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!
Daryl (Fresno, CA)
It appeared to me that in the Rams play calling in the second half against the Raiders was horrible. Too timid, I was even calling what they were going to run. When they ran the no huddle the Rams marched right down the field. Do you see the Rams opening it up aka the Colts or will they keep the same ol same ol.
Mike Sando (1:00 PM)
I'm with you to a point. It's easy to sit here and say the Rams should open it up, but the reality was that Oakland was getting pressure on Sam Bradford and really hitting him. There was one high-low hit that appeared dangerous. The Raiders tagged Bradford in that third quarter. Bradford later threw a pick on a first-and-10 throw early in the fourth quarter. It's not like an aggressive plan would have automatically delivered results. Had Bradford been injured dropping back from a four-receiver set, people might be wondering why the Rams would get away from the run and their best player, Steven Jackson, when the game was still close and Bradford was taking a beating. You can't win if you're a coach, unless you win!
Ray A. (San Francisco, CA)
If you could have Green Bay's Clay Matthews or the 49ers Patrick Willis, who would you choose?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
I admire Patrick Willis' game more, but as a general manager, I might go with the pass-rush guy, Matthews.
Ray A. (San Francisco, CA)
Mike, I expected the 49ers to struggle in their first 2 games, but I am still confident they are going to win the West. Do you agree with me or has 2 games changed your mind?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Two games have not changed my mind. This team could be 1-3 after four games and still come out OK. One question I might have is whether that type of start could shake the team, and how well the team would respond to Mike Singletary in that situation. But I do think the 49ers should still win the division.
Gabe (Bay Area)
Do you think that the 49ers might be "over-working" Frank Gore? I know the offense revolves around him, but it looked to me on Monday night that he was getting tired in the fourth quarter. The way Anthony Dixon looked in the preseason and in the game(granted only one carry), do you think they should use him in those short-yardage situations to save Frank later down the road? Thanks again and keep up the good work.
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
Thanks, Gabe. They do need to give Gore some rest if they're going to run the ball so much. He also caught seven passes. Lots of touches in that game. I realize why the 49ers keep him on the field. They are better with him, no matter the situation. But when going with such a tough run-oriented approach -- lots of 22 personnel out there with tight formations -- it does make you wonder whether Gore might benefit from some rest. Dixon might need some time to get up to speed on protections, though. The 49ers like to throw deep from heavy personnel in short-yardage situations. Having the the threat of Gore in the backfield helps make that work.
Ben (Seattle, WA)
Hey Sando! Third Thursday trying to get a question through, third time's the charm! Watching the Seahawks defense struggle to get off the field on third down has been brutal. It seems that we are playing too soft in coverage, allowing recievers to run curl or in routes just beyond the sticks and pick up easy first downs. What can the Hawks do to stop this dinking and dunking to death, besides the obvious pressure of the QB?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
You made it! Thanks for your persistence. The Seahawks are favoring tighter coverage this season. I did not analyze it in Week 2, but their mindset on defense is to let the corners play a little bit -- definitely moreso than in the past. That is easier to do at Qwest Field, where the crowd helps the pass-rush get to opposing quarterbacks. I don't think Seattle has the personnel to rush the passer effectively on the road. That makes it tough to say much about the coverage.
Jonathan (Bellingham, Wa)
The Seahawks faithful are calling for Matt Hasselbeck's job in Seattle. Do you think that is a good idea this early in the season? Also, at this point, do you believe it is an argument that Hasselbeck is still the top QB in our weak division. Smith did look sharp late on Monday night.
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Too early. Hasselbeck was on point in the home game. He had some head-scratcher plays at Denver but also could have gotten some help from John Carlson in particular. That missed opportunity down the field stemmed from Carlson taking a by-the-book approach to route running. Hasselbeck made a throw based on what he saw after the snap. Years ago, a player such as Darrell Jackson would have made the same adjustment Hasselbeck made -- not because the play called for it, but because his feel for the game would have dictated it -- and Seattle might have scored a touchdown. That is one small example. I'd stay with Hasselbeck and let him get more work with these receivers in this offense. Two games is not enough unless the quarterback is clueless out there. That is not the case with Hasselbeck.
Kyle (St. Louis)
Is the Rams rush defense that bad, or it is because they're on the field so much?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
It was better in the opener. Let's give it a couple weeks here. Fred Robbins was good in the opener.
Chris K (Sioux Falls, SD)
I've never been to Seattle, but I have been to Kansas City. Which stadium is louder? San Francisco's success depends on how they handle the crowd. Do you think the 4th down attempts were to defeat the crowd noise and can we see more of that tactic this weekend in Kansas City?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Those stadiums are comparable in noise level. I've been going to Arrowhead since 1998, but have not been to the new Arrowhead. Suffice to say, the noise level is going to be similar. The challenges will be similar. But the experience in Seattle should help the 49ers this time. They will be better prepared. The wristband could help.
Mr. W (Dallas)
Should I be tempted by Mark Clayton as a flex WR in my fantasy leauge?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Yes. Looks like Sam Bradford likes going to him. The Rams have injury issues at tight end, too.
