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 (1:02 PM)
Greetings. Here we go.
If Russell Wilson is contained in the pocket, is that a concern at all if he can't see the field when contained?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Wilson proved to be very good outside the pocket. I think that's an important part of his game. I do think it's tougher for a shorter quarterback to see clearly from inside the pocket. However, Drew Brees had fared very well from inside the pocket, sometimes by taking deeper drops. Wilson's Total QBR score from inside the pocket (73.5) was about the same as it was from outside the pocket (73.4), according to ESPN Stats & Information. He finished his rookie season with 21 touchdown passes, eight interceptions and a 102.3 NFL passer rating from inside the pocket. So, the evidence suggests he can do very well from there. I just think he's better if he is a threat outside as well.
With Isaiah Pead being suspended for the opener, is it safe to say the preseason is his last chance to become a starter?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
No. I think the limiting factor longer term might be size/style. Pead seems ideally suited as a change-of-pace back, not the traditional early down runner. Now, there's no law saying a team has to plug players into these traditional roles, but I see Pead playing an important role, but not necessarily as a starter.
How about auto update Sandman?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Yeah, I clicked on the button to activate it from my end. Nothing more I can do.
Chris (St Louis)
Hi Mike,Who's the best offensive and defensive player in the NFC West in your opinion?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
I lean toward Patrick Willis as the best defensive player and Larry Fitzgerald as the best offensive player. To me those guys have been the standard and remain the standard til proven otherwise, even if other players maybe were better in a given year here or there.
Is the injury to Zach Miller more serious than the team is letting on? Are they OK going into the season with Willson, McGrath, Helfet, Konz at TE if Miller can't go, or will they look to sign a veteran?
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
I don't know if the Seahawks are misleading anyone regarding Zach Miller. My general feel is that Miller is very important to the team; the team knows what he can do; having Miller ready for the regular season is the top priority; etc.
Keith (Seattle, WA)
Which NFC West contender's injuries will prove the most detrimental to their season, SF or Seattle? And is Harvin's injury a sign of things to come given his history of sitting of sidelines?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
I think the 49ers' injuries are a little more concerning in that they've lost their third corner and their top receiver, whereas Seattle has shown it can function at a high level offensively without Harvin. I do think Harvin's past is relevant when figuring out whether injuries are going to be a continual issue for him. This hip surgery was a bad way to start off his time in Seattle. The facts are what they are til proven otherwise. Now, to be fair, Harvin didn't miss many games til last season. I do have reason to believe he's a tough player respected by teammates. So, we shouldn't read too much into things.
From what I've seen/read so far, Brian Quick's camp has been so-so at best (dropping passes, struggling with separation, etc). How long will the Rams give him to step up?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
Yeah, Quick hasn't arrived; that is pretty clear. He did have a couple good practices this week. The preseason games will be important for him. I would think he'll get this season and next season to develop unless he absolutely tanks. Also, the Rams have other young receiving options. We don't know how much the team will even need Quick. Could need him a lot, or a little. Hard to say without seeing how the other young skill players develop.
Frank (New Orleans)
With Levi Brown returning from a torn tricep and Eric Winston and Jonathan Cooper at their positions, what can we expect from the Cardinals new look o-line?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
We should expect the team to have enough depth at the position to avoid falling below a certain baseline performance level. That's a big improvement from the past. They could go with Nate Potter and Bobby Massie at tackle and feel OK about it based on last season.
Which young receiver seems the most likely to make an impact on the 49ers? Has anyone pulled ahead in the race for #2?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
I feel like they will give A.J. Jenkins every chance; he's the guy they're going to really push for it. I'd say he's the favorite if healthy.
Justin from Wyoming [via mobile]
Vernon Davis said he has focused on the wide receiver position in the playbook this offseason quite a bit. I understand that he needs to be a big peice of the offense but i hope he dosen't forget about his real job at tight end where I think the niners have taken a step back with the loss of Delanie Walker.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Yeah, I saw Davis' comments via Jeff Chadiha's piece and thought they were significant. Basically, Davis said he hopes the team uses him at WR because he invested a ton of time learning WR duties in the playbook. I have been generally dismissive of the idea that the team would use Davis as a true wideout in a meaningful way, but if he really put in the time to learn all aspects of the position, not just a slice here or there, that could be telling. We need to stay tuned on this one. I was in 49ers camp two days and saw Davis line up outside the yard-line numbers two or three times.
Kyle (St. Louis)
Last season the Rams rushed roughly 23 times a game. Are you expecting that number to drop?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
I think those stats vary based on whether a team is in position to run the ball late in games. Last season, the Rams ranked 25th in percentage of plays that were passes when the score was tied or the Rams were leading. That probably changes.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Hold on a second here.
Is Sam Bradford a "bust" (or maybe a disappointment) of sorts in your mind being that he was the #1 overall pick and has yet to lead the team to the playoffs, or is/was the team so devoid of talent in the past that he can't be blamed.
