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!
Is the Charlie Whitehurst contract one of the most baffling moves you've seen in a while? Do you see any "star" qualities in him?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
Charlie Whitehurst signed a two-year deal with $2 million in salary this season, $4 million in salary next season and $1 million in incentives for each season. He also gets a $2 million roster bonus this year. So they are paying him $4 million a year to compete for the starting job. Backups often get around $3 million a year. Whitehurst did better than that, but the Seahawks also told him they hope for him to start. If he starts, the contract is quite reasonable for Seattle. If he does not start, the Seahawks are paying a premium for a backup. Either way, the contract he signed isn't baffling to me even though I haven't seen any star qualities while watching a few practices.
Oh Great One! I'd like to send shout out to all those delusional Cards fans out there. I don't understand how they can think that there won't be any drop-off this year after losing Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin, not to mention the multiple defensive starters who were replaced with inferior and/or older talent. Warner alone was good for pulling two wins out on his back. There is no way they win the West this year. I give them an 8-8 record as a best-case scenario. Even if my beloved 49ers stay stagnant and hit 8-8 again this year (which would be a huge disappointment), they will win the West due to tiebreakers because they will sweep the Cards (for the second time in two years). I just had to put in a word before I actually have to start working today. Thanks!
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
This one should get the Cardinals' fans blood pumping a little harder on a Thursday morning. Losing the players Arizona lost would be harder to overcome if the losses happened during a season. In this case, Arizona has a full offseason to adjust its approach and try to compensate. There is no way I can sit here and say the Cardinals should be as good as they were last season. But if they are in that .500 range, they could go to San Francisco in Week 17 with something on the line.
Brett G. (Auburn, WA)
What kind of numbers would you expect from Michael Crabtree next year?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Michael Crabtree consistently caught four or five passes per game last season. I think he'll improve and become a bigger part of the offense. He should reach 80-90 receptions this season.
Tim (Bakersfield, Ca)
Do you believe the 49ers -- with Alex Smith having the same offensive coordinator, and the breakout year of Vernon Davis along with Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and the revamped line -- are the favorites to win the West? If so, can you see them competing with the Saints, Vikings, Packers and Cowboys?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Yes, I do believe they are the favorites. However, I think those other teams can count on better quarterback play, whereas the 49ers aren't sure whether Alex Smith will become that type of player. Advantage, NFC elite.
Will the Seahawks try to make a move for Vincent Jackson?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
I would not expect them to make a move at this time, nor would I expect the Chargers to trade him. Circumstances can change, though, so I would not rule out anything down the road.
Rick (Pasadena, CA)
What's your biggest surprise out of the NFC West this year? Mine, the RAMS defense. I'm predicting top 5 in the NFC.
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
Now that would be a big surprise. I'm not seeing it. Top five in the NFC would mean, roughly, top 10 in the NFL. Steve Spagnuolo would be loving life if the Rams could pull it off. I see too many question marks. Matt Leinart could surprise people this season. Not saying it'll happen, but he's being written off a little too cavalierly, I think.
Chris (Silver Spring)
Do you expect the Seahawks to blitz more because of their lack of pass rush from the DE position?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
That seems possible given that the coverage could improve on the back end with Earl Thomas at safety and Marcus Trufant healthier. I do not know Carroll's NFL tendencies, though.
SprungOnSports (Long Island)
Do you think Steven Jackson will still put up elite numbers despite a young offensive line?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Health permitting, yes. Steven Jackson will run the ball effectively. The offensive line was pretty good for the first half of last season and there's enough talent for Jackson to find some room.
Joe (Los Angeles)
Is there a team more poised to go from perennial loser to deep playoff contender than the 49'ers? Seriously, did they make a single move this offseason that DIDN'T improve the team?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
They did not show interest in Donovan McNabb. I understand why, but if they had made that move, people would be talking Super Bowl.
Matt Ruesler (St. Louis)
By what week would you expect Sam Bradford to be starting for the Rams? And also do you think there is a chance that he doesn't play this year to let the young recieving corp and offensive line develop?
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Sam Bradford will definitely play this season. I could see him getting some limited work as a backup early in the season, then taking over the starting job sometime during the season depending upon how things are going. They need to see him play as a rookie. I also think it's wise to bring him along at a reasonable pace. No need to throw him out there against Arizona in Week 1, most likely.
