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 (1:00 PM)
Hello. About to get going. Welcome.
SeniorSwick (Montclair, NJ)
I have always thought Roger Goodell had too much power. For one, why would he even want this much power? I don't think any company, organization or country should have 1 single power. What ideas do you think would be the best way to please both the players and the NFL brand in conjunction with the power structure and decision making?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
The NFL players had their chance during labor negotiations. They collectively bargained for the current setup. The courts provide one recourse for them and they are going that route at present.
Mike, what's your take on how the 49ers will use their 4-5 running backs? I would like to see Frank Gore as much as the next guy, but I want him to be fresh for the playoffs. Would you say Anthony Dixon is the odd man out?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Frank Gore will get most of the carries. LaMichael James will be a factor in some packages and as a change-of-pace runner. Brandon Jacobs would project as a situational player, possibly in short-yardage. Anthony Dixon would have to step up, it seems. They have good competition at the position and they realize Frank Gore could hit the wall at any time, given his age and the risk for injuries.
Sando I notice that in your post about Moss, when mentioning him, you always question his chances of making the 53-man roster. What does not make you so sure that he can make it. Even if he slowed down given his age. he should still make it on his skills and physical tools alone. Who else gives us a better red zone threat. A guy Alex Smith can lob the ball to. Who do you see him beating him out if he does not make it.
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
The most recent post on Randy Moss does not mention anything about making the 53-man roster, does it? I have mentioned this in the past simply because the 49ers have set up the contract in a manner that insulates them from risk in the short term. They gave him no guaranteed money, no up-front money. They gave themselves an easy "out" if Moss does not meet expectations. They can take nothing for granted given that Moss is an older player who sat out last season and bounced from team to team (to team) in his most recent season as a player.
Do you watch the Real Robinson Report? As a journalist/blogger, do you see value in what he does?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
I have watched Michael Robinson's videos from time to time. There's value in them, yes. Some of the ones I've seen feature a lot of joking around and busting of chops, which has less value to me. But Robinson is a thoughtful guy with something to say. I really enjoy speaking with him.
"Player X" is in the best shape of his life/has gained 20lbs of muscle/is finally going to turn a corner. It seems like this is one of the more optimistic times of year but the glowing stories can probably get a little repetitive to write. Are you kind of "over" these kind of reclamation stories about players like Moss or Crabtree?Also, SeaCarRam9ers.
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
I've learned to include the usual disclaimers when writing about such things. You'll never hear a head coach lament poor attendance levels in offseason programs, for instance. When a coach talks about offseason participation, I don't really care. That is one storyline to ignore -- unless attendance levels are unusually low. Some of the stories you referenced (about players rededicating themselves and the like) do have merit. Reading about Dan Williams' weight loss and improved conditioning resonates with me some. We heard about his poor conditioning previously. The new reports sound encouraging by comparison.
Matt (Lady Lake, FL)
Sando,I am a 49er fan, but I agreed with your assessment of the Future Rankings. It seems like the QB portion is particularly murky for the NFC West. How would you personally rate each team's QB roster (1-10) on the little you have to go with?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
There is almost no answer I could provide that would satisfy me. Objectively, every team in the division would probably rather have Sam Bradford than its incumbent starter, at least in theory. Does that mean the Rams have the best QB situation? Well, the 49ers got better play from the position last season. The fit with Alex Smith seemed solid. Subbing in Bradford right now might actually set back the 49ers in the short term. So, who has the best situation? The 49ers have the best situation for their team right now. The Rams have the best situation for the future. The Seahawks have greater reason for optimism than the Cardinals simply because their prospects at the position haven't played! Again, wholly unsatisfying answer.
Couldn't Alex Smith have made his point without insulting another QB? I like the guy, but Cam Newton he is not.
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
It was a little odd for Alex Smith to mention another quarterback by name in that context (discounting the value of passing yards as a stat by noting that Newton had a lot of them but did not win many games). Especially since every team in the league would rather have Cam Newton than Alex Smith. I doubt Smith meant to offend anyone, but he might also be developing more of an irreverent and defiant streak as well.
I've been following the Rams' offseason and it kind of seems like the players are much more receptive of Jeff Fisher's program than Spagnuolo's in past seasons. Do you agree with this?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Jeff Fisher's status as a veteran coach helps him command players' attention right away, without having to earn it quite as much. So there is probably something to what you are saying. In general, though, the new-coach narrative will make it seem like the previous guy was a total idiot while the new guy is a faultless savior. Fresh starts excite people.