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Sam Bradford's career has been a disappointment to this point, but there have been enough mitigating factors to make the "bust" label premature. This is an important season for him. I do think Bradford will get a second contract from the Rams. Busts don't get second contracts.
Does Walter Thurmond really have a chance to start over Winfield and from what I heard lately maybe even Browner? Of course, thats if he stays healty.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
I'd say Thurmond is a bigger threat to Browner than to Winfield. That is just my feel. They seem really happy with what Winfield gives them in the nickel. Of course, Thurmond has to prove he can stay healthy before he can beat out anyone. That is probably his No. 1 challenge.
Zack (Monterey, CA)
Busts don't get second contracts? So Alex Smith was not a bust?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
As I recall, Alex Smith's second contract was done in the context of guaranteed money associated with the first contract. I'd have to look at it, but let's clarify it to this: I think Bradford's second contract will be substantial enough to make it clear the team doesn't view him as a bust.
Zack (Monterey, CA)
Two questions, though I'd be fine with either answered. Does VD leave, maybe for KC and his old pal AS, after his contract? Obvious crystal ball question, I just want to get your feel. And second, I see regression for both SEA and SF. I don't think we saw a true talent level for either QB, and defenses have had time to prepare. Who regresses more, and can they still be playoff powerhouses, either team, if they regress at the QB position, even just to above average from their ridiculous 2012 numbers?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Impossible to know what Vernon Davis might do, but I'm not sure Alex Smith will even be the quarterback in Kansas City by the time Davis potentially hits the market. As for regression, I'd expect it for certain if the 49ers and Seahawks had each won 13+ games last season. I see these teams getting to double-digit victories without necessarily improving their records from last season. Also think injuries are the key variable when it comes to regressing. Don't think the quarterbacks are going to take big steps backward. Just not sure why they would. Both seem pretty solid.
Zack (Monterey, CA)
I was more referring to the contract Harbaugh gave him after 2011. I don't think he was a bust, in that he was exactly what the 49ers needed in 2011 and 2012 (and even later as a guide for CK), but I think his first contract was a bust. I know this won't get posted as its a comment, AND you've just done two of my questions... three, sort of.. but I just wanted to clarify. The second contract as a "renegotiation" of sorts, I think, where they restructured his rookie deal so they didn't cut him.
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Alex Smith's first contract was a bust. Sam Bradford's first contract was a bust. I'd say that for sure. Those guys weren't values at those prices. And the results for both teams -- though largely out of the QBs' control -- showed poor bottom-line return on investment. I do think Bradford has been better than Smith early in his career, however.
Do you think Tavon Austin has Superstar potential?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Yeah, based on his physical attributes, I do.
Tom Denver [via mobile]
What do you make of the chart you tweeted out earlier today in regards to qbs targeting a primary receiver? Does it strengthen or weaken the argument that Bradford has been hurt by a poor cast of receivers?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
I think it's clear Bradford has been hurt by a weak supporting cast.
Mike in your camp summary for SF I didnt see too much talk of Kaeps improved touch on the ball. Did you witness an improvement in this area of his game when you visited?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
I actually saw him miss a short pass pretty badly on one play. But the overall feel from those watching camp on a day-to-day basis was that Kaepernick had improved in this area. I just can't say it jumped out to me when I visited.
Arizona clearly a darkhorse to win this division, don't you think? They can rush the passer, have some really nice pieces on offense and a veteran QB.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
There's no question in my mind Arizona will be improved and the floor in the NFC West will be higher than it's been for a long time -- maybe since realignment in 2002.
Can the Seahawks keep all their stars? ET/Richard Sherman/Russell Wilson/More? Can they afford the massive contracts these guys will earn, and who is the first to not make the cut? These guys are going to get expensive in the next few years.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Re-signing Russell Wilson will be a given if he continues to play well. I think Earl Thomas gets a deal. Think there's a good chance Richard Sherman tests the market in an effort to get elite CB money -- maybe even a shot at setting the market.
Gowazzu02 (All up in your business)
Sando, Hawks last 8 games last year including playoffs,,,,was Percy Harvin on the field?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Nope, and that is why I think the Crabtree injury hurts the 49ers more than the Harvin injury hurts the Seahawks -- at least relative to how the teams performed last season. Now, if losing Harvin means Seattle doesn't get over the top, that should count for something too. But it's tougher to define.
is M. Floyd the #2 WR for Cards and what type of year is reasonable to expect from him given the Bellcow- Fitzgerald on the other side and Palmer staying healthy?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yes, Michael Floyd is the No. 2 receiver. I think he'll shrink the gap with Fitzgerald. Floyd had 45 receptions last season. I could see 60 this season without much trouble.
