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!
Jake McGrath (Scottsdale, AZ)
What's more likely to happen with Matt Leinart, him being traded or cut?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
A release would be more likely. Sure, Leinart's salary for 2010 is manageable and another team might part with a relatively low draft choice. It does just take one team to make a deal. But there are also questions about Leinart's mindset right now, and another team might be able to sign him for cheaper. I think the Cardinals would have been more apt to keep Leinart if he had not publicly questioned Ken Whisenhunt's motives. It might be time to move on at this point.
Michael (Los Angeles)
Did the Cards [bench] Leinart because Warner spoiled them? That seemed to be what Warner implied in his audio interview you posted earlier.
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
I changed the word "dump" to [bench] just so we did not imply a release, which has not happened to this point. I think Leinart had a hard time shaking the identity he had established as Warner's caddy. The Cardinals have some strong veteran personalities in that locker room and it was going to be tough for Leinart to suddenly command their respect without playing great. And he is not a great player.
Josh Wilson gone... Darelle Revis in?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Keep dreaming. That would be an amazing move if the Seahawks could pull it off. But not realistic.
Alex Boone (S.F.)
Does it look like I'm going to make the cut and who will be a suprise cut if I do?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
I wonder if there's a place for Tony Wragge given the improved depth at guard. Boone could stick. I think he has earned strong consideration. But the team doesn't have a huge need for him, either, in part because Boone is strictly a tackle. Versatility helps backups earn roster spots. The 49ers should be set at tackle for years to come.
Michael (St. Louis)
Mike, I don't know if this is a fair question to ask but what are the reasonable expectations for Sam Bradford this year?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Pay close attention to his completion percentage. Rookie quarterbacks sometimes have really low completion percentages. I think it's reasonable to expect an accurate passer such as Bradford to complete at least 60 percent of his passes. I think it's realistic to expect as many touchdown passes as interceptions. He needs to limit mistakes. I have pretty high expectations for him based on what we've seen to this point, not just in the New England game but in practices. He should definitely be able to avoid having one of those horrendous rookie seasons (like the one Alex Smith suffered through in 2005, when he had one TD pass and 11 interceptions).
Wouldn't you think AZ would have known what they had in Leinhart by now and not had to go through the drama they are going through? Seems like the coaching staff has dropped the ball big time on this one.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
That is a fair criticism. There was some thought that Leinart would be a different guy once he became the undisputed starter. That was the book on him at USC and that was Pete Carroll's read on him several years ago. At the same time, Ken Whisenhunt's nature doesn't really let him commit fully to a player who has not earned the commitment. That would have been a tough sell in the locker room, anyway, because all the veterans in Arizona know the deal with Leinart. They know he's an unproven player no matter what Whisenhunt says about him. Beyond that, the manner in which Leinart has responded to his demotion was revealing and very damaging to his standing with the team. In retrospect, the Cardinals did not handle the QB situation as well as they could have handled it, although I fully understood why they wanted to give Leinart a chance.
It seems clear to me that Wilson was traded because he wasn't expected to be a Seahawk in 2011 and that a 1-year rental isn't worth more than 4th. Do you think Wilson was on the outs because he was too short or was going to be too expensive (for a nickel CB)?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Josh Wilson became expendable in the Seahawks' view beacuse the team was taking a long-range view. The Seahawks liked their young depth at cornerback and they did not envision paying Wilson for the long term, in part because Wilson doesn't fit the physical profile for John Schneider and Pete Carroll corners. I think it was a move that made them worse in the short term and a move that probably will not make them better for the long term (unless they hit on a player in the fourth or fifth round of the 2010 draft). The Seahawks' decision to select Walter Thurmond in the fourth round this year is paying off beyond reasonable expectations. Seattle will be fortunate to find a similar talent with whatever pick the team gets from Baltimore as part of the deal for Wilson.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Hey Mike, faithful blog follower here, even if I don't always engage. Are the top three wide receivers for the Rams now Laurent Robinson, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, or is there someone else likely to move in there? Also, health permitting, can these three do enough to keep defenses honest (with Sam Bradford playing at least average) to keep Steven Jackson from facing eight- and nine-man fronts this season? Or will it be more of the same?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Thanks, Jerry. Always appreciate your contributions. Mardy Gilyard is one guy I see as potentially getting into that mix. He might be just brash enough to command some playing time, perhaps at flanker or from the slot (where Amendola is ideally suited). Gibson's profile does rise following Donnie Avery's injury. Defenses are still going to focus on Steven Jackson, but Jackson can still get yards under those circumstances. He certainly did last season until his body wore down. I've got relatively high expectations for Bradford at this point and think Rams fans should be cautiously optimistic about the offense's ability to improve this season. The line lacks depth beyond the starters and that is a big concern. Another injury at receiver would really hurt. The Rams are fragile from a depth standpoint. But when looking at their projected starters on offense, they should be able to function better than they did last season -- particularly late last season.
