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 (1:01 PM)
Welcome to the NFC West chat. Here we go ...
Shaj (El Dorado Hills, CA)
what do you think about former Cardinals Scout Dave Razzano's recent scathing comments about Alex Smith: "I think he's exactly what I thought he'd be -- maybe a little worse. I thought he'd be a decent backup. But I watch him now, he just doesn't have the winning mentality. He misses simple 7-yard outs. He's just not accurate and he doesn't have the moxie."
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
The evidence isn't really on Alex Smith's side at this point in his career. A lot of people thought he was a reach at No. 1. The 49ers probably knew he wasn't the ideal No. 1 overall choice. They went with him anyway because they knew the value of the quarterback position. The issue right now isn't whether Smith has lived up to expectations or whether the 49ers should have drafted him in 2005. The issue is whether Smith should be the starting quarterback heading into the 2010 season. I think the answer is pretty easy right now. Yes, he should be the starter.
Mr. W (Dallas)
Will the Cards tweak their offense to play toward Lienart's strengths, more "Lienart Friendly?" What might those chages be?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Yes. They will downplay the changes. Coach Ken Whisenhunt will probably talk about how they have the same offense, the same plays, etc. But we should expect more quarterback movement, more play-action passes and probably more emphasis on the running game in certain situations. Matt Leinart is different from Kurt Warner.
Yezner (San Francisco)
Sando, if you could upgrade one position for the 49ers, which one would it be and why?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Quarterback, because it's the most important position. That would be my answer for every team in the NFC West and most teams in the NFL.
Mitch (Austin, TX)
Sando, long time follower of the blog. Keep up the good work. My question has to do with Mike Williams of the Seahawks. Everyone keeps talking about how Seattle needs a true #1 receiver but every player they have pursued seems to come at a high price tag and/or extra baggage. i.e. (Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, and T.O.) My question is why is no one talking about Mike Williams? I know he may not be the true burner that some other guys are but he's a huge target and a good red zone threat. If nothing else, he comes at a cheap price tag without having to give up any draft picks in exchange. Do you think the Carroll/Schneider regime has taken this into consideration and may be content with having him line up opposite Housh?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Mike Williams still has lots to prove. He has exceeded very low expectations to this point. He has been in shape, a huge difference. It's just tough to trust a guy who has shown a penchant for disappointing NFL teams over the years. You still have to wonder if Williams will be someone the team can rely upon when it matters, or for the long term. I would put him into a bonus category. If he does the things you think he might be able to do, it's a huge bonus. But it's never something the team can take for granted. Pete Carroll and John Schneider appear cautiously optimistic.
Nathan (Coralville, IA)
Everyone seems convinced the 49ers win the division this season. Are you? I think that if Matt Leinart has a decent season, nothing spectacular, the Cards can't be overlooked. Dan Williams falling to them is like a gift from above.
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
"Convinced" is far too strong a word. I think the 49ers should be favored to win the division this season. Like you, I think it's premature to write off the Cardinals. Getting Dan Williams did seem like a great thing for the Cardinals, but a rookie nose tackle isn't going to significantly affect the balance of power within a division.
Do you think the Rams O-line is better this year than last? We've parted ways with the Hot-head Incognito (who was anything but) and Alex "1st and 15" Barron. But now we're relying on Jason Smith (2nd year) and Rodger Saffold (1st year) on the edges. As the O-line goes, so go Bradford and S-Jax. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
The offensive line should be upgraded from the second half of last season, when injuries decimated the line. The line should be upgraded for the long term. In the short term, though, there could be some growing pains. Jason Smith will be on the left side for the first time as a pro (he should have been there last season, I thought, but that is another conversation). Jacob Bell has to prove he can stay healthy enough to play at a starting level consistently. Saffold will have some rookie struggles. I see why the Rams parted with Alex Barron, but subtracting him from the roster hurts depth in the short term.
Ken (Redondo Bch)
Hi Mike I have really enjoyed reading your team break downs and posts this year. I know that every team in the West has improved this year due to the draft and free agency, however I hope the Rams would be a lot better this year. Because of the draft and due to so many of the starters that were injured will be coming back from those injuries. Are they really that weak? I am hoping for them to step up a lot more this year, am I asking too much.
