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 noon ET!
Stan (St. Louis)
Going to see the Rams play the Bucs this weekend. How well can I expect Steven Jackson to run on the Tampa defense?
Mike Sando (12:03 PM)
Steven Jackson should have some good opportunities against the Bucs' defense. Tampa Bay has allowed 212, 149 and 201 yards rushing in its last three games. The Rams came out running the ball pretty well at Oakland a few weeks ago. Jackson topped 100 yards in the other road game, at Detroit, although those yards were less meaningful. The Rams feel good about Jackson's recovery from that groin injury. All signs point to the potential for a 100-yard rushing performance from Jackson.
Zach S. (Omaha)
Do you believe that if Alex Smith pulls off these next three games with wins, he has secured a starting spot all year and even next season??
Mike Sando (12:05 PM)
Yes and no. Yes, in that he would likely remain the starter for the remainder of the season, unless those three victories were followed by, say, five defeats, at which point the team might want to look at another quarterback. As for next season, I just do not see how getting to 4-5 would make the 49ers commit to him. Smith might need a winning record this season just to factor into the 49ers' plans at all beyond this season. Lots of changes could be on the horizon if the 49ers do not win the division and factor in the playoffs.
Mike B (Los Angeles, CA)
Sando, I was really impressed with the play of Seahawks LT Russell Okung in the Hawks win over the Bears. A couple of plays I focused on him, he seemed to handle Peppers just fine and I loved how he slowly pancaked Brian Urlacher on Forsett's TD run. How much help did he get with Julius Peppers, and can Okung be as good as Walter Jones was? It was sure nice not to worry about the backside rush for the first time in a while.
Mike Sando (12:09 PM)
Okung impressed me also. The Seahawks did help him at times, both with the scheme (bootlegs the other way, for example) and with a tight end. There were other times Julius Peppers wasn't lined up directly across from Okung. All in all, Okung was terrific for a rookie playing his first full game -- on the road, no less -- against elite competition. Walter Jones was in another class athletically. An offensive tackle with less than half Jones' talent could go to multiple Pro Bowls. I would resist those comparisons. They are unfair to all involved.
Derrik (Gilbert AZ)
Sando, I am worried about the Arizona outside linebackers' lack of pass rush. I think Joey Porter is only a vocal leader and is not effective and Clark Haagans is a backup. Do you think Bill Davis can scheme enough to create one? Hopefully Gerald Hayes coming back will help to stop the run in the middle. Thanks.
Mike Sando (12:13 PM)
The scheme can do only so much. The Cardinals are aggressive with their coverages and that can give Matt Hasselbeck some problems. Hasselbeck can be at his best attacking zone defenses. If the Cardinals play press coverage and mix up their blitzes, they can have some success, I think. They can disrupt receivers and create some doubt/hesitation for Hasselbeck. This game will provide a good test for Seattle's staff along those lines. With the right precautions and adjustments, Seattle should be able to protect Hasselbeck and let him operate effectively in the favorable home environment. The Cardinals' pass-rush would have more of an advantage at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Jack (Deer Park)
How much time did Hasselbeck buy himself with the win in Chicago?
Mike Sando (12:14 PM)
Quite a bit. Everything fit together nicely. It would take some really poor performances to change the conversation along those lines.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,,NY)
What do you think of the new NFL rule that players will be suspended for flagrant helmet-to-helmet hits?
Mike Sando (12:17 PM)
Like most changes along these lines, I suspect the initial outcry will outweigh the actual consequences. Some defensive players are exaggerating the concerns from their side of the issue, I think. We'll see how the league rules on these things, but we're not talking about every helmet-to-helmet hit. I'm generally fine with suspensions in the blatant cases. Brandon Meriweather's hit comes to mind. It looked like he was head-butting the guy. Any contact he was going to make with that move would have been helmet-to-helmet contact.
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Sando, Can we stop writing off the NFC West as the worst division in football? They've beaten the Chargers (twice), the Bears, Saints, and Redskins, among others (Oakland doesn't count). I'm not saying they are the best division, but they seem to be climbing out from the bottom.
Mike Sando (12:20 PM)
We can definitely say that right now. Let's see how the season plays out. If the Panthers and Bucs win this weekend, then what? It's a week-to-week deal in the NFL a lot of the time. NFC West teams have has also suffered some blowout defeats outside the division, including 44-6 at Detroit, 41-7 at Atlanta, 41-10 at San Diego, 31-14 at Denver, 31-10 at Kansas City. The Lions, Chargers and Broncos all have losing records.
Jake (Saint Louis)
If the Rams keep playing at the level that they have this year, could you see Steve Spagnuolo as a contender for coach of the year?
