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 3 p.m. ET!
Mike Sando (3:02 PM)
Good to be here today. Let's get this thing going.
phillip atlanta ga [via mobile]
I'm a huge Texas fan and a big fan of Earl Thomas. Do you think he has what it takes to be an elite safety in the NFL?
Mike Sando (3:04 PM)
Yes, I do think Earl Thomas has that kind of ability. He has exceptional range and just needs more seasoning. He would also benefit from playing with better talent around him and on the Seahawks' offense. If Seattle scored enough points to force opponents into taking chances, Thomas would become more dangerous as a playmaker. He really does seem to have a knack for getting his hands on the ball.
Jonathan (Buffalo Grove IL)
How was the Lombardi show? Any other kids stand out? And can we talk about something other than the NFL because the 49ers are a mess. I would suggest the Giants but Buster just got hurt, the Sharks disappointed again, and I have to boycott the NBA finals due to association with Chicago fans now, and soccer is really just fetch for humans. Any thoughts on rugby?
Mike Sando (3:06 PM)
Thanks for the question. Yes, my son portrayed Vince Lombardi for a class project today. He did very well. My favorite part was when he said, "Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization -- an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win, to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don't think it is." Hearing my 9-year-old son say those words in a stern voice was classic.
No one seems to think the Seahawks will win the division this year. The Rams have Sam Bradford, the Cardinals just need a quarterback, Jim Harbaugh is the next great coach, etc. But Seattle seems to be building its team the right way, and I have a hard time doubting Pete Carroll. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (3:08 PM)
Those concepts aren't exclusive. In fact, we could even say Seattle's decision to do this "the right way" by overhauling the roster and building from the inside out has contributed to perceptions that they will not fare as well in the near term. The Seahawks have said they're building this for the long haul. They will of course try to compete in the meantime, and last year showed they do have a chance.
Does Aaron Curry ever get it figured out?
Mike Sando (3:10 PM)
I don't think he'll become a Pro Bowl linebacker based on what we've seen to this point. Something seems to be missing or just a little off. He does remain very young, so there is time. I just haven't got the feeling yet that he is progressing toward something much better.
Jonathan (Buffalo Grove, IL)
That's a great line, and I can only imagine the delivery. Thanks for sharing. Do you have any inside tidbits for us on the exclusive owners meeting that took place in the windy city yesterday?
Mike Sando (3:13 PM)
I was not there, but my thoughts are these: It is a good sign that the parties got together and, from all appearances, were not doing so for show. That suggests the sides could be getting more serious about getting something done. A settlement seems more likely to me. The writing has been on the wall from the appellate court. I also find it interesting to hear sources quoted as saying they thought a realistic time frame for agreement would be late July or early August. That sort of talk suggests there's some direction where there didn't seem to be direction previously.
What are your thoughts on the new offensive line in Seattle? Who do you project as starters? And most importantly, how long before a new offensive line like this begins to come together as a unit? Oh, one more, do you see Max Unger being able to cope as a center?
Mike Sando (3:16 PM)
The changes make sense to me completely based on what this team has been lacking. This offensive line has never come close to establishing the identity that was such a big part of the Seahawks' success several years ago. The projected starters, right to left, would be James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Max Unger, Robert Gallery (or another free agent) and Russell Okung. I do think Unger has a chance at center. I also think he's more likely to take a leadership role eventually. As far as when the line really comes together, I'd point toward the second half of the season, particularly if the lockout wipes out June camps.
Mike Sando (3:16 PM)
The changes make sense to me completely based on what this team has been lacking. This offensive line has never come close to establishing the identity that was such a big part of the Seahawks' success several years ago. The projected starters, right to left, would be James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Max Unger, Robert Gallery (or another free agent) and Russell Okung. I do think Unger has a chance at center. I also think he's more likely to take a leadership role eventually.
Hey Sando, you do great work here. Keep it up. I think the Seattle secondary is going to be better than most people think. Three young guys got significant playing time and I could see one of the new draftees playing well too. How do you see the situation playing out?
Mike Sando (3:20 PM)
Thanks. Some could hinge on what opportunities become available during a free-agency period. I could see the Seahawks going young in the secondary. Marcus Trufant's high price tag, recent injury concerns and age (30) raise questions about the fit on a young, rebuilding team. Would another team value him enough to inquire? At strong safety, it seems like time to get Kam Chancellor on the field more. Walter Thurmond looks like a candidate to start at one cornerback spot. I agree that one of the rookies could factor. That could also be the case at safety with Mark LeGree.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Is is an almost certainty that the Seahawks will let Brandon Mebane become a free agent? Is Denver a logical destination?
Mike Sando (3:22 PM)
I would not call it a certainty. We don't even know whether Mebane will qualify for unrestricted free agency. Seattle would like to re-sign him and could have greater interest after not addressing defensive tackle in the draft.
Five years from now, who do you think will have the best offensive line?
Mike Sando (3:26 PM)
Five years is forever in the NFL, but I get what you are asking. Let's rephrase the question this way: Which NFC West offensive line appears set up best for long-term success? I would start with the 49ers based on what we've seen from Mike Iupati, plus the significant investment through the draft (three recent first-rounders in starting roles). I might lean toward the Seahawks next based on Russell Okung's presence and the investment made in the 2011 draft. The Rams would be next. They have some question marks at guard. Center Jason Brown might need a strong year. Jason Smith's concussion history is a concern. The Cardinals would be last simply because they haven't invested significant draft resources in their line since selecting Levi Brown.
