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!
Do you think the Niners have a chance at signing Nnamdi Asomugha this offseason?
Mike Sando (12:51 PM)
Chris was first with a question this week, and it's a familiar one. Asomugha will be prized if he does hit the market. I just haven't seen anything from the 49ers over the last couple seasons suggesting they're going to splurge for free agents in general. The 49ers are in the first year under Jim Harbaugh. They have taken a pretty methodical approach to their roster over the last couple seasons. They are not brimming with cash right now, most likely, as they push for a new stadium and prepare to possibly miss regular-season games. For those reasons, I would be surprised to see the 49ers open the vault in this case.
Bobby (Salem, OR)
I had a dream last night that I interviewed Tom Cable about his schemes and offensive system. I consider this a negative side effect of the lockout. What lockout-itis symptoms have you had?
Mike Sando (12:53 PM)
That is pretty funny. I actually did have a football-related dream lately. I think I was covering a game under weird circumstances and there was some sort of stress element involved. It's all fuzzy now. No doubt, though, I'm ready for this lockout to end.
Last year, Steve Young said he would like to work with Alex Smith but couldn't because he only knew the West Coast offense and the Niners were running Jimmy Raye's offense. Is there any plan for Steve to work with Alex and Colin now that Jim Harbaugh is implementing a West Coast offense in San Francisco?
Mike Sando (12:55 PM)
I know of no such plans. The scenario seems improbable given Harbaugh's presence. Harbaugh and Greg Roman know exactly how they want to implement this offense. Harbaugh played in the NFL, so he can offer insights that Young would offer, even though Young obviously was a better player. I just don't see that happening.
Prince Pineda (Spokane, WA)
I think the Seahawks should stay clear of Kolb. We are in major rebuilding mode at the moment, we still need those high draft picks to build our foundation. We're getting it done on offense, but our defense has so many glaring holes. Giving up firsts or seconds wouldn't be in our best [interests]. I don't see the Eagles asking for anything less. I strongly believe that the Hawks will have a shot at a QB in the draft next season that will be equal to or better than Kolb. Let Arizona give up the farm for Kolb.
Mike Sando (12:59 PM)
You make valid points all the way around. There is also a sense Pete Carroll wants to get the running game going first, and might even think he can win without a top quarterback. After the draft, the Seahawks indicated they were not in position to invest heavily in a quarterback. They are in slightly better position to do so now because they've drafted players at other positions, notably on the line.
Doug Holzkamp (Newbury Park, ca)
Mike, the 49ers drafted Bruce Miller to convert him from defensive end to fullback. He will be able to play both sides of the ball like Stanford's Owen Marecic. Harbaugh and the 49ers wanted Marecic, but he wasn't there in the draft. To me, if Miller becomes the starter, he has more upside than Marecic. Miller has speed, power and aggression. Mike, what do you think?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Teams have tried these sorts of conversions before. Tampa Bay did it with one of Jim Harbaugh's defensive linemen from Stanford. With Marecic, he would know the offense and perhaps be able to step in more quickly. Miller will surely need some time, particularly if the lockout cuts into June camps. The 49ers made it sound like they would have liked to get Marecic. They could have been simply being polite, the way Pete Carroll talked up Taylor Mays after drafting Earl Thomas instead. But if they truly did want Marecic, that would answer our question about which prospect fit better in San Francisco.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
In your opinion, is Arizona the most talented team in the NFL that doesnt have a QB? Although there are other questions about the offensive line and linebacker corps, I feel Arizona has Pro Bowl-level players in most other areas: running backs (potential anyway!), receivers, the secondary, defensive line and special teams.
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
I've had this discussion with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. Williamson has said at various points this offseason that he thought the Cardinals' roster was not very strong at all. I tend to side more with your line of thinking, but the offensive line is a bigger concern, in my view, than coach Ken Whisenhunt would have us believe. Whisenhunt was right when he said the line wasn't among the team's biggest problems last season. Overall, though, the team hasn't invested in your prospects, multiple linemen could be eligible for free agency and Levi Brown has not yet shown he's the answer at left tackle.
Over on another blog, someone shared the comparative stats between Kevin Kolb and Matt Leinart. Kolb was marginally better. Why is there such disparity between their perceived values?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Because Kolb has played less, which actually helps him. He hasn't failed to the degree Leinart has failed. Kolb has a better reputation in terms of being a worker. He has a better pedigree having come up under Andy Reid. Your overall point stands, however. There are legitimate question marks with Kolb.