Mike Sando (12:22 PM)
The schedule could make it tough for them to win enough games. A coach of the year probably needs to have a winning record, I would think. The Rams play five of their next seven on the road. Let's revisit the subject following that stretch.
SprungOnSports (Long Island)
Do you think Seattle can gain momentum from that win in Chicago? Has their defense turned the corner?
Mike Sando (12:25 PM)
The Seahawks can definitely gain momentum from the victory over the Bears, especially with a home game against a division opponent waiting this week. The run defense has been consistent all season. The pass-rush will probably be hit-and-miss, especially on the road. The Bears were not exactly brilliant in their adjustments. They appeared a little stubborn, perhaps, and that invited sacks. I think Seattle will remain tough at home and the Oct. 31 game at Oakland gives the team a prime opportunity to continue making headway on the road.
Is Aaron Curry a bust? Whenever I watch the him he does a lot of little things that don't come up in a stat sheet. examples like making RBs cut back or run away from him.
Mike Sando (12:26 PM)
Not a bust at all. Way too early. The question I have is more about role than anything. How is he going to fit? And will that fit reflect what the current staff thinks of him more than it reflects what the previous leadership thought in making Curry the fourth overall pick in the draft? Right now, it looks like the current staff views him as another piece of the puzzle, not a cornerstone. But we'll see how that plays out.
Hey Mike, been following you on Twitter, thanks for the heads up about the chat. What's Beanie Wells been doing during the bye week? I'm trying to work him back into my lineup but did pretty well last week with Lynch, Torain and Hillis. Who would you sit out of those 4?
Mike Sando (12:29 PM)
My fantasy teams are lagging, so take that into account. I have a tough time recommending Wells against the Seahawks' second-ranked run defense. The Cardinals have had some problems on the road. They have question marks at quarterback. The team trusts Tim Hightower more in protection, and that could be critical playing in a loud stadium. There are just too many factors stacked against Wells for this week. If you benched him and he had a big game, I think you could still feel OK, relatively, knowing you made the decision for sound reasons.
Dan (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
Love the blog! Keeps me up-to-date on the Hawks even though I'm 2,000+ miles away. How is the Chester Pitts situation working out? Once healthy, will he be an upgrade on the line?
Mike Sando (12:31 PM)
Thanks, Dan. Chester Pitts would provide an upgrade. I think he's a good player, good guy in the locker room and those sorts of things. But I've seen no evidence suggesting that surgically repaired knee is going to let him regain past form. I'm not even sure whether he'll return at all. He's had a hard time practicing fully in back-to-back days. He underwent a very serious knee surgery and he has some miles on those joints, anyway. He's battling and the Seahawks are giving him every chance, but I think this one would fall into the "pleasant surprise" category if he could make it back and lock down a starting job for any period of time.
Dustin (NAS Whidbey IS)
I dont understand why every one is giving props to Max Hall. What exactly has he accomplished and why all the love? Is this just an attempt to show the glass half full and keep optimism until proven wrong?
Mike Sando (12:33 PM)
People like the underdog. That's all. No one is saying he's a good NFL quarterback yet. He has some appealing qualities, but can he play? The Cardinals are going to find out. The positive pub will evaporate if he does not play well.
Scott (South Dakota)
Greetings from SoDak, Mikey! Any chance that Merriman lands with SF? I don't see a downside. Wouldn't they get him on the cheap? If so, and he plays alright, he could always replace an aging Takeo Spikes for next year, couldn't he?
Mike Sando (12:35 PM)
Hi Scott. I do think there's a chance the 49ers would check out Shawne Merriman's health and then consider adding him. Merriman is an outside linebacker, however. Takeo Spikes plays inside linebacker. NaVorro Bowman is probably going to take Spikes' job (he is already getting snaps). The Chargers presumably would not cut ties with Merriman if they thought he could be a difference maker.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Hey Mike, I always appreciate your opinion on all things NFC West. Keep up the good work.I believe Mike Singletary is a lame duck coach. I also believe Alex Smith is the best option on their roster, but gone after this year. Any thoughts to the contrary? Will a strong finish by the 49ers or Alex Smith save either of them? It just seems to me that they've both proven what they are and a hot streak won't erase that.
Mike Sando (12:39 PM)
Not going to argue with you on any point, except the one about me doing good work. Haha. Thanks for the support. I'd be surprised if Singletary remained the head coach past this season given the direction the team is heading and the long list of little (and not-so-little) things in the negative column of the Singletary ledger. We just do not consistently see evidence that Singletary has answers for his team, that Singletary can manage situations the way head coaches need to manage them, etc. And if the results are not there on the field, it's really tough to stay the course with a flawed coach. Barring a strong finish, Smith would likely be gone as well, and especially if a new coach came aboard. There's still time, of course. The 49ers are two games behind the NFC West leaders in the win column with 10 games to play and three games against said division leaders.
