Chat wtih 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 (1:00 PM)
Good morning/afternoon. I'm putting together all-division teams today and am close to posting the choices for offense. Left guard is a tough one between Daryn Colledge and Mike Iupati. Michael Crabtree has some competition from Doug Baldwin and Brandon Lloyd for the WR spot opposite Larry Fitzgerald. I am leaning toward Marshawn Lynch and Steven Jackson over Frank Gore for various reasons.
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
In fact, I just got a call here to help me work through this all-division team. Back in a second. Talking through a few positions with a scout.
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
I will extend the chat. Still talking over a couple of these.
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
Just about finished up on this call. Have a better feel for my all-division team.
Old School 49ers Fan (California)
I'm a realistic Niners fan, so I'm happy, but I can see a first-round loss to the Saints. If that game happens, what hope can you give me?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
The 49ers will have been gunning for this one since preseason. Remember when the Saints blitzed them into oblivion? Sometimes, what comes around, goes around. The 49ers will have a good plan. You can bet on that. Their defense gives them a shot. Their running game gives them a shot. The Saints have not been producing as many turnovers this season. The 49ers avoid turnovers. Winning the turnover battle can give the 49ers a chance in a playoff game, even against a great offense.
Jeff Fisher in St Louis? At first, as a 49ers fan, this worried me. Now that I think about it, won't they have to basically start over? Sam Bradford will be fine, but I would think this means no winning teams for Steven Jackson? What would the Rams look like under Fisher, and how long do you think it will take for him to make them what he wants them to be?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
The Rams had the potential to win more than two games this season. Just getting healthy could give Fisher a chance to win 5-7 games (just an estimate). The Rams will become a hard-nosed team. Games in the NFC West will become bloodbaths even more than they did this season. His teams had that rugged personality.
Hayensworth to St. Louis?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
There's an interesting thought. Jeff Fisher coached him in Tennessee, obviously. It is something to think about. Sometimes, a coach knows enough about his former player to stay away from him. The Rams might not want to bring in a risky guy. But if anyone could handle Haynesworth, it would be Fisher, probably.
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Off the phone now, by the way. You have my full attention. Can't wait to post the all-division team once the chat ends, though.
If the Rams don't sign Brandon Lloyd, will they get a compensatory pick?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Losing Lloyd to another team during the UFA signing window would help them in the compensatory equation. But if they signed some big-money free agents from other teams, those signings would work against whatever they might have gotten from Lloyd or any other UFAs signing elsewhere.
You think Fisher can get more out of Haynesworth than Bill Belichick?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Only from the standpoint that Fisher goes back years with Haynesworth.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do the Rams target Blackmon to give Bradford another playmaker and a deep threat on the outside?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
That would make sense. We need to see who becomes coach and general manager, but if the Rams could trade back a little, they could add picks and still probably take a top receiver early.
How good could T-Jack be if he started next year for Seattle in the same system with all the weapons and running game the same, but a year better?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Good enough to get the Seahawks to their next quarterback, in my opinion. That would be the plan. I'd say there's an outside shot Jackson would exceed all expectations and remain the starter from start to finish, but that would not be the plan. The team will want to have its next quarterback lined up through the draft or via trade, with the idea that the next QB would move into the lineup.
Keith H (Seattle)
Mike, do you think the Seahawks might take a hard look at Flynn from GB and use the draft pick for a DE? Thanks for all your work.
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
That makes sense because Matt Flynn and Seahawks GM John Schneider were in Green Bay together. However, never during the Seahawks' pursuit of a QB previously -- think Charlie Whitehurst -- did Flynn's name ever come up. If Schneider came to Seattle thinking Flynn could be a starter, he presumably would have tried to acquire him, right? I have no knowledge that he ever did. That could be telling. Seattle's perceptions of Flynn might have changed in light of the way Flynn has played subsequently. That is possible. For now, though, it's more connecting of dots than anything.
James (Moses Lake)
Mike, so you think Mike Willams is done in Seattle? He didn't perform very well this last season. Thank you.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
It's premature to say he's done for sure, but if I had to lay odds, I'd say he probably will not earn a roster spot next season. They'll have Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Ben Obomanu, Ricardo Lockette and Kris Durham in the mix. Deon Butler is there too. Williams is not going to help on special teams. He did not have a good season. Injuries have dogged him a little bit. The team could add a receiver through the draft or hit on another undrafted guy. Williams would need a strong offseason and training camp, probably.
Who has the higher upside, Daryl Washington or NaVorro Bowman? People are losing it over Bowman, but I think Washington is better already. I am also a Cardinals fan that is blinded.
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
Great question, and a fair one. I also like Washington. You are not way off-base in saying Washington is better. We could probably find NFL people on both sides of that one. Bowman stood out playing for a superior defense. You can pick one of those guys and I'll take the other. Both are going to be on my all-division team for defense.
Ryan S (Seattle)
If the Hawks for some reason fail to re-sign Marshawn Lynch, would they then try to sign a free agent or target someone in the draft?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
They are going to do that anyway. They want another big back so they can run their normal offense with or without him. Right now, they have two change-of-pace guys, but no true backup. They'll sign a bigger back and/or draft one. Then they will have to make a decision between Leon Washington and Justin Forsett. I think Washington has the clear edge for his special-teams value, but parting with Forsett would not be easy for the team or for Lynch, who roomed with Forsett at Cal.
