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!
Vernon Davis (Wembley)
Is Troy going to get me the ball more than Alex did? Will my numbers drop off with Troy back there?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
Troy Smith has nothing to lose. He might as well cut it loose. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Vernon Davis has not practiced this week. Smith has only now started taking reps with the starting offense. As a result, Smith and Davis will have put in minimal work together before game day.
Mike, thanks for your great coverage and for responding to queries via the channels you do (twitter, facebook). Really helps us fans feel connected. My question is how do you think the Seahawks pass rush matches up this weekend. Aside from Chicago (worst OLine in the league), we really haven't gotten much push on the road. Can they do better in Oakland?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
You're welcome, Todd. Matt Williamson and I were talking about that very subject on the phone this morning. He thinks Chris Clemons and the Seattle defense will get pressure in this game. I'm with you to an extent -- it hasn't always been there on the road -- and the Raiders are not the Bears. While neither Chicago nor Oakland is known for sound pass protection, the Raiders do try to run the ball. They have run the ball successfully at times this season. That can make it tougher to rush the passer. I do think Seattle has a chance to get pressure.
Tyler (Seattle, WA)
Sando, love your work...as a diehard 49er fan I feel like I have very little to look forward to for the rest of this season and next. What little hope exists for the team with unstability at QB, poor coaching and the worst record in the NFL?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Thanks, Tyler. Having Troy Smith start makes the game more interesting. You should really watch the rookies. Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, Taylor Mays, NaVorro Bowman. These are the guys San Francisco needs to see improve.
Bobby (St. Louis)
Why does Steven Jackson get overlooked by Pat Shurmur when the Rams are inside of the 10? It seems like every game they have a drive stall in there because we run play action roll outs or quick drops. The Earl Thomas pick in end zone vs. Seattle, back to back sacks vs. San Diego, and a couple near picks vs. Tampa this weekend come to mind. Why not let the workhorse back (among the best in the league) pound the ball four times and test the defense's will? Thanks for your work on the blog.
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
This is a subject I'd like to explore in greater detail. I'm going to be breaking down the Rams' personnel use here Thursday and then I'll have a better feel for the red zone, specifically inside the 10. Teams are going to key on Jackson in those situations. The Rams trust Bradford. The rollout on fourth-and-goal from the 1 against Arizona right before halftime comes to mind. Bradford made an outstanding throw for a touchdown. Is Jackson a great red zone runner relative to how he runs elsewhere on the field? I do not know the answer to that question. I do remember him fumbling down there against Minnesota last season. Overall, though, he should be a primary option down there.
Christopher (Los Angeles)
Are the Seahawks now the clear favorite in the NFC West with the Cardinals and Rams having a horrible road record?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
The Seahawks are the favorite if they win at Arizona. The Cardinals have the more favorable schedule, with seven of their remaining 10 games against teams with losing records right now. Seattle plays six games against teams with winning records right now. Arizona and Seattle both have only one road victory to this point.
Bobby (St. Louis)
Were you as disappointed in the play calling as I was in the Rams' loss on Sunday? Bradford only threw from inside the pocket a handful of times and each of them were quick screens or fades to Brandon Gibson (which is a befuddling play call in itself). Even in the first half, it seemed like the offense lacked momentum. They never made a big play because Shurmur never called any 5- or 7-step drops. Did you get the same feeling? Thanks for your work, Sando.
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
I monitored the game Sunday and watched a replay early this week. My plan is to chart the Rams' offense at some point Thursday. My feel watching the game was that Sam Bradford lacked options in the passing game, whereas Josh Freeman had Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow Jr. Freeman is also a year ahead of Bradford experience-wise and that showed in the game, I thought. I think it's critical for the Rams to develop another receiving target. Mike Hoomanawanui is one player to watch.