Does Pete Carroll have Seattle going in the right direction to make a Super Bowl push in the near future and when???
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Depends upon what the team has at quarterback. The team does not yet know for sure what it has at quarterback. The rest of us do not know either. Big variable there. In general, I commend them for the way they've put together the defense. I marvel at Tom Cable's ability to get the running game going with a patchwork offensive line (Marshawn Lynch deserves a lot of credit for that as well; sometimes backs are underrated in the equation).
Brett (San Fancisco, CA)
The Niners last year did not have many 4 wide receiver formations because they simply did not have the players. Now with the additions they made do you see them trying to spread the defense out more with 4 or even 5 receiver sets?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Vernon Davis is going to be on the field a ton, and so is one running back. It's impossible to have more than three wide receivers on the field if Davis is playing tight end and a running back is on the field. The team likes tight ends Delanie Walker and Nate Byham. Coach Jim Harbaugh and the offensive staff still want to have a physical team. They want to use two tight ends. They want to occasionally use a fullback. I just don't see them going with four-plus wide receivers very frequently.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Timeout. Need about 60 seconds here. Back soon.
KING Kevin (Seattle)
Can Bruce Irvin be this year's Aldon Smith?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Yes, I think he has that potential based on how the Seahawks plan to use him.
Completely agree. I see this team moving toward the Ravens team that won the Super Bowl in the Dilfer era. That team averaged in the teens for points scored but the defense was unpenitrable.... Do you see the Seahawks moving toward that mold with all the young defensive talent they have?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
The fact that Pete Carroll is a defensive-minded head coach who doesn't seem to want to win by slinging it all over the place could lead Seattle into that type of mold. But if they do get an elite passer, that could change.
With the addition of Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford on the inside, does this open up more opportunities for Long and Quinn to earn some more sacks? If they can take up more blockers and help sure up the Rams' porous run defense, I see good things from this duo.
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Chris Long had 13.5 sacks last season. That number will be tough to beat -- for anyone. Quinn had only five sacks. That number was probably going to rise anyway just based on playing time. Long and Quinn had a combined 18.5 sacks last season. I do think they've got a good chance to exceed that combined total.
JC (St Louis)
Did the rams outsmart themselves by moving down in the second round to get that extra fifth-round pick? I've heard they were considering Mychal Kendricks or Bobby Wagner before they picked, and after the trade down, both players got plucked before we took Isaiah Pead. I'd rather have Kendricks, but like the FA rookies we picked up at LB.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
The two linebackers you cited -- Kendricks and Wagner -- project as 4-3 middle linebackers with their new teams. The question for the Rams becomes whether either of those players would have had second-round value as outside linebackers in St. Louis, given that James Laurinaitis is firmly established as the middle linebacker. The Rams need playmakers on offense. After patching with unspectacular veterans behind Steven Jackson at running back last season, they appear likely to go that route at linebacker this season. They couldn't fix everything at once.
JC (St Louis)
The Rams went overboard on the CB position. We still have youngsters Jerome Murphy and Bradley Fletcher, now Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are on the scene. Don't you think the Rams could have addressed another position of need like LB in the draft instead of maybe Johnson? Maybe they thought he was really special?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
The Rams got crushed by injuries at cornerback last season and seemed determined to prevent that from happening again. It's pretty clear the Rams felt the value was better for the corners they selected. I do remember seeing Johnson listed as a first-round pick in Bob McGinn's mock draft. McGinn also ranked the top 100 players overall, and 85 went among the top 100 players drafted, the best score in a contest featuring quite a few analysts. Maybe Johnson had the greater value.
Newell (fearthetweettweet) (Queen Creek AZ)
With Whisenhunt's philosophy of not starting rookies off the bat, are there any rookies (other than Floyd) that you could see him bending that philosophy for? oh and cardshawks49ersrams
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Ken Whisenhunt isn't opposed to starting rookies. He is opposed to anointing them (or anyone). Patrick Peterson was an instant starter because he was instantly the most talented cornerback on the team, and ready to play. We could see Bobby Massie starting at right tackle.
