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 1:30 p.m. ET!
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
Let's dive right in here. Thanks for coming along.
Who do you think is the better 2nd corner for the Cards? Jefferson or Marshall?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Richard Marshall has impressed me more to this point than A.J. Jefferson, but I also understand what the Cardinals are thinking with Jefferson. He's young and just getting started. He needs some time to grow into this thing. Marshall's experience shows at times.
If the Niners would have beat Dallas (and most people would agree that they should have) how do you think that would have changed the national perception of the team?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Well, had the 49ers won, you can be sure the focus would have been on the Cowboys losing, not on the 49ers winning. Dallas commands another level of attention, right or wrong. Is that because more people are genuinely interested in the Cowboys? If not, is it because the media overplays stories related to the Cowboys? If so, to what extent does the added interest reflect additional coverage, or vice versa? The bottom line for the 49ers is that they need to have a winning season to change perceptions about them.
Eric W (Baltimore)
Sando, even though we had some issues with drops and penalties the first two games, I am still cautiously optimistic about my Rams. We did play the Eagles and Giants the first two weeks, you know. How improved do you think the "O" can be after we hit the bye week and especially go through the comfy back eight of our schedule? Also, with Clayton coming back, do you see Greg Salas going back to the pregame inactives, tthat would be a strong group of five receivers, right? Danario Alexander, Mike Sims-Walker, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Mark Clayton!
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
I can see the reason for cautious optimism on the Rams. They'll probably be my pick to win at home against Baltimore, although they've got some horsepower issues, no question. The run defense and red-zone offense have been huge disappointments, as have the injuries. The offense needs Steven Jackson back from injury. That was clear to me Monday night. If he returns strong, the Rams will make a jump offensively. Remember, they haven't really had him this season, but when they did, he was looking very good. I saw good things from Alexander and Sims-Walker against the Giants. As a group, though, I don't trust their health.
Tyrion Lannister (Casterly Rock)
Good morning Mike. Your impression on my Rams in Week 2 has been that they were sloppy. Do you see Sam Bradford as a part of that? Or the cause of that? Did we really overvalue Josh McDaniels and his offensive play calling?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Bradford isn't high on the list of worries. He has appeared to rush some throws against pressure, but that could just be a case of living for another down and avoiding the negative play. McDaniels has had to adjust on the fly without Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola. Those two guys were huge, huge parts of what the Rams wanted to accomplish offensively. Jackson has had some injury issues, but we figured he would last longer than one carry before those issues came into play. And the Amendola injury was just a freak situation.
Deric (Twin Falls, ID)
How many more losses in a row have to occur before Seattle benches T-Jack?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
It's not just the losses, but how the team loses. After a while, change becomes inevitable even if the quarterback is not losing games through turnovers and horrible play. I'd say the offense needs to perk up and show some signs of life against the Arizona. Getting shut out 24-0 in that game would lead to a change, I think.
I love Sam Bradford, I do, but how good do you think the Rams would have been if they had signed Michael Vick and drafted Ndamukong Suh two years ago? I know Andy Reid has a lot to do with Vickamania, but any thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Yeah, it's a tantalizing thought in retrospect now that the Rams have the makings of stability, but at the time, with a new head coach and lots of work to do, the Rams were not in the position Philadelphia was in, so it's not a fair comparison. But yeah, that would be interesting.
I saw on espn.com matchups that the Cardinals are given the edge for defensive line over the Seahawks. I understand that the Seahawks' defensive line has been limited in pressuring the QB, but they still seem pretty impressive to me. Would you rank the Cardinals' defensive line better than Seattle's line?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
The Seahawks' line is playing more effectively at this time in the context of its scheme, but if you held a draft of all these defensive linemen, the Cardinals might have more guys chosen early. Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell would be among the very top choices. Also, Chris Clemons has been battling ankle injuries and might be at less than full strength.
SeahawksOwnTheNFCW (Seattle WA)
Will you be tailgating at the Seahawks vs. Cardinals game? The place to be is to be at is Occidental ave right across from the North end of the Event Center (Touchdown City). Seattle's Biggest Sports Fan, Big Lo, should be there among many others.
