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 (1:01 PM)
I've won the coin toss and elected to receive. Tony from Richmond, Calif., will kick off.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will we see progression, stagnation, or regression from Alex Smith and the 49er offense with the additional weapons that were acquired/and drafted in the offseason?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Most signs point to progress. The offensive players have a year in the system. Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff will have a better feel for how to use their personnel. Opponents will also have a better feel for the 49ers, which could offset gains to a degree, but I'm guessing the 49ers will be able to dig deeper into their playbook as well. I do think the 49ers will probably suffer additional turnovers. But their yardage and efficiency on third down should improve.
SeniorSwick (Montclair, NJ)
Is there any other team in the NFL that takes as many chances with its creativity, scheme, and personnel as the Seahawks? This JR Sweezy idea is just another big 'outside the box' approach to building a team. What other unorthodox situations do you know of in the NFL that we may not?
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
The 49ers converted Bruce Miller from college defensive end to fullback and got good play from him last season. Miller had not played offense since high school. Sweezy, like Miller, was a later-round pick. Teams have greater freedom to experiment with later-round choices. The key is to be creative without over-thinking things. More broadly, the concern in building around specialized or somewhat unique players -- think Red Bryant for Seattle -- is that specialized players can be tough to replace if injured. However, that is where staff flexibility can make up the difference. The Seahawks seem to have a good defensive staff and approach. Another potential concern relative to Sweezy is what the move represents: a clear push by an assistant coach to get a player he liked. Tom Cable also drove the selection of James Carpenter a year ago. Drafting players to fit the staff is important, but we should also watch to see if assistants have too much sway.
Mike, can you give us a heads up on any player(s) at the Rams rookie camp that just might be a starter. Thanks
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
Watch the linebackers in general, Ken. That was a position of great need that the Rams didn't address sufficiently in the draft. As a result, the better free-agent linebackers were eager to consider the Rams; those players knew their chances would be better in St. Louis than elsewhere. Derrick Choice from Stephen F. Austin, Alex Hoffman-Ellis from Washington State and Noah Keller from Ohio State were the undrafted free-agent linebackers St. Louis signed recently. Seventh-round pick Aaron Brown is also new to the team.
Zach Moseley (Lubbock, TX)
Is Kevin Kolb the "franchise" quarterback for Arizona?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
The contract he received makes him the franchise quarterback, but Kolb will have to earn that status on the field this season. This is a make-or-break year for him in Arizona, most likely. The Cardinals badly wanted to sign Peyton Manning. Teams with true, established franchise quarterbacks did not pursue Manning.
Tough Guy (SF)
Is CK7 ready to compete with Alex for the starting role? He seems to be the better arm, and a better athlete.
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
Kaepernick will be better prepared to make that push this year, but there should be no rush in San Francisco. This is Alex Smith's job to lose through the offseason and into training camp. Injuries are a consideration here, too. I was surprised to see Alex Smith stay healthy enough to start all 16 games last season. It's tough for quarterbacks to stay on the field, particularly when they take sacks as frequently as Smith did last season. We could see Kaepernick get a chance because of injury.
Kyle (St Louis)
How good can the Rams defense be? I liked their draft even though the offense is still lacking
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
I would expect significant improvement -- at least 10 spots in the NFL rankings, lets say -- for rushing yards allowed. But I think the Rams could miss James Hall in the short term, and they have obvious work to do at linebacker.
49ersFan (Seattle, WA)
How big of deal do you think will be made of the 49ers first game vs the Packers? As in the 2005 draft class of Alex Smith vs Aaron Rodgers? Also, do you think Alex or Aaron care more and would want to prove who made the right or wrong choice? Thanks Mike, love the blog!
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Thanks, 49ersFan. That 2005 storyline is about tapped out, but I'm sure we'll hear about it as a matter of course. But the sizzle from that is gone now that Alex Smith has gone 13-3 as a starter and won a playoff game. He goes into that game feeling a lot better about his career than he would have felt previously.
What is your opinion on Robert Turbin? A lot of respected scouts had him as a sleeper before the draft, thinking he has the makings of a legit NFL starting RB. Do you think Seattle drafted him as an eventual replacement for Lynch?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
Turbin looks the part. Marshawn Lynch will set a standard for him to follow in terms of becoming a punishing, physical runner. There will be no pressure on Turbin to produce in the short term. I really like the selection based on where the Seahawks took Turbin (not early), what they have in place ahead of him (Lynch) and their overall appreciation for the ground game (Pete Carroll, Tom Cable). Now, I haven't scouted Turbin personally to vouch for his credentials, but there are a lot of things working in his favor as a young back. Oh, and have you seen his arms? I'm wearing long sleeves every time I visit Seahawks HQ.