Slappy (San Diego)
Do you expect to see the Hawks doing more blitzing in comparison to the Broncos game? Seems that with the quick passing schemes that the ponies run that the Hawks did a lot of three man rushes. But the bolts they to run longer and deeper routes which would seem like the hawks would need to get pressure on the QB in order to be effective against their passing offense.
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
I watched the San Diego game against Jacksonville and was struck by the threat Darren Sproles poses out of the backfield. Jacksonville got occasional pressure from one of its defensive ends, but attempts to get after Rivers generally came up short, and Sproles was part of that. Seattle has a big advantage playing at home, where the crowd noise will help its pass-rush. I think Seattle will see if its front can get some pressure without significant blitzing, then adjust.
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Mike, What does it say about the Cardinals if they lose to the Raiders at home on Sunday? Do you see that happening, or will the Cards take care of business? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
It says they're a six-win team or on that level. I think they'll beat the Raiders.
Mike, Rams fans are already calling for heads in St. Louis, do you think given the fact the coaches have had the team in position to win both games so far, that the onus is more on the players than the coaches? Also, is winning something that can be taught or do the players need to figure out how to do it themselves?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Did the players put the coaches in position to win those games? Vice versa? Bottom line: The Rams need to win some games this season. You can't struggle forever. I think the pressure is on the coaching staff to get some victories here. Even Steve Spagnuolo said the team appeared undisciplined at Oakland. That is bad.
Hey Mike! Picking just one question about the Cardinals is way too tough these days because it seems everyone has more questions than answers around here! How about give me one breakout player for the Cards against the Raiders. Thanks for the insight as always!
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
You got it. How about Steve Breaston or one of the secondary receivers. You figure Nnamdi Asomugha matches up with Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona has to go someplace else. On defense, let's go with one of the pass-rushers. Calais Campbell and/or Joey Porter could have some good opportunities based on what I saw from the left side of the Raiders' line in Week 2. James Hall had a good game for the Rams at RDE. Raiders left tackle Langston Walker was actually pretty good. He fared better against Chris Long than I would have expected.
Bernie (Ann Arbor)
Can Alex Smith be a Pro-bowl player? Why or why not?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
I think the NFC will have too many quarterbacks better than him. Also, Smith isn't a highly accurate passer.
Keith (Naples Italy)
Do you think Golden Tate will get more looks this weekend -- other than in punt return situations?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
Yes, he has earned that. I was charting some of the Denver game this morning and noticed him getting time as one of two receivers (Mike Williams was the other) in the base offense (this was on Justin Forsett's 14-yard gain in the first quarter).
Keith (Naples Italy)
The Seahawks began showing a little running game in Denver. Can we expect Pete Carroll to begin force-feeding Justin Forsett, and hopefully Leon Washington and trying to mix up the offense a little bit more? Especially as the O-line gets healthier and bigger?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
That makes some sense and should happen if the Seahawks are not behind in games. They did not always look like a finesse zone team against Denver. Stacy Andrews gives them a different look when he is on the field. Add Russell Okung at some point and they could show some more power-running tendencies. I saw some Sunday.
William Morris (St. Louis)
Hey Mike. Am I in a time machine or are the Rams just as bad as they were the last three years? Anyway, my question is who is to blame? Coaches? GM? Players? Of course everyone has to take some responsibility. I put most of it on the the decision makers in the front office. I look at Kansas City and say, why are they 2-0 and we are 0-2? It's because their decision makers knew to get playmakers and veteran coordinators. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Let's put last season in a different category. They blew up the roster, seemed to be improving, then fell apart when injuries hit the offensive line and running back Steven Jackson. That was a throwaway year. They also started three quarterbacks, come to think of it. This year is different. Yes, ownership issues made the Rams less flexible all offseason, but this team should be able to win some of the close games now. Losing two of them to start the season reflects poorly on the coaches, but it's also early in the season. Let's not issue a final judgment yet. The problem I see, same as last year, is that injuries will tap the depth as the season plays out, and the Rams could get worse as a result.
Does Beanie really have a chance to play this week?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Yes, I do think Beanie Wells has a chance to play this week.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
What do the Rams coaches see in Laurent Robinson such that they keep starting him and leaving Brandon Gibson inactive?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
It might come down to what they have not seen from Gibson yet. Gibson missed a bunch of camp with a hamstring injury. I'm curious, though, too. Gibson looks the part physically and I'd like to see what he can do. Robinson keeps having bad luck with injuries.
Brandon (Seattle, WA)
What is going on with Michael Crabtree? He has to this point, lived up to much lower expectations then most of us probably have for him this season.
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
It's been a surprise to me. He missed camp last season, then came right in and produced. The chemistry between Crabtree and Smith does not seem to be there yet this season. Crabtree needs to earn Smith's trust.
Keith (Naples Italy)
Seattle defense has been pretty stingy on the run so far this year, and San Diego has become more run oriented (without Vincent Jackson). That, coupled with the noise at Qwest, do you think it could spell another home upset?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Yes, it could. But this is still a tough matchup for the Seahawks. Philip Rivers is a threat to strike downfield even without Jackson.
