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!
Mike Sando (12:55 PM)
Good morning/afternoon. Let's get an early jump here. I might need to break away before 11 ET.
What can the niners do to get that O-line to start clicking? Are there any free agents out there that could help the line?
Mike Sando (12:57 PM)
The 49ers have cast their lot with the current group. They would be better at this point if the group had worked together through the offseason. Right now, though, they are learning yet another offense, this time on the fly. It's fair to raise serious questions about Chilo Rachal's ability to become a consistent pro. The other guys need to play together. Bringing in another player would disrupt more than it would upgrade.
The Seahawks are using Marshawn Lynch as their feature back, which is fine by me, but it seems like Leon Washington's speed is a great match for the one-cut-and-go method used by the Hawks. Why hasn't he been given more touches?
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
You raise a good rhetorical question. I'd think Seattle could benefit from going up-tempo a little more, mixing in the no-huddle and keeping Washington on the field for quick-hitting draw plays in addition to the runs you described. Washington told me over the summer that he loved the way Tom Cable was teaching the backs to play off the linemen.
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Sando, Why do you think Harbaugh is being so conservative with the offense, and will that need to change against a team like the Eagles? When I've seen Alex Smith run 2 minute drills where he calls his own plays, it's pretty exciting and they play well. I'm not saying they are going to go no huddle, but wouldn't it make more sense to kick it into a higher gear? I'm not sure I can take a season of games like the Bengals slugfest last Sunday.
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
Jim Harbaugh wants to minimize turnovers. He wants Alex Smith to manage games. The formula has produced fourth-quarter leads every week. I'd stick with the formula before I'd ask Smith to become something he is not. Sure, the 49ers will have to open it up more if they fall behind. So far, though, they have not fallen behind much at all.
My God, Mike, can it get any uglier at Rams games than it has? Will it get any better or do I need to start drinking heavier and hoping for next season.
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Wait to see what happens over the second half of the season. The Rams' schedule improves quite a bit at that time. All the division games are Week 9 or later. The Rams need to get healthier and consider making a trade for a cornerback or receiver (Mark Clayton's return could help too). The key will be stealing a couple victories before midseason, then regrouping and finishing strong against easier (in theory) competition.
Tyler (New Hampshire USA)
Bradford has been getting pressured alot and the offensive line looks a bit out of sync. Does anything change this week or will Bradford continue to get banged up? Also, will the Rams try to make any moves to get better?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Steven Jackson's return needs to produce a more aggressive, confident, hard-nosed mindset for the Rams. If it does not, the team could be in bad trouble. Jackson's injury-related departure during the opener stands as the one potentially understandable explanation for what seems like relative timidity from this team. I do think Bradford will get banged around against Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the Redskins. The Rams need Steven Jackson to get the running game going the way Beanie Wells did in the second half of the Cardinals' game at Washington. Otherwise, I think the Rams are in for another long day.
Dennis (San Jose)
Mike, do you think the 49ers' struggles with their offensive line is more player related or more position-coaching related?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Matt (Lady Lake, FL)
Sando, would you give an objective analysis on Alex Smith's season thus far? His NFL passer rating and QBR suggest upper half, though still close to mid pack. The Niners are 2-1 with a new coaching staff, abbreviated offseason, even moreso for Alex (I believe four other starting free-agent QBs were in that same boat as well), and an extra shaky O-line. Super Bowl and Pro Bowl bound? Probably not, but I am liking what I am seeing so far and if you want to credit Harbaugh, that is fair, but then you also can't discount what Nolan and Singletary put him through.
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Alex Smith has generally done a good job performing the duties asked of him. He has taken too many sacks, but a fair number of those would have been difficult for a quarterback to avoid even if he were making ultra-quick decisions. The dynamic between Harbaugh and Smith is a good one and much better than what existed previously.
Many here in Seattle believe we must lose and get Luck. And Carroll doesn't seem to have his franchise QB yet. Do we need to finish at the bottom to get Luck, or Landry Jones, or even Matt Barkley? Is the QB spot where we should use our first round pick?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
Yes, the first-round pick should go for a quarterback. Andrew Luck will go first overall, but there will likely be a few others going in the top 10 overall choices. The Seahawks do not need to finish with the worst record to get a quarterback in the draft. They could come out OK finishing with one of the top 10 picks, particularly if a few teams ahead of them already had franchise quarterbacks. That is certainly possible if the Rams, Cardinals, Vikings, Panthers, Bengals and/or Colts (depending on Peyton Manning's health) wind up with high draft choices.
Rcbeme (LV NEV.)
Are the 49ers the team to beat in the NFC West, or is it still the Rams, though they are struggling like the 49ers did last year?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
I'd stick with the Rams at 0-3 if they hadn't suffered so many crushing injuries. Had I known the Rams would lose Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola and Ron Bartell, they wouldn't have been as strong a favorite in my mind. I'd say it's too early to pick a favorite, but the 49ers are in strong position based in part on the way they have played on defense -- better than some expected following quite a few changes on that side of the ball.
RIO (Rubber City, OH)
Sando, do you think Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter will split carries this week? Running the ball well will be the only the 49ers win this game in Philly.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Yes, I do think they will share the workload unless Frank Gore starts quickly. The ankle injury Gore suffered is a factor here as well. Logic says the 49ers should divide the carries. That could change if the Eagles revert to their pre-2011 form with lots of blitzes. In that case, Gore's experience in pass protection could weigh in his favor. It might anyway.