Will there ever be a great quarterback in Seattle again?
Mike Sando (3:29 PM)
Matt Ryan visits in Week 4. Haha. He's not great yet. Just a joke. I do not think the Seahawks have ever had a truly great quarterback. Warren Moon was very good for a season, but he wasn't on the team long enough.
What is your take on Michael Crabtree. Is he misjudged or genuinly not a team guy?
Mike Sando (3:31 PM)
My feeling is that he has some growing up to do and I'm reluctant to make judgments in the absence of information. I'd really like to hear from Crabtree and see him at practice, working with Jim Harbaugh and those sorts of things.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Who's on your All NFC-West offensive line? Saffold, Lutui, Unger, Iupati, cheat and move Okung to RT...?
Mike Sando (3:34 PM)
Russell Okung would be the left tackle. I would put Mike Iupati at left guard, Lyle Sendlein at center, Deuce Lutui possibly at right guard and then if I had to move someone, it might be Rodger Saffold to right tackle.
Do you believe that the Seahawks are set at RB and if not how can they get there?
Mike Sando (3:36 PM)
They are probably set for the coming season. I would expect Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett to be the top two guys, with Leon Washington in the mix after signing a new contract. But nothing is set for the long term. Lynch is entering the final year of his deal and must play well.
tomas (Los Angeles)
Does Darren Sproles have any gas left in his tank, and do you think he would fit in Rams new offensive system?
Mike Sando (3:38 PM)
Sproles is talented enough to fit in any system as a situational back. I would applaud the Rams for adding him, but the value might not be right. Sproles turns 28 this month. The Rams are going to give the ball to Steven Jackson most of the time. Spending big on a long-term deal for Sproles wouldn't make sense.
Mickey (St. Louis)
Hey Sando, who do you view as options (and good fits) in free agency for the Rams? If the lock out ends, I envision mass hysteria as free agents will be getting picked up left and right. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (3:40 PM)
So much of that depends upon what rules define free agency. Will players need four, five or six years of service to qualify for the unrestricted market?
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Who is a sleeper at receiver that you can see having a surprisingly good year? Danario Alexander, Ben Obomanu, Early Doucet, Mark Clayton?
Mike Sando (3:42 PM)
Those are good names to consider. Don't forget about the Cardinals' Andre Roberts. He progressed last season and could factor, particularly if Early Doucet doesn't seize a greater role in the offense. One thing to consider for Arizona: Patrick Peterson can factor in the return game, perhaps lessening the need to keep an extra receiver active on game days. Just a thought.
Steven (Phoenix, AZ)
Mike - realistically speaking, what is your "gut" feeling we will have football this year?
Mike Sando (3:47 PM)
Yes, I think we'll have a 2011 regular season, and I tend to think we will not miss regular-season games. That has been my feeling going into this thing, that the pressure on the players ultimately would make it tough for them to not get a deal done. I could be wrong on that, but it appears headed in that direction from a courts standpoint.
CardsFan (Phoenix, AZ)
Speaking of the Cards (finally!), with all the chatter about offensive lines, are there any decent role players available in free agency?
Mike Sando (3:50 PM)
The Cardinals have already signed those types of guys (Alan Faneca and Rex Hadnot). I have thought they needed to develop younger players. The list of players with at least five accrued seasons is not a great one. Reggie Wells is on it, though!
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
See the Hangover 2?
Mike Sando (3:51 PM)
I did see that one, and also saw the Will Ferrell movie Everything Must Go, which I thought had some depth to it and was worth seeing.
Let's say it's business as usual in Arizona and a third grader picks the starting quarterback. How long will Larry Fitzgerald face disappointment before he up and leaves?
Mike Sando (3:53 PM)
Business as usual in Arizona changed when the team hired Ken Whisenhunt. If it were business as usual, the team would have stuck with Matt Leinart through last season. That might have been better than the alternative, in retrospect. On Fitzgerald, his contract runs through the 2011 season. I think he'll sign elsewhere if he reaches free agency, but Arizona will obviously try to prevent that from happening. And I do think the overall direction of the team this season will factor secondarily. Money matters the most.
Curtis (Corvallis, OR)
What's the deal with Frank Gore? He is constantly brought up as one of the better backs in the league, yet rarely seems to make it through an entire season. Do you think he is one more injury-riddled season away from not being a 49er?
Mike Sando (3:56 PM)
Gore's contract runs only through the 2011 season. His future with the 49ers beyond that is in some question whether or not injuries come into play. It'll be tough for the team to justify handing over a career-achievement contract given the nature of the position. Seattle learned the hard way on that with Shaun Alexander.
Any thoughts on the 49ers putting down red and gold turf in their new stadium? I haven't heard they are actually doing this. I just saw that the Univ. of Central Arkansas is putting down gray and purple for their new field. Would the NFL ever fly for a field that wasn't green?
Mike Sando (3:58 PM)
Funny you should ask this. The NFL recently adopted a rule preventing off-color fields without league approval.
Mike Sando (3:59 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat today.