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 for Mike now and join him on Thursday at noon p.m. ET!
Sactown49er (Sacramento, CA)
All teams have weak links that they must overcome by the play of other units. Besides the QB situation, what is the 49ers most critical weak spot? Can the 49ers still make a playoff if that weak spot does get completely resolved?
Mike Sando (12:02 PM)
I don't see horrible deficiencies, but I do think the team could again become vulnerable at right tackle if Marvel Smith follows in the Jonas Jennings tradition. I think it's fair to wonder whether the secondary will hold up if Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson do not produce the desired results from a pass-rushing standpoint.
Do you think that any of the 49ers OLB can be elite pass rushers this seasons or in there careers?
Mike Sando (12:03 PM)
Elite, no. Competent, yes. Jason Taylor and Michael Strahan were elite pass rushers.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Burwell suggested he's 'ok' with the Rams looking at talented knuckleheads. Please tell me the Rams won't consider the likes of Burress. Spags doesn't need the distration, especially when trying to create a disciplined atmosphere on a rebuilding team.
Mike Sando (12:05 PM)
I don't think the Rams will seriously consider those options right now. The timing isn't right, in my view. They have a first-time head coach and first-time coordinators. They need to be careful about which players they pay at this early stage in their rebuilding. There's no need to go for quick fixes. The Rams have been pretty measured to this point. And while cap limitations have affected them more than they have affected most teams, I sense the Rams are taking a big-picture view here.
Troy (Chambersburg, PA)
Sando, are the Seahawks looking at any other rbs?
Mike Sando (12:05 PM)
Not that I know of.
Mike, I have been following the Cardinals contract disputes all offseason and think that they have actually created a situation where their scouting and drafting has been so good that they are now almost unable to keep everyone. I understand the need for a salary cap, without question, but if a team goes on a 4-5 year run where 15 or so players require the huge contracts they deserve in comparison to other players at their position, some will inevitably leave for another team since their current team cant afford it all. I almost find that unfair to the team. Should the NFL alter the cap in a way that would allow teams to keep players they drafted over the long haul, even if it means they are over the cap?
Mike Sando (12:07 PM)
The question assumes the Cardinals and other teams would want to spend that type of money. The cap isn't preventing Arizona from striking long-term deals with any players at this time. The team easily could have structured Adrian Wilson's contract in a way that left more cap room. The team would actually gain cap room by paying Karlos Dansby on a long-term deal. NFL teams have plenty of cap room, on the whole. The thing to remember about the cap is that it also includes minimum spending requirements. I think some teams would spend less if the cap evaporated.
Mike, do you think that the Cardinals will take a step back offensively with the loss of Todd Hailey?
Mike Sando (12:09 PM)
I don't know if it's a step back in the long term when your head coach takes over play-calling, particularly in this case. I think Ken Whisenhunt has shown he is very sharp and capable. The offense might lose some of the momentum and rhythm it had going last season. But if you know Whisenhunt, I think you know how competitive he is and how driven he will be to keep that offense going.
Aside from personnel, what if any, improvements have the Seahawks made to shore up their defense?
Mike Sando (12:10 PM)
The players I've spoken with have said there's much greater emphasis on the little things. The priorities have changed now that the team has a defensive-minded head coach.
hey mike love your column! cant wait till the season starts to make all the nae sayers shut up. I like to think I look at my team with a realistic eye. I do believe they have a great chance at taking the west back. I just watched 32 in 32 on nfl network and they had us at 25 ? where do you have us? go hawks!!!
Mike Sando (12:12 PM)
I put the Seahawks at 21 pending a firmer grasp of the injury situation. I think that is fair when a team is coming off a 4-12 season. Seattle has to prove itself again. I agree with you to an extent. This team does appear to have potential. I just need to see Patrick Kerney, Matt Hasselbeck and Walter Jones functioning at a high level with the pads on. Til then, a little skepticism is warranted.
Dat Dude (Wilmington, DE)
Sando honestly do you think the 49ers will win the division this year?
Mike Sando (12:12 PM)
I had Arizona with a better record when I looked at the schedules earlier in the spring. Niners should be competitive. I think we'll have a better feel once we know the QB situation. I tend to think the 49ers are more in that 8-8 range.
What are the big compitions in the 49ers camp. We all know QB, WR, and DB....but what about TE or OL?
Mike Sando (12:14 PM)
I don't think there's much doubt about the TE spot. Vernon Davis needs to be the primary guy. They need to make that work. The defensive line intrigues me some. How will Kentwan Balmer fare and where will they use him on the line? Can Ray McDonald bounce back from that knee injury? Is Aubrayo Franklin legit, or were his late-season gains overstated by me and others?
What happens to the Seahawks if Matt Hasselbeck gets hurt again?
