rush.