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!
The Duke (The Dirty Jersey)
Got any Maple Bars?
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
I've had more than my share over the years but am proud to say doughnuts are not part of my life right now. But when I was Golden Tate's age -- circa 1991 -- I could eat a dozen of them (legally) and lose weight.
Derek (Austin, texas)
Thank you for the blog Mike. While Seeing Alex Smith this week, did you come away with some new impressions of him? Maybe a completely different impression than you have had in the past?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
Alex Smith is the same guy, but the circumstances around him have changed, and those changed circumstances have given him opportunities that did not exist for him previously, and he seems to be taking advantage of those opportunities. As a result, I think we'll get a truer sense of his capabilities this season. There are still questions about how all these improved circumstances will translate to the field. Skepticism is warranted, but if you are a 49ers fan, optimism is warranted, too. Smith has better chance to succeed this year.
Which QB gives the Cards a better chance to win, Derek Anderson or Matt Leinart?
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
If I'm the Cardinals, I'd rather find out about the untapped potential within Matt Leinart. In other words, what I've seen from Derek Anderson wouldn't make me want to abandon the Leinart project. They almost have an obligation to find out what Leinart can do this season. If Leinart flops, then they can give Anderson a shot, knowing Anderson has a manageable contract for 2011 (whereas Leinart's deal makes 2010 a virtual contract year for him).
Dave W. (Ukiah, Ca)
Mike, After spending time at "49er world"...what is your overall impression? I know it is only June but did you like what you saw compared to other years? Does Alex Smith really look as good as the beat writers are reporting to us?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
The impression was generally positive. I thought Alex Smith had his moments in practice. There were also a couple incomplete passes that appeared to be off-target. This wasn't a situation where the ball never hit the ground and you could blur your eyes and mistake Smith for an elite quarterback. What was clear to me and most impressive to me was the confidence Smith showed in walking his teammates through their responsibilities during blitz period.
Armen Dacity (Winter Park, FL)
Mike, I'm selling 2010 futures in the St. Louis Rams. By then, several of their current key players who have 0-4 years in the league will be in their prime, Sam Bradford will have acclimated to the NFL, Steven Jackson will still be under 30, and the team will have a deep pocketed owner in Stan Kroenke who will probably want to make a splash in free agency. You buying?
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
I've got some stock in the Big 12 Conference. Maybe we could make a swap. I'm joking there. The ownership issue is the most alluring part and it's enough for me to say, yeah, I'll buy those futures at a discounted price. Rams fans should find Stan Kroenke's track record encouraging.
Derrik (Valley of the Heat)
The hammer has fallen at USC. Now we know why Pete Carroll was so happy to be in Seattle. Maybe Jim Mora was right about Pete. Question for Seahawk fans, does it taint how you will look at your head coach?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
I thought about that earlier in the week and would think the looming sanctions at USC played some role in Carroll's decision to bolt. Ultimately, though, the timing was right for several reasons. He wanted an NFL job on the West Coast and on his terms -- with control of football operations. That opportunity was not one he could force. It had to fall right for him, and it did with Seattle in part because the Seahawks had high-ranking people with ties to USC and (indirectly) to Carroll's foundation. So, yes, the timing worked out well on the sanctions front, but that was only part of the story. As for whether the sanctions should taint how Seattle fans feel about Carroll, that is probably up to the individual. Carroll was ultimately responsible for what went on with his program.
At work ;-) (PDX)
Sando, heard anything about how the acoustics might be in the proposed new 49er stadium? It'd be nice to give the 'Hawks a taste of their own LOUD CROWD medicine.
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
That is a really good question and one I should have raised with Jed York on the conference call Wednesday. I'll try to get an answer for you. I'm not sure if they are that far down the road with their plans, but making the place extra loud should be a priority, no doubt.