Mike Sando (12:16 PM)
I think it would be hard for them to get to 8-8 if he missed most of the season, but I do think Seneca Wallace is good enough for them to compete -- barring catastrophic injuries elsewhere on the roster.
considering every teams success is contingent on staying injury free, if the seahawks are healthy (just like the hopes of every other team in the NFL), why cant they compete for the NFC crown?...i see no weak links on all three layers of defense...i think the hawks in fact improved in all three areas...hasselbeck is a pro bowler...the WR corp is bolstered...and julius jones was 13th in the league last year with 4.4 yards per carry with a completely busted offense all around...the 2 areas i constantly see as issues are injuries and the run game....i think both will be fine considerably....thoughts sando?...
Mike Sando (12:18 PM)
Just as it's unrealistic to project debilitating injuries, it's unrealistic to expect everything to go right. Seattle could be vulnerable at running back this season. The pass rush could crumble depending on Patrick Kerney's health and whether Lawrence Jackson, Darryl Tapp and Baraka Atkins develop. The burden of proof is on those guys. We should not just assume they will produce.
Cpl Peak (US Marine)
Why would people think it is a clear cut win for the cardinals to win the division. They got hot in the playoffs but through out the season they played streaky and barely won the division.
Mike Sando (12:21 PM)
I don't know if they "barely" won the division. What the Cardinals did was play well when they had to play well. You're right about their inconsistency. But if you look back over the whole season, they were pretty clutch. They ran out to a 7-3 record, putting pressure on the other teams to keep pace. The other teams buckled. The Cardinals showed they couldn't keep playing well without someone chasing them, but when the playoffs started, they were at their best. The Cardinals have less to prove than the other teams in the division, although you are right in saying it's not a clear-cut thing.
What do you think the chances are for the Rams to pull a Atlanta or Miami like comeback, being a Niners fan I'd prefer if they weren't that good but as a division we could use improvement all around.
Mike Sando (12:24 PM)
I would consider it unlikely based on their overall depth, and also based on their schedule. They play three of their first four on the road. I think the Rams have the potential to surprise given that their quarterback has played well in the (somewhat distant) past. But those other factors could make it tough.
Sando, you do an awesome job covering the NFC West. Keep it up! Is it just me or was it really bizarre that the Seahawks didn't draft an additional Offensive Lineman? Yes, Unger looks promising but Sean Locklear is not what we expected, Walter Jones is coming off knee surgery, and Chris Spencer stunk the place up last season. Our O-line was like swiss cheese! What's your take on the situation? I don't see our team running, passing, or scoring without this situation being addressed. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (12:26 PM)
Thanks, Bryan. The Seahawks like their tackle situation better than you and I apparently liked it. They thought re-signing Ray Willis made everything OK from a depth standpoint. They are betting big on Walter Jones bouncing back strong. Here is a question to consider, though: What if injuries take down Mike Wahle and Chris Spencer? It's a reasonable question given Wahle's age and recent injury problems. Throw in the fact that Spencer and Rob Sims missed time last season and I think you raise a fair point.
Fred (Blacksburg, Va)
Enjoy the blog, Mike. Any chance the Seahawks use one of their 1st round picks next year, and make a run at Brandon Marshall?
Mike Sando (12:27 PM)
I would put that in the "no chance" category based on Marshall's off-field history and the moves Seattle made this offseason.
The408 (Santa Cruz, CA)
Have you heard anything more about the 49ers using their extra cap space to lock in players to longer deals? I'm thinking more about players like Willis, Davis, and Gore. Also do you think it'd be a bad idea waiting till the end of the season to re-sign Davis, considering he might have a break through season under the Sing/Raye system. Also what do you think about signing/extending Gore to a long term deal
Mike Sando (12:31 PM)
Gore is signed through 2011. That would be long enough for me if I were the 49ers. He is a running back. It's fair to question whether he'll be a starting-caliber player beyond 2011, based on how much the position demands of running backs physically. Vernon Davis is up after the 2010 season. I would not want to reward a player who has been so inconsistent. Patrick Willis, on the other hand, is precisely the type of player the 49ers will try to sign long term.
Any insight on the possible sale of the Rams?
Mike Sando (12:35 PM)
We're not seeing a long list of people lining up to buy the team. That jumps out to me.
Jordan White (Oakland, CA)
Hey Sando! Thanks for being so candid and honest when addressing questions about the 49ers!Do you buy in to Coah Singletary's comments regarding Alex Smith and his progress; or do you think they are just giving him some type of confidence going forward? Will he perform well if Shaun Hill doesn't?
Mike Sando (12:38 PM)
You're welcome. I buy what Mike Singletary is saying. Do not think he would be trying to mislead on this stuff. He really does need to see Smith prove himself. My sense is that Smith has to show much more to Singletary before Singletary jumps onboard. Smith would probably have more initial support from personnel people, given his physical advantages over Hill. But Smith must show command of the huddle, leadership and those things.
Rashad (WAshington DC)
Given the NINERS QB situation, why dont the niners make a run at QBs when they become available for trade like Cutler, or Young?