Derrik (Gilbert AZ)
Sando, I believe that the Cardinals need to send a draft pick to Andy Reid for Kolb at the end of the year. Instead of waiting a couple of years for Max Hall or a draft pick to develop, the Cards should be aggressive since the division will be wide open until the Rams get more weapons in a year or two. Derek Anderson won't be here next year. Hall can be the backup to learn. Plus, without a QB on the horizon, why would Larry Fitzgerald stay here in the desert when he holds all the Cards?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
You are really on the right path. I don't know whether the Cardinals could get a quarterback from Philadelphia, but this team does need to address the position. Right now, based on what we know, is there an NFL team with a worse quarterback situation than the one in Arizona?
Hey Mike, This really isn't a question, but I know exactly what's going to happen with Troy Smith: He will provide the team a spark as they rally around him. He won't be the most gifted QB, but will make up for it with his leadership, personality, and grit. After earning the respect of the entire team and having a winning record, he will be traded to the Lions and replaced by an incompetent backup in a move that makes no sense.
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Not that any cynicism is creeping into the 49ers' fan base!
Great chat- thanks for the daily blog as well. We all know that the 49ers have not lived up to expectations this year so is Singletarty gonna be the one to pay for it with his job? If so - what possible candidates could there be. I think they have good talent, a new stadium (hopefully) on the way, probably a high draft pick and a young owner who seems to want to win. It seems like a pretty attractive situation. Who would be interested? Thanks in advance
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Thanks, Robert. The 49ers could use an offensive-minded head coach who values the running game. I say that because they have young players on offense and they have struggled so badly on that side of the ball. They cannot risk more issues at the coordinator spot. I think the next coach needs to value the run game because the 49ers have some pieces in place to be strong in that area. Jon Gruden is the candidate I think fits the mold.
Out of the Seahawks' free agents who are the most valuable? David Hawthorne, Kelly Jennings, Mike Williams, Leroy Hill, Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Brandon Mebane, Ray Willis, Olindo Mare, Leon Washington.
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
If I had to guess at which players the Seahawks might wind up valuing the most, based on scheme fits and player abilities and the like, the list might be in this general order (assuming a few things, such as Mike Williams continuing to play very well): Mike Williams, Brandon Mebane, Leon Washington, David Hawthorne, Olindo Mare, Sean Locklear, Kelly Jennings, Chris Spencer, Leroy Hill, Ray Willis.
Chris (Phoenix, AZ)
Do you think we will see Beanie Wells starting for the Cards soon? Do you think he might still be a little banged up? Hightower, though he has been effective, fumbled again Sunday, and with coach Whiz that seems to be the one truly inexcusable move. Oh, and I think the Dallas QB situation might now be worse... As always, great work!
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
Thanks, Chris. I do think Beanie Wells will wind up starting soon. His knee should not be an issue at this point. He has looked good at times since returning. As for the Cowboys' QB situation, at least they know they have Tony Romo for next season. Also, I think the Cardinals might be better off with Jon Kitna starting right now.
Mike, this is kind of a general question on your MVP Watch. To your credit, you have some players on there who definitely SHOULD be considered, but is it really an MVP Watch if they have no chance at actually winning? I am referring to Roddy White, among others. How many MVPs did Jerry Rice win, after all?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
I feel what you're saying, no question. It's hard putting together a list of 10 every week. I do so knowing at least half do not have a realistic shot.
Nacho (Valencia, Spain)
I'm a 'Niners fan since the early 80's so tell me, is there any hope at medium and long term for me and the 49ers? I mean, we're a very below average team, with poor coaching and I don't see our front office capable of reverse the situation.
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Teams turn things around in a hurry. Think how much better the Seahawks feel about things now compared to even two months ago. It doesn't mean Seattle has arrived or has a great team. But there's a sense things are turning around. That is what the 49ers need and they can capture that by hiring the right coach and having the right personnel team. There's no way this should be a 1-6 team. No way. I feel as though preseason predictions, including mine, were justified. There are some good players on that team.
