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!
I'm glad that the 49ers haven't given Dashon Goldson an extension yet. I think he's looked horrible so far this year. My question to you is, do you see the Niners' defense getting back into form? I feel they looked OK against the Seahawks, decent against the Saints and then just awful against the Chiefs.
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
Yes, the 49ers' defense should improve. The talent is strong. The scheme has held up pretty well the last couple seasons. Some thought this would be a top-five defense. I thought the top 10 was realistic. This is not going to be a dominant defense, though. A dominant defense shuts down opponents regardless of circumstances. The 49ers' defense has had some problems doing that when its offense has failed to convert on third down.
Gabe (Bay Area)
I feel that the 49ers should have gone with Mike Solari as O.C. because he has done the job before. With that said, what are your feelings about Mike Johnson and do you think he can revive this putrid 49er offense.
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
Mike Singletary makes a valid point about the new coordinator needing to have a good feel for and rapport with Alex Smith. That made Michael Johnson the easy choice. Mike Solari is too valuable as the line coach. They have two rookies starting up front and Solari's efforts are best spent teaching them.
How do you see the Seahawks starting line shaking out now that Okung and Pitts are close to returning? Do you think either will play this week?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
I could see Russell Okung getting some snaps as a backup if his ankle holds up well during practices. Same with Chester Pitts, really. I could see Pitts stepping into the lineup before Okung does. And I do see both starting on the left side once they are healthy enough to do so. With Alex Gibbs gone, I wonder how long Ben Hamilton will remain part of the picture at all (long term).
Is this the year the Rams beat the Seahawks and make me look like I know what I'm talking about?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
I thought so before the season. Seattle has protected Matt Hasselbeck better than I envisioned, so the Seahawks have a better chance to win that game. Seattle has won by forcing turnovers. I think turnovers are tough to rely upon. The Rams will be easier to beat with a diminished Steven Jackson, though. And Seattle's running game will probably have some success. I give Seattle a slight edge but think the Rams have a good chance.
If Pete takes the Seahawks to the playoffs is he getting your vote for Coach of the Year?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
That depends on their record. If they go to the playoffs as a 6-10 division winner, not so much. If they go to the playoffs as a legit playoff team, he'd get strong consideration.
Cisco (The Hawks Nest, Seattle)
What must the Seahawks do in order to improve the running game?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Settle on their personnel a little bit -- at fullback, on the line -- and then just stick with it.
Mike! The Cardinals are looking to go into San Diego quite disadvantaged. But watching the Chargers play in their first 3 games, I didn't see much that screams blowout. We have a decided special teams advantage, and while our offense is running at about 40% their offense hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders. Is this looking to be a defensive showdown, and if so, can Arizona hang in there?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
The Chargers' secondary appeared quite opportunistic against Jacksonville in San Diego's last home game. That's the story to me. How well does Derek Anderson protect the football? In the end, I think the Chargers are so much better at quarterback and in the passing game overall. Advantage, San Diego.
Edward (Tempe, AZ)
We know that the Chargers are capable of putting up some serious offensive numbers, but after their showing against Seattle, what area do the Cardinals need to expose to pull out a victory in San Diego?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
Special teams. Then again, if LaRod Stephens-Howling is getting lots of kickoff returns, it probably means the Chargers are scoring.
So,Assume the Seahawks go 3-1, and the niners go 0-4. Is the division favorite the Hawks or the Cards?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
Probably Seattle as long as Matt Hasselbeck is getting protection and the offensive line improves with the additions of Russell Okung and Chester Pitts. But a lot of division games loom ahead. Let's see if Seattle can beat the Rams.
So far this season the mentality has been around the St. Louis Rams that they must establish the run in order to open up the pass. However, Bradford has been very reliable with the passing game and seems to be taking everything that is being tossed at him. With the trouble the running game has been having, I think the Rams should establish the pass to open up the run, your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
They have already done this some. Put it this way: I do not get the sense St. Louis has gone into games with plans designed to minimize the QB position. They've been fairly enterprising and even showcased Sam Bradford some.
Rick (Pasadena, CA)
Hello Mike,Thoughts so far on the Rams defense? Do you think their points allowed per game will stay the same or is it a fluke?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Quality depth in the secondary is a concern. The team is having to blitz a lot. The defense has been opportunistic at times and that has helped. I would think the PPG number would expand some, though.
Squall (Balamb Garden)
We've seen relatively decent play from the Rams at times this year. How long before you think they're a contender in the division? Next year?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
They're a factor now in part because the rest of the division is unsettled. Sam Bradford should have them contending next season.
tom page (bellevue,wa)
When does Max Hall get his chance for Arizona?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
At home against Tampa Bay in Week 8? Just a guess. The bye is Week 6. There's a trip to Seattle in Week 7.
Mike, the Seattle offense seems anemic (despite the wins). Did you happen to notice whether they're doing anything to improve their lot during practices this week?
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Pete Carroll is all about playing it safe and minimizing turnovers right now. I could see them becoming more aggressive down the line, once the offensive line is in place and Matt Hasselbeck has a better feel for his receivers.
