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!
Andrew (Maple Grove Mn)
What happens with Brandon Jones this year? He is being paid as a #2 WR and he is at best #4 on the depth chart. Or is he simply an insurance policy?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
No doubt, Jones' status on the team has changed since the 49ers signed him. He is scheduled to earn about $2 million this year, not a hugely prohibitive sum, but still more than a team would want to pay someone buried on the depth chart. The 49ers reworked his deal late last season, but his salary stayed about the same for 2010. He'll be an interesting one to follow this offseason.
Sando, two lineman in the first round for the 49ers was this a wise move and is there any upgrades available at CB
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Getting Nate Clements back up to speed after a tough season would provide an upgrade. Re-signing Dre Bly or even a healthy Walt Harris could be options if the 49ers decide they need more veteran help at the position. There are not great options in free agency right now.
Hey Mike,I'm a niner fan, but I'm really impressed with Seattle's draft. With that being said, how important is that first game of the year going to be in Seattle? I think it will set the tone for the whole division.
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
That game provides the Seahawks with an excellent opportunity to change perceptions about the upcoming season. I think Seattle has a chance to be in that 8-8 range to make things interesting. Having a chance isn't enough, but beating the 49ers in the opener would brighten their outlook. I'm thinking Jeff Ulbrich and Ken Norton Jr. will be eagerly anticipating that game.
Armen Dacity (Winter Park, Florida)
Why are people buying into Emperor Carroll's New Quarterback? After all, Whitehurst was a good, but not great, college QB who's been riding an NFL bench for years. Big risk to put this many eggs in Charlie's basket, given Hass' age and recent inuries, no?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
That depends on how many eggs you think are in that basket. They moved back 20 spots in the second round and still got Golden Tate, a player they thought was worthy of a first-round grade. They might have missed out on Jimmy Clausen as a result, but was Clausen going to lead the team anywhere in the next year or even two? Not so sure. They can move on from Whitehurst at any time because the contract he signed was not all that significant by NFL standards, and there is no cap anyway.
Armen Dacity (Winter Park, Florida)
No disrespect to Walter Jones, a sure HOF, but I think Orlando Pace's resume is even more impressive. After all, Pace anchored the O line in a Mike Martz offense that left him out on an island on virtually every play. Got to factor in that degree of difficulty, no?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
I looked at the 2004 season stats. Rams passed 580 times and ran 381 times. Seahawks passed 532 times and ran 468 times. In 2002, Seattle passed 587 times and Rams passed 635. I wouldn't use those disparities to significantly influence an evaluation. Jones could do everything Pace could do.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sand-O: Love the Faneca signing, especially since the Cards want to run the ball more. Do you think the Cards should try for A. Thomas? I think they need more depth at LB and he might solidify the front 7. For a secondary that sent 3 players to the Pro Bowl, it's shocking we were among the worst in pass defense. Anything that helps the front 7 get pressure is going to help the secondary. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
The more the merrier. I would have no trouble with the Cardinals adding another linebacker. However, Adalius Thomas was not happy in New England. Did not like his role. Would he like his role in Arizona? Would Cardinals want another player concerned about his role when Joey Porter might also have some concerns? Fair questions.
I am amused by all the 49er fan's insistance that they will easily take over the division this year, citing all the Cardinal departures. Having been a Card fans for years, I'm optimistic about this season. Sure, replacing Kurt Warner with Matt Leinert is a step down, but with increased emphasis on running and an improved defense (Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle were way overrated/overpaid IMO), I see no reason why the Cardinals can't win a third straight division. Am I just being a fan, or is it just not in the "Cards" in 2010?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
A little of both. I think it's reasonable to say the 49ers should be the favorite without dismissing the Cardinals. Arizona's schedule could wind up being easier this season. Also, the burden of expectations has been lifted. People will expect less of the Cardinals. The 49ers will live with increased expectations. I just would not write off Arizona at all.
Adam (St. Louis)
Thanks for taking my question Mike. My morning is never complete without checking out the NFC West blog.With the Rams having a run-first, dump short, dink-n-dunk offense, I feel that Sam Bradford will flourish due to the fact that not a lot will be asked of him. Do you agree? Or do you feel Pat Shurmer will open up the offense a bit more to display Sam's skills?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Thanks, Adam. My gut says the Rams will be careful with Bradford, particularly early in the season. Steven Jackson remains the best player on that team. The Rams ran the ball a ton last season. The best course might be for Bradford to watch for a few games, then take over partway through the season. Getting him through healthy should be a priority.
I am a Niner fan and a draft junkie but I do not drink the Kool-Aid like so many fans seem to every year in the week following the draft. Adding 2-3 good players is not going to turn the 49ers into a SB-bound juggernaut but they were 5-1 in the West last season and Kurt Warner is gone. Has the level of delusion increased proportionally to the interest in and focus on the draft (i.e. - 49ers win 12 games, Arizona returns to SB, Seattle wins division, etc.)?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
I don't sense a huge increase in optimism from 49ers fans. They were feeling good about things anyway based on Kurt Warner's retirement. Seattle fans probably received a bigger boost of confidence from this draft.
Sando, I think most people seem to forget that Arizona has the best coach and staff in the West and they are prepared for the departure of Warner via draft/offseason moves and future gameplans. What in your mind puts SF at the top of the division?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Mostly the fact that the 49ers have fared well against the Cardinals in the recent past, and now they'll face Arizona without Warner. I agree that the Cardinals have a strong head coach. They have some strong assistants, too, although some remain a bit less proven than, say, line coach Russ Grimm. The Cardinals can still win the division. I just thought it was reasonable to single out the 49ers as a slight early favorite, particularly until we see more from Matt Leinart.
Here's my take on Taylor Mays' role in 2010: He plays similar to Michael Lewis as a box safety with limited coverage abilities (at least so far) but has much greater speed and athleticism than Lewis. If he can limit rookie mistakes he should be worked into some sort of rotation, eventually taking over by the end of 2010. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Yeah, I think Mays was drafted early enough to play right away in some capacity. Assuming this move lights a fire under Lewis as well. The question there is whether Lewis' concussion issues will affect him again. The 49ers did not use a second-round pick on Mays so he could sit around. Seems to me they need to find a way to use him. I remember Seattle finding ways to use second-round safety Michael Boulware as a rookie years ago. He was a playmaker as a nickel linebacker.
RGS (Wildwood, MO)
Sando, this is a quarterback driven league. In my opinion, the Rams now have the best QB in the division. With that said, why couldn't they win between 8-10 games?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
It's unreasonable to expect Sam Bradford to be the best quarterback in the division right away. It's more reasonable to expect him to reach that level over time. If the Rams proceed as though Bradford is NFL ready, they'll probably regret it. Bradford will need help to succeed.
What in your opinion are the Cardinals weaknesses and which players on the free agent market could we bring in to help minimize those weaknesses? I'm feeling like CB is a glaring weakness but there are veterans out there who can help immediately.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
There's a potential depth issue at cornerback, but not a long list of upgrades available in free agency. I think they could use another pass-protecting tackle, but that is just my opinion, and more qualified people obviously aren't concerned (Russ Grimm being one of them). There are some question marks at linebacker, but the Cardinals have addressed that position. Now they just need to see what they have and whether the young players develop. That is how I feel about most of the Cardinals' potential weaknesses. They are more question marks than anything -- at quarterback, linebacker, corner, etc.
So you believe a victory against SF in the "Big One" will lead to a shot at the division? Didn't the Seahawks win last year in Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
A victory against the 49ers in the opener would put wind in the Seahawks' sails. It would not launch them on their way, necessarily.
The niners have been building their team through the draft. With contracts like Willis, Goldson, Lawson coming up, does this type of team building effect cap space dramatically? The signing of two first round picks add up.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
There is no salary cap in 2010, so no issue there. Also, Paraag Marathe is quite creative. I think his record shows he can set up the 49ers favorably from a salary-cap standpoint.
Reggie (Vancouver, Canada)
What's the status on Aubrayo Franklin? Has he signed his franchise tender? If not, what's the hold-up?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Aubrayo Franklin has not yet signed his franchise tender. It's pretty common for franchise player to wait. In this case, though, I see no advantage for Franklin. Might as well sign the thing and take the guaranteed money.
If the Rams could only afford to pay big money for either a OLB or a WR which one do you think it should be?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
I'd go with the receiver if both were good players.
Sando-I have long believed that AZ's struggling pass defense was directly related to their inconsistent play from the front 7. I was excited about the Williams and Washington picks. However, I was extremely surprised when Mcfadden was traded. I felt that his sub-par 2009 was a result of the front 7 and teams throwing at him more, as they wanted to stay away from DRC. The trade makes me wonder if McFadden's struggles were indeed a reflection on his ability. What is your assesment? Was the trade financially based because it is widely believed that Mcafadden was going to lose his starting spot to Toler?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
The trade appeared based on three factors: Greg Toler's perceived emergence as a candidate to start, McFadden's high salary and McFadden's so-so play last season. The combination of those things changed the way the Cardinals viewed McFadden. I do think the team is worse off without McFadden, just purely from a personnel standpoint.
Coug (SS Universe)
You are in Washington, so are you a Seahawks fan? Is it hard to be objective? Either way, Niners will get it done. Good luck and oy vey.
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yeah, everyone who lives in a state must like the teams in that state. That is why so many Californians love the 49ers and the Raiders.
Hi Mike, if the Seahawks still have David Hawthorne, what would you think about the Hawks trading Tatupu to the Giants for Osi? I know Tatupu is one of carrol's guys but I feel he is bst when he's got big boys infront of him to pick up the OL while he run's free and think he would do well for the Giants where Osi can come in for us and be a HUGE upgrade to our pass rush which I feel didn't get addressed. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
I would rather have a good pass-rushing defensive end than a good middle linebacker most of the time. I also think it's fair to wonder about Tatupu's long-term durability. That said, Aaron Curry was much better when the Seahawks still had Tatupu, and that cannot be overlooked. Tatupu makes those around him better. The team used the fourth overall pick on Curry last year. Keeping Tatupu should help the defense more collectively.
Mike,I understand the idea that "the 9ers beat the cards both times last year and now warner is gone" idea to a degree, but isn't there one factor being overlooked? Kurt was AWFUL last year against the Niners, especially in the MNF game. Now please don't take this the wrong way, going from Kurt -- a sure HOFer, IMHO -- to Matt, someone I personally am confident in, but certainly is no Warner -- is a step back. But Matt cannot be worse than Kurt was against the 49ers themselves. Kurt had, what, five turnovers in that MNF game? Beanie ran all over the 49ers in that game, so while the loss of Kurt will no doubt be felt throughout the season, I am actually looking at the head-to-head matchup a little differently than most, I guess.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Great points all the way around. The 49ers forced a lot of those Kurt Warner errors and it's fair to wonder whether Leinart would handle those situations any better. However, with Warner at quarterback, the Cardinals were surely more enterprising in their game plans. They were more aggressive in the passing game. Perhaps their game plans will be more conservative against the 49ers and that will work in their favor. I would not assume another 49ers sweep.
if Alex Smith has a good year this season, the 49ers will have to re-sign him. Does his potential new contract affect others like Patrick Willis and Aubrayo Frankiln, and in this scenario who do you think has priority? My vote is Willis.
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
No, a successful season from Alex Smith would not affect the 49ers' ability to keep those other players. The 49ers will make Aubrayo Franklin prove it this season, then decide whether to pay him. The 49ers will re-sign Willis either way. They cannot let him go as long as he is healthy. Too valuable.
RODNEY (NFC SOUTH)
Hey, the NFC South and NFC West go head-to-head this year. How do you like those matchups?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Pat Yasinskas has a good first step off the edge, but if we scheme him right, I think we can block him.
Blake (Abilene, TX)
Earl Thomas is a stud. I got to watch him play. I think a lot of people do not realize that he was only a Sophmore last year.(redshirt sophmore)
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
He's very, very young, but the Seahawks think he can be a perennial Pro Bowl-type player over time.
Peyton Manning (Film Room)
Hey there Mike---Any chance for a division realignment in the near future? I'd sure like it if my Colts were in an easier division. (Not that I won't still choke in the postseason regardless). It just frustrates me that divisions like the AFC South, NFC East and AFC East are so brutal while the division you cover is...well, to be tactful, it's kinda awful.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Didn't you need a trick play in the fourth quarter to beat Alex Smith and the 49ers at your place last season? Just checking.
Is it optimistic to say Bradford will have a year comparable to Stafford and the Rams will be picking in the top 3 again next year?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Picking in the top five again seems likely.
What are the chances the Niners will make a play at Pacman Jones? Signing him to a one-year contract in an uncapped year makes a lot of sense. It'll fill an area of need and allow the Niners to evaluate Jones without committing long term to him.
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
Looks like no chance. Niners have already said they have no interest. Then they went out and acquired Ted Ginn Jr. to help in the return game.
Dan (NY NY)
Sando - Love the blog as an east coast Niners fan keep up the good work...Niners have a LOT of guys playing for new contracts (Alex Smith, Lawson, A Franklin) or to justify/keep current ones (Clements, M Lewis, B Jones). Is this a positive or negative?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Thanks. It's a positive when the players have much to prove. I've covered quite a few franchise players and some of them respond really well. It's not like any of those guys you mentioned in the first part -- Alex Smith, Manny Lawson, Aubrayo Franklin -- has established himself as a perennial Pro Bowl player.
Travis (Gilbert, AZ)
I have wondered if the 49ers will be like the Houston Texans and that every year people will say it will be their year this year to break out and it just never seems to happen because some weird or dumb play doesn't go their way. Do you think that this could happen to the 49ers?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Sure, it could happen. The 49ers still have lots to prove. Going 8-8 was an improvement but this is a big year for the organization.
Justin (Tri-Cities, WA)
Who will be returning kick-offs and punts for the Seahawks? Golden Tate or Leon Washington?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
We know Golden Tate is going to play a role. Leon Washington first needs to prove his health. I'd be more careful with him early on.
Coug (SS Universe)
Yes, real fans root for the home team. So do you just pick a favorite color or is your connection players? Good luck Sando.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
I enjoy watching a lot of old NFL Films stuff. Really a fan of the sport and some of the characters. For example, have you ever seen the NFL Films stuff on Doug Atkins? Or the 1974 Raiders-Dolphins playoff game? Or the Immaculate Reception? Those are all things I enjoy as a fan of the sport. Team-wise, I would like to see an NFC West with all four teams competing for the title.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat, and for following me on Twitter (@espn_nfcwest).