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!
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by. Let's get this NFC West chat rolling.
Jim Cushing (Orlando/FL)
Please inform the ESPN commentators that the site of the 2014 Superbowl is in East Rutherford, N.J. Yes, N.J., not New York. Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
This is relevant to the NFC West everyone expects one team from this division to represent the NFC in that game. I know New Jersey well. It's always where I stay when covering a Jets or Giants game. People ask about the trip to New York, but I've been covering the NFL since 1998 and have almost never turned a Jets or Giants trip into a New York trip.
M. Crabtree (San Fran)
Even though I missed the first few games last year, I still had a good impact. Do I make the Pro Bowl this year? And why is Dez getting more hype than I did coming out of college?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Making the Pro Bowl will be tough with Larry Fitzgerald also in the NFC. The spots are limited. Michael Crabtree can definitely have a Pro Bowl-caliber season with 80-plus catches and more big plays than last year. I'm just not sure whether that will translate to Pro Bowl honors right away.
I was once one of the biggest Frank Gore supporters. That being said, I despise him now Gore wants the big-man-on-campus role, but I think he fails to realize all elite teams are running with the two back system. When he fumbles that crucial game away late in the year or possibly the playoffs will 49er management get the hint?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
You despise him? Totally unjustified. All NFL running backs want the ball. Leon Washington is one of the few backs I've heard who doesn't crave becoming an every-down back. He knows and relishes his role as a change-of-pace guy. Gore, on the other hand, is a workhorse back. I do think it's important to limit runners' carries within reason, but if you check the NFC West blog, you'll see an item showing Gore's carries declining each season over the last four.
Mike Murphy (Wood River,IL)
Hey Mike do you see the Rams getting any WR help or do you think they will go with the staff they have. And also do you think Chris Ogbonnaya is the true back up. I kind of think he could be a starter.
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
No, I don't see the Rams making a significant move at wide receiver. They like their receivers. Health is the bigger issue. Laurent Robinson looked good last season until he got hurt. Donnie Avery looks good when healthy and he has bulked up this offseason, trying to get sturdier. Brandon Gibson showed some good things last season despite having to hit the ground running in a weak offense. They drafted Mardy Gilyard, who could help from the slot. I can see why the Rams have talked themselves into thinking their receivers are good enough. They might be right as long as these guys are healthier and develop. At running back, Chris Ogbonnaya did impress me in the game at Arizona last season. I wrote about that performance lately and noted how Ogbonnaya seemed to perform well across situations and personnel groups. Perhaps he has what it takes to be a good backup. Steven Jackson needs to be on the field most of the time, of course.
Christopher McMahan (Lake Elsinore, California)
What do the Seahawks and Cardinals have to do in order to challenge the 49ers in the NFC West?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
The phrasing of the question makes it sound as though the 49ers are a sure bet. There are no sure bets in the division this season. Arizona and Seattle need to stabilize the quarterback position, plain and simple. I do think Seattle can improve with a healthier Matt Hasselbeck.
Being a Cardinal fan and wanting the team to continue to have success in the playoffs, I wanted them to add Donovan McNabb this offseason. Seeing how all the offseason hype is on San Francisco to win the division, I believe Alex Smith has more pressure than Matt Leinart this upcoming year. The decision of the owner in SF not to add McNabb may be a bigger mistake than Arizona not signing him. This division is going to be decided on by the QBs of the two teams. Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
The Cardinals and 49ers both were arguably paralyzed by the untapped potential of the quarterbacks they drafted in first rounds. I've used the poker term "pot-committed" to describe how the teams have behaved this offseason in terms of addressing that position. If you bring in a McNabb, you put your other guys on the bench and essentially end their careers with their current teams. Smith's deal expires after the 2010 season. Leinart's deal balloons in value after this season, to the point that the Cardinals will have to know he's their starter to justify keeping him at that price.
Armen Dacity (Winter Park, FL)
When you provided us with your list of 2010 NFC West breakout players, you stated that you don't see Chris Long as a candidate. Allow me to convince you. Not only did Long have 5 sacks in his final 9 games, he also will be moving to the LDE spot, where he will face RTs instead of LTs. Trust me... you should get on Howie's son's bandwaggon now while there's still room.
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
I never said that at all. I merely said Long probably would not be the player of the year in the NFC West this season. On Long, I've repeatedly mentioned how he came on strong last season. Check out blog entries here and here.