I understand that Frank Gore is a beast, but against a bad Carolina run defense, shouldn't the Niners use a combo platter of Gore, Westbrook and Dixon? Don't allow Alex Smith to lose the game?
Mike Sando (12:41 PM)
Mike Singletary told reporters he plans to get more work for Anthony Dixon and Brian Westbrook as the season progresses, more to keep Gore fresh. Dixon and Westbrook have fared well in limited reps. I do think we could see those guys get a few touches. But Gore will be the workhorse still.
Sando throwing the big curve with the 9 am'er! With the Hawks, Rams, and Cards each coming up with big wins in games when most thought they had no shot, do you think the division winner could have more wins than anyone would have guessed (10 or 11)?
Mike Sando (12:45 PM)
Having the AFC West on the schedule is creating opportunities for pumping up records because the Chargers are worse than expected and the Raiders also remain flawed. That works the other way, too. AFC West teams could inflate their records facing the NFC West. I've thought the later schedule set up pretty well for Arizona to win the division. The QB situation is a big wild card, though.
Why do teams place such a high value on draft picks? As a Rams fan, I know we need picks to rebuild. But drafting rookies is like playing the lotto and often times mediocre players come from drafting (think Adam Carriker, Alex Barron). Why not move a second and third for a proven WR like Vincent Jackson?
Mike Sando (12:47 PM)
I understand the thinking, but there are other considerations. One, you'd have to give Vincent Jackson a really big long-term deal to make that happen. And if you do that, you are making him a leader on your team. You are also bypassing a chance to draft someone such as James Laurinaitis or Rodger Saffold. Both were second-round choices for the Rams. One is the quarterback of the defense. The other is the left tackle. Jackson, meanwhile, has had suspension issues and contract issues. Is that the guy you want to empower within your organization?
Sando, just wondering what your thoughts on the Seahawks-Cards match up was this weekend. How can Arizona upset Seattle at home with a rookie quarterback?
Mike Sando (12:49 PM)
The Cardinals need great games from Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson, for starters. They have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage against the Seahawks' offensive line. They did so emphatically at Seattle last season, but the Seahawks are much better on the offensive line this time around.
Mackay (PG, UT)
Is the Seahawks defense really that good at stopping the run? It's not like the Bears are a powerhouse running team, and despite Steven Jackson, the Rams aren't either. The Chargers aren't a powerhouse running team. In fact, none of the teams I have listed are considered running teams. Please, I didn't include Denver for a reason, they don't even try to be running team. In other words, I don't think that we should be fooled by the second-ranked run defense. Am I wrong?
Mike Sando (12:54 PM)
You're not wrong at all for asking the questions. Those are good points. I think we can look at the Seahawks' defensive front and see reasons for the team to succeed against the run. They are big up front and they have had success when their opponents have tried to run the ball. Would the ranking be lower if the Seahawks had faced better running teams? Yeah, it could be lower. I'm glad you pointed out what you pointed out. Good to keep in mind as we assess this defense and try to anticipate what might happen next. The 49ers did dominate time of possession against Seattle in the first quarter of Week 1, but as I look at that game again, I see Frank Gore carrying for 4, 3, 2, 3, 1, 3, 6 and minus-4 yards during the 49ers' first couple drives. Not that San Francisco has been a great running team, either.
Slappy (San Diego)
Sando, already asked, but it didn't get posted. How are the bears ranked ahead of the Hawks? They got dominated two weeks in a row and looked like garbage both sides of the ball. When you have so many quarters without a third-down conversion, you should not be ranked that high. Can you tell the other voters to pull their heads out of their East Coast bias?!
Mike Sando (12:56 PM)
The Bears are beginning a fade pattern, it appears, but they do have a 4-2 record and voters sometimes look at the bigger picture. I mean, a week earlier, Seattle was coming off a 20-3 loss and its offense hadn't done anything for a while. The rankings will shake out if trends continue.
Nick (Dayton, Ohio)
Would you consider Bill Devaney a early favorite for NFL executive of the year?
Mike Sando (12:59 PM)
Yeah, I would give him some consideration. The move to get Mark Clayton stands out, but the injury prevents the Rams from fully realizing its impact. Sam Bradford looks like the real thing. Second-round choice Rodger Saffold is starting at left tackle. Most of the moves this team has made seem to be working out. In the end, though, will the Rams have a good enough record? Looking at the schedule before the season, I had them starting 4-4 and then finishing 5-11. They might win more games than expected later in the season, but I'd be surprised if they got to .500.
Mike Sando (12:59 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the earlier-than-usual NFC West chat this week. My pleasure as always.