Everything I hear about Kaepernick getting prepared for this upcoming season has been working with receivers, adding strength, and getting faster. How much time is he putting in the film room studying and learning how to read defenses better?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
My sense is that he's putting in a ton of time that way as well. I base that on what others say about his hunger for improvement, but there is really no way to know from an hours standpoint.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi, Will the Saint Louis Rams good enough to make the playoffs or good enough to affect who'll finish 1st & 2nd in NFC West?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
It would really help if injuries or other factors knocked out either the 49ers or Seahawks. If those teams play well, it's tough. I like where the Rams are headed but also am not sure how well their young players are going to produce right away.
What is going to be the avg playing time Winfield will get this year for the hawks
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
I would think he would play around half the snaps, which would include most of the nickel snaps. It'll be interesting to see, however, whether opponents use heavier personnel to see if Seattle can rush the passer from its base defense.
Ryan (Montreal) [via mobile]
I'm Sam Bradford had a higher QBR than his divisional opponents in each of their 6 matchups ( not that he was great in all those games). What statistical milestones should we look for in Bradford by the end of the year to point to his progression to a Franchise QB that his draft stock indicated ?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Bradford did not have a higher Total QBR score in each of those games. Not sure about the numbers for passer rating. Statistically, I want to see if Bradford can get into the 60s for Total QBR and whether he can get that yards per attempt number into a more respectable range. Bradford ranks 29th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks in yards per pass attempt since 2010, his rookie season. He is at 6.26. Only Colt McCoy, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert are lower over that span.
Jay (Auburn, AL)
With the uncertainty of the WR position in San Francisco, do you think we can expect to see a lot of 2 TE, 2 back sets with only one WR from them this season?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Yeah, we've seen the 49ers do that more frequently anyway. They like the two-back identity in the run game. Now, they lost Delanie Walker, so I'm not sure initially how much two-TE stuff they will do. Vance McDonald's development will play a role there. But if there are WR issues, the 49ers are in pretty strong position to diminish that position relative to the others while still fielding a competitive offense.
Andrew (Maple Valley)
I know that you say you cannot see regression happening with either QB . . . They did play well, true, but that had elite defenses supporting them, and elite run games supporting them. If one of those threats is gone, they will regress. I guarantee it.
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
"Cannot" is a stronger word than I would use. There could be a regression. I'm just not betting on a significant one. And if there are easily identifiable outside factors for a regression, are we talking about a true regression of the player or just a regression of the results for reasons beyond the QB?
Rich Vegas [via mobile]
How is yards per attempt measured? Do you know of any passing statistics that look at a median or mode rather then mean when fuguring averages?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Passing yards divided by pass attempts is the most common way to get yards per pass attempt. We also chart yards per drop-back, which factors for sacks. YPA itself is just one indicator. Of the metrics I listed for Bradford, the first one -- Total QBR -- would be the most telling one from my standpoint.
Kevin (Reno, NV)
When will peoople realize that Carson Palmer the star NFL QB disappeared when Kimo Von Oelhoffen shrreded his knee in the playoffs? The guy is gun shy, and will disappointmnet in Arizona like he's done everywhere else since the injury. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I think most people realize injuries have taken a toll on Carson Palmer. The Raiders gave him up for almost nothing.
Andrew (Maple Valley)
I am hearing a lot of talk, mainly from the Cardinals website, about Michael Floyd becoming a huge threat, and I believe that Mr. Williamson himself said the he may be the second best receiver in the division by years end. Any truth to that? That statement surprised me.
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
Carson Palmer is very high on Michael Floyd. Also, there's an expectation Arizona will throw deeper passes, and that Floyd's skill set lends itself to winning jump balls. Also, Floyd finished last season on a high note. Throw those things together and that's where the feeling comes from.
Mike will we see more true playaction plays from kaep this year or just the read option?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
We had Colin Kaepernick with 79 play-action plays last season (61 for Alex Smith). We had him ranked sixth in play-action snaps per start (9.71) for qualifying quarterbacks. Russell Wilson was at 11.5 (third in the NFL), for reference.
Who or what group of players for the Hawks will you be keeping a close eye on here in the Preseason? Christine Michael and the DL for me.
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
Christine Michael is definitely one of them. Also, the kickoff returners. No Leon Washington, no Percy Harvin.
droog [via mobile]
At this point do you think the Hawks are having buyers remorse over Harvin? Sure they're losing a player they didnt have last season but they're also without 2 draft picks including a #1 they would've had this season plus the #3 next season.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
I was wondering about that today. Knowing what they know, would they make the trade again? I think that's tougher to answer. But if he plays a leading role in a championship season down the line, it's all good. Hindsight is 20-20 but this relationship is still just beginning. I don't think Seattle would un-do the trade if given the chance, but if the team could enter into those trade talks knowing Harvin would have hip surgery, I'm thinking the team wouldn't have done the deal.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat today. See you on the blog.