Trevor (Kelowna, BC)
Rams defense top 5!! Are you kidding. With that offense the defense will be on the field 40 minutes a game.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
So you are projecting top five in the NFC West?
Mike B. (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Mike, I am curious to see who you would take if you were the GM during a draft between Michael Crabtree or Dez Bryant if they both came out in the same class. Who do you think has the better talent? Last year, everyone talked about how Crabtree is a can't miss prospect (seems like that is true) and this year the same for Dez. Just wondering what experts think. Thanks, love your blog/posts!
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Thanks. Seeing Crabtree for half a season gives us an advantage in making that call. I'd say Crabtree is more of a sure bet. He would probably be the choice, but I would be worried about Bryant being even better -- based a little bit on the unknown.
Travis (Gilbert, AZ)
Love reading your blog. I have been thinking about Leinart compared to Warner and I think Warner was the QB who was going to win or lose the game for you and I think Leinart will be the guy that might not win you the game, but won't lose you the game. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Thanks, Travis. I know what you're saying. I also think teams need their quarterbacks to win games sometimes, and it's tougher to be a championship team if your quarterback cannot do that.
So-Cal 'Hawks (Seahawks4life)
I've been waiting (like all of us 12th men) for TOO LONG for the Seahawks to find an O line that works well together and has the talent to be great again. Do you feel they have made enough steps forward to be that kind of line in 2010?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
There's no reason to expect greatness from the Seahawks' offensive line this season. You should expect improvement. The Seahawks have to like their situation at tackle a great deal more now that Russell Okung is at left tackle and Sean Locklear can play where he's more comfortable. The question I have about the line is whether Alex Gibbs, a grinder who can burn out in a place, will still be with the team three or four years from now.
Brian (Folsom, CA)
From 2003 to 2004, the 49ers lost their Pro Bowl quarterback, running back, left tackle and both starting wide receivers in a single offseason, leading to a 2-14 record the following year. While the Cardinals' turnover this offseason was not as bad, we should not underestimate the significance of their loss of talent. I just don't see the Cardinals maintaining their division dominance.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
It's fair to lower expectations for the Cardinals this season. They are going to be different, but they have too much talent to suffer the sort of dropoff the 49ers did years ago.
Cardinals fan responding quite late -- Im not about to start a battle here, that's ridiculous, but as a Cardinal fan I'd ask you to at least exercise a little common sense. There is no logical reason to assume the Cardinals will be swept by the 49ers. It is certainly possible but this concept of they will because they did last year is absurd. By that logic, the Cards should have swept the 49ers last year since they had the year before. Also, we replaced those talented players with younger players, not older ones (even Joey Porter is younger than Bertrand Berry was). I am a big Matt Leinart supporter, but even I acknowledge a drop-off from an all-time great in Warner. Lastly, when Alex Smith proves to be anything more than league average and Mike Singletary proves to be more than a motivator is when I will start preparing for the next 49ers era. Very much looking forward to seeing it all shake out.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Love your attitude, Mike. I can see why 49ers fans think they'll sweep Arizona again. They say, "Hey, if the 49ers swept them when Arizona had Kurt Warner and all those guys, imagine how they'll dominate against the Cardinals without Warner and those other guys." That is logical thinking, but you're right in saying we cannot take a sweep for granted.
Hey Sando! How about some talk about the reigning two-time NFC West champs! Did you see Darnell Dockett's tweets from Tuesday night? "To all my cardinal and dockett Fans I'm gonna post a link that I want u all to read and just try to understand!" Then he followed that up with this: "Nothermind ill just share it with yall at a respectable time. Just know I never wanted things to get this Far!! Ttyl! And much love!" He's been silent ever since. Now, the glass-half-empty pessimistic "same old Cardinals" fan in me worries that this is contract related and will be detrimental to the team, but the Whisenhunt-era and Dockett fan in me tells me that he has put way too much work in this offseason for this to be an issue. Is this a non issue? What's your take?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Dockett discussed his contract-related feelings with me at the Pro Bowl. My sense is that he has a point of no return in his mind -- in other words, there's a point where he wants a deal from the Cardinals or he'll set his mind to playing out this deal and leaving when he can. I don't know when that point would be. It's an emotional issue for Dockett and he gets worked up about it sometimes. Then he probably has time to cool down and reevaluate. We know he's going to work hard and play hard for the Cardinals. That is his identity and he's not changing on that front, in my view. I'm sure he'll discuss the contract and his expectations at some point.