Drew Plommer (Seattle)
Why isn't Seattle in play for Oshiomogho Atogwe? We have a rookie FS in Earl Thomas we need another playmaking SS like Atogwe. Is Jordan Babineaux really the answer? Babineaux is only one year younger than Atogwe. What do you think Sandman?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Atogwe fits the free safety mold and it could also be a matter of where to funnel resources. The Seahawks will pay huge money for Earl Thomas. I think Lawyer Milloy has a chance to provide a veteran presence at strong safety. He knows the system, Carroll trusts him and he's one of the toughest players anywhere. Throw in Babineaux as a swing player -- he can play basically anywhere in the secondary -- and they could be OK. Note that they drafted Kam Chancellor and he's huge physically. Perhaps they want more size opposite the coverage-oriented Thomas.
Milk D (Irvine, CA)
Great article yesterday in regards to Alex Smith. I printed it and gave it to 3 of my buddies who are 49ers fans. They loved it and we are all excited for this season for the 49ers. Do you have any outtakes, extra comments or additional insights on that article now that you've had some time to digest it all? Also, have you gotten any feedback from other players, coaches or experts around the league that didn't make it into the article. Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
Thanks for the feedback. It's much appreciated. Often I would have some leftovers from a story such as that one. I was more efficient with this one because I was there for two days and wanted to spend time on other fronts. Joe Staley did elaborate some on the part about Smith walking players through their blitz period: "We are taking a team that has exotic blitz looks and today it was the Green Bay Packers' blitz looks. We played them last year and we play them this year. Just covering our third-down passing package, third-and-long, how we are going to anticipate those blitzes, and they are running all the exotic blitzes. He is going down and telling everybody what their assignments are. It's good because the running backs are hearing, 'The offensive line is looking here.' We are hearing, 'The running backs are looking through here.' The receivers are hearing what the offensive line is looking for the quicks. Alex is on top of it. Then he he goes through and he says, 'If we get the pressure from here, I am going to make this call and bring it over here. If we get the pressure over here, I am going to make this call. If they fake there and go here, this is what we are going to do.' Everybody is on the same page so there are no questions."
Matt F (Center Valley, PA)
Hi Mike, any thoughts on the who will wind up as the starting receivers for the Seahawks?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
Let's pencil in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch, with Mike Williams' prospects in the back of our minds in case he sustains what he has shown to this point in the offseason. The assumption here is that Golden Tate might not be ready as a rookie. One thing I want to see, though, is to what extent the youth-loving Pete Carroll is comfortable throwing young players onto the field when it counts. I know he and general manager John Schneider are not afraid to go young.
tom page (bellevue,wa)
Any news on Paul Allen's illness? Any idea what would happen to the ownership of the Seahawks if he passed away?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Those questions are as fair as they are uncomfortable. Allen has always guarded his privacy and so it's not really known how he is doing from day to day. He has held off cancer previously. I don't know what sort of plan would be in place, but Allen's sister would presumably be involved.
So what made you go from Political Studies to sports writer/journalist?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Well, I had the good fortune of knowing that a college degree was more important for my job prospects than a specific major. Sportswriters I reached out to during my high school years told me not to worry about majoring in journalism. They said to get a degree and major in something you enjoy. History and political studies interested me. I would probably major in history if given a chance to do it over again. Was watching "Pawn Stars" last night and loved the part where the guy brought in an old spoon crafted by Paul Revere (who made his famous ride 195 years to the day before I was born).
Mike Jones (Fresno, CA)
Mike, this is kind of the beaten path, but do you think the possible complete restructuring of the NCAA conferences is more or less historic than the NFC/AFC merger?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Off the top of my head, and possibly reflecting some bias after covering the NFL for quite a while, I would say the current NCAA upheaval would be less historic. I was thinking of running some roster calculations based on expected changes, though, to see which teams would have the most players from a newly reconfigured Pac-16, for instance.
