Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
R. Scott (Bay area)
Whats up Mike? Do you think we can expect the type of offensive output the 49ers displayed in the Super Bowl (particularly in the 2nd half), on a somewhat consistent basis this coming year?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
The 49ers should be good on offense, and a little different with Colin Kaepernick playing a full season, Delanie Walker leaving, Anquan Boldin arriving, LaMichael James becoming a factor, A.J. Jenkins possibly becoming a factor, etc. San Francisco had 286 yards while averaging 9.5 yards per play during the second half of the Super Bowl. However, the team converted just 25 percent of its third-down tries and half its red zone chances in the second half. I would expect a less variable, more efficient version of the offense in 2013.
Mike, The Ram's played extremely well against the division but outside the division they simply played poorly. Do you think Jeff Fisher came in knowing this divison would be a good one and that he simply wanted to make a statement last year and focused primarily on division opponents instead of other opponents? Also the divison now certainly won't take them lightly.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
It seemed to me Jeff Fisher and staff emphasized preparing for division opponents, and it paid off. I expect the Rams to remain competitive, but I don't think we're going to see such a gap between performance inside the division and performance outside the division. I'd expect the team to go worse than 4-1-1 inside the division and better than 3-7 outside the division. The youth is a key variable for this team. My sense is that Fisher will find a way to keep a high floor; the Rams won't have a bad record. But this could feel like a transitional year as they try out so many young players in prominent roles.
Monte Irvin (Texas)
Mike, we're in a situation now where elite Quarterback salaries are consuming 15% or more of a team's Salary cap. They're essentially taking money away from their teammates. Do you think the NFL will institute max salaries so that teams with good QBs can remain competitive?
Mike Sando (2:06 PM)
Those sorts of things must be collectively bargained. I don't anticipate significant changes for a long time.
Why do 49er fans insist on trying to convince the world Percy Harvin isn't an elite talent, they are the only fan base who believes this. Is that because they are that scared of the Seahawks?
Mike Sando (2:08 PM)
Probably for the same reasons a Seahawks fan might downplay Anquan Boldin or another player likely to help a rival.
Andy (Des Moines)
If Seahawks rookie CB Tharold Simon sees regular-season action this year, do you think it will be in the slot or on the outside?
Mike Sando (2:08 PM)
Outside. He's a tall corner.
Rams D is going to wreck everyone next year. They are three deep at elite D ends, with two really strong DT?s and Cudjo to spell them, then with Hayes or Long being able to kick inside on passing downs, and Sims isn?t bad fourth DE to have who can do everything well. JL is very solid, Dunbar gets caught in space covering running backs every once in a while but I mostly remember seeing him flying around all over the place last year making plays, and Alec can only be and upgrade in every way just from pure speed and aggression. Then you have Cort, Janoris, who nobody talks about his run support, and Johnson who all showed they can play at high levels with, unproven, yet athletic safety?s behind them and it makes for some high speed fun football. Give those guys and offense that is even a middling and it could be magical. They led the league last year in sacks while almost never playing with the lead. If they can get teams behind more Robert Quinn will finally show who he can be!! What say you Sando?
Mike Sando (2:10 PM)
Appreciate your excitement and think a lot of it is warranted. The safety situation is one I'm not feeling great about from a Rams standpoint, at least right now. I could see the Rams adding help at DT, OLB and S in the 2014 draft to really finish off this defense and put it over the top.
Good Morning Mike, with Dan Quinn taking over the defense in Seattle, do you see a change in philosophy or will Pete's vision still be on display?
Mike Sando (2:12 PM)
One interesting potential difference is in defensive orientation. Quinn is a defensive line coach. Bradley played safety in college and coached linebackers in the NFL. Sometimes the back-seven coaches are less inclined to blitz because they're a little more sensitive to putting pressure on the back end of a defense. Sometimes the defensive line coaches are more apt to help out the front with added pressure. I don't have stats to back up those perceptions, but that is one thing to consider.
I think people tend to forget that at one point last year, the Cardinals looked poised to make a playoff run. We now look back at their 4-0 record as a mirage. But, they managed to beat a tough Seattle team (though they certainly hadn't hit their stride yet) and took one from the Patriots in Foxborough. Do you think that even average quarterback play could put them back in playoff contention? Or are they much more flawed than just their terrible QB play?