James (Moses Lake)
With the Hawks stacking up on D, how do you think the offense will be improved??
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
That all comes down to health and whether Matt Flynn delivers on expectations. We cannot predict either one of those things based on what we know.
Sam Bradford (St Louis)
Mike, will I ever get any fun toys to play with like the rest of the kids?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
What would you say if I sent to you a 6-foot-3, 225-pound receiver with outstanding athleticism? What if this player reminded your coaches of Terrell Owens (physically, not in a Dr. Phil sort of way)? Would you be interested? The Rams drafted such a receiver in Brian Quick. It's up to you to make the most of him.
In general, do performance based incentives count against the cap? I worry about our cap in the event we go all the way.
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Never worry about winning too much.
Slowest. Chat. Ever. What. Is. The. Deal. ?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
I like to form answers featuring sentences with more than one word.
Alex Smith is not exactly known for forcing passes to receivers to keep them happy or taking shots on deep passes. And Moss is not known for being content with his involvement in the offense. How long do you anticipate this marriage of Moss and Smith lasting?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
I'm intrigued but also skeptical for the reasons you stated. I'm not convinced Moss will spend the full season on the 53-man roster. Still, it's a low-risk gamble. Moss gets no money without earning a roster spot in September.
TN Hawk Fan (TN)
Is T-Jax game more geared for an Arizona type offense than the west coast offense run in Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
One criticism of Jackson is that he's got to see the guy open before throwing the ball. I'd say there's some merit to what you're saying. The Cardinals' offense would put more value on arm strength. Jackson has plenty of arm strength. That aspect of his game really stood out during a recent Seahawks practice I watched.
Sargon Merza (Phoenix)
Do you think the Rams will re-sign Chris Long to an extension? Also, do you think the Rams have done enough to the offensive line? Only reason I bring it up is because that same group fared pretty well when a center was calling protections and Josh McDaniels wasn't calling plays.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Yes, I do think the Rams will sign Chris Long to an extension. He's the type of player they'll want to build around for the long term. Getting 13.5 sacks last season looks good on his resume, too. As for up front on offense, the Rams are clearly banking on line coach Paul Boudreau to get something more from Jason Smith at right tackle. McDaniels was all about putting the offense on Sam Bradford's shoulders. The new regime will be all about making things easier for Bradford. In that sense, yes, the Rams could be in better position to replicate what they did in 2010 as opposed to last season.
Who do you think will start opposite Patrick Peterson at cornerback this season for the Cards?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
William Gay would probably be my early guess until we find out more about Greg Toler's health situation and what the rookies might offer. Gay has started in a Ray Horton defense.
Kevin (Reno, NV)
Bigger obstacle to the Cards making the playoffs, QB play, improved defense, or both?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
QB play, all the way. That was clearly the one area that did not keep pace with the defensive improvements last season. I know John Skelton had his moments. He gets credit for helping the team win some of those close games. But the quarterback play overall was a huge limiting factor for that team.
Knowing what you know about Kolb and Flynn, who would you have more faith in being able to competently run their respective offenses? I understand Flynn is a pretty big unknown to most of the world, was just hoping maybe you had some additional insights. Btw, people don't give you enough credit for the work you do... so thanks for all you do!
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Thanks, sol. We know more about Kevin Kolb than we know about Matt Flynn, and what we learned about Kolb last season was largely negative. The feel on Flynn is probably closer to what the feel was on Kolb a year ago -- some optimism, but a lot of uncertainty. Seattle does have an advantage, though. The team's general manager, John Schneider, was with the Packers when Green Bay drafted Flynn. I think that gives the Seahawks a better feel for what they are getting in terms of the whole package: not just on-field potential, but personality, leadership style and those things. I'd give the edge to Flynn for now.
Tincri (Costa Rica)
How much change do you expect to see from Greg Roman's offense now that the 49ers stacked their offense of WR and RB's? will it continue to be a run first, TE pass second offense or will we see it spread?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
The personality of the offense should not change dramatically. Jim Harbaugh will still want to have a power-oriented offense with great variation within the running game. Remember, that was one area where even a rival coach, Pete Carroll, singled out the 49ers for praise last season. Harbaugh and Greg Roman will still do what they want to do. Within that, though, the hope will be for greater explosiveness. I like the potential. We've already seen the 49ers make good use of speed and quickness to the perimeter, notably when getting Ted Ginn Jr. free on those fly sweeps. Adding LaMichael James and A.J. Jenkins provides additional options for creativity.