Michael (Los Angeles)
If the Cards implode after losing Kurt Warner is this an indication that the coach and GM are not as good as advertised? If you look over the last few years, they haven't played all that well. Kurt just caught fire in the playoffs!
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
That depends in part on how well they've been advertised. But if they do implode, yes, that would knock down Whisenhunt (and to a lesser degree Graves) in terms of how people view them. The Cardinals have not always been consistent, but they have risen to challenges. Agreed that they will drop off without Warner and there are questions about how well Arizona will be able to remain atop the NFC West. Whisenhunt in particular has improved how the Cardinals operate. That doesn't guarantee on-field results. It still takes players. The Cardinals still have some good players, though.
Sal P (NJ)
Derek Anderson might be the steal of all fantasy football drafts
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
I'm curious to see what two receivers -- Mike Williams in Seattle and Danny Amendola in St. Louis -- do this season.
Is the NFC West relavent?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
No, but it is relevant.
Hi Mike. I believe this is my fifth question and still nothing posted, so again don't you think the Niners are one franchise QB away from contending for the Super Bowl? Cuz clearly Nate Davis has all the tools you want in a QB instead of Alex Smith and David Carr, who aren't the answers.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
I'll usually answer on the sixth ring, but let's waive that requirement here. You're on the air, Rob. Thanks for calling. On Nate Davis, yes, he has physical tools. But it's a horrible sign when the head coach questions any player's offseason work ethic. It's worse when that player is a quarterback. It's worse when that quarterback already has a learning disability that could, in theory, require even more work than a typical quarterback puts in. Singletary's public rebuke of Vernon Davis worked out well, but Davis always worked hard. If Davis doesn't have that work ethic, or if he simply isn't mature enough yet to know what it takes, then he doesn't have all the tools.
Cliff (Seattle, WA)
What percent chance do you think the hawks trade T.J. Houshmandzadeh?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
That seems like a tough sell with Houshmandzadeh having a $7 million guaranteed salary for 2010. Not many teams would want to assume that, would they? I have sensed something could happen with Houshmandzadeh as the Seahawks go young. That guaranteed salary just seems to make it tough. Plus, this team can use productive players.
Bobby Valentino (North Carolina)
I think the loss of Anquan Boldin has been extremely under-emphasized by analysts in regards to the Cardinals' chances this season. Let's assume the Derek Anderson/Matt Leinart experiment doesn't turn into a horrible train-wreck, as it seems like it is destined to. Do you think Steve Breaston/Early Doucet can fill the void of Boldin left?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Analysts might be blinded by the Cardinals' success without Boldin over the last couple seasons. The team has had a much higher winning percentage without him. Could be coincidence. I do think the Cardinals will miss the talent Boldin brought to the offense, but they will not miss the overhead associated with this particular asset. It was just time to move Boldin because the Cardinals weren't ever going to make him happy contract-wise. It was easier for Boldin to take less than Larry Fitzgerald in Baltimore. Would have been harder for him to take less than Fitzgerald in Arizona. And I think the Cardinals realized Boldin had some hard miles on his body. Breaston and Doucet can be good enough in a balanced offense, I think.
Would Nate Davis be picked up by another team if he gets cut by the Niners, or would he get placed on the practice squad?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Davis could be picked up by another team in a No. 3 capacity. He would not be considered in a No. 2 role, in my view. If the 49ers could not trust him in a No. 2 role after two offseasons in the offense, how could another team trust him? And if Davis is a No. 3 somewhere else, chances are better that he would one day become available again.
It seems like the Rams can't/won't trade for Vincent Jackson. So, is there another receiver that the Rams can trade for?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
They already traded for Laurent Robinson and Brandon Gibson.