As long as Pete wasn't betting big in a March Madness pool, the people of Seattle are all good with him. Look at it this way, now the UW fans (many of whom are Seahawks fans) have an even better shot of seeing the team go to a bowl game.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Yeah, Seattle fans might like Pete Carroll even more if they perceive him as being at least partly responsible for any athletic losses at USC.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Would it have been a mistake to draft Bradford if Suh breaks his shoulder this year?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
At first I thought you were referring to Ndamukong Suh breaking his own shoulder. You were about to receive the award for most random question. It's probably more likely you were asking whether the Rams' decision to draft Sam Bradford would qualify as a mistake were Suh to strike Bradford in a manner that left the former with a bum wing. I would shoot down that sort of thinking. It would be unfortunate for the Rams if that happened, but it would only be a mistake if the Rams knew in advance it would happen, and let's face it: No one can reasonably say that is likely to happen.
Jim (Cincinnati, OH)
I see the Buffalo Bills claim they will take nothing less than a fourth-round pick for Marshawn Lynch. Who do you see him going to?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
I did not yet see such a report, but you have to think the Seahawks would be in the mix for what amounts to a mid-round pick. Pretty sure the rest of the NFC West would rather have the Seahawks keep their current group of running backs in place. Lynch would add another dimension. He is a legitimate player.
Is Henderson a great fit for the Seahawks. Solves a big issue of getting run all over last year.
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
From all appearances, the Seahawks need more help at defensive end than at defensive tackle, where Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane provide good inside presence. Seattle's run defense should be OK this season. That said, I've always admired John Henderson. Would not criticize them for taking a look at him. I'd be curious to know his medical situation. He's been around for a while and has some wear and tear (although the guys who have gone against him probably have more).
Who do you think has the best offensive and defensive line in the division? Considering the QBs are all pretty much a wash in the division (other than a healthy Matt Hasselbeck), I think these two areas -- along with coaching -- will crown the NFC west champ.
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
My feeling is that Arizona could have the best offensive and defensive lines in the division. That is one big reason not to write off the Cardinals even if you think -- as I do -- that the 49ers are in good position to become NFC West champs. I have some questions about the Cardinals' tackles in pass protection and it's fair to say the Rams and 49ers have lots of promise on their lines, so the balance of power will shift some. I would give the Cardinals' defensive line a slight edge over the 49ers' group based on Dan Williams' addition to a line already featuring one Pro Bowl player (Darnell Dockett) and one ascending young player (Calais Campbell). The drop from the Cardinals' and 49ers' defensive lines to the lines elsewhere in the division appears pretty significant.
nathan (bay area)
How much do you see Ted Ginn Jr. getting on the field offensively, assuming he is the third receiver, since the 49ers didn't use very many three-receiver looks last year?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
The three-receiver offense was primarily a third-down offense for the 49ers. I'd be a little surprised if Ginn played much more than 25-30 percent of the snaps on offense. I see him as someone with a chance to provide a speed element situationally. Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan will catch the majority of passes, with Frank Gore factoring in as well. Ginn is a bit of a luxury item and will probably be used sparingly.
Jake (San Jose)
Isn't it fair to say that if there were no sanctions against USC that Pete Carrol would still be there? Whether that means the Seahawks are lucky to get someone they wouldn't have otherwise had a chance at or if it means they have a coach who is just looking to collect a paycheck is something time will tell. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
The Seahawks' interest in Carroll was real and the organization would have pursued him either way, and the organization would have met Carroll's criteria. It is also logical to think the hyper-competitive Carroll also wanted to give the NFL another try at some point, and that the clock was ticking a little bit. I would not identify the pending sanctions as the driving force behind his decision to leave USC based on those factors.