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Thanks for the support. I thought the Rams would be better last season. They were improving as they approached the second half of the season. Injuries crushed them from that point forward. It'll be tough breaking in a rookie quarterback. It's not like they have a proven veteran starter to win a few games when needed, either. It's somewhat ironic that the Rams' decision to upgrade the quarterback position for the long term probably lowered the ceiling at the position for this season (my reasoning being that Marc Bulger, at his best, would probably be better than A.J. Feeley at his best or a rookie quarterback). We should see some signs of progress this season, but I'm not convinced the Rams will realize those gains in the standings to the degree you might like.
Rick (Pasadena, CA)
Hey Mike, what's the quickest the Rams ownership situation can get settled?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Next month, I think.
MikeH (Pasco, WA)
Do you see the Seahawks as more competitive this season? If the record were the same but they weren't rolling over dead when down by 10 points, I'd say they've made progress. I hope they were the nuclear cabbage uniforms sometime this year...
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Yeah, I think you should look to see if this team shows more poise overall. There were some really discouraging moments for Seattle fans last season. The game at Houston was ridiculous. The home game against Tampa Bay was soul-crushing. Let's see if the 2010 team does a better job maintaining its dignity. That seems like a reasonable expectation. And if a team can do that, a team has a chance to win a couple more games, too.
J. Findlay (Banff, AB)
Any word on why the Seahawks really cut Lendale White? Thanks. love your blog.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Yeah, they thought he was flaking out, not committed, coasting through.
It seems the Cards success in 2010 will have as much to do with replacing their defensive stars as the play of Leinart. Cards were #11 in total defense last season. If they drop ten spots, they would have trouble being better than a .500 team. Is the Cards' defense good enough to challenge for the division?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
The departures of Kurt Warner and to a lesser extent Anquan Boldin will put additional pressure on the defense. Throw in the personnel losses on defense and your question is a fair one.
David (Temecula, Ca.)
Hey Sando! I would like to know what you think about Cardinal fans saying Beanie Wells is going to run all over the West this year. I think he has a lot to prove considering every defense he ran against had a base nickel package and even a lot of six defensive backs. It should be a whole different story for him to run against three or four linebackers. thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
Beanie Wells ran effectively from one-back sets with two wide receivers and two tight ends. He wasn't as big a factor on obvious passing downs, so I might contest the idea that he was getting cheap yardage against nickel and dime defenses. At the same time, there's no question Kurt Warner's presence affected how teams played defense against Arizona even when the Cardinals were favoring heavier personnel and tighter formations. Wells' job could become tougher. But I think he showed surprising toughness in his running style last season. He should have a good career and a good season.
Paul (Spokane, WA)
If Hasselbeck stays upright, I think he's still the best QB in the NFC West. But do you think a resurgence this season hurts the Seahawks in terms of finding out what they have in Whitehurst or Losman? Or do you think the plan all along was for Hasselbeck to play 2-3 more years and draft a QB to groom?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Getting good play from Matt Hasselbeck can only be a good thing for the Seahawks. If Charlie Whitehurst or J.P. Losman were superstar-type talents, they would be starting already. Hasselbeck at his best is probably better than those guys at their best, so it's good for Seattle if Hasselbeck stays healthy and plays close to his potential.
Which rookie will have the biggest impact in the NFC West in 2010?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Sam Bradford, by the nature of his position and by what his arrival has meant for the Rams in terms of remaking their roster at the position. That doesn't necessarily mean Bradford will have the best season of any NFC West rookies. But his impact will be significant even when he does not play.
Thoughts on Steven Jackson this year and going forward?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Steven Jackson will continue to give his all. He will remain productive. I just think his running style and advancing age will continue to affect his durability. I question whether he can hold up for a full season. He has had a hard time doing that to this point in his career. That will only become more difficult as he adds injuries and age.
Should the Rams take a flyer on TO?? He would help Avery on the other side. They could become buddies and play come with.