Patrick Willis (Candlestick)
Am I the best player in the division?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Yeah, I don't have a problem putting Patrick Willis at the top right now. Larry Fitzgerald is banged up and saw his yards per reception plummet last season.
Mike, the more I watch the rest of the West, the more I realize that it would be a complete disaster if the Niners don't win it. Do you think we could have a new HC/OC/QB/etc next year if they can't get it done?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
Yeah, that type of change could be in play. Some of those things depend as much on the how as on the what. Did injuries play a role? Did another team in the division wind up being far better than anticipated? Did the record improve? I mean, if the 49ers went 9-7 and lost the division to another 9-7 team, why blow up everything? But if they went 6-10 and had issues, yeah, time to reassess.
Alex (Davis, CA)
Has Alan Faneca really been so impressive that he is considered an upgrade over Reggie Wells? I know he has a great reputation and has been a great performer in the past, but I refuse to believe the Jets just decided they didn't want a top level player anymore and paid him to go away.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
The Cardinals' decision to put Reggie Wells on the trading block reflects more than their belief in Faneca. It reflects Deuce Lutui's return and the addition of Rex Hadnot. It also reflects Wells' salary relative to his recent production.
Any thoughts on why Mike Williams seems to be rejuvenated this year?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
A combination of unusual factors. Williams had hit rock bottom career-wise. Pete Carroll was still at USC when Williams approached him and asked for some guidance. Carroll was pretty direct in his message to Williams. Williams got serious, got into shape and then found the perfect landing spot when Carroll took the job with the Seahawks. Carroll signed him but made no promises. There would be no free pass just because Williams played at USC. Williams had to produce on the practice field. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates reiterated that message when Williams took a couple days off during camp. Williams finished camp strong and looks like he could be the best receiver on the team. Williams still has to prove he can do it during the regular season and persevere through the problems that invariably arise in the NFL (injuries, personnel changes, etc). So far, though, so good.
Enough with the Anderson/Leinart stuff. How do you feel the Wells/Hightower backfield will shake out?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Good question. I think Beanie Wells will be OK once he gets into real games. We'll see how much the Rams' run defense has improved. I could see Wells making a statement in that game. Ken Whisenhunt will give carries to both. We'll see the balance shift toward the more productive guy, and the one that avoids fumbles.
Steve (San Diego)
Mike, do you find it interesting to compare the careers of Alex Smith and Matt Leinart? I mean the Niners make all the excuses in the world for Smith, and fans seem to sympathize, while Leinart gets the starting gig for a week of preseason before getting thrown out of town and everyone seems to think it's about time. Is it the nice quiet Utah guy vs hotshot USC guy or what?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
That's a good observation. Smith's approach to the job is working in his favor. The only time he questioned the head coach's motives was when the head coach at the time, Mike Nolan, threw him under the bus, so to speak.
I think the Cards were 10-6 last year not 9-7
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Charlie Whitehurst was a bad bad move Pete. What was going through your head? Sando have you ever seen a third string QB traded for a pick in the first few rounds?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
I do not recall seeing a third-stringer traded for a pick in the first three rounds. Usually it's a second-stringer. My thought was that the price Seattle paid was substantially less than what the team paid for Matt Hasselbeck, but it was still a little odd given Whitehurst's status.
Tommy Boy (Ohio)
I think you made some strong points in your debate about the Raiders' ability to win the NFC West if they were in the division. As a spinoff, how would you feel about the 49ers chances in the AFC West? I think this is a good question to end on.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
I'll take the team with the best quarterback: San Diego with Phillip Rivers. Let's see how much Alex Smith can improve and to what extend he can raise the level of those around him, as opposed to those around him making it tough for Smith to fail.
Is Seattle going to become USC's sister team? It seems like half the roster went there.
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Seattle has five players from USC and one of them, Lofa Tatupu, was there before Pete Carroll arrived as head coach. The team parted with Lawrence Jackson, a former USC player Carroll inherited from the previous staff. LenDale White got a chance, but Carroll cut him quickly. The other USC guys: Mike Williams, Jeff Byers, Anthony McCoy and Kevin Ellison.
Will Anderson be the starter, meaning I should pick him up and drop Matt?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Matt Leinart is on your fantasy team? That surprises me. Yes, I would lean toward Derek Anderson at this point. Please do join the Gridiron Challenge league if you get a chance.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat today. My pleasure, as always.