Ryan (San Francisco, CA)
Loved your blog about Singletary's hot seat. Should the 9ers make the move over the bye? ...and who would be your first few choices of available head coaches outside of the 49ers organization? It doesn't seem like Manusky has what it takes and I don't want to replace Singletary with a coordinator half-way through the season - reminiscent of 2008.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Thanks. There's no great alternative right now. You're probably not going to bring in someone from the outside to coach the team beginning in Week 10. After seeing Todd Haley get things going in Kansas City, I wonder if the Ken Whisenhunt tree might be one place to look. Russ Grimm?
Mackay (Pleasant Grove, UT)
I want to answer your question. Is there an NFL team with a worse quarterback situation than the one in Arizona? No there is not. When Derek Anderson is your option to come in and save the day, your situation is horrible. Andrew Luck in a Cards uniform?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
I don't think the Cardinals' record will be bad enough for the team to draft that high.
Do the Seattle Seahaks still see Charlie Whitehurst as the future? Or will they draft a QB?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
My feel is that they would draft a franchise quarterback if they had a chance to do so.
Greg Manusky (London, England)
With veterans on my defense underachieving such as Nate Clements, Justin Smith, Manny Lawson and Takeo Spikes to name a few; what are the chances these guys will be leaving my D at seasons end?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Those types of changes become more likely if the team replaces its coaching staff. I have a hard time envisioning the 49ers paying more than $7 million to Clements next season.
Brandon (Tacoma, WA)
Haven't heard a lot of specifics on Okung's latest ankle woes. If he was out a month for the first sprain, how can Carroll and Co. logically say he's "questionable" at Oakland? I realize this may be by design, but do you have any late word on the severity of this particular injury? He's clearly a beast, and the line is a different animal with him starting. Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
If he missed five-plus weeks with the other one, I'm thinking he misses two or three with this one, based on Pete Carroll saying this injury is less serious than the previous one. Okung has just had bad luck. He is not injury prone. There was nothing he could have done to avoid either injury. They were fluke-type injuries. He has looked very good for a rookie to this point and the Seahawks will miss him, no question about it.
Slappy (San Diego)
Is this the first true test for the Hawks run D? Seems if they shut down Run DMC then you can't really say that they haven't played any good running teams anymore and respect has to be given that they are a legit run stopping D.
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
The Seahawks had problems against the Cardinals' rushing offense. I thought Arizona ran the ball pretty much at will until the turnovers twisted the game out of whack. Take a look at how many yards Tim Hightower was gaining with each carry (9,5,1,7,24,13). Shutting down the Raiders' run game would be impressive.
quinton (venice, ca)
Could you define Aaron Curry's role in the defensive scheme? Going into the season with all the talk about the "roving elephant" position he would be involved with, I thought it would be setting him up to be one of the sack leaders on the team.
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
This is a great question that deserves exploration. He does not appear to fit this defense in a featured role and that is a concern based on how early the previous leadership drafted him. He is probably best as a strong-side linebacker. This was something I discussed this morning with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. Hope to share more on the blog.
Mike, Seattle has to play 3 teams coming off their bye week (i.e., with 2 weeks to prepare): Arizona, NYG and NO. Is that coincidence? Has that ever happened before to a team. schedule not doing them any favors...
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
"Ever" is a long time. I do not know the history. Seattle is 1-0 against those teams to this point, and two of the three are at home.
Mike, it seems like despite all the finger pointing, Greg Manusky is gettting a free pass. Why are they playing so conservative on D when they need to make plays? They made Matt Moore look like John Elway by not pressuring him. Willis was going to be a blitzing machine this year and he has one sack and is admittedly less effective than past years. Ahmad Brooks has regressed. LaBoy peaked in the preseason. Why doesn't he get a little more aggressive and try to win the game instead of not lose it which doesn't work?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
I thought about this recently when noting that the 49ers' scoring per game is down 27.8 percent from last season. Basically, Manusky gets more of a pass because the offense has been worse than the defense. Defenses can play more freely and aggressively when their offenses put points on the board. Take last week. The 49ers scored one touchdown on defense as part of their 20 points. Take the Atlanta game. The 49ers scored one touchdown on special teams as part of their 14 points. Take the Kansas City game. The 49ers scored their only touchdown in garbage time. Even in the Seattle game, the defense came out and forced a turnover early, exactly what teams want to do on the road, only to have the offense fail on a fourth-down play.
