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!
Why hasn't Seattle released Julius Jones?
Mike Sando (12:58 PM)
Because he is one of the two best running backs on the team right now. The Seahawks need to find out whether Leon Washington can help them this season. They need to develop Quinton Ganther. Jones is insurance for them right now. He's not great at anything or terrible at anything. He's neither the problem or the solution. But he has value. Releasing him would serve no purpose. At least when the team released LenDale White, the move sent a strong message to the team about accountability.
Brian (Frederick, MD)
What team do you think will have the most successful run game in the upcoming season?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
The Cardinals are probably in the best position in terms of having good run blockers up front and two young, recently productive backs. Your use of the word "successful" is appreciated. I'm very interested in seeing how much the 49ers' run game improves this season. Frank Gore has a chance to put up good numbers in that offense, but there are questions about the line as the team works rookies into the mix. The Rams will have a productive ground game as long as Steven Jackson is available, but will it be successful if the team fails to increase its scoring significantly?
Andrew (Maple Grove MN)
Hey Mike! Who ya got in the NBA Finals? Sorry it's off-topic! Need to know!
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was my favorite player back even before the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson. I remember going to the library at my elementary school and checking out a little book about NBA stars. I think Kareem was on the cover. I haven't followed the NBA as a fan for probably 15 years, but I'll stick with the Lakers because I followed them very closely for a long time.
David (Halifax, Canada)
If San Francisco is to win the division, is it going to be on the back of Frank Gore, the strength of the defense or the arm of Alex Smith?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
David (Halifax, Canada)
Where do you see OJ Atogwe landing? With Marlin Jackson's recent injury any chance Philly picks him up?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
St. Louis seems like the most likely option. The Eagles are reportedly not interested.
Chris A. (Houston)
How is Jason Smith progressing in his second year? Will he live up to the billing of being the secnd overall pick in the draft?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Smith is moving to left tackle this offseason. He improved last season until concussion problems sidelined him. He should develop into a quality starter, but I'd be surprised if he lived up to his draft status. He was a safe pick at a position of need, but not a dynamic talent in the mold of Orlando Pace or Walter Jones.
mike (longview Washington)
Hey Mike, I'm a huge fan. I was wondering what you thought about the Seahawks releasing LenDale White and what this means for the other backs on their roster. Thanks =D
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
The move sent a strong message throughout the roster at the expense of depth at the position. The Seahawks thought White was coasting through practices and not buying into Pete Carroll's program, and they feared keeping White would make it tougher for Carroll to uphold the standards he feels are important. From that standpoint, releasing White was the right move. I think it also tells you the team feels good enough about some of its other backs -- Justin Forsett, Julius Jones, Leon Washington, perhaps Quinton Ganther -- to part with a young, previously productive player at a premium position.
carlos (los angeles)
Hey Mr. Sando, thanks for your blogs. What are the chances Taylor Mays becomes a starter for this season? Can he beat out Michael Lewis? Thank you.
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
It's probably more likely that Mays will find his way into the lineup because of injury, at least early in the season.
With Coach Bates' use of the two TE set, is a FB a big factor and how many do you think the Seahawks will keep?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
The traditional blocking specialist will have less of a role than when Mike Holmgren was running his version of the West Coast offense. I've looked at Bates' past NFL teams and Mike Shanahan's past NFL teams. They had some fullback types on their rosters, but most were good runners. They sometimes held one spot for a traditional blocking fullback. I look at the Seahawks' current fullbacks and wonder if they'll fit at all.
Hey Sando, quick question. You listed James Laurinaitis as a projected leader for the Rams defense yesterday and didn't mention Chris Long in that segment of over/under paid players. But now that Long is playing left end, who do you think projects as a better long-term player for the Rams, Long or Laurinaitis? I'm going with Long. As always, thanks for sharing your perspective.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
No problem. Those valuations were relative to salary, which is relative to draft status. Chris Long would have to be the best player in the league to be seen as undervalued based on the contract he received as the second player drafted. I also see Long as a player on the rise. He does not appear to be a dynamic, pure pass-rusher in the mold of elite players at that position. But he is an ascending player. Your argument for Long over Laurinaitis is easier to make after watching the second half of last season. I'm OK with it.