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Terrell Owens is a potentially disruptive personality and that makes him a high-risk player for an organization trying to build around the team concept. Steve Spagnuolo seemed to have a pretty good handle on the team last season. He preached team, team, team. Adding Owens might jeopardize those efforts. Also, it's fair to wonder whether Owens still offers enough talent and production to offset the risks.
chris (salt lake utah)
If you where a betting man, do you think Vernon Davis and Dashon Goldson will both be Niners next season? If not, who will and who will not?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Vernon Davis stays. Dashon Goldson, I'm less sure about. Davis is too good a player for the 49ers to let get away. Goldson isn't as good and that makes it tougher to pay him if Goldson's contract demands appear too high.
J. Findlay (Banff, AB)
Any chance of Seattle going after an experienced pass rusher? Are there even any marquee players at DE available? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
This team has brought in Reggie Williams, LenDale White, Mike Williams, etc. If the Seahawks saw a potential difference-making pass-rusher out there, they would have brought him in by now. That is a premium position.
Does Alex Boone make the 49ers? No way they can sneak him onto the practice squad this year is there?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
They might be able to get him onto their practice squad. Backup offensive lineman should either be good enough to play multiple positions at a decent level or good enough to start at a single position. Boone probably isn't going to be one of the seven linemen active on game days. But if they keep nine offensive linemen this year (a typical number), Boone could conceivably be the eighth or ninth guy and inactive on game days.
Hey Mike, Have you heard any more on any rookie signings for the 49ers, more specifically Mays, Bowman, Iupati, Davis
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
Nope, and I've learned it's a waste of time to follow rookie signings closely until the days before training camp. The vast majority of these guys sign on time for camp. They sign predictable contracts. There really is no drama until training camps are upon us and the first-round picks aren't yet signed. Teams can easily sign six or eight guys today or tomorrow or next week or whenever they want to get it done.
Will you join my fantasy football league?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
We host a fantasy league on the blog, so if you join, we can definitely play.
Mackay (PG, UT)
Do you think that Dockett understands that the Cardinals cannot redo his contract this year and get him the money he wants? He has been awfully quiet. Also do you think he will sign an extension when the time comes?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Dockett knows there's little advantage to causing a fuss. I think Dockett wants to be loved. He takes pride in playing at a high level. At the same time, the Cardinals will have a hard time signing him if they wait too long. They need to make a move at some point here or they'll risk Dockett making up his mind to sign elsewhere. The team could still name him its franchise player, but if Dockett keeps going to Pro Bowls, the team should just pay him.
Tom (Santa Cruz )
Seattle's defense or 49er's offense?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
49ers all the way.
Mr. W (Dallas)
How do you feel about the 49ers receivers minus Michael Crabtree? What have you seen, and who do you like?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
I've seen all those guys at one point or another. Josh Morgan seems like a good complimentary receiver. Morgan is also a ferocious blocker. That has stood out to me.
What do you make of the hiring by the Seahawks of the ex-49ers GM?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Good move for Seattle. Scot McCloughan adds to the personnel department in Seattle, but he does so at his own pace. He doesn't have to be front and center. He can focus on what he knows, which is personnel. McCloughan also knows the NFC West and the 49ers in particular. His familiarity should help the Seahawks' new leadership.
Jake (San Jose)
Hey Sando, very glad you are back. Hope you had a nice vacation. I see quite a few parallels between Dennis Erickson and Pete Carroll. They both won two national championships, highly successful college programs, and NCAA rules violations during their tenure. Do you think Carroll will be more successful with the Seahawks than Erickson was with the 49ers and Seahawks and why?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks for the welcome back. My vacation was lots of fun. We hit Vegas, Disneyland and Legoland (our boys are 8 and 5). On the football front, Pete Carroll should be more successful than Dennis Erickson for a couple reasons. One, Carroll has been in the NFL for many years and that experience should help him. Two, Carroll has a better ownership situation than Erickson enjoyed for most of his tenure. The Seahawks were a franchise in turmoil during Erickson's first three seasons. The Seahawks have had some turmoil recently, but they have a new stadium and an owner with lots of resources.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week! Remember, the conversations continue every day on the blog and on Facebook (search for me there if you haven't added me as a friend). Take care.