Michael (Los Angeles)
Sando, you seem to be convinced that Alex Smith is merely a place holder for Colin Kaepernick, which is a bit shocking when you look at the odds of second-rounders and the sixth-picked quarterbacks in draft classes. Plus, after we dumped Jimmy Raye, from the Philly game on, Smith's passer rating was about 90, which would put him in the top half of the league! I can only imagine what Alex will do now that we have a competent offensive coaching staff in place! It's Alex's time to shine!
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
I haven't crunched the post-Raye numbers on Alex Smith. Smith is a placeholder for Kaepernick unless he has a breakout season. When I describe Smith as a short-term solution, I do that just so we're clear that the 49ers aren't making a long-term commitment to Smith at this point. Right now, the plan is to play Smith until Kaepernick is ready. Could Smith flourish under Harbaugh for the reasons you outlined? Yes, he could. Do I think that is going to happen? Probably not, because if that were the case, we presumably would have seen more flashes from Smith to this point in his career.
Lamar Portis (Tacoma WA)
What do you think the odds of Charlie Whitehurst starting for the Seahawks this year? I think that's the plan. Pete Carroll and John Schneider both said they want their new quarterback to sit for a year and get familiar with the system, and they keep referring o Whitehurst as a draft pick. I want to see what Whitehurst can do hen he knows he is "The Man" [vs. being a backup].
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
The odds are 100 percent right now because Whitehurst is the only viable option under contract. I'd put the odds at less than 50 percent for Week 1 because Seattle is likely to add someone more accomplished, and Whitehurst has never before won a starting job. I do think the organization needs to find out more about Whitehurst in game situations before passing judgment. At the same time, Whitehurst hasn't done enough to command the starting job outright.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
To somewhat continue on Shane's point, aren't the Cardinals being extremely casual and dismisssive of their QB situation? I mean, considering what a disaster that spot was last year, you'd think they would make a few plans and options, yet they seem to be all in on Kolb
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
So far, the Cardinals have had one avenue to address the position. That was through the draft. Their decision to draft Patrick Peterson fifth overall seemed sound based on all the reports about Peterson being an elite prospect. Now, if Jake Locker or Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder become championship quarterbacks, fans will have someone other than Adrian Peterson to bring up when stewing over missed opportunities in the draft. However, once the Cardinals selected Peterson fifth overall, they were going to have a tougher time drafting a quarterback with substantially more promise than they see in John Skelton. From that standpoint, I understood the decision to bypass quarterbacks in the draft. The pressure is definitely on Arizona to find a quarterback once the free-agent signing period opens.
Randy (Toledo, OH)
I have seen so many articles putting Kevin Kolb's value pretty high, but have yet to see anyone really justifying the price. I looked it up and found Alex Smith to have higher stats in arguably a worse system. Can you shed some light on the hype around Kolb?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Other teams have gotten value for backup quarterbacks, so we start there. Andy Reid's background with quarterbacks helps. The Eagles have fueled the speculation, in my view. And then a few teams really need quarterbacks. Combine those factors with a lockout that leaves everyone suspended in the hypothetical and you've got a recipe for Kolb hype.
What do you think the next move for the Rams should be? They've taken care of wide receiver and some defensive players in the draft, but do you think they should maybe bring in a veteran receiver? That secondary is looking pretty skimpy too.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
The Rams should find help at defensive tackle and outside linebacker. Those are two areas I would consider. Guard and safety would be on the list. The Rams did a good job getting Fred Robbins last season. If Barry Cofield were to hit the market, he would be a logical option.
Chris (Seattle, WA)
How bad are Lofa Tatupu's knees really? Will they need to start looking for the next middle linebacker?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Lofa Tatupu has great heart and terrific instincts, but his body is wearing down. The team needs to be thinking about replacements now, I think. Tatupu could still have good years remaining, but the injury-related writing has been on the wall for a while. Better to be prepared than be forced to line up someone. On the other hand, Seattle has bigger needs elsewhere.