The acoustics in the new Santa Clara stadium should be about the same as those in the new Hunters Point stadium (you know, the one approved in 1997). The sound of one hand clapping comes to mind.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Pawn Stars, great show! Have you seen the one with the lottery ticket signed by George Washington? Niners question: What do you expect from Michael Crabtree this year? 1,000 yards a good possibility?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Yes, I did see the one with the George Washington-autographed lotto ticket (a ticket that was never used, as I recall, because the lottery never came off). That show's tendency to weave in historical artifacts keeps me coming back. We watched about three of them on the DVR last night. Niners-wise, yes, I think Michael Crabtree can reach 1,000 yards this season. He is the real deal. I spoke with him this week and plan to build a blog entry around our conversation. He's a big-time talent and way ahead of the game in terms of being NFL-ready.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Patrick Willis makes the 49ers front look better than they are.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
He just makes their front better than it would be with a lesser player. That is not the front's fault. But I do think the 49ers are wise to bide their time before paying Aubrayo Franklin. Let's remember, though, that Justin Smith is an outstanding player who makes Willis look better than he might look with a poor player manning the end spot instead. It's a team game and how one unit plays affects other units. Willis makes everyone around him better. He is a special player.
Hi Mike. Love your reporting, you are my go to guy for Rams info. Any word on the Rams O-line situation? Do you envision both Jason Smith and Roger Saffold starting immediately?
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
Thanks. I do envision those guys starting immediately. Richie Incognito is out of the picture. Adam Goldberg should ideally be a swing backup (can play guard or tackle). They should find a spot for Saffold in there somewhere and turn him loose. I realize the coaching staff doesn't want to hand anything to rookies, but when all was said and done last offseason, Smith was in the lineup. Saffold was drafted later, so the expectations aren't quite as high and there's a chance he could enter the season as a backup, but why not just set him free and let him develop? Let the line grow together.
Mackay (PG, UT)
BMW, Audi, or Mercedes? Which would you take?
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
That is not a question I've been in position to consider seriously. If forced to spend $70,000 of your money on a vehicle, though, I would be pulled in several directions. I owned a 1996 Mustang Cobra back in my pre-domesticated days, and before that I owned a 1989 Mustang LX 5.0 hatchback. So I've got some Mustang heritage in my blood. Maybe I'd buy one of the GT500s and have some aftermarket work done to it. I'm a sucker for V8 muscle. Also a big fan of the new Dodge Challengers. Vernon Davis said he was buying one and I was very jealous.
Mike, I've read that a fourth rounder is a "high price" for Lynch. How is that possible? Don't teams throw in 4th rounders to move up 2 spots in the 2nd round? Or, would the Jets really rather have Joe McKnight than Lynch?
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
This is a poker game and everyone knows Lynch doesn't fit into the Bills' long-term plans. So it is a buyers' market. Teams could wait out the Bills to see if the price goes down, and by how much.
Tristan (San Francisco, CA)
If Smith falters during the season, do you think David Carr would be ready to take over at QB? Like Smith, he was a 1st overall pick in the draft, but had a dissapointing run as a starter. Now, with a couple seasons as a backup behind Eli Manning, do you think he would be ready to start?
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
I'm skeptical and think we would have seen more evidence by now based on how much he has played.
Any word on how Okung is looking so far? I understand it is hard to tell without hitting in practices yet. Thanks for all the great work Mike!
Mike Sando (2:10 PM)
Hey, thanks. I was at Seahawks camp not too long ago and Okung false-started on the very first play I watched. A reminder that there will be a transition period and we should keep some reasonable expectations even for players drafted very early. My initial impression is that Okung looks the part physically. You can see his strength. He gets very, very low in his sets. You are right about it being hard to tell at this point. I want to see how he fares in one-on-one pass-rush drills in pads. Can he contain the outside rush? Seattle doesn't have great pass-rushers, so if he struggles against them, we might learn something.
Mike Sando (2:14 PM)
Thanks for dropping by this slightly extended NFC West chat. Have a great day. Those who have already added me as a Facebook friend might have noticed new Facebook (and Twitter) functionality associated with each post on the NFC West blog. There is also a "like" icon toward the upper-right area of the blog under the "about this blog" section. Extra credit for those who click on it. Thanks in advance.