Hey Mike, it seems like the 49er fans and Seahawks fans think their defenses are better than the Cardinals. Both teams can make the argument that overall they performed better last year than the Cardinals. However, with all the youth the Cardinals have plugged into the defense with Calais Campbell and Dan Williams on the front line, Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield and Daryl Washington as the LBs, Patrick Peterson at corner, and Ray Horton coming in with more of a smash mouth pressure system, is it fair to say that the Cardinals are in the same league as the other two, if not better? Obviously they have to prove it a little more on the field, but if the second half of last season is any indication of what is to come, I am really excited.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
It's fair to say the Cardinals should be optimistic based on the improvement they saw late in the season. It's fair to say the Cardinals have to prove it over the course of the season, which you indicated to be the case. The 49ers are in a different class defensively right now. Justin Smith and Patrick Willis were the two best defensive players in the division last season. The Cardinals do not have players quite on that level defensively. Now, they do have some very good players. The key variable, in my mind, is what production the team gets from its young outside linebackers. Again, there is reason for optimism there, but also much for the team to prove.
OleSagginSeahawk (West of Seattle)
Mike, on an average "Live Chat" day, how many questions do you have to file through? As in total questions received?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
I'd guess low hundreds. Some depends on time of year as well.
Alex Smith's comments about Newton stem from his jealous of not being picked as the Pro Bowl alternate over Newton. Perhaps also jealous that a #1 overall draft pick lived up to his draft status...
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Interesting take. I'll buy into the first part a little because I could see Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers groaning a little as they watched Newton get the call despite a losing record. That would be a natural reaction.
Another "Live Chat" question/comment: I enjoyed it when the chat wrap used questions that weren't answered. Any plans to bring that back to the feature?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Yeah, sometimes it just depends on how harried I am at the moment. Last week, I also went into the comments section beneath the chat to interact. And then it matters how many suitable questions are left over. Maybe we'll shoot for that this week.
Over/under 25 Td passes for Flynn?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Under. Getting to 25 would be phenomenal for him. I think getting to 20 would be outstanding.
Gd (San Diego)
What are gore's stats on goal line carries? It may be I have a biased opinion but I would rather he have those carries then Brandon Jacobs who has been criticized for his dancing around.
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
I scrambled into a file to check out the play by play. He had seven carries from the 1-yard line last season. Scored on two of them. Stuffed for no gain on two. Lost yards on three. He had four carries from the 2-yard line. Scored once, gained one yard once, stopped for no gain once, lost yardage once. Jacobs had seven carries from the 1. Four touchdowns, stuffed for no gain twice, lost yardage once. Jacobs had one carry from the 2-yard line and was stopped for no gain.
Keith H (Seattle)
What is your opinion of the Seahawks philosophy: "We don't care what anybody else thinks. (Mel Kiper) Just try playing against us." Pretty unique for a copycat league, I'd say.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
It's good to buck convention and look for ways to improve on how things have always been done. It's bad to think the rules do not apply to you (as when shaky game management has crept into situations as if left over from the days when Pete Carroll had the talent edge at USC and the small stuff did not matter). The main thing for Seattle is finding the players to fit what the team wants to do. The Seahawks are running a 4-3 defense with some 3-4 personnel and tendencies. The analysts need to take that into account a little more.
Do you think Massie is an upgrade at the RT position this year for the Cards? Just because he ends up at the top of the depth chart doesnt make him any good. I am having a hard time getting excited about a 4th rounder being an upgrade.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
I'm not convinced he'll be an upgrade right away. There should be some concern.
Do you listen to Sports Radio while you work? I imagine you can listen to any of the NFC West stations via the internet.
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
I should listen to the radio and monitor TV when I work, but I almost never do. Usually I've got my Twitter lists running on the left side and maybe 10-15 browser tabs open, and a couple phones at the ready, with a couple spreadsheets open.
Any thoughts on how the Rams are projected to be 24th in Power Ranking in 2015? Seeing as how they got their QB and had 4 picks in the first 2 rounds this year and 4 more first round picks the next two years.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
I'd be more optimistic than that, but in reading the methodology, the fact that the front office remains unproven -- not much of a track record there -- played into the score. One of the analysts did say the Rams were in great position to move up -- if they made good use of those picks. But it was too early to know whether this front office would make good use of those picks.
NINER GNOME (SF)
Alex Smith tds over or under 25? Thanks!
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Under. QBs with 25-plus TDs last season: Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and Mark Sanchez. I don't necessarily see the 49ers running their offense the way those teams ran their offenses. However, if Sanchez can make the 25-touchdown barrier, why not Smith? I just think the 49ers will look to minimize mistakes and turnovers again, because it makes so much sense for them, and their defense/special teams will allow them to get away with a more conservative approach. I do think Smith can go over 20 TDs this year and challenge 25.
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. See you on the blog.