Hi Mike, thank you for all the information you provide. What is the chance to lose preseason games and the chances to lose regular-season games? I just want to get your feeling on this. Id healthy (I know is a big if), how good can Denario Alexander become?
big shug (Pomona)
After reading the Twindex article by PK this morning, I was just wondering who you follow on twitter. It could be NFL-related but non-NFL related is good too. Who else can I add to my following list that I will actually learn from? Does ESPN Stats have a twitter? You do an awesome job covering the Niners.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Thanks much. I did see Kuharsky's item. I have put together a couple Twitter lists -- one for players, one for agents, one for general NFC West updates -- and you can access those by checking out my account at twitter.com/espn_nfcwest. I probably follow too many people, but like having them stream in through echofon while I'm working. One thing, though: Players say so many off-the-wall things on Twitter than their comments have lost impact in a lot of cases. Darnell Dockett can say pretty much anything now and it's no big deal.
Kris (Omaha, Ne)
Do you think there will be football this year?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Yes, because ultimately I think the courts will swing the leverage far enough for one side to see the writing on the wall. The biggest concern, in my view, is that the lawyers have other ideas.
The best defensive player in the division is easily Patrick Willis, but I think the Rams have the most players that could have a breakout year. Look at the front four on third and fourth down: Chris Long, Fred Robbins, move James Hall inside with Robert Quinn on the end. That could be a pretty nasty matchup for anyone. Then you have James Laurinaitis, who is a stud, Ron Bartell and especially Bradley Fletcher are extremely solid. Add a free-agent safety, an outside linebacker and/or get some production out of one of the later picks in the draft. I might be seeing a top-five defense for sure? Can't wait for some real football. Let's get the lockout done with!!
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
I hear you on that last point, Jordan. The Rams are in a good situation defensively because their head coach knows exactly what he wants in terms of personnel, and exactly what he wants scheme-wise. He inherited a good player in Chris Long, drafted a good one in James Laurinaitis and has seemingly schemed the secondary quite well. I see the makings of a top 10 defense here if the team does make some of the moves you suggested. An improved offense would also make that easier.
Ace (St. Louis)
Do you think even with the Rams' tough schedule that they are the favorites to win the West? Also, do you think this is the year Sam Bradford becomes a Pro Bowler?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
The Rams are favored simply because they were close to winning it last season and their quarterback situation is in good hands. That can change based on what other teams do in free agency. On Bradford, I do not think he'll make the Pro Bowl this coming season. Aaron Rodgers did not even make it in the NFC last season. Rodgers, Michael Vick, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan will be the favorites. A healthy Tony Romo could factor for Dallas. Eli Manning is a little erratic, I think, but he is a consideration. Josh Freeman is rising. Jay Cutler has talent and a system that could let him put up big stats.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
If the Kevin Kolb deal falls through and it doesn't sound like Marc Bulger wants to come to Arizona, who should the Cards be looking at? Given their offensive line problems, would a mobile quarterback like Vince Young be a bad option?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Ken Whisenhunt has made it clear the quarterback must embody certain values. Vince Young has not embodied those values. It's a longshot from that standpoint. Kyle Orton would seem to be a good fit for the Cardinals. Young hasn't shown he's consistent enough emotionally to be the face of a franchise. Whisenhunt was so into team dynamics at the position last offseason that he cut Matt Leinart and moved Max Hall into the No. 2 role. For those reasons, it's an upset, I think, if the Cardinals make a serious play for Young. They would have to get him under the right terms.
Michael B. (Alameda, CA)
Given the current labor situation and that the 49ers have a new coaching staff, what do you think the minumum amount of time Harbaugh would need to put a serviceable team onto the field?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Harbaugh appears energized by the challenge. I suspect he would install a pretty formidable running game early and build the passing game around that. Other teams are going to face challenges as well, but not to the degree the 49ers will face them, in most cases. A couple weeks of camp and a couple preseason games would probably let them be serviceable in the first month of the season. I think things would become dicier with too much less than that, although the team could rally to the cause.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Do you think that Aaron Curry was misused last year, or just suffered rookie growing pains? Do you think Von Miller will have a similar season?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Aaron Curry was not given special treatment based on his draft status, and he did not do enough to beat out other players in some of the pass-rushing roles. I would not say he was misused. Unlike Curry, Miller was an elite pass-rusher in college. For that reason, I expect Miller to make an immediate impact rushing the passer. Curry had never rushed much in college.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I've got an appointment here in a few minutes and need to run (that is why I began the chat a little early). Thanks for your contributions. See you on the blog.