Mike Sando (2:14 PM)
I see the Cardinals being competitive and in that 8-8 range with Carson Palmer and a healthier overall roster. However, I don't think that will be enough to get into the playoffs. Also, the 4-0 start was somewhat nonsensical to me given the quarterback play to that point.
Chris (Bozeman) [via mobile]
Mike, have you gotten any read on why the Niners passed on some good NT prospects this draft when we don't have a typical starter? Looking at 4-3?
Mike Sando (2:15 PM)
The 49ers do not play an old-school 3-4 with a widebody nose tackle. Remember, they let Aubrayo Franklin leave in free agency just as the new coaching staff was arriving. Vic Fangio has liked his linemen to be active types, not just space eaters. I do think the defensive front is evolving.
You think Jesse Williams will get more playing time than Jordan Hill?
Mike Sando (2:16 PM)
Think there's a chance for him to be an early down player and possibly the starter. A chance.
With a rookie scale in place will the teams sign their rookies at the rookie mini camp?
Mike Sando (2:17 PM)
Rookies can participate in rookie camps without signed contracts. However, the rookie wage scale has diminished the role negotiating plays in getting deals done. More players are signing earlier than in the past. The league has achieved what it wanted to achieve.
Brock and Danny have been talking this morning about what they think the defining games of this Seahawks coaching staff have been. Which game or two would you point to as representing what this team has been trying to accomplish?
Mike Sando (2:17 PM)
The Chicago game in 2010 was a Pete Carroll blueprint game, the first one of its kind. There have been others.
Dan (Redwood City)
I think the Seahawks are overrated...they played horrible on the road last year. They are lucky to have their stadium impact. If you were a betting man, will the Seachickens go undefeated again this year?? And are you at all biased because you live in the area?
Mike Sando (2:21 PM)
I think the Seahawks improved overall as the season progressed and that showed up on the road later in the year. The pass rush and pass defense was an issue late in games on the road in particular. As for being biased, I would say I am more familiar with the Seahawks' recent history because I covered them as a beat reporter from 1998-2006, and the depth of knowledge acquired in that role sometimes lends more authority to my writing about that team, which can sometimes leave the impression of bias, but really it's just familiarity.
Michael (North Carolina)
Hey Mike, love your work. I have a question to follow-up with your comment about the Rams secondary (specifically the safety position) being an area of concern. I think the same could be said about the cardinal?s defense. We have a lot of great talent on the line and with the line backer position, but I feel like we let K. Rhodes, and A-DUB just walk away without a solid plan for the safety position. I?m not sure home much of an impact Bell will have and I wasn?t too impressed with any of our younger prospects. I love the idea of adding Mathieu with Peterson in the backfield, but I don?t see Mathieu being a long term solution (or even a great short term solution) for safety. Wondering your thoughts on whether or not this should be an area of concern for the D or not.
Mike Sando (2:22 PM)
Yes, the Cardinals' situation at safety is interesting and potentially concerning as well. Arizona does have a ton of cornerback options, and a stated intent to use Tyrann Mathieu in a corner-safety role. I would think Yeremiah Bell can be a stabilizing presence for one season. I do see safety as an area for Arizona to address in 2014.
Blake from Portland is on to something. If Rams' O can get a lead, teams will have to throw, which (although safety is weak) is the strength of their defense. If Kaepernick or Wilson are throwing 30 or 40 times a game instead of running with Gore and Lynch, the Rams should win. After all, they had 16 sacks against the 49ers and Hawks last year. What do you think?
Mike Sando (2:25 PM)
The 49ers have a very good offensive line, but run blocking is probably a strength over pass blocking. And then Seattle has just an OK pass-blocking offensive line. The Rams rush the passer very well, not just with their outside guys but with the pressure packages Jeff Fisher and staff put together, and increasingly with Michael Brockers on the interior. I think we saw this at work in all the Rams' games against NFC West opponents in 2013. Seattle really struggled with it in the first half of the Week 17 game. It is possible the Rams' defense is built to give its division opponents fits.
Hey Mike, really enjoy all your writing. Everyone is talking up the 49ers and Seahawks as the top 2 teams in the division. If the Rams were to hypothetically finish higher, which team would they pass and what would have to go either right for them or wrong for another team for that to happen? Thanks, keep up all the great work.
