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 11 a.m. ET!
Joseph (San Diego)
Hey Mike! If Alex Smith does take the next step and becomes a pretty good QB. How far do you think the 49ers can go?
Mike Sando (10:58 AM)
I'd like their chances in a wild-card playoff game at home, but not on the road against a team with an elite quarterback such as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, possibly Brett Favre, etc.
With the confidence in David Hawthorne and the increased love with Dexter Davis, do you see Leroy Hill done in Seattle? Where is a good spot for him?
Mike Sando (11:00 AM)
Done as in when? I see no real advantage in severing that relationship before this season. The team gets a roster exemption for him in Week 1, and Hill's salary for the season is already guaranteed. This year should be a year for Hill to prove himself or, as you suggested, drift away thereafter.
todd w. (phoenix,AZ)
Hey, Mike, guess it's a good thing I got laid off so I could be here this early! Just wanna know what you think about Derek Anderson following Matt Leinart. The guy looks poised as hell in the pocket but then it goes bad once he throws it. Is this more of just him getting adapted to our scheme or his own mechanics that need to be improved on?
Mike Sando (11:02 AM)
Probably both. Anderson had interception problems in Cleveland. Those probably will not go away. But it is likely he will improve as he becomes more comfortable in the Cardinals' offense.
I'm sure you're getting this question a lot: What do you think of the Brian Westbrook signing? I love it, personally. I don't see a down side -- especially at that price.
Mike Sando (11:05 AM)
There is little downside to signing Brian Westbrook at a reasonable price. I would caution against too much optimism, though. There are generally good reasons for accomplished players to be available in August. Westbrook might not hold up physically. Why not take a look at him, though? I guess the one negative would be if the 49ers bypassed a chance to claim a younger back off waivers on the cutdown to 53 players, only to have Westbrook break down physically a short time later. But the 49ers did the right thing in addressing the position when they had a chance to do so. There was no sense in sitting back and hoping a back came available to them later.
Please offer up some hope that the Rams' season won't be a total disaster. What positives do you have to offer after being at their camp?
Mike Sando (11:06 AM)
Sam Bradford looks good. They're very excited about him. The offensive line will improve if -- IF -- healthy enough to play together for a while. As the Rams know, they can talk all they want about building and doing things the right way, but they need to win some games this season.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Do you think that Sam Bradford will be the starting Quarterback in the Regular Season for the St.Louis Rams?
Mike Sando (11:07 AM)
Yes, I do.
What is it with the Jones brothers and coaches picking them even though WAY less talented? Will Julius REALLY be the back over Forsett?
Mike Sando (11:09 AM)
I expect Justin Forsett to get more carries this season if healthy.
Joe (Davis, CA)
You have anything on Josh Morgan? Will he be able to step up and fill the vital No. 2 spot in San Francisco? Nobody I can find has anything to report on the guy. During training camp, I don't know if it's necessarily a good (or bad) thing to not hear a thing about a player.
Mike Sando (11:12 AM)
Morgan caught 52 passes last season, decent production for a No. 2 receiver (though he averaged only 10.1 yards per catch). You're not hearing much about Morgan because Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are the top targets, and newcomer ted Ginn Jr. has commanded attention in camp. I'll concede, though, that Morgan did not jump out at me during my visit to training camp.
Kevin (Rocky Point, MX)
How do you feel about DRC finally separating himself from other elite corners this year? Any thoughts on him becoming all-pro?
Mike Sando (11:14 AM)
He has been a Pro Bowl cornerback already. He is still young, though. Your use of the word "finally" makes it sound like he's an eight-year vet or something. He's still starting out. I'm not sure he's mature enough yet to show the consistency necessary to become one of the very, very best (Nnamdi Asomugha, Darrelle Revis). But he has had a good camp. He does have the talent.
Jack (Deer Park)
Do you see Seattle going into the season carrying only two QBs like Shanahan liked to do and keeping an extra TE ?
Mike Sando (11:16 AM)
That thought has crossed my mind, but there are other ways to keep an extra tight end. I've wondered how many running backs would warrant roster spots.
Who is the biggest impact rookie for the 'Hawks?