Aaron (Camp Patriot, Kuwait)
Hello Mike. Thank you for your dedication to your blog. It keeps me informed very well. I have a question regarding Matt Hasslebeck. How much do you think his apparent struggles (i.e 5 interceptions in 3 games, inability to move the offense in the second half of the San Diego game) are related to his somewhat new receivers, a new offense, and/or just age creeping up on him? Is it possible, like last year, he is still trying too hard?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Thanks. Hasselbeck has always needed to be comfortable -- with the offense, with his receivers, with his protection. I don't see age as a huge factor right now. He's pretty healthy and moving well. He's not playing as freely as you might want him to play. Some of that is because Pete Carroll would rather have Hasselbeck throw away the ball than take a chance on a bigger play. Some of that is on Hasselbeck, too. He has made some bad throws. I think there have also been times when he wasn't in sync with receivers -- some new, and some (John Carlson) who have been around a while.
4949centennial (Palo Alto)
Before Seattle and Arizona fans gets carried away, I want to remind them that they have not won an away game this season that doesn't include the Rams. Still better than the 49ers, but just pointing it out.
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
The 49ers should be in the mix even if they go 0-4. Will they be? That is up to them, and I'm not sure I trust them. But the first quarter or so of the game at Seattle and the physical dominance the 49ers showed against New Orleans validated what I thought of them before the season: They had the most talent in the division. That means they should be the best team. Doesn't mean they will be.
Deric (Twin Falls, ID)
How much is Jeremy Bates hampered in his playcalling because of Matt's inability to throw the deep ball?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
The offense was far more oriented toward throwing downfield when Charlie Whitehurst was under center during the exhibition season. Whitehurst doesn't throw the short stuff as well, so that explains part of the disparity. But it's fair to say Seattle would throw downfield more if Hasselbeck were better at that aspect of the game.
With most of the 'experts' thinking that the Rams should have drafted Suh over Sam, do you think that so far they made the right or wrong decision? Also, if Clayton continues to produce at the level at which he is, should he be considered comeback player of the year?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Right decision on Sam Bradford. They could use Suh as well, don't get me wrong, but the quarterback makes a bigger difference. Mark Clayton is not a candidate for comeback player of the year. He caught 34 passes last season and did not suffer a devastating injury. There is nothing from which to return.
Carlos M. (Downey, California)
In your eyes, how much has Sam improved the Rams?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
By one victory so far. And he also probably kept the two defeats closer.
supninerfan (OC california (i hate this place))
With as much turmoil that is going on in SF does York deserve some blame also?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Jed York is ultimately responsible for hiring Mike Singletary and allowing the team to go into the 2010 season with Alex Smith and David Carr as the top two quarterbacks. So, yes.
Jeremy (Hemet, CA)
If the Chargers beat Arizona and the Rams beat the Seahawks, all of a sudden the Rams are tied for first! Is this division really as wide open as it seems? Go Rams!
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Yes, it is. I just do not think we have seen the end of the 49ers just yet. Long season. They'll win some games. Might not be enough, but they'll win some games.
Kyle (St. Louis)
I know it's early in the season, but I think the Rams need a pass rushing DE more than a big play WR. It looks like Bradford can move the offense with these WR's.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Fair point. The offense the Rams are running depends on coordination and timing. Seattle proved for years that a good quarterback can move the ball without dominant talent at wideout. Chris Long has played pretty well from what I have seen. I thought he would have more sacks. Sometimes he's drawing attention to free up blitzing teammates. Agreed, though, the Rams could use another pass-rusher.
Before 49ers fans get carried away with telling others to not get carried away, I want to remind them that they have not won any games this season that include the 49ers. Just pointing it out.
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Well phrased. Advantage, Derrick.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Does Seattle win any road games this year?They are a really bad football team that gets lucky at home.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
I'd expect them to win a couple road games. The home schedule sets up pretty favorably. We will learn a lot Sunday. Seattle's prospects would rise with a victory over the Rams in St. Louis.
4949centennial (Palo Alto)
Ouch. That hurts !!!!
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
It was a pretty good line.
Steven (San Jose)
Hey Mike, Is there a chance the 49ers pull out a win against the Falcons? So far they played well against a strong team and poorly against mediocre teams. Or is this game going to be over by 10:20 Sunday morning? Also, what impact do you think the new OC can have, since it's the same playbook and same philosophy?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
It's a long shot but I would not be surprised if the 49ers played well. They might be a little immature on offense. Remember how they responded against New Orleans after getting written off at Seattle. They heard great things about themselves after rolling up 417 yards against the Saints, with Mike Singletary saying it was the best game by the team's offensive line since at least 2005. They were humbled again in their last game. I sense the 49ers are nearing a precipice here. They need a more representative effort Sunday. The early kickoff -- second one in a row -- does lend itself to getting blown out early. An the OC front, I think Alex Smith will be more comfortable with the plan.
Dan (Washington DC)
Did you see how slow Chilo looked last week? He had zero push. Synder is ready to step up.
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
I would also favor Adam Snyder over Chilo Rachal right now, particularly with a rookie franchise right tackle finding his way.