Mike Sando (12:42 PM)
The 49ers are not installing the Don Coryell offense here. Also, if you are going to pay top dollar for a franchise QB, don't you need to know that player? I think Mike Singletary would need to know that player and trust that player, perhaps more than other coaches. That is just my feel based on what I think Singletary views as important. The 49ers have been burned before when betting big on one franchise QB. I think that explains at least in part their reluctance to do it again.
In relation to the Cardinals, I think their front seven on defense will define if they will get another division crown. I have more than a few question marks in that group in terms of age, depth, and talent of the group. I don?t think they have enough for another run to the playoffs. Fair assessment?
Mike Sando (12:43 PM)
That assessment is fair to a point, but lots of things become easier if your offense is averaging 25 or 27 or 30 points per game. The Cardinals have the firepower on offense to win the division even without a strong defensive front seven. But no question, the margin for error shrinks when you cannot stop people.
Hey Mike, thanks for giving me something to read/do during this time of year. Whats the likelihood of people not calling the NFC West the worst division in football this year (it gets old fast). Is there any sign of the division as a whole improving? If so, who would replace the NFC West as the "worst" division in your opinion?
Mike Sando (12:44 PM)
You're welcome. The AFC West was arguably worse last season. The NFC West can shake the label if these things happen: At least two teams become .500 or better, while the worst team isn't horrific.
Any chance the Seahawks would sign Shaun Alexander if they had injury troubles at the position?
Mike Sando (12:45 PM)
Not with the new blocking scheme. They want running backs to be one-cut-and-go.
Your gut feeling on what you hear on the inside. Odds of Dansby getting his extension before the July 15th deadline???
Mike Sando (12:46 PM)
I am still skeptical. Dansby has less incentive to do an extension when he knows he can pocket $9.678 million and then force the Cardinals' hand next offseason.
Mike, do the Niners have an idea how they'll use their surplus of receivers yet? I assume Bruce, Morgan and Crabtree will share the field a lot, but then what? Hill has to be in there right?
Mike Sando (12:49 PM)
Let's see if it's still a surplus when the season begins. Injuries have a way of helping settle battles at that position. Let's also remember that some of these great receivers are still greatly unproven. As great as Josh Morgan has appeared in practice, he has 20 career receptions. Let's not put anyone but Isaac Bruce in the Hall of Fame just yet. The potential is there for this to be a deep position for the 49ers. But we do not yet know whether Michael Crabtree will be a factor right away, and we need to see some of those other guys -- Jason Hill, Brandon Jones -- prove themselves through camp and into the season.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
What are the chances the Rams try to build some depth with older veterens (Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Amani Toomer)? ... or are they set with the current roster, come what may?
Mike Sando (12:50 PM)
Injuries could conceivably force them to go that route eventually, but the team has shown absolutely no interest in doing that so far. I don't think it's part of the plan. If you were Derrick Brooks, would you sign with the Rams? Or would you pick your spots and try to land with an obvious contender?
49ers actually have 5 solid Wrs, they have Crabtree, Bruce, Morgan, Hill and, Jones, the guy they signed from Tennesse. The dosent leave much room for Arnaz Battle?
Mike Sando (12:52 PM)
They can keep six. Teams generally keep five or six. In the past, the 49ers weren't going to keep six unless the six guy was really worth a roster spot. They might have six guys worth keeping this year.
Sando, in your opinion, do you think Vernon Davis will ever become that beast of an offensive weapon that niner fans thought they we're getting when we drafted this guy. I watch every game Sando, and I tell you, three years in, this guy still can't run routes or catch the ball. Your thoughts please
Mike Sando (12:52 PM)
I don't think he will ever justify his draft status. On the other hand, is it his fault the 49ers drafted a tight end in the top six?
Chuck (Sherburne NY)
Did the Rams beef up thier offensive line enough to win a few more games this season?Do you see them adding any vets before orafter camp gets started to provide depth? Thanks man
Mike Sando (12:53 PM)
I think the line appears improved and I do expect a couple more victories as a result.
Is Cpl. Peak forgetting that the Cardinals won every game in the division? How can he say the Cardinals barely won the division? What division is he talking about?
Mike Sando (12:54 PM)
Perhaps an infantry division?
Chris (Lake Stevens WA)
Are the seahawks going to finally replace Brian Russell. We have Jordan big play babs in nickel why not as a starter.
Mike Sando (12:56 PM)
I do not recall the defense playing well when Jordan Babineaux was the starting safety. Seems to me that coincided with some horrible run defense. Not that Babineaux was fully to blame, of course, but I think the evidence shows Babineaux best suited for situational roles. And then he's versatile enough to provide depth at corner and safety. Do you recall Babineaux playing well as a starter?
john lavery (nj)
mike, if there is a disease that prohibits people from selecting talanted RBs in later rounds in the draft, the seahawks GM certainly has it.. perhaps he can drink from the fountain that jerry recse of the giants drinks from. please tell me JJ
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
Tim Ruskell's teams have drafted seven running backs in the final three rounds over the last 15 seasons. That number leads current NFC West general managers during the same span. That includes only one during his Seattle tenure, though. Justin Forsett in 2008.