David (Halifax, Canada)
Is all the buzz around SF winning the division a result of them improving or Warner retiring? Don't see that much improvement in SF to warrant them being the favourite.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
It's a result of the fact that people think the 49ers should improve as they become more comfortable with their offensive system. It's a result of Kurt Warner's retirement. It's a result of what people think about Matt Leinart. It's a result of the 49ers sweeping the Cardinals even when Arizona had Warner.
Does the release of Lendale White possibly open the door for the Hawks acquiring Marshawn Lynch in the preseason?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Getting rid of White does make a Lynch-type acquisition appear more likely. I think it's something to keep in the backs of our minds as the offseason progresses.
Am I going to have to REALLY bring Ike Brando back? Seriously, What's going to happen with Dashon Goldson, or what is most likely? Can they work out a deal before he becomes a UFA or does he just want too much for his limited production?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Yes, Ike Brando. I remember him well. Related to Mike Odnas, as I recall. On Goldson, the fact that he changed agents amid reports that he wanted a fat new deal made me wonder whether his expectations might be a little unrealistic. Seems to me Goldson would need to play pretty well this season for the 49ers to reward him with a lucrative deal. Let's see how Goldson handles himself this season.
How much does David Carr make next year? And if Alex Smith steps up and earns an extension, will the 49ers release Carr in the offseason and let Nate Davis become the backup?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
Carr's contract pays him $2.375 million in salary for 2011. He can earn additional income through incentives. He received a $2 million roster bonus this year, plus a $1.875 million salary. The deal basically averages a little more than $3 million per year. The 49ers could easily justify that figure in 2011 even if Smith played well enough to command a long-term extension. I don't see a great reason to go with a completely inexperienced project player in the No. 2 role.
Jon H. (Omaha, NE)
Hey Mike, daily reader of the blog. The talk for a while here now is that the Niners are starting to look like the favorites going into this season but no one is ready to hand them anything, especially you. I too understand they haven't achieved anything yet, but looking at the roster compared to the other teams, the Niners seem to be strong in all aspects. Alex Smith, even if he doesn't have a great season, won't hurt the team this year. We have seen what he can do even with remote talent. Now he has an arsenal. Where do you feel the biggest hole on the Niners team is, to where you feel you are unable to say they are favorites going into the season?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
The 49ers are the 2010 favorite in my view, but you're right about me not offering an unconditional endorsement. Quarterback is still a question mark. How well can Smith operate the offense outside the shotgun? Can Smith and Frank Gore both produce effectively in the same offense? How well will Smith hold up over the course of a full season, particularly now that opposing defenses will have multiple weeks of game tape on him? Remember, the 49ers revamped their offense in midseason, both from a philosophical standpoint and a personnel standpoint (adding Michael Crabtree, replacing Shaun Hill). It's conceivable that teams will be better prepared for Smith in 2010.
Are the Niners putting themselves in a tough position by not signing Vernon Davis to an extension this offseason? Next offseason, they will have to choose who they want to franchise, either Davis or Aubrayo Franklin. The other will probably walk?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Vernon Davis is a unique player in the NFL based on his blocking ability and straight-line speed. I think the 49ers will make him the priority over Franklin. They still have time to get it done. If they wait, Davis has time to prove himself further, at which point the 49ers would be more comfortable paying him. Franklin probably has more to prove. If Davis and Franklin both play well, the 49ers can extend Davis, then figure out whether they want to use the franchise tag on Franklin one more time (provided the tag still exists).
Aaron (DC (the other Washngton))
How can you say that about Lynch -- comparing him to White so strongly. Regardless of the problems Lynch has had off-the-field (and they seem paltry by comparison to others in the league), Lynch doesn't have the commitment/effort issues.
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
I'm not aware of any direct comparisons between LenDale White and Marshawn Lynch. White might have proved that his connection to Pete Carroll was ultimately a detriment. Perhaps he thought he had a free pass. If Lynch came to Seattle, Justin Forsett could be the connection. Lynch and Forsett roomed together while players at Cal.
