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!
Gabe (Bay Area)
With the state of the 49ers in flux after this horrendous start and losses to Philly and Oakland VERY PLAUSIBLE, do you see the 49ers canning Singletary? And if they do, who do you see taking over the reins on an interim basis?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
I would not see the 49ers making that move unless Mike Singletary were to have gone so far overboard as to have made the move inevitable. There isn't an obvious candidate on staff. Then again, Singletary wasn't an obvious candidate, either. He was hired to bring more intensity.
How will Marshawn Lynch perform for remainder of year? I need a backup running back. Thanks!
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Lynch will get every opportunity to carry the bulk of the rushing attack in Seattle, so I see him as a good investment that way. Of course, my fantasy team is tanking this year, so what do I know? Seriously, though, Lynch should have some upside as long as you are not counting on him.
Dom (Bay Area)
Hey Sando, love the stats and blog. I was wondering if you have a breakdown on Alex Smith's passes so far this season. Number of passes short, middle and deep and the completion percentage as well. I am going to start keeping track myself this next game until the end of the season. Thanks again.
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
ESPN Stats & Information tracks that every week, and I have the numbers. Alex Smith has completed 80 of 115 passes for 681 yards, two touchdowns, six interceptions and a 68.8 rating on passes traveling 10 or fewer yards downfield. He has completed 12 of 25 passes for 198 yards, one touchdowns, no interceptions and an 88.4 rating on passes traveling 11 to 20 yards downfield. He has completed 1 of 11 passes for 41 yards, no touchdowns and one interception and a 4.7 rating on passes traveling 21 yards or longer downfield. He did help draw an interference penalty against the Falcons on one such play, but overall, Smith and the 49ers have been ineffective throwing long.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Mike, do you agree with the Cardinals' decision to start Max Hall over Derek Anderson? Do you feel he gives the Cardinals the best chance to succeed?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
If not now, when? What have we seen from Derek Anderson to make us think the offense is suddenly going to hit stride? Ken Whisenhunt has protected Anderson to a degree this season, but he always acknowledged that Anderson needed to show improvement. The Cardinals have not seen the improvement. By making this move, they are questioning whether Anderson has the capacity to improve. This move makes sense if the Cardinals are right in thinking Hall is mentally tough enough to handle this situation.
terry (st. louis)
How does the rams o-line stack up against the lions d-line? what will be the biggest keys to the game on both sides of the ball?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
The Lions' defense ranks fourth in sacks per pass play and seventh in interception percentage, but only 30th in yards allowed per play. Ndamukong Suh looks very good and he'll test the Rams' interior offensive line. Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold has looked good most of the time this season, but the Rams' tackles had some problems in the team's only previous road game. That could be an issue again.
Chris (South Carolina)
Hello, Mike. Seems like the St. Louis Rams are finally being able to get to the QB with a four-man rush. Seems like years of investment in that area is paying off. I know everybody says we need a stud pass-rusher, but the three rookies Cudjo, Selvie, and Sims seem to get consistent pressure and hopefully that will lead to more sacks or get Chris Long in position to land home with some sacks. Do you see the Rams in the future as a team with an elite D-Line such as the Giants?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
The Rams have played three of their first four games at home against teams with issues on their offensive lines. I wouldn't say the Rams' investments in the defensive line have paid off on that front. James Hall has been there for years. Chris Long hasn't gotten to the quarterback as much as I would have expected this season. Fred Robbins has gotten some QB hits from the inside. All in all, though, the Rams do not have a pass-rusher good enough to command extra attention from an offense.
Hey Mike what are the odds that Deion Branch is out by the end of the week? I was hoping that the team would keep him till the end of the year.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
I'd say there's a decent chance. The bye week is a good time to get deals done, and Seattle is in better position to make such a move. New England also has its bye this week. The Patriots could have a fresh need at receiver after the Randy Moss trade. It's easy to connect the dots and that is all we've done to this point. Nothing concrete. But it would make some sense.