MikeH (Pasco, WA)
Who is more of a wildcard in the Seahawks offense -- Tate or Washington? They're the only guys who look capable of big plays (on special teams too).
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
Leon Washington is the bigger wild card because he could be sensational or he could never amount to anything again. We just do not know how the leg will respond, but we know what he offers when he's healthy. We know less about Golden Tate because he's a rookie, so it's tougher to know how much distances separates the ceiling from the floor.
Paul Allen (Seattle, WA)
How am I going to replace Tod Leiweke?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
Ask Tod Leiweke.
Mike, not to nit pick, but that is not logical either! The Cardinals' fans could flip that and say, "Kurt threw five interceptions and two fumbles in the Monday night game. We'll destroy them without Kurt!" That doesn't work, either. These two teams don't face each other til later in the season. By then, we will know what these teams look like. Right now, we're all just playing the guessing game.
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Fair enough. I'm not saying I agreed with the thinking on a 49ers sweep against Arizona. I do see some logic in the reasoning, however. All you have to do is accept the fact that the Cardinals have a better chance with Warner than with Leinart. That is a reasonable assumption, but not an infallible one. It's possible the Cardinals will have a better chance against the 49ers because their style of play will change in a manner that protects them from some of the turnover and protection issues that cost them dearly against San Francisco in the past.
Darren B. (St. Louis)
With the Rams ownership situation seemingly under control now, do you expect them to make bigger moves next offseason?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Yes, in theory. Some of that will depend upon what is out there in free agency and available via trade, but in general, sure, the Rams would be in better position to be more aggressive. They would have more flexibility. It's also possible that a first-year owner might want to make a couple bold moves out of the gates.
So-Cal 'Hawks (Seahawks4life)
Can we in any way get more coverage on the Seahawks' 2010 training camp? More videos and more coverage period? I love the direction of where the Seahawks are heading. I also feel like the team likes being the underdogs. Flying under the radar and letting people talk about the 49ers and Arizona might just fit into Seattle's plans perfectly! You may be right about the offensive line not being "great" yet, but no question that there will be time to throw the ball this year when there has been ZERO time over the past two years! As a fan of Matt Hasselbeck, I truly think he will have a full season in 2010. Who do you see starting week 17?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
I'll be out at Seahawks camp when it opens Saturday and I'll be back there for multiple days after trips to Arizona and the 49ers. You're right about the Seahawks being able to slip under the radar. They're not being given much chance. That is natural after a couple really down seasons. I see a team rebuilding and for that reason I could see Charlie Whitehurst getting the start in Week 17.
Any news on the Rams/Sam Bradford contract?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
I'd expect to hear something by the weekend. Saturday is a key day there because it's the first day the Rams hold a full-squad practice.
Which assistant coaching addition will make the most difference for each team in the NFC West?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
The change of offensive coordinators in Seattle is significant. The changing of offensive line coaches in Seattle and San Francisco stands out, also. The Seahawks will commit more fully to a zone blocking scheme under Alex Gibbs. The 49ers have added a very good teacher in Mike Solari, late of the Seahawks. Those are the ones that jump out at me.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sand-O: I think most Cards fan will conceed the Cards suffered more losses this year than any other team in the league, but I think the Cards did an admirable job of trying to fill the holes. With the exception of Warner (for whom there was no replacement on the market), I think the Cards did a good job plugging the leaks. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
I agree with you and have said so on the blog. They recovered nicely but still suffered net losses.
Turner (Boise, ID)
Mike, who was the veteran player with the Seahawks that caught your eye as either building upon their talents or looks better than they did before a major injury from last year in early camp practices?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Probably Lofa Tatupu. It's great for Seattle when he's back on the field. He should be quite comfortable this season working with Ken Norton Jr. and Pete Carroll.
Trevor (Kelowna, BC)
Hey Mike - love these chats! Question/observation is this. Jeremy Bates offense I believe requires a more mobile quarterback and also one that throws more downfield requiring a stronger arm. Not sure that is Matt's best qualities but might suit Charlie. Would not be surprised to see a switch halfway through season unless Matt really lights it up which is iffy at best. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Yeah, that's a possibility. There was no reason to undercut Hasselbeck any more than necessary. They can see how Hasselbeck fares, evaluate Whitehurst behind the scenes and then make a change if and when the timing feels right. The team's record will have a lot to say about the timing.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat today. See you on the blog and on Facebook.