Mike Sando (2:26 PM)
Thanks, Ryan. I think the Rams would pass the most-injured team if that were to happen. I was thinking about this earlier today, specifically about how much I would like to pick the Rams to finish second in the NFC West. The problem is, I really can't say which team would finish third.
Craig (Nashua, NH)
Going back to the Harvin and Boldin comparison; who do you think will have a bigger impact?
Mike Sando (2:29 PM)
I see little comparison between the players in terms of the roles they fill for their teams. Percy Harvin should have a much bigger effect on the entire offense, and possibly on special teams. Defenses will really have to prepare for the way Harvin can threaten them. It should open up things for teammates. Anquan Boldin will make a different kind of difference in San Francisco. He will give the team a physical receiving presence to combat bigger corners and allow Colin Kaepernick to really make use of his strong arm even when the coverage appears tight.
Chex Norris (San Diego)
Which team will have better QB play next season in your opinion, KC or St. Louis?
Mike Sando (2:30 PM)
Tough question. I'd say Sam Bradford is the more variable bet here. Alex Smith is the safer, more conservative bet. I'll go with Bradford.
Levi (Aravaipa, Az)
I understand the Cardinals signing all these players to one year contracts from a money standpoint in a year with a lot of carry-on baggage left over but, do you feel any of these players will better their situation enough in play that we could have or should have locked any of them in longer for a bargain apposed to losing them im FA next season when they want a big pay day?
Mike Sando (2:33 PM)
Antoine Cason would be the one player coming to mind, but he needs to prove it. I liked the way the Cardinals did these deals. They got some younger guys with upside and incentive to succeed.
Which trade was better, Seahawks adding a game changer in Harvin for 3 draft picks or the Niners trading Smith, getting a 2nd round this year and possibly a 2nd round pick next year?
Mike Sando (2:34 PM)
The 49ers' trade was more impressive. Pretty amazing, in fact, that San Francisco could get that much for a player the team might have had to release. I think Percy Harvin can have a huge impact, but the Seahawks gave up quite a bit to get him -- including in a contract extension. The 49ers, meanwhile, got lots of value for a player who had little value to them.
Hey Mike, on Percy Harvin, he only has 4 career 100 yard games and 5 TD's in outdoor stadiums, should this cause for concern?
Mike Sando (2:38 PM)
Harvin has played 32 games indoors and 20 games outdoors. He has five 100-yard games indoors and three 100-yard games outdoors. He had 104 yards and 79 yards in the two games he played at stadiums with retractable roofs. I can take a closer look at the differences but off the top, nothing jumps out as alarming. The Vikings, like most teams, would be better at home. They have an indoor home stadium, so you figure Harvin will have some of his better games there.
GO RAMS (NM)
The second year for receivers tends to be a break out year. Do you see B. Quick making much of an impact this year?
Mike Sando (2:42 PM)
I'd like to take a closer look at the premise first. In general, though, yes, I think Quick is positioned to take a big step. He should be familiar with the offense. He should get additional playing time. He should get better matchups with Jared Cook and Tavon Austin attracting attention.
The 49ers managed to move up 13 spots in the 1st for a 3rd round pick and then back 6 spots in the 2nd to acquire a 3rd in 2014 (and possibly of better value). How does Baalke do it?!?!
Mike Sando (2:44 PM)
We need to revisit some of the 49ers' trades just to see the net value differential.
Sando it seems to be that Jake Long should be on the rebound this year. Last year, thanks to the Rams O-line coach Paul Boudreau they were able to skate by with the likes of Wayne Hunter and Barry Richardson. Neither play is to be mistaken for an all-pro, but the fact Bradford started 16 games for the second time in 3 years I think was a good indicator of his coaching ability. Is it wrong for me to expect him to work wonders for Jake Long's game?
Mike Sando (2:45 PM)
I tend to think improved health will help Jake Long more than coaching will help him. That is not a shot on Boudreau, who has done a great job by all accounts. It's just that Long is an elite talent at the position when healthy. It's the less talented players who benefit more from being coached up, so to speak.
Ronte' (Va Beach)
Hey Mike, thanks for the insight and giving the ability for a eastcoast Niner fan to be able to follow the NFC (W)Best division!!! But I wanted to comment on your post today in regards to AJ Jenkins. I think my 49ers are taking a non traditional approach as far as todays NFL goes with younger players, by making sure they are fully developed before they are called into action unless injury occurs. So in wrapping it up I see more value out of AJ and other players when contract players like Crabtree may leave for bigger pay days a la Dashon Goldson.