Tim Hightower caught 63 balls last year, an enormous amount for a running back. Was that directly related to the success of the Cards prior offense, and obviously Kurt Warner?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Tim Hightower plays lots on third down, a throwing down, so he will have chances. Kurt Warner got rid of the ball quickly against pressure and I suspect some of those quick-fire throws went to the backs. Derek Anderson has been more apt to stand in there and hold the ball, wait for things to develop, take sacks. That is my impression. It is not something I have studied. It is possible Hightower has been needed more in protection this season also.
Who would be a better fit for HC next yr for the Niners? Jim Harbaugh, Chucky, or Bill Cowher?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
Jon Gruden because he's an offensive-minded coach with a strong appreciation for the running game. His mentality would suit the 49ers' personnel. He has already lived in the Bay Area and he seems to stay very much in tune with rosters throughout the league. He could step in quickly and credibly, perhaps helping a talented team take the next step (as he did with the Bucs). I'm not convinced Bill Cowher would take that job or take a job on the West Coast.
Aaron Rodgers (Alternate Universe)
Greetings from the planet Htrea in the alternate universe where the 49ers picked me first instead of Alex Smith. In my universe, Alex Smith is now starting for the Buffalo Bills. And yes, the Bills are just as bad here, but the 49ers, we're undefeated, lead the league in scoring and have Mike Nolan head coaching and Mike Singletary coaching LBs. One pick sure does change a lot.
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
That is pretty good. I'm not a comic-book guy, so I had to google the word "Htrea" to know its place as a fictitious planet. You are right, though. One pick can change a lot of things. Steve Young has always said it's hugely important to land in the right organization, though. Rodgers went to a better organization. There are no guarantees he would be enjoying similar success for the 49ers given all the issues San Francisco has faced.
Mike Williams appeared to be ready to break out after training camp and the first two games, however, he doesn't seem to figure strongly in the offense. During camp his route running appeared to be a strength, his size is obviously a strength. Those two combined should mean he is getting open. Have you charted his plays, if so, is it possible to identify when he is targeted and what the results are? Based on Seattle's trouble moving the ball, he would be a natural target at the yard stick/end zone. Any ideas Sando?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Williams has made his biggest plays from conventional personnel groupings (35-yarder from 12 personnel, 22-yarder from 21 personnel). He had the 17-yarder against St. Louis on third-and-14 from a less common grouping. I don't see any clear patterns along those lines. I do not see down-and-distance patterns. Seems to me the Seahawks just need to throw his way more often. He used his size very well against the Rams on that 17-yard reception. One thing that has hurt: The Seahawks have been experimenting with various combinations at receiver. The offense is still finding its identity.
The Saints secondary is pretty banged up right now, you see Hall having any success against a blitzing Greg Williams on Sunday?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
The running game is where I see the most opportunities for any team facing the Saints. Max Hall is such an unknown. Tough to predict.
Jeffrey G (Renton WA)
When might we see Charlie Whitehurst? If the season is lost, will he get the nod?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Yes, I think the Seahawks will give him some playing time this season. The "when" part of the equation depends upon whether Matt Hasselbeck and the offense show enough improvement. I could see the team making a change relatively soon if Hasselbeck isn't playing effectively.
Hey mike, I was wondering what you think of the young recievers on the Seahawks. Golden Tate and Deon Butler have showed flashes of greatness in preseason. Do you think the Seahawks' lack of success in the passing game has to do with the timing of Matt Hasselbeck and these receivers? Because I have seen Tate and Butler make some pretty athletic and acrobatic catches, but it doesn't seem to show up on game day?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Butler has fallen off some. Tate looks like he should command more opportunities. He just has a knack for making plays. The timing has been good some of the time. There are other factors. Hasselbeck seems a little tentative sometimes and I think that has to do with trying to avoid mistakes. The Seahawks also do not have outstanding perimeter targets. Hasselbeck does not at his best making perimeter throws. The Seahawks are probably easier to defend as a result.
Mackay (PG, UT)
Do you think that the Steelers would trade Charlie Batch to the Cardinals for all of their quarterbacks?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
That is one of the most biting questions I can recall getting during a chat. I liked it, though. Sort of puts things in perspective.
Aaron Rodgers (Alternate Universe)
RE: Htrea. Dude, I just jumbled the letters in Earth. There was no intent to match up with some fantasy game. Only fantasy games that matter are fantasy footballs (the one I play, and the one played with the feet).