Hey, Mike, after watching the games this season, could you see the Seahawks D continuing their solid play and possibly improving through the course of the season? Thanks!
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Yes, health permitting. A total collapse on offense would be another thing that could hold back the defense, were that to happen. But with the two young safeties, a good mix of talent at linebacker and a deep rotation up front, I do think the Seahawks can be a good team on defense. They'll improve to the extent the young players progress. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright are three young players to watch.
Coty (Black Hole)
The rumors of Seattle and Curry maybe parting ways keep floating around. I think Oakland would be a great fit for him they need OLB depth, could Oakland maybe offer up a 2013 draft pick for him, and if so, what round do you think it would take to get him from Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
The Seahawks would trade him for a quart of used motor oil if they could get someone to take his contract. The contract, not the compensation, is the obstacle.
Is Mike Williams' decrease in targets because of the new offense or because Tavaris Jackson isn't comfortable throwing it up and letting Mike outwork the corner for it?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
I think it is almost entirely quarterback related.
Julian (San Fran)
Could Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman be considered the best inside linebacker tandem of any 3-4 team?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
I would say top five off the top of my head without hesitation. Then I'd need to look at them more closely. Yes, though, elite tandem right now.
Do you think Brandon Browner has a chance to stick with the Seahawks? Going into the season it seemed like he would rack up a ton of interference calls, and unfortunately that seems to be happening.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
I've thought Walter Thurmond would become a starter for the long term. On Browner, it is too early to say. I just don't think he matches up well with all types of receivers.
Matt (Lady Lake, FL)
Is there any possibility the Niners end up with a situation similar to the Chargers a few years back? Kaepernick was not nearly as high a pick as Rivers, but what happens if Smith steps his play up to Pro Bowl consideration by the end of the year?
Northwest Guy (Gig Harbor WA)
Sando, my opinion is that the Hasselbeck decision was a bust. In a city where there appears to be a honeymoon feeling between fans and Coach Carroll (he did take us to the playoffs in his first year, after all), we don't hear a lot of criticism over this move. How do you view it? I see it as a bust. I don't think it affects the long term, but for now, I think it may have ruined our chances for this year.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
A few things to consider. Matt Hasselbeck is probably playing better for the Titans than he would be playing for the Seahawks, based on his line in Tennessee and the natural motivation he feels after Seattle did not re-sign him. Hasselbeck would have taken a pounding in the first couple games this season had he stayed with the Seahawks. I question how healthy he would be at this time. But if you could just drop Hasselbeck into the offense right now, Seattle would be better, yes.
TB 80 (Glendale)
Looks like no love for Cardinals. Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel for the desert team? Thanks Mike.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Yeah, I like the Cardinals' schedule in general and expect them to contend for the division title unless their defense plays poorly enough to hold them back.
Is Kevin Kolb playing as well as the Cardinals thought he would when they gave an arm and a leg for him? Seems like he's struggling a bit.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
No, he is not playing as well as expected, specifically in that Seattle game. The arm and leg they gave up for him was through the five-year, $63 million contract. We could make the case that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was not a great fit for the Cardinals under Ray Horton, as Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. contended on the blog Wednesday. I'm heading to Arizona in Week 4 because I want to see how Kolb responds to a rough week.
B (Glendale, AZ)
Mike, based on how both teams performed against a common opponent (Washington), could this indicate that perhaps the Cardinals have a better shot at getting a win at home vs. the Giants than most others are expecting?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Oh, I definitely give the Cardinals a shot. However, I also think the Giants' offense will fare well in this game, and it could be tough for Arizona to keep pace without forcing turnovers.
Cards should realistically be 3-0 instead of 1-2. Any sense of urgency among the players/staff?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yes, there is urgency, but as Kevin Kolb said, the Cardinals could easily be 0-3 as well. Patrick Peterson's punt return for a touchdown was the difference there.
TB 80 (Glendale)
Mike, a lot of regulars on your blog claim that you aren't a fan of any NFC West team. I contend that claim and assume you are a Seahawk fan because you live in Tacoma and have sentimental ties with the Seahawks. What's the deal?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Grew up in Sacramento, was a Rams fan in my very young childhood, became a Raiders fan and season-ticket holder for a time, lost all rooting interests beginning in 1998 when I started covering the sport for a living. All my energies go into covering the teams. I haven't gone to an NFL game as a fan since the 1997 season. I haven't been a fan since then either. I want all four NFC West teams to do well because it's good for the blog.
I'm a little concerned with Donte Whitner's ability to defend the pass - he's a good run stopper but I feel like we get burned by slot receivers and tight ends way too often. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
That is a tradeoff with Donte Whitner but not an unusual one for a strong safety. Overall, he should be an asset as he grows in this system. Get pressure on the quarterback and it's all good.
Mike, how long do you think Pete Carroll will continue to keep Tarvaris Jackson as the starting quarterback, before he finally "opens to competition" so that Charlie Whitehurst will get a chance to play and see if we didn't waste a draft pick for him?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Let's see what happens in these next two games heading into the bye week. I could see them reevaluating at that time, then moving forward in Week 7 with the quarterback they want to see. I do think Whitehurst will start games this season either through injuries or performance issues.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. We began a little early and I need to break away now. Thanks.