Mike, are the Rams ever gonna figure out passing game?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
They have figured out the passing game. They need to work on the receiving game. By that, I mean the Rams' injury issues at receiver are dragging down the passing game.
At some point, are the Rams or Niners going to have to let their running backs go in order to rebuild?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
There is no law preventing teams from rebuilding their rosters while employing good running backs.
Mike, what's your take on how well Mike Williams will do this week against the Raiders? He has a tough match up against their Pro Bowl CB.
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
Mike Williams probably becomes much less of a factor if the Raiders decide to shadow him with Nnamdi Asomugha. I do not know whether the Raiders will take that approach. If they do, I'd be surprised if we heard from Williams much.
Mackay (Pleasant Grove, UT)
I always see plays everyweek of teams throwing long bombs downfield to their receivers, and those receivers are so wide open at times. You never see this in AZ. Not last year, and not this year. Is this scheme, or is it receiver speed, or is it arm strength? Why can't the Cards make this type of play happen.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Kurt Warner indicated after last season that he took a hit early in the year and that hit took something off his deep ball. Arizona had better deep-ball success the previous season. This year, Steve Breaston hasn't played enough to factor that way. I thought he had a chance to become a downfield threat with Derek Anderson at quarterback. With Max Hall at quarterback, the deep pass doesn't seem likely to suddenly become a factor again.
Randy (Cleveland, OH)
Hey Mike, what will Steve Breaston's role be in the Cards' offense this Sunday assuming he plays? Could he provide a boost?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
Breaston could definitely provide a boost. I thought the Cardinals missed him most on punt returns against Seattle. I'd be interested in seeing whether the Cardinals feel good enough about his health to use him in that role Sunday.
Mackay (Pleasant Grove, UT)
Do you think that Larry Fitzgerald is going to want to sign an extension with the Cardinals? The reason I ask is because if he is just going to leave, wouldn't the Cards be smart to get a high round draft pick for him? I mean the Cards would probably use it on a kid from a nobody college, they seem to be fond of that.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Fitzgerald likes Ken Whisenhunt. I think he would like to stay. But they need to have a solution to the quarterback situation for Fitzgerald to seriously consider continuing his career in Arizona. That is my opinion, anyway.
Jordan (Scottsdale, AZ)
Who is this #78 on the Cardinals and what has he done with Alan Branch?!?!? Was his sudden emergence a surprise to you as it was to me?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Yes, big surprise. Alan Branch could be a contract-year type of guy.
Hey Mike, firs time posting. Question: John Carlson, how will he factor into the game this weekend? Seems he's been underutilized this year. Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
All bets are off with Russell Okung likely missing the game to rest an injury. Seattle might need to keep its tight ends available to help in protection. Carlson has not been synced up with Matt Hasselbeck on a couple plays that could have produced long gains, including memorably at Denver. Carlson has also dropped the ball. I think Carlson needs to make a play to get more chances.
Is Earl Thomas going to be a better player than Taylor Mays??
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
My sense right now is that Earl Thomas will be a better player because this is a passing league and Thomas has better ball skills.
Jeff in Iowa (Cedar Rapids)
Hey Mike, disappointed to see another good young Rams talent go the IR in Clifton Ryan. I know every team deals with injuries but it sure seems like the Rams have had more than there share the last three years. Any chance of getting one of your great spreadsheets on the number of games missed or players placed on IR by the Rams as compared to the rest of the league? Love the blog!
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Thanks, Jeff. I can certainly put together something along those lines. I'm a little behind in updating rosters and need to set aside some time late one night to plow through them. But it's definitely on my radar. Thanks again.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat this week. My pleasure as always. Got some good ideas out of this one. Time to get to work!