Tim (San Francisco)
Why can't the Rams coaching staff find ways to utilize their athletic, if raw rookies? Like Brandon Gibson, Mardy Gilyard and Fendi Onubun? They don't have to be every down players but could create mismatches.
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Onobun and Gilyard had good camps. I expected them to contribute more. It is early, though. The injuries at tight end should give Onobun at least some chance. The Rams thought during camp they would have a role for Onobun this season. Gibson hasn't done much in practice. I wonder if he's in the doughouse a little bit after missing so much camp time. I'd like to see what he can do, also.
Seattle just hired a no-NFL experience president? What makes this guy capable of being president, I mean, what exactly does the president of an NFL team do that affects win/loss?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Tod Leiweke was not an NFL guy either. This guy is not going to be making football personnel decisions. It does seem a little odd to get a guy without NFL experience. But if he focuses on non-NFL stuff, he can succeed.
Mike, I loved your comments on handling quarterback changes. I, for one, am OK with the decision to start Derek Anderson; but I feel that the organization used poor timing on the decision and ultimately made an emotional decision to cut Matt Leinart. I know it's not in most coaches/owners DNA to admit a mistake, but are the Cardinals second-guessing their decision to cut Leinart after seeing Anderson play two games? Worth noting, I don't think the Eagles are going to cut/trade Kevin Kolb, nor will the Giants cut Brandon Jacobs after he threw his helmet in the crowd for being demoted.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
The Cardinals would not be second-guessing the decision to cut Leinart. They should be second-guessing their approach to the position earlier in the offseason, when there were other options. They were not interested in Donovan McNabb. The had some interest in Charlie Whitehurst, but I think it was ultimately a little fleeting. They tried to wait for Marc Bulger, but ran out of time. And so they settled for Derek Anderson, basically. My question: How could the team spend the offseason relying on Leinart, a player the coaching staff had worked with since 2007, without knowing for sure whether Leinart would be the guy?
Loren (San Francisco)
Can we put it in ink now that the NFC West is the weakest division in the NFL? Sorry you have to cover the scrubs, but all of these teams are so flawed and none show any real hope of progressing this year. Even my 49ers.
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
That ink has been dry for a while! Twelve wins outside the division since the start of last season and seven of those were against the NAIA Division III NFC North. Not good.
Pete (Las Vegas)
Mike, semi-fantasy question. The fantasy geniuses at espn seem to think Hightower is: a) a good play in general and b) a better play than Wells. Aside from his 80 yard TD (and I know you can't really discount that), he has done very little and coughed the ball up twice. Assuming Beanie is ok and playing this week shouldn't we expect him to be "the guy"?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
It's an upset if Wells assumes that role right away. I think he'll have to earn it over time.
Dave (Dallas, TX)
Other than the obvious turnovers that have plagued the 9ers the past 2 weeks, what do you see being the biggest obstacle for the 9ers against the Chiefs?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Alex Smith took a step with the fourth-quarter drive Monday night, but can he operate efficiently in pressure situations on the road? That is the biggest question I have.
Slappy (San Diego)
Sando, thanks for answering my first question. I was wondering if you thought having Whitehurst running scout team for the offense he was learning for the past three or four years is going to give the Hawks any kind of advantage, similar to advantages they experienced the first week against SF when they could lean on the knowledge of one the assistants (forget which coach it was).
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
You're on a roll. Two in one day here. I think Whitehurst's feel for Rivers and the San Diego offense could help the Seattle coaching staff, which is largely new to the NFL this year. How Whitehurst runs the scout team? Maybe a little, but not significantly.
Adam Stahon (Erie)
What are the chances the Vikings start 0-3 this season?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
Much higher now that the team is 0-2.
How long before Larry Fitzgerald becomes disgruntled?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
They're paying him too much for that. I think his production would really have to fall off. He has 10 catches in two games. He had 10 through two games last season. He has 19 additional yards receiving through two games this season compared to last season. And he has one touchdown, down from two after two games last season.
Why is Alex Smith afraid to throw it down field? It seems like he hasn't thrown a single jump ball for his receiver to go up and get in his 6 year career.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
He throws deep to Vernon Davis and did so against the Saints, connecting downfield. That was for a 41-yard gain.
Dustin (San Diego)
Who's a better beat reporter for the Niners Barrows or Maiocco?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
Matt is better, but it's close.
Andrew Batuure (Baltimore)
Its tough to be a Rams fan sometimes however, I am very happy with the first two games. Yes we lost both but we kept the game close we just need to learn how to finish. I love the fact we are competing. The offense does not need to open up as much as people think yes we need to look further downfield but we don't need to throw deep bombs all game. Do you agree with this? I think that if we avoid injuries once we learn to finish we can compete in this division.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
It's refreshing to hear some optimism from a Rams fan. Injuries are already mounting some and that is a significant threat. Bradford impresses me. He should keep getting better. They'll win a couple games here at some point provided they do not run out of players first.
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. See you on the blog and on Twitter. @espn_nfcwest.