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Glad you reached out this way. Sorry I've missed you on Twitter and in the blog comments on this situation. Yes, count me in. I'll be at the game. My only challenge is monitoring the 49ers-Bengals game in the morning and reporting on the inactives 90 minutes before Seattle's kickoff. I will be at the game early, usually by about 9 a.m. PT. How early will you guys be there? And thanks for the invite.
Ryda Kittey (Olymp)
Mike, a hypothetical question. Do you think any of the other three NFC West coaches would name Tarvaris Jackson as their starter if they were coaching the Seahawks? I'm just confused by Pete Carroll's insistence on starting Jackson. Thanks a lot.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
There would be no big push by other coaches to feature Charlie Whitehurst necessarily, but you make a fair point. I would say this: Some of Carroll's assistant coaches obviously have quite a bit of pull. Tom Cable gets the offensive linemen he wants. Darrell Bevell gets the quarterback he wants. That can be a good thing coming out of a lockout with minimal practice time. It can be a bad thing if assistant coaches have too much say over personnel decisions. In this case, I don't see a huge difference between Whitehurst and Jackson. The team would not suddenly be a top team with Whitehurst. Jackson probably lost some confidence with the Vikings. Might as well give him every chance for a few weeks here at least. There's a lot of time left in the season to make a change.
It was pretty clear Romo, Austin, and Witten (12 combined pro-bowls) and a few others needed at least 400 of those 432 passing yards to beat the 49ers. Do you really expect to see anything like that happen against the 49ers again, since they don't face many consistently top-10 offenses this season?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Not likely. I think the 49ers will beat the Bengals this week and there's just no way Cincy is going to have that type of day offensively.
Mike, would you agree that the 49ers' offense would be better off taking some chances since this is the first year of the head coach and the last year (maybe) with Alex Smith? Wouldn't that help disarm the fan base that believes that this is the "same ole" offense that has been in place since Mooch was fired? The game Sunday seemed like deja vu for the "faithful".
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Jim Harbaugh should do what he thinks gives the 49ers their best shot at winning. They've gone the aggressive route with Mike Martz. It was good for a couple weeks of fun stories about J.T. O'Sullivan, but what did that accomplish? I don't have a problem with Harbaugh's approach to date. I have a problem with the 49ers' lack of production in the running game and poor pass defense against Dallas.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Mike, I love the blog. I think that even though the Rams have suffered significant injuries, they have still underachieved thus far. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
Thanks, Jerry. Good hearing from you again. Yes, the Rams have underachieved. They have not executed very well. That has been a little surprising. Their run defense has also lagged.
Mike, just a comment. I understand that the RAMS need to improve the red zone efficiency to win games, but the fake injury issue was so obvious that got the attention from everybody and looked really bad for a Giants team that needs to have a much better answer. I am sure that it is going to be difficult to penalize teams for doing this, but the league need to do something. It looked really bad.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
The Rams have too many problems of their own to blame that play. There is no evidence this team would have scored a touchdown on that drive anyway.
Jesse (Grandpas medicine cabinet)
If the Seahawks lose this weekend do you think they still get over four victories?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
No, I think a defeat to the Rams could make four a reasonable expectation. This team was going to struggle even with Sidney Rice and Robert Gallery making positive impacts. The team has gotten nothing from them to this point. I think Rice has to become a big factor for the Seahawks to reach the 5-7 total for victories I projected back before we knew about these injuries.
Haz (San Diego)
Do you see any trades in the Seahawks' immediate future?
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Yeah, the Seahawks have always been willing to wheel and deal under the new regime. Aaron Curry obviously does not fit into the team's long-term plans after Seattle cut off his contract, which now runs through only 2012. I could see the Seahawks trading him, particularly with K.J. Wright looking like he needs to play in some capacity. Update: Trading Curry's contract would be the problem. Tough to see another team wanting to pay what's remaining on that deal.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Do you think that the Seattle Seashawks will stink this season?
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
I lost my sense of smell after the NFC West winner finished with a 7-9 record.