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
The joke is on me. I didn't even look at the ordering of the letters. But it's true that "Htrae" is known as a "Bizarro World" in the comics, according to the googling I did. Well played. Makes sense that the comics would use that spelling.
Mackay (PG, UT)
What is the problem with the Cardinals' pass rush? Have you noticed anything that stands out?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Arizona has played three of its four games on the road, so that explains some of the pass-rush issues. Arizona does not have dominant outside pass-rushers. The Cardinals aren't scoring enough points to put opposing teams in obvious passing situations. Put those factors together and I think we're well on our way to having the answer.
Hey Mike! It's role playing time. You are Cardinals QB coach Mike Miller. What in the world are you telling Max Hall to prepare him for the reigning Super Bowl Champs?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
The first thing I am saying is, "Max, you gotta stop confusing me with Mike Miller, our passing game coordinator. My name is Chris. I played in the league." The next thing I'm telling him is to relish handing off to Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. The running game should be Hall's friend. In the back of Chris Miller's mind, though, he must be thinking about how well the Saints force turnovers when they get their hands on the football. Hall is a shorter quarterback. It might be harder for him to find throwing lanes. Maybe the Cardinals should roll him out some.
Nagleliscious (Big Apple)
Is Michael Robinson officially the Seahawks FB? Any idea if they would ever use in him Wildcat mode considering he was a good college QB?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
They do not have another fullback. Robinson is going to get those reps most of the time. He is not a true fullback. They could certainly use him in the Wildcat. That was a nice pass completion he had against the Rams.
Mike Singletary (NJ)
Will you media guys just give me a break. We played 4 games so far, 3 on the road in very tough road stadiums and another against an expected playoff team. Our lone game at home was against the reigning superbowl Saints. Our schedule gets incredibly easy from here on out while the rest of the Division will have the tough opponents we just faced. Why give up on us now, this is our division with a 10-6 record!!
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
I am with you, coach. The schedule does get easier. There's no reason to write off the 49ers unless they lose their next couple games.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
Why aren't the Niners benching Alex Smith?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
They have plenty of time to make that move. Once it is made, it's tough to go back. David Carr is the backup. This is not a situation where Steve Young is waiting for his turn. If you're going to bench one guy, the next guy should be better.
Do you think that the 49ers would bring in a head coach whose philosophy matched the current personnel if it was decided to make a change? What Singletary has put together on offense doesn't remind me of the make up of recent champs (Saints, Colts, Pats, even Steelers)
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
I do not know what the 49ers would look for in a head coach. The team's stated reasons for hiring Mike Singletary did not make a great deal of sense to me.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Fast answer. 2010 NFC West Champion will be ...
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
8-8 or worse.
Brad (New York)
If the Niners season continues down this road, with Alex Smith's struggles, and they have a high draft pick, do they have to take a QB in the 2011 draft?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
If Frank Gore goes down do you anticipate Anthony Dixon getting most of the reps with Brian Westbrook being mostly a 3rd down back? Or do you see it more of a time share. It has been hard to tell with neither getting many carries.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
I would see Dixon as the main guy, but Westbrook would definitely get more carries. He would lend experience in critical situations such as third down. The dropoff from Dixon to Westbrook might not even exist, whereas the dropoff from Gore to Westbrook would be more profound. There is little reason for teams to give backup running backs playing time when the starter is so much better.
Bruce (at work)
Its been an interesting season so far..... Rams look like they are on the way up, Cardinals and 49ers on the way down and who knows what is happening with Seattle? With four games complete, who is your pick to win the NFC west?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
I will not change my preseason prediction this early in the season. The factors that made me favor the 49ers before the season have not changed. The Seahawks still have to answer questions on their offensive line. The Cardinals have quarterback concerns. The Rams are still in the formative stages. I really think the 49ers have suffered from a perfect storm here. Three of the first four on the road, with the only home game against the defending Super Bowl champs, two last-second defeats, two road games against teams that were better than expected (Seahawks, Chiefs). Now, I do question whether Mike Singletary can hold the 49ers together. An all-out implosion could be under way. The next two games will tell us plenty.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat.