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!
Julius Jones (Seattle)
I keep seeing Lendale White's name in the news... are my days numbered?
Mike Sando (12:58 PM)
All of our days are numbered.
cory j (atl)
As a 49er fan do you think that we should have made a run at Jason Campbell? I know most people think he is not that good but if you look at numbers he threw for 3,000 yards on a very bad Redskin team
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
Not convinced. Campbell is arguably better than Alex Smith, but it's not a slam dunk and Smith has more value in the short term for sure based on his experience in the offense. If the 49ers were going to change their quarterback situation, they needed to do it for someone markedly better. There's too much chance Campbell and Smith could be close to a wash, I think.
Nate (Vancouver, WA)
As a Seahawk fan I am excited about what PC and Schneider is doing is Seattle. At first I was nervous about getting a college coach, but he seems to have a finger on the pulse of this team. Do you see the Hawks as being competitive and reclaiming the NFCW?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
I see the Seahawks becoming competitive again, yes. The team had a promising offseason and it was likely Seattle would improve on its 2009 record anyway. The changes seem mostly positive. There's still a long ways to go, but this division lacks an established dominant team, so you have to think Seattle has an outside chance at competing for the division title. I still think the 49ers or Cardinals are more likely to prevail in 2010.
Clay D (NY)
How well do you take the fact that you cover the most pathetic division in football?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
I'm flattered to be mistaken for Bill Williamson. He's a good guy.
Jack (Phx, AZ)
Can you see the Cards still making an attempt to sign Marc Bulger? I still think he would be better than Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson.
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Everything is right except the timing, and you know what they say about timing. It can be everything. If the Rams had released Bulger earlier, sure, the Cardinals would have been in better position to go that direction. It's a little tough at this point, particularly if Bulger wants to come in with a chance to challenge for playing time.
Ruben (Highland, Ca)
Mike, thanks for taking my question. At what point do you think the Rams need to make a decision to get Sam Bradford ready to start the season? Obviously, the more reps he gets, the more chance he will have to succeed in 2010. Will it be OTA's, mini-camp or middle of training camp? I would hope if they have any thoughts of him playing early in 2010, they give him as many first-team reps as possible, beginning May 18.
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
The postdraft camp sounded encouraging. The Rams should give Bradford as many reps as they can. The decision they make about starting him should hinge on how good Bradford looks in preseason and how well the offensive line is meshing. It's important Bradford has enough support to make progress. He needs experience, but not bad experience, in other words. I'm with you in thinking Bradford should get every chance this offseason, even if the team ultimately decides to let him watch a few games.
Hi Sando, great work! Quick Rams comment about passing over the OLBs in the draft. I can only find one true OLB I think they should have taken a late-round flier on: Dakota Watson. His speed and production were good at FSU, but I think the fact that he is vertically challenged held Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney back. Agree?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Thanks. That is probably a good assessment. Take a look at the Rams' linebackers and you'll see guys 6-foot-1 or taller. Six are at least 6-2.
Adam (St. Louis)
Thanks for taking my question Mike. What percentage would you put on the Rams winning five games this year? That's my over/under.
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
That is a good target, I think. I'd say there's a very good chance the Rams win five or fewer games. I'd rather take five or fewer than six or more. They'll have a rookie quarterback or A.J. Feeley.
Christopher (Lake Elsinore, California)
What do the 49ers have to do in order to win their divsion.
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
Get even stronger at home and find a way to win three road games. The Patriots were the only division champion with a losing record on the road. If 9-7 is good enough to win the NFC West, then the 49ers can get there by matching their 2009 home record (6-2) and winning a third road game. They were close last season. The loss at Minnesota obviously hurt them badly.
Mike, I was worried for a while, but I now love what Seattle has done of late. The draft was a good one and the addition of LenDale White will benefit Justin Forsett as a nice change of pace. I also think Golden Tate gives the offense some playmaking ability it was needing. I would love to see them add one more player on the defensive line. Perhaps John Henderson if he's still available. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
And you didn't even mention Leon Washington. I think Washington is a huge wild card for the Seattle offense. White and Forsett can be decent runners, but Washington can be explosive and dynamic. Forsett's longest run (albeit with limited carries) covered 35 yards. Washington has broken a 61-yard touchdown run. My perception of Washington is that he can be more dynamic if healthy. And that offense lacked anything close to dynamic last season. Tate will be trying to make his mark as a rookie receiver. Expect good things this offseason. Will they translate to the regular season, week after week? Fair question. On Henderson, I always liked him, but the Seahawks are already pretty stout up front with Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant and now Kevin Vickerson. Adding Henderson would make them bigger and deeper. I would have no trouble with that move. But I wonder how the Seahawks perceive their needs at that position.
Brett Schu (New York, NY)
Sando, as a 49er fan I know we are the "favorite" in the west this year, even if it is by default, but I see that this team could be more. What will it take from Alex Smith to take this team not only to the playoffs, but deep into the playoffs.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
The "it" factor. Last season we were waiting for Smith to step up and carry the offense to victory. Smith won some games, but I don't think we got the sense he was a real difference maker. He made strides. The next step is becoming the answer, not a question mark. Does Smith have a signature performance to this point? I think he needs one.
Red Bryant at defensive end huh? Hows his speed?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Red Bryant would be a run-stuffing end almost in a 3-4 mold if he played that spot for Seattle. You would have three big down linemen. Then you would have someone such as Aaron Curry standing up on the outside. You would want the big three guys to worry about the run, and the other guys to rush the passer or chase on the perimeter.
jeremy (Buckley wa.)
Hey Mike love the blog. I really like Matt Hasselbeck and think that his physical problems the last couple of years should be on the o-line. But being that he is nearly 35 and those recent injuries, even if he has a decent year, do see it being his last? If so where would be a good fit for him? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Thanks, Jeremy. My hunch says the Seahawks would sign Hasselbeck to an extension if he clearly demonstrated his ability to stay reasonably healthy and win games. They are not so committed to Charlie Whitehurst that he absolutely, positively has to play if Hasselbeck is faring well. If injuries derail Hasselbeck again or he otherwise struggles and doesn't factor into the team's plans, he would best fit with another team running a Mike Holmgren-style offense. I just wonder if Hasselbeck would want to move somewhere just to compete for a job or serve as a backup.
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
Adam Schefter reports the Rams are close to sending Alex Barron to the Cowboys for linebacker Bobby Carpenter. That would make sense. Barron is best suited to play left tackle, but the Rams drafted for that position when they selected Jason Smith second overall in 2009. The Rams also drafted another lineman, Rodger Saffold, atop the second round this year. Barron would have been playing on a one-year deal anyway, and then he likely would have been gone or out of their plans. We recently discussed on the blog why the Rams' did not draft an outside linebacker. Carpenter would help their depth at the position, assuming he would play outside in a 4-3. He also has the size the Rams might like at linebacker.
If Vernon Davis had caught that pass in the end zone against Seattle, or if Gore hadn't fumbled, then Alex Smith may very well have had his come-back victory to convince fans. Don't forget who lost that game ... it wasn't Smith.
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Smith did not lose that game, but he did not play well enough for the 49ers to overcome other errors against a struggling team.
k. (east coast)
How much impact do you see Will Davis and Cody Brown having for the Cardinals?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
One or both of them will probably play a significant role. That is the Cardinals' history with developing younger players.
k. (east coast)
If Matt leinart starts all 16 games, what do you think the Cards' record would be?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Right around 8-8, probably.
Patrick Santana (Hemet, CA)
Hey Mike, as a former resident of Washington state, do you feel any bias toward the Seahawks?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Did I move? I still live in Washington state. I grew up in Northern California and was a Raiders fan for quite a few years. Once I moved to Washington in the late 1980s, I would go to the Kingdome and root for the Raiders against Seattle. All those allegiances went out the window pretty quickly when I started covering the NFL. I have great memories of the sports teams from my youth, but do not root for them now. Just leading a totally different life with a family and a job that keeps me focused on covering teams, not rooting for them. I want a competitive NFC West because it's in the best interests of the blog and, by extension, me.
NinerPDX (Portland, OR)
Why all the hype about Niners sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon? He's getting more press (praise?) than Glen Coffee did last year as a third-round pick and definitely more than Thomas Clayton, who was a sixth-round pick a few years ago that couldn't make it off the practice squad.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
I haven't quantified coverage but you're probably right. We keep focusing on teams more and more, which shines more light on areas of the roster that didn't get much exposure years ago. Coffee got quite a bit of hype last year, though.
Hi Mike. Would like to know why people don't stress the significance of the right tackle position for lefty quarterbacks, particularly in the case of Matt Leinart. I would think that the better of the two tackles would be moved to the right side to protect the QB's blindside. Why is that not the case?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
There is still a perception, right or wrong, that the better pass-rushers line up over the left offensive tackle. Ken Whisenhunt alluded to this during the Cardinals' postdraft camp. In recent years it's become almost cliche to point out how there are good rushers on the other side, too. In the Cardinals' case, it's important to remember that Levi Brown isn't going to be a lock-down pass protector on either side. The player they line up at right tackle might be similarly effective (or possibly more effective) in protecting the passer.
Wow, so covering football ruined your fandom? That's a bleak outlook for any aspiring sports writers.
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
Small price to pay! This job is way, way better than sitting on the edge of my seat and feeling distraught when someone misses a field goal and my team misses the playoffs again.
49erBeef (Truckee, CA)
What's your take on Maiocco's new gig?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
I am happy for him. It's a good situation for 49ers fans, too, because they gain another voice and another outlet. Matt's former employer will continue covering the 49ers. His new employer is obviously serious about that too. It's a win for everyone.
k. (east coast)
Is it realistic to consider Matt Leinart a viable option as the franchise quarterback for Arizona? That said, the only reason he hasn't played is because of Kurt Warner's stellar play and not Matt's poor play, as most seem to believe.
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
Not entirely true, in my view. Matt Leinart did play poorly in the preseason game against Oakland, making it much easier for the Cardinals to turn to Warner before the 2008 season. Stronger play from Leinart throughout that offseason might have allowed him to keep that job. He lost the job that summer and did not look good in relief last season. Some perceptions on Leinart are unfounded, but he certainly has much to prove.
Scott (Rochester, NY)
Gore's contract is out after 2011, and he will be going on 29 I believe...wouldn't it make sense for the 49ers to start looking for a back that could reproduce Gore's production (I can't see them extending him on the downward end of his career)?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Yes, and that is why the team used a 2009 third-round choice for Glen Coffee and a 2010 sixth-round choice for Anthony Dixon.
Sam C. (Thousand Oaks)
Hey Mike, name the NFC West player that will lead each of these categories in 2010: 1) Passing yards; 2) Rushing yards; 3) Receiving yards; 4) Sacks.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I should know better than to take you up on this one. It's a trap! My guesses right now would favor the players I think have a better chance at staying healthy for a full season. Alex Smith has a good chance to lead the division in passing yards. Steven Jackson is still the favorite to lead in rushing yards, but I think Beanie Wells has a good chance, too, depending on how Jackson holds up physically. I'm not slighting Frank Gore here, but can he make it through a season? Larry Fitzgerald seems like a pretty safe choice for receiving yards. On sacks, I'm tempted to go with Darnell Dockett playing for a new contract, but it's tough to get many more than his 2009 total of 7.0 when playing from that position. Joey Porter might not be a bad choice even though lots of people say he's dropped off significantly and gotten cheap sacks lately. Cheap sacks still count, last I checked.
Alex (Lake Stevens, WA)
Hey Mike, with all this negative attention on Leroy Hill, as well as coach Pete Carroll telling him to stay away from camp, how do you think the Hawks will deal with him, if anything? Remember that we have David Hawthorne waiting in the wings.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Something has to give, right? I just can't see the Seahawks sitting back and paying $6 million to Leroy Hill under the circumstances. They are obviously evaluating to what degree they need him, and that is at least partly why they've asked him to stay away in the meantime. I can't see another team taking on that salary, either. Hill remains in limbo and I think it's an upset if something doesn't give.
Assuming the Rams start the season with Feeley, how well can they realistically do? At what point do you see Bradford becoming the starter?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
I would think Bradford would start by October or sooner in part because the team wouldn't be making progress with Feeley as its quarterback. The Philadelphia precedent is somewhat relevant here because Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was with the Eagles when they broke in Donovan McNabb as a first-round choice in 1999. McNabb started six of the final seven games that year. He played in a reserve role for several other games. Doug Pederson was the primary starter that year.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week!