Adusoron (Sacramento, CA)
Mike did you hear Steve Young's radio interview on KNBR 680 in San Francisco yesterday evening? He provides reasoning behind Harbaugh's "conservative" approach so far. He essentially said Harbaugh made the call to keep the FG in the moment because he doesn't trust his offense yet. He also said Harbaugh is coaching carefully not because he is Nolantary reformulated but because he has to build the offense and Smith's confidence and he knows that a couple of bad turnovers will set off the boo-birds and destroy any positive momentum for the season. In other words, Steve said we have to wait until Harbaugh builds the offensive base and then we'll see the real creative, aggressive Harbaugh stuff. Agree? Disagree?
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
Agree completely. That Young guy is pretty sharp.
I realize we're only two weeks into the season, but after watching these four teams play, I wouldn't be surprised at another 7-9 record winning the division. These are bad teams, and they have to play the AFC North, which is at least three losses for each of them.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
There's still a good chance the NFC West winner gets to 8-8 at least. The Cardinals would be in good shape with a victory at Seattle.
Merrill Hoge called Seattle the worst offense he's seen in 20 years. What do you think? Clearly Tarvaris Jackson isn't doing much yet to win over the doubters of Carroll's decision.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
The Seahawks' 1992 offense was the worst offense of the last 20 or so years.
Zane (Port Orchard, WA)
Will the Hawks take a big step forward with their first home game? We all know the soothing qualities of Century Link, and the Cardinals defense may allow the Seahawks get their ground game started like they did against them last year.
Mike Sando (2:06 PM)
This should be a game where Seattle rights itself a little bit. But the Cardinals have to like their chances based on what they've seen so far.
Are you getting any news, that Pete Carroll is going to lose job?
Mike Sando (2:08 PM)
Uh, no. He owns a division title and a playoff victory in one season. He has gone 0-2 to start the season, with both games on the road. I don't think there's serious pressure until the quarterback situation comes into clearer focus after the season (assuming Seattle doesn't get something going on the Carson Palmer front before the trade deadline).
See Hasselbeck is #3 in QBR and has hit stride behind the Titans OL, even without Johnson performing.... contrast that with the Seahawks offensive output so far, and it's starting to look like they were holding him back, and not the other way around. Agree?
Mike Sando (2:10 PM)
Yeah, there is some truth to that. On the other hand, Hasselbeck was 18-23 with a 108 rating in the opener against San Francisco last season. No one has questioned what Hasselbeck can do over a one- or two-game stretch. The issue was what he could do over the course of a full season, and whether he was the right fit at the right price for a rebuilding team. I did think the Seahawks should have re-signed him, but I also realized he was not consistently good in recent seasons, either.
Kolb looks like the real deal to me. Definitely looking like the best quarterback in the West. I think he cracks the top 10 by the time the end of the season rolls around. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:13 PM)
Kolb has been very impressive, right from the moment I saw him at training camp. He has that "it" factor and has backed it up with some big plays on the field. The top 10? I could see him being in that conversation. So far, so good. The QBR figure for him invites questions about some of the negative plays -- sacks, a lost fumble, an interception -- and how much they might be hurting the team. I've been impressed nonetheless.
Mike,What is your personal take on how much coaches need to impart their system compared to conforming it to their players strengths? I understand the team brought Ray Horton in in part because they believe in his system, but it's a system that highlights outside linebackers (far and away the Cards' biggest weakness), diminishes the role of its defensive line (which, in theory, should be the Cards' strength, especially with Dockett) and asks for a lot of zone coverage on the back end, despite just drafting Patrick Peterson, a player who was rated so highly out of college because of his ability to play "shutdown" man-to-man coverage. I don't fault Ray for the first two games, and obviously the Steelers have had a ton of success with this system. I just question if, bigger picture, it is the right one for this defense.
Mike Sando (2:16 PM)
Amen, Mike from Arizona. You have crystallized the primary concern regarding what the Cardinals are trying to do defensively. It is a valid concern. I understand all sides on this one. The fifth year of Ken Whisenhunt's coaching tenure is a little late to be adopting the scheme you've wanted all along, particularly coming out of a lockout. We know what the emphasis will be next offseason: outside linebackers. Remember, they missed on Cody Brown and that is costing them.
How does Aldon Smith look to you? Haven't heard much about him lately.