Adam (St. Louis)
Thanks for taking my question, Mike. With the Seahawks having so many RBs on their roster and with my Rams having a glaring need at a backup, do you think the Seahawks would trade one of their runners as opposed to letting a division rival strengthen our depth?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
You're welcome, Adam. The phrasing of your question confused me a little bit. Sorry if I made it worse when I edited it. I do think I get the basic idea here. The Seahawks probably need to see more from their running backs before parting with one of them. They don't know if Leon Washington will make a full recovery from a broken leg. They do not know whether LenDale White will stay in shape and run effectively. So, unless they were convinced Julius Jones or Justin Forsett did not fit, I don't see them making a move anytime soon. Perhaps trading a back would make more sense once we get into training camp and have a better feel for the players.
Hey Mike, love your blog and I was hoping you could help me out really quick. I was reading a story about the Rams options at TE and they failed to mention Derek Fine who I thought had come over from Buffalo this offseason. Is he still with the Rams and if so, why is he not in the conversation of TE's? He has a big frame with great hands and a decent blocker, but his potential is high. Thanks for taking the time to help clarify this for me, I appreciate it.
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
No problem, Ryan. The Rams waived Fine. They've got Daniel Fells, Billy Bajema, Eric Butler, Darcy Johnson, Mike Hoomanawanui and Fendi Onobun. They released Fine and Joe Klopfenstein. Randy McMichael is an unrestricted free agent.
Alex "The Truth" Smith (San Fran)
What are some statistical milestones that, if i hit, my season will be considered a success? Or is my faith tied to my team going to the playoffs? Also, do you think Ginn will be able to hold on to ANY passes this year?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Yards per attempt can be a good statistical marker. Anything above 7 yards is pretty good. Anything around 8 yards is excellent. I think having 22-plus touchdowns with fewer than 15 interceptions would look pretty good on Alex Smith's resume. Those are general parameters, not magic numbers. And then winning games validates a lot of things. On Ted Ginn Jr., I expect more in the return game than on offense.
Mike G. (Seattle,WA)
With out a pass rush, I'm afraid Seattle will be lucky to finish 8-8 this year. Without Pressure on the opposing QB, the Seahawk secondary has been regularly exposed. Will the addition of Chris Clemons, along with Aaron Curry and the new "Leo" system be effective? And, can Coach Carroll breath some life back into Lawrence Jackson?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
The pass-rush in Seattle is indeed a concern and the new defensive system can do only so much. I don't expect magic results with Lawrence Jackson, either.
Rick Hernandez (Pasadena, CA)
What's the best case scenario for the 2010 Rams?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Sam Bradford takes control of the offense and the Rams avoid some of the injuries that killed their chances last season. Realistically, I think it's a successful season if the Rams get to 5-11.
Ike Brando (Lakewood, WA)
Seahawks fan at heart, love your work Mike! Hey how delusional is Mike Singletary thinking the running game is all that matters? I read NFP's article today saying that the 49ers just want to pound the ball and have ignored the pass. Does this give the Seahawks an opening into the division?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
I don't think anyone is saying Singletary only wants to run the ball. We do know Singletary would like to field a physical team that runs the ball on its own terms. Pete Carroll, Steve Spagnuolo and Ken Whisenhunt want the same. On a side note, I do like the various monikers you used in trying to get this question through. Entertaining. I'm sure Ike Brando really does like my work, as does Mike Odnas. It's almost as entertaining as the sensitivity some 49ers fans show when someone dares to suggest Singletary only wants to run the ball (presumably based on the fact that the 49ers tried that philosophy early in the year).
Hey Sando, I heard yesterday that Alex Smith was in the top 5 last year for ratio of good throws to bad throws. Meaning, when a receiver was open and he threw it their way, he was more accurate than just about any QB out there. Do you have any documnetation on this? It would be interesting to see where NFC West QB's rank in this category. Thx!
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Sounds interesting, but can we really know on which plays receivers ran the right routes or ran their routes perfectly? Quarterbacks often throw to spots. In the 49ers' case, you have a team running a new offense, then making a quarterback change near midseason, all while trying to break in a new starting wide receiver on the fly.
Aaron (Elma, WA)
Lawyer Milloy isn't sounding or looking like a guy content to play the coach's role in practice and on the sideline. He's a guy who wants to start. How do you see that four-headed safety group of Milloy, Jordan Babineaux, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor shaking out to start the season?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
My hunch says Milloy and Thomas open the season as starters in the base defense. That would give them a tough, hard-hitting leader on the back end, easing the transition for the dynamic coverage safety. That is just my feel. In watching Seattle last season, Milloy seemed responsible for a disproportionate percentage of the team's big hits.