Guest (Bay Area)
Would you consider Jim Tomsula a good defnesive coordinator candidate for other teams?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
Tomsula is perfectly cast in his current role. The bond he has with those linemen is such a strength. Making him a coordinator would necessarily create distance between him and any position group. I think he has more value as a d-line coach -- the 49ers' d-line coach, specifically -- than he would have as a coordinator. That might be unfair to him. It's just a reflection of how highly I regard him as a line coach.
Brent (Bakersfield, CA)
What do you think would be the worst possible matchup for the Niners out of the possible outcomes? Based on seeding, they're looking at either NYG, ATL, or NO, right? No way they can face DET because they are the 6th seed...
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
You're asking the right guy. Last week, in an epic case of brain freeze, I alluded to a 49ers-Packers matchup in the Super Bowl after temporarily forgetting about that other conference, the AFC, when going through the seeding scenarios. I'm clearly a seeding master. Seriously, though, I'd say the Saints are the worst matchup because they throw the ball so well and also have an multifaceted ground game with Darren Sproles. Plus, they do some things scheme-wise on defense that can put stress on an offensive line. They are very multiple, as the coaches like to say.
Todd (SAN FRAN)
What team gives the 49ers the best chance in the next round?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
I might go with the Falcons as my preferred 49ers opponent, from a San Francisco perspective. The 49ers' run defense would, in theory, take away the strength of the Falcons' offense. Matt Ryan, while very good, maybe isn't quite as talented or playoff-tested as Eli Manning or Drew Brees (allowing for the fact that Matt Stafford and the Lions could not play the 49ers in the divisional round because their No. 6 seeding would send them to Green Bay).
Hey Sando, as good as a season as Alex Smith is having, break it down for me. How do you see him playing in the playoffs? It would be a great story if he could really play well and take this team to an NFC championship or even a Super Bowl given the adversity he's faced over the past six years.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
The 49ers will not be facing a dominant defense in the NFC playoffs. For that reason, I think Alex Smith has a good chance to remain efficient. The question I have is whether the Saints' defensive scheming might stress the 49ers' offensive line enough to pressure Smith or force him to throw without being sure of the matchups. If Smith has a rough game, lots of people will use the opportunity to say he's a fraud and they knew it would happen all along.
Eric Ray (eight oh six)
How good is Michael Crabtree? I had the pleasure of being in the stands in everyone of his home games at Texas Tech and thought he should've been drafted higher, especially higher than Heyward-Bey. There was talk of him being a diva and I was wondering if you think he can be an elite WR in the NFL.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
Crabtree is pretty good right now, but definitely not elite. Loved the way he blocked this season. Really showed tenacity and reflected the 49ers' commitment to the run. The 49ers' offense isn't going to consistently give him opportunities to put up big numbers, however. I'd say he could be a 90-catch receiver without improving all that much, but he'll need the offense to help him out. I would not bet on him becoming elite, though. Does he have the big-play potential? Haven't seen it quite enough yet.
Hey Mike, do you think think the Cardinals will have any trouble resigning Richard Marshall? He has really taken well to Ray Horton's defense and has been very versatile in his ability to cover at safety
Mike Sando (2:06 PM)
Marshall has to know he fit well in that defense. I'd say the team should be able to re-sign him, yes. Marshall should have more value to the Cardinals than he would have to another team. If I were the Rams or even 49ers, though, I'd consider adding him at the expense of a division rival.
Mike, at one point you threw out this comment that a 49ers offense with Colin Kaepernick under center would look a lot different than the current offense with Alex Smith under center. Can you elaborate? Love your radio segment on 710, by the way.
Mike Sando (2:12 PM)
It's funny you should bring this up. I was reading a Chuck Klosterman piece called "Speed Chess" yesterday and perked up when he referenced the Nevada offense among those that cared more about running a limited number of plays too quickly for the opponent to keep up than it cared about taking the time to get into the most favorable play before each snap. The 49ers with Alex Smith seem more deliberate. It think he's doing quite a bit before the snap to get the 49ers into favorable plays, particularly runs. That is where his experience and football smarts would come into play. Kaepernick has none of that experience and has not played in this type of offense. So, from that standpoint, the offense might not look the same (or, at the very least, Kaepernick would have some adjusting to do). That is my read based on limited information.
Brandon (Tacoma,Wa )
Mike, I would like for you to play GM for the NFC west. Let's leave the 49ers out of it because they are still playing, but you are on the clock for the Rams, Hawks and Cards. With the first pick for all teams, assuming they keep their current draft positions, what is your top priority with that first pick?
Mike Sando (2:16 PM)
As Rams GM, I would speak with teams seeking QBs. I'd try to move down, add picks and still come away with a playmaker of some sorts -- a receiver or running back, if the value were right. I could also see adding a dynamic defensive tackle if that were a bigger value. For the Seahawks, I'd be trying to maneuver into position for a quarterback, with a pass-rusher as my fallback. And for the Cardinals, I'd keep open my options for a quarterback, offensive tackle or pass-rushing outside linebacker.
Mike Sando (2:16 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. Appreciate your patience at the beginning. As promised, I'm going to post my NFC West all-offense team next.