Mike Sando (11:17 AM)
Russell Okung based on how bad the Seahawks were at left tackle last season. Their problems at that position were devastating. Okung should provide some stability even if he is not elite right away.
vtmc (washington dc)
Sando, as a distressed Rams fan, I am going crazy watching free-agent running backs get signed each week to other teams, when we have a glaring hole/need for a solid veteran like LaDell Betts, Willie Parker, Brian Westbrook and Larry Johnson. If Spags were an offensive coach, do you think he would have addressed the issue sooner? It really does feel like they think they are in a five-year rebuilding plan. Where is the urgency from Billy Devaney and the team? My bet is that they are waiting for Parker to get the ax in D.C.
Mike Sando (11:22 AM)
Running back is a worry for the Rams as well. I spoke with Billy Devaney about it Wednesday. Interestingly, they did not see Brian Westbrook as a full-scale solution. They saw him as a complimentary player with a role, but not as a guy they'd be comfortable feeding the ball for several games if something happened to Steven Jackson. I think they want a No. 2 back who could carry the load if needed. It'll likely be a waiver-wire situation.
With the new coaching staff in Seattle and the new players on the team do you think the Seahawks have a shot at winning the NFC West?
Mike Sando (11:23 AM)
A shot? Yes. The division remains unsettled enough for Seattle to have a shot. I just think a lot of things would have to go right.
RamsHerd (Saint Louis)
Is there a receiver on the Rams roster capable of making a big leap forward this year with Bradford at the reins?
Mike Sando (11:25 AM)
I'm increasingly thinking Danny Amendola can pump up his numbers working from the slot in their three- and four-wide packages. Amendola stood out to me at camp. I spoke with A.J. Feeley about him and will share his thoughts in the Rams Camp Confidential running Friday.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Mike, what was your opinion of Sam Bradford's performance against the Vikings? When do you feel he may be able to become the Rams' #1 quarterback?
Mike Sando (11:27 AM)
Sam Bradford looked good to me. He completed passes for first downs on his first two third-down plays. He took the Rams on a nine-play drive, as I recall, and it would have been longer if the team could have converted a third-and-1. The punishment Bradford took was a concern. He needs better protection or the punishment will affect him physically and mentally. But I think he can become the starter for Week 1.
I am really excited about this 49ers squad, but can't help but feel unsure about the o-line and Alex Smith still, though he had good games at then end of last season. What do you think about those two?
Mike Sando (11:28 AM)
Your concerns are legitimate and this team could stumble in the first month while it navigates three road games in the first four weeks. But I think the line and Alex Smith will improve as the season progresses.
Hey Mike! I was disappointed to see how poorly the Hawks ran the ball against the Titans on Saturday. Do you think the shift to zone blocking will be a success this year?
Mike Sando (11:31 AM)
I think there's a good chance the switch will succeed based on Alex Gibbs' track record. This team doesn't have good options at guard unless Chester Pitts is healthy. Depth at tackle took a hit with Ray Willis undergoing surgery. The line is not all that good, but the scheme should help cover for some of that.
Who looks like the odd guy out for the Rams in their WR battle. It seems like Laurent Robinson, Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola and Mardy Gilyard will make it, so is it Brandon Gibson or Keenan Burton that is out?
Mike Sando (11:35 AM)
That depends one how many receivers they keep and whether Gibson returns strong from a hamstring injury. I say it every year: Injuries tend to help determine the fifth and sixth receivers on a team's initial (not final) 53-man roster. I liked what I saw from Gibson last season and think he would be the choice, health permitting. But he has to get on the field.
Oscar the Grouch (In my trash can)
Am I the only one who thinks that starting Bradford now is a BAD IDEA?? He's the future of the Rams, and that future is NOT this year. This year he'd only get sacked, mashed, beat up and end up in the GARBAGE CAN with ME and Joey Harrington.
Mike Sando (11:37 AM)
They need to play the quarterback that gives them the best chance to win, and it's not like they have Kurt Warner on the roster. If not Bradford, is A.J. Feeley the answer? I hear what you are saying and do think Bradford could be vulnerable. But every rookie quarterback struggles and if the Rams think Bradford is tough enough to fight through it, they need to play him. They need the future to get here as soon as it can.