Patrick (WAshington State)
It seems like the Seahawks are the only team continually churning their roster. Is this a reflection of how bad the roster is or just a quirk of Carroll's that we're going to have to live with?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
The roster was not very good. That is part of it. Also, Carroll is OK with young players. He was used to developing talent at the college level. The GM, John Schneider, is a pure personnel guy. By that, I mean Schneider is all about talent. What are the measurables? That is a departure from predecessor Tim Ruskell.
Joey Scott (NYC)
What did you thing about Bill Simmons realignment scheme while blowing up the NFC West? And though it is true that the NFC West since realignment in 2002 has had the most season with at least 3 teams having losing records in the same year (3), in two of those years the division winner did go to the SuperBowl!!! I think the NFC West should get a pass just for the two competitive SB appearances!!!
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
I like Bill Williamson, but I really don't want to share a desk with him. Eight divisions perfect!
Steve (Effingham, IL)
Hi Mike. Everyone talks about the Seattle - Rams game being a make or break game for Seattle. What do you think it does for St. Louis?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
It's not make or break, in my view. It's just a huge opportunity for both teams.
Mike - thanks for the consistently level-headed blog content. Quick question on Carroll's comments about having the team ready to play on the road. Seattle has (historically) been a less than adequate road team. Is most of this on past coaches? Do you think rah rah Carroll can really make a difference?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
Thanks, and you're welcome. I don't think the rah-rah aspect is what Pete Carroll is relying upon to win on the road. He's emphasizing consistency of performance regardless of when or where a game is played. He realizes it's going to be easier to win at home. He just wants to raise the floor for worst-case scenarios on the road. Mindset is important and I do think a head coach can make a difference.
Sando, I am skipping my advanced calculus class to chat with you. Can you tell me what kind of a person that Earl Thomas is? I never changed my jerseys to Aaron Curry last year...so they are still sitting with no names or numbers on them. The idea of a guy being a total ballhawk who can play CB and hit like a heat-seeking missle seems great to me. My kids watch the games with me, so I know you understand when I say that the type of person he is matters to me. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Advanced calculus. Wow. I do not know Earl Thomas and am reluctant to size up players' character without knowing them better. Thomas is the quiet type, it seems. For example, when he told a Denver reporter that he was down last week following the death of a player from his high school, suggesting it might have affected his mindset against the Broncos, that was news to the Seahawks. I've seen nothing from Thomas that would make me apprehensive about recommending his jersey number.
Roger Craig: "The 49ers Will Annihilate The NFC West - Seattle Seahawks". Weren't you in the same boat?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
We haven't heard much from Roger Craig lately. I thought the 49ers should be favored to win the division based on talent and I stand by that. It's not my fault they're failing to meet reasonable expectations.
Chad (Las Vegas)
Can you ask 4949centennial what hurts more the comment or the 0-3 start?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
That would be piling on.
Cisco (The Hawks Nest, Seattle)
Do you think Matt Hasselbeck will be with the seahawks in 2011?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
I've been thinking about that some this week. At what point does it become telling when the starting quarterback does not have a deal for the next season? I think Hasselbeck will probably be back, but he needs to play well, too.
What happens with Polumbus when Okung comes back. He's played pretty well, how easy would the transition to RT be? Would he be an upgrade over Locklear at this point?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I've been thinking about that, too. Polumbus has experience at right tackle. So does Stacy Andrews. Sean Locklear will have to play well to keep that job on the right side. I could see the Seahawks making a change there, sure.
Justin Forsett (Seattle)
Am I finally gonna be the man in Seattle, or what?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Sure looks that way. Forsett had a good game at St. Louis last season. Another one Sunday helps solidify what we saw in Week 3: Forsett as the primary back in Seattle.
Ron (Utica, NY)
Do you think Mark Clayton is going to be Bradford's go to all season long or is this just more of an early season success by chance?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Everything I've seen from Mark Clayton and heard about him in the St. Louis locker room tells me he will be Bradford's top guy all season. Clayton has attributes that appeal to quarterbacks: he's smart, diligent and understands the game. He is probably a better fit for the Rams' offense than he was for the offense he ran previously in Baltimore.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Marshawn Lynch or Fred Jackson to the Rams.What are the chances?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
The Rams just haven't moved on a back. Maybe it would take Jackson missing games, plural. Seattle has had interest in Lynch. The Seahawks want a power back. If Lynch becomes available at a reasonable price, the Seahawks would be the team, I think (Lynch played with Justin Forsett at Cal, not that it matters a great deal).
Other than Fitzgerald, are there going to be any good fantasy WR's in the division?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Mark Clayton is doing some good things in St. Louis. I think Michael Crabtree should get something going before too long.
Is Michael Robinson Seattle's FB now that they released Ganther?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Yes, that was already happening some in the Denver game.
Who is more likely to make the most of the Cardinal's depleted WR corps: Stephen Williams or Andre Roberts?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Williams, in an upset. He has looked better to this point.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. If you see any Cardinals fans out there, please invite them (same time next week). It was pretty quiet on the Arizona front in this chat and we're not even running opposite Dancing With the Stars.