Mike Sando (2:17 PM)
I'll give him a longer look when re-watching 49ers tonight. He had an important pass breakup on the Week 1 screen to Seattle's Golden Tate. That is the play standing out in my mind.
Cards fan (Phoenix)
At least one team in the NFC West will win this week and might as well be the Cardinals. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:18 PM)
The 49ers have a good chance. I might even pick the Rams at home.
Mike, worst offense in 20 years? Wouldn't that have to go to Hostler's Niner offense in 2005?
Mike Sando (2:20 PM)
1992 Seahawks: 148 points. 2005 49ers: 239 points. Note: Hostler was the 49ers' coordinator in 2007.
Adusoron (Sacramento, CA)
Can you offer any insights as to why the 49ers offensive line is appearing to play so poorly? There are a lot of high picks on that line and a quality veteran center. Also, Mike Solari is an experienced and respected coach. Or is this a matter of Alex Smith holding onto the ball too long? (I personally think Smith did what he could against the Cowboys.) What do you think? Are the 49ers doomed to see this inconsistent and troubling play from their line all year?
Mike Sando (2:22 PM)
Check back in six weeks. The line should come together as the season progresses. I'm not convinced it will based on what I've seen over the last couple seasons. Will Joe Staley make it through the season healthy? That is a big question mark. Will Anthony Davis take a big step forward? These guys look better on paper than grass at this point. That is not a huge shock under the circumstances. But it needs to change.
Pete Carroll was a bad hire, but it doesn't matter if he gets fired. He has decimated this team to go young and fast. But young and fast needs to include talent as well. There is no quarterback, no running backs and an offensive line full of question marks. It will take years to fix his damage.
Mike Sando (2:23 PM)
What exactly did he inherit, an ascending team?
As a Rams fan, I don't have much recent experience dealing with Monday night games. How much will this affect their preparations for the Ravens?
Mike Sando (2:24 PM)
They held practice later than usual Wednesday to buy some extra recovery time. Under the circumstances, I think the Rams should be OK on that front. They are home. They need to get back out there and win a game. There needs to be more urgency with this team. Perhaps the short week facilitates that.
2007 was the year I meant, but even still it was 219 points. In this day and age with all the Rules helping out QBs, isn't 219 points worse in 2007 than 148 in 1992?
Mike Sando (2:25 PM)
Yeah, I should have caught that. Still, that 1992 Seahawks offense was the worst I've seen. Niners' offense was a collection of all-stars by comparison.
Steve (Vancouver, WA)
Mike, do you see Daryl Washington's hopeful return this week impacting the Arizona D in a positive way? I think they will blitz Jackson often allowing him to sometimes scramble for first downs. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:26 PM)
Washington makes a big impact for the Cardinals. Tarvaris Jackson needs to use his legs a little more to keep drives going. However, he needs to be smart about. No need to test Adrian Wilson on the perimeter.
The Cards have looked horrendous in pass protection. Is not picking up an OT in free agency going to come back to haunt them? Side note: Why does Russ Grimm get tossed around as a HC candidate?! The Cards have had a mediocre line at best since he arrived, and it really hasn't seen any improvement either...
Mike Sando (2:27 PM)
The Cardinals have not sufficiently addressed their line in recent drafts, in my view. I did not think the protection was horrible at Washington. The Redskins have some young outside linebackers with a lot of talent.
What do the 49ers do with Crabtree? He is almost as big a bust as Smith. At least Smith plays (then again, that isn't a plus for us 49ers fans over the past 7 years). And why don't the 49ers use their 2 TE's a bit more like NE does, especially with all the WR injuries? thanks!
Mike Sando (2:30 PM)
That entire 2009 draft class is looking sketchy. It is possible and perhaps even probable that none of the NFC West first-rounders that year gets a second contract from his current team. Aaron Curry will not get one with Seattle. Jason Smith will not get a good one from the Rams unless he transforms into a top tackle. Michael Crabtree cannot stay on the field. Beanie Wells faces a pivotal season this year and looks good, so far. The 49ers do use two tight ends a fair amount. I'll look at the personnel groupings and do something on that as time permits.
Mike Sando (2:30 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week.