Has Bobby Carpenter done anything in camp for the Rams thus far?
Mike Sando (11:38 AM)
The only time I noticed him, he was getting run over. Cannot say I've seen anything.
Ryan (East Bay)
Am I wrong in thinking that the 49ers should have some great success in their 2 TE sets. Given that Frank Gore like to run in those formations and having the ability to send Delanie Walker on a route and Vernon Davis down the seam, it would appear to cause some confusion and mismatches for the defense.
Mike Sando (11:41 AM)
Frank Gore actually prefers to run from "regular" personnel with two backs, one of them a fullback. The two-tight personnel grouping was already the 49ers' preferred grouping, even when Alex Smith took over (especially so, even, although I don't have the personnel-use charts in front of me). The question this season is to what degree Ted Ginn Jr.'s addition coaxes the 49ers to replace the second tight end, Delanie Walker, with Ginn on early downs. Previously, the 49ers were a three-receiver team almost exclusively on third down.
Dan Grimm (Ojai, CA)
Hi Mike. It seems that Kam Chancellor is looking good in camp. Do you think he could be a dark horse for real minutes this season and do you think that Babineux is the odd man out with Thurmond looking good even on a bum knee?
Mike Sando (11:44 AM)
Jordan Babineaux does look like an odd man out over the longer term. We'll see if that's the case early in the season. Chancellor has impressed Seattle with his ability to pick up the system quickly. He is also a big guy. I'm just not sure how much the Seahawks will be able to trust him as a rookie. The theory behind your idea seems sound, though. Agreed on Walter Thurmond. Kelly Jennings could be the odd man out, I think. They could start Josh Wilson and have him slide inside in the nickel, as he has done previously, with Thurmond taking over on the outside. Just some thoughts. Earl Thomas' addition is another wild card because he can play cornerback if needed.
Jeff (Cedar Rapids, IA)
Hi Mike, it seems like the Rams players have really bought in with Spags and formed a strong bond of respect and appreciation for each other. After watching the last few regimes, I feel that can only be a good thing. What was your first hand view this week of the relationship between coach and team?
Mike Sando (11:45 AM)
It's improving because Steve Spagnuolo has shown some flexibility and changed his ways after consulting with players and his coaching staff.
Whats the skinny on this new Kentwan Balmer guy we got? Where will Pete Carroll fit him in?
Mike Sando (11:48 AM)
Mike Singletary excused Balmer from 49ers camp, but Singletary then made some comments suggesting Balmer should have been there. Sounds like there were some feelings hurt and Balmer, already unhappy with his role, decided he wanted out. Balmer had not produced in San Francisco and he must prove himself as a professional in terms of consistency. He is arguably the most talented member of the Seahawks' defensive line right now. There were reasons he was a first-round pick. It's just a matter of whether that translates on the field (it did not in San Francisco). I think they'll use him as a five-technique defensive end behind Red Bryant, and sometimes play him inside (they will move guys around).
Not Mike (Not Bristol)
Hey Mike, some Cardinals questions for you. Does John Skelton beat out Max Hall for the third quarterback spot? How about beating out Derek Anderson for the No. 2 spot? Do you see both undrafted free agents Stephen Williams and Max Komar making the squad??
Mike Sando (11:52 AM)
The Hall-Skelton battle needs to play itself out during preseason games. Hall caught the staff's attention early. Skelton had success in the preseason game. Hall needs to back up the early success he enjoyed in practices. That should go down to the end. Derek Anderson would remain the second-stringer, though. My initial thought at receiver was that Williams would be a good practice-squad candidate. I'd put him ahead of Komar. Williams increasingly looks like a guy with a chance to stick on the 53.
I don't think the Cardinals have a good season without Kurt Warner this year. Do you agree?
Mike Sando (11:53 AM)
I go back and forth on that one. Matt Leinart hasn't convinced me he can win, but I like a lot of the players Arizona has on its roster, and the mindset that team possesses.
Mike Sando (11:54 AM)
Thanks for dropping by the earlier-than-usual NFC West chat. I'm traveling for about nine hours beginning this afternoon. Hopefully there's WiFi on the plane.