How about some love for a 9ers fan living in AZ. Do you expect the 49ers to go 6-0 in the division this year? I think an away game at Seattle is the toughest win right now.
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
The 49ers were 5-1 in the division last season. I would expect 4-2 this season, figuring the 49ers remain strong, but maybe have a tougher time winning as many division games on the road. They visit Seattle after a road game against New England. That is a tough turnaround. They visit Arizona on a Monday night, so the atmosphere will be challenging for that one. Even the home game against Seattle comes on a short week (it is a Thursday night game, with the 49ers coming off a home game against the Giants).
Chex Norris (San Diego)
Do any of the NFC West projected starting QB's have Pro-Bowl potential this year?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
When we talk about Pro Bowl potential, we could be talking about the caliber of play in general and/or the likelihood of earning Pro Bowl honors against an NFC field featuring Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and others. I'm not expecting NFC West quarterbacks to qualify by either measure this season.
Jason (Rochester, NY)
I've been hearing that Alex is set on improving his mechanics as it pertains to his down-field throwing ability. Have you heard of or seen any improvements yet? He seems to know that this will be his year to win or lose, and he's a pretty smart cookie. I think if he is able to improve in this area, the 49ers will be extremely tough to beat.
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Experience tells me that's a good offseason story that could become overplayed if Smith does enjoy additional success this season. Players revert to form under pressure. It'll be interesting to hear what Steve Young, Trent Dilfer or other QB-savvy analysts familiar with the 49ers say about that area once the season gets going. They would notice subtle changes in Smith.
Are the 49ers upset with Jacobs off field antics? He runs his mouth quite abit. Not the typical guy Harbaugh likes around? Your take? You know the ole saying....
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
The 49ers have a few players with that potential this season, and I am interested in seeing how that all plays out. There's a feeling in San Francisco that the locker room is strong. Randy Moss is the one I'm most interested in watching on this front. He will speak out when things aren't going well.
Avi (so cal)
How many games are you predicting the Niners win this year with a very difficult schedule? And how deep will they go in playoffs?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I'd project about 10 wins for the 49ers this season. That seems realistic unless injuries intervene. As discussed earlier this offseason, "Nineteen NFL teams won at least 13 games in a season from 2004 through 2010. All 19 finished with fewer victories the following season. The drop was 4.1 victories per team on average, from 13.5 to 9.4. The 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots were the most recent team to win at least 13 games in consecutive seasons. They went 14-2 both times."
Of all the holes the Rams have filled so far, which one do you think might work out better than most people would expect?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
The depth at wide receiver is probably better than people might realize from afar. Also, we haven't heard much buzz over Isaiah Pead, the change-of-pace back taken 50th overall. Pead was drafted ahead of LaMichael James, who seems to be generating more buzz around here (possibly just a function of having a more vocal 49ers presence on the NFC West blog).
Seahawks had the 7th-best Points-Per-Game defense (19.7) last season. With all the talent they added to that side of the ball, they will get even better, no?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
I would think so, but remember, schedule plays into these things. Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler are on the Seahawks' schedule this season.
Sando - How do I meet Lutui? He needs to hire me to intercept all the bacon that 9ers fans are going to be sending him.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Who is this Lutui guy you are referencing? Has anyone written about him recently?
Brandon Cards Fan (Arizona)
The selection of Michael Floyd in the first round was impossible for the cardinals to pass up even with their offensive line needs. They addressed this issue with picks 4-7 besides the addition of Justin bethel. Do you envision any of these players seeing the starting rotation or seeing significant playing time?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Yes, I think fourth-round choice Bobby Massie figures to get some starts at right tackle this season -- either out of necessity or because he wins the job. Jeremy Bridges would be the veteran fallback at right tackle. Moving right guard Adam Snyder into that spot would be another option, but that could weaken two positions. I could see Bridges opening the season as the starter at right tackle, with Massie taking over during the season.
Will you be surprised when Tarvaris gets cut this season?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
That would not surprise me at all. Why would it surprise anyone? The Seahawks acquired Matt Flynn, used a third-round choice for Russell Wilson and have said they like Josh Portis. Those things do not assure the release of Tarvaris Jackson, but they suggest it's a possibility.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat.
How do expect Sam Bradford to do with his third offensive coordinator in three years and a bunch of new targets?