Soulfish (Seattle, WA)
Hey Mike, do you think there's still a chance that the Hawks trade Deion Branch before the season? It seems like we have plenty of guys, and he's been Mr. Glass since his arrival.
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
A chance? Sure. But I've also thought they might need him. Much is made of Branch's durability problems, and rightly so. But he did play 14 games last season.
Eddy (New York)
The Jets are my favorite team, but ever since Jake the Snake and David Boston I have quietly rooted for the Cardinals. I'm confident in the receiving corps' ability step up with Early Doucet and Steve Breaston becoming Nos. 2 and 3 instead of 3 and 4. I know the tight ends don't play much of a role in the offense, BUT what do you think about signing an L.J. Smith or Randy McMichael to give them a possible receiving threat? I understand both are beyond their prime and never were elite, but they would be better than Ben Patrick and could help Leinart if he needs a safety valve.
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
I watched every snap of every NFC West game last season and would take Ben Patrick over Randy McMichael any day at this stage. McMichael dropped lots of passes last season. Meanwhile, Patrick's return from suspension allowed the Cardinals to use more double-tight sets, helping them diversify the offense. See more here and here.
LenDale White recently said he weighed 260 when he had 1,000 yards rushing and now is around 215 feeling the best he's ever felt, and Pete Carroll is making him put on 15 pounds of muscle. This looks and sound like the making of a Beast. Do we have the type of RB tandem they had in Tennessee when he had that great year, just with a better fresher White this time?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
White was probably a better acquisition than I initially thought. I'd forgotten how productive he had been at one point. My impression from afar was that he had done less. White said he was 219 earlier this week, and he wants to get to 228. I'll reserve "beast" status for true beasts in the mold of Adrian Wilson, Steven Jackson and Vernon Davis, but Seattle could have an improved version of the back that put up decent numbers at one time. I can't speak to what kind of "tandem" the Seahawks will have at the position, though. Too early.
Derrick (Tacoma, WA)
Hey Mike, what's the future look like for Kam Chancellor? Starter, future starter, or let's just see what he can do?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Let's see what he can do. He looks almost like a throwback safety. You don't see many huge strong safeties any longer, but Chancellor looks the part.
Armando (Oxnard, CA)
Mike, love your blog, look at it once a day. Anyway, as a 49er fan, and looking at the schedule for the upcoming 2010 season, can I say that the 49ers going 11-5, winning the NFC West, and making a playoff run, is a must for this team, this season?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Thanks, Armando. I would say progress is a must. Posting a winning record is a must. Getting to 11-5 would be outstanding.
Kurt Warner (Scottsdale, AZ)
I know my family thinks so, but am I first ballot HOFer?And although I think Matt will be fine, could the Cards try to lean on the running game TOO hard?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
The first-ballot stuff is tough to predict. Walter Jones will be eligible at the same time, as will some other excellent players. I think Warner will get into the Hall of Fame sooner rather than later, but I'm reluctant to predict first-ballot chances. Should be a fun discussion.
Nathan (Coralville, IA)
Do you see the 49ers starting their O-line rookies right away, and if so, do you think that their offense takes a few games to come together because of it?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Yes, I think the 49ers will start those guys right away. It could take their offense a few games to come together anyway. Might as well have those guys on the field getting better.
Last year, the Seahawks' offensive line was terrible. Do you think the team has done enough to shore up this critical unit?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Early in the season, Seattle's offensive line weathered injuries better than in the past, I thought. The wheels came off when Seattle was forced to play its fourth-string left tackle. That was too much to ask. They went from thinking Walter Jones had a good chance at starting to hoping Kyle Williams could get the job done. They'll be better up front this season as long as they aren't forced to reach so deep into their depth.
Chris Peterson (Seahawks Nation)
My three main concerns last season for Seattle was a week offensive line, anemic pass rush and the fact that we seem to always be a step to slow in the secondary. I know I'm supposed to be optimistic heading into every season but what can I realistically hope for from the additions of rookies Earl Thomas and Russell Okung win-wise? What do you see as best case and worst case for these three problem areas this season for Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
We could build a blog entry around this one. They plan to be more aggressive in the secondary this season. They could get beat playing this style, but they got beat anyway last season. Might as well get after it a little, right? We'll see how aggressive they play back there if and when the pass-rush fails to materialize. You should expect improved play on the offensive line and in the secondary (Marcus Trufant's improved health should help). I'm skeptical about the pass-rush prospects and think that will again be a weakness. Seattle should have a shot at challenging for a .500 record this season.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. Here's hoping you enjoy a wonderful holiday weekend filled with repeatedly refreshing the NFC West blog on ESPN.com.