Have you heard anything about Manny Lawson's off-season program since he has not participated in any of the 49ers programs?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
No, but he is a bit of a freak athletically and I'd be surprised if he were not in good shape.
Mike, how is Mike Williams doing since coming back from his (bust) situation from a few years back? Also, wouldn't Oshiomogho Atogwe be a good fit in Tampa or Cleveland?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
Mike Williams has outperformed all reasonable expectations to this point. He has a real shot at contributing for Seattle in 2010. At the same time, LenDale White's release should remind us that players do not always change just because they say they have changed. White's weight loss apparently did not mean he was in top condition or serious about his opportunity, counter to logic. Williams looks good out there, but if his work ethic lagged earlier in his career, he could always revert to old ways over time. One big difference between White and Williams, though, is that Williams has produced consistently during practice. As for Atogwe, the Rams are the best fit for him. I am not familiar enough with the situations in Tampa or Cleveland to say authoritatively whether he would fit well on those teams.
Rick Hernandez (Pasadena, CA)
What's it going to take for the Rams to have a middle of the pack defense this year?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
The No. 1 assist would be for the offense to go from horrible to halfway decent. The Rams played well enough defensively to win a few more games last season. Remember the red-zone nightmares on offense? The Rams need more points on the board to put their defense in better situations. The Rams needed a touchdown on a fake field goal to beat the Lions. They needed a defensive touchdown from Leonard Little -- a sensational play -- to force overtime against the Jaguars. The Rams needed a return touchdown against the Saints to stay close. If I'm Steve Spagnuolo and Ken Flajole, I'm thinking, "More offense, please."
Hey, Mike. Any word on how Kam Chancellor has been doing in Seattle? As a big, heavy-hitting guy, it seems like he could be the perfect complement to the ball-hawking Earl Thomas.
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Kam Chancellor stands out physically right away. He is huge. But this is the time of year when the big, physical guys do not get to show their worth as much. Players are practicing in shorts. We should get a better idea how that size translates when Chancellor puts on the pads.
Does Michael Robinson fit anywhere into the 49ers plan this year?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Michael Robinson has value on special teams. He has value as a leader. He does not appear to have value as a regular member of the backfield rotation.
Mike, how perfect of a fit would Tom Brady be for the Niners next season? Hometown hero comes home to usher the up and coming Niners into the NFL's greatest stadium.
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Uh, yeah, he would be a perfect fit. We can talk about continuity all we want, but if the 49ers had a chance to get Tom Brady -- and they will not have that chance, in my view -- they would pounce.
Aaron (DC - the other Washington)
Okay, sorry about that. I misread your "Getting rid of White does make a Lynch-type acquisition appear more likely" statement as a comparison of White's attitude to Lynch's.That being said - please answer my first question about Hamilton. O and D line are very important and we all know the state of the D line -- the O line could do us proud, it's just that Hamilton is an unknown quantity as a player on the field (regardless of his superior teaching/mentoring ability). Thanks!
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
OK, I understand. Glad to clear up any confusion. Ben Hamilton has shown he can be a productive starter in an Alex Gibbs-type system. He's getting a little older and injuries could be more of a concern. The Broncos benched him and cut him because they changed their system. It wasn't really personal with Hamilton. Seems like Seattle should be able to get a couple seasons out of Hamilton. He'll be a prototypical Gibbs guard -- small enough to be agile and quick, but also potentially vulnerable if bigger defenders get into him.
Aaron (Elma, WA)
The Seahawks recently added WR Isaiah Stanbeck to their roster, continuing Carroll's tendency to sign former players and opponents from his college days. What are the chances for the former Husky to make the roster, given that the first five spots appear to be locked up (T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Golden Tate, Deon Butler and Mike Williams)?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
I'll be a little surprised if Stanback earns a roster spot. Remember, though, that it's a fairly open competition all the way through. Butler has no guarantees. Mike Williams has much to prove.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. See you on the blog and elsewhere online.