Mike Sando (2:47 PM)
That is a fair point. I'd just like to hear/see some evidence that Jenkins is really coming along. That was more my point. I wasn't trying to say Jenkins has been a bust or huge disappointment. Just need to see him becoming relevant in his second year.
kevin (san francisco)
what are your thoughts on crabtree potentially developing into a top 5 league talent at receiver? his production took off with kaep running the offense and that was with a washed up randy moss as his number 2. with all of the weapons (boldin, davis, james) they have on offense now there's no way teams will be able to focus multiple guys on crabtree. do you think this will be enough for him to put up numbers like he did in college?
Mike Sando (2:48 PM)
I could see Crabtree becoming one of the five most productive receivers, in theory. But I think some other guys with greater speed could have an advantage as far as being a top five talent.
I think the Hawks benefited greatly from Justin Smith's injury in the 42-13 game last year. How different do you think the Week 2 rematch will be? Any lessons that Harbaugh or Carroll would have learned? Thanks as always for the great coverage.
Mike Sando (2:50 PM)
Thanks. I understand why some Seahawks fans can't mention that game enough. It was cathartic for them after losing to the 49ers previously. To be fair, though, the 49ers were coming off a cross-country trip and a draining game against New England. They had just lost Justin Smith. Aldon Smith was banged up. I really think that was a great win for Seattle but not a commensurately horrible defeat for the 49ers. Of course we should expect more competitive games between the teams the vast majority of the time, including in Week 2.
Another point I'd like to make about Long is in regards to his injuries the past few years. I think that Fisher should probably alleviate those problems. One thing people are always saying about him is that he knows when to rest players. I tend to think that should help someone like Jake Long, who has suffered from injuries at the tail end of the schedule.
Mike Sando (2:51 PM)
The Rams are the only team in the division without a mandatory minicamp for veterans. I think that reflects Fisher's emphasis on preserving veteran players. Good point.
Big Bob (AZ)
I love how the Vikes picked up three quality players in the first round this year. Plus with a good mix of young (Ponder) and older (Jennings) vets leading the way, I think Minnesota is poised to be good for a while. Anything I'm missing here?
Mike Sando (2:53 PM)
A case could be made that Minnesota gave up way too much in trading up for Cordarelle Patterson. It really depends on how you value the picks. We discussed this in some detail when comparing the Harvard-based draft value chart and other similar ones to the traditional value chart.
Clayton on 710 said he thought Seattle would go 8-0 at home again this year. Even for a very good team who plays great at home that is a tall order do to once let alone 2 years in a row. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:53 PM)
John is really into schedule analysis. I would say 7-8 wins at home for Seattle is likely.
Do you think there's anything to the fact that SF were blown out twice (Giants; Seahawks) while the Seahawks had a chance to win every game even when the lost?
Mike Sando (2:56 PM)
Not really. The Giants had one of those on-a-mission games. They're capable of rising up and dominating, it seems. And then the travel issue for the 49ers affected them against Seattle. Those were unusual circumstances. One consideration for the future is whether Russell Wilson's borderline robotic approach and mindset might reduce the variability of the team's overall performance. I think that's stretching things, most likely.
DG (San Fran)
Mike, Whats your oppinion on this theory. The 49ers will use their Nickel package as thier base defense. Brooks, McDonald, J. Smith, A. Smith across the front. Willis and Bowman with Rogers, Brown, Nnamdi, Reid and Whitner in the back. Sounds pretty stout to me.
Mike Sando (2:58 PM)
They used a "Big Nickel" package under Mike Nolan. I think the Giants have used such a package, which basically has a third safety on the field. In theory, that would be better against passing teams. Would it be stout enough against a run-oriented team such as the Seahawks? I do not know.
Bob (Willcox, AZ)
I'm excited over the Carson Palmer acquisition. I believe the Cards will be much improved on offense, based on the obvious upgrade at QB and the (IMO) much better overall talent at the WR position than Oakland. Am I being overly optimistic here?
Mike Sando (2:59 PM)
No. Arizona was horrible while losing 11 of its final 12. The team was badly injured. The QB situation was ridiculously poor. Arizona was going to be better than that in 2013 even without a coaching change or as many changes throughout the roster. Now, you throw in Carson Palmer and the team should improve, yes.
Mike Sando (3:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. See you on the blog.