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!
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
Let's get this chat going. Thanks for dropping by.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
In his chat yesterday, Matt Williamson stated he thinks Arizona might field the worst OL in football this year, and I can't say I disagree. Getting Kolb, heck, getting Peyton Manning, wouldnt mean a thing if the QB is on his back all year long. Any idea what the Cards are trying to do to address the O Line concerns?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Peyton Manning has flourished without a highly talented (by NFL standards) offensive line. A top quarterback makes a so-so line look good. Kurt Warner did this in Arizona a couple years ago. I question the Cardinals' approach to building their line and think they should be investing more draft choices in that part of their team. However, if they do re-sign Deuce Lutui and Lyle Sendlein, they should not be horrible. They would be counting on Rex Hadnot to step in at guard, most likely. Brandon Keith would have to come back from that injury. This could be a shaky line, but improvement at quarterback would help the line look better.
Chris (San Francisco)
Hey Mike great job on the blog as always. I heard the story that Osi Umenyiora wants out of the Big Apple. I was wondering if you thought that any NFC West team would be interested.
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
Bonus points for spelling Umenyiora's name correctly. I did see the reports of Umenyiora taking his Giants-related complaints to court in the form of an affidavit saying general manager Jerry Reese failed to deliver on a promised contract extension. The Giants are not in the business of letting players bully them. They are not in the business of subtracting good players from their roster. Lots of teams would have interest in Umenyiora were he to become available. He would have the connections to Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis, although the Rams appear pretty much set at defensive end. I'm sure the Seahawks could find a spot for Umenyiora (they need players, period).
Pierre (Nor Cal)
I know I'm reaching here, but what happens if Alex Smith has a breakout, borderline Pro Bowl campaign, but sometime during the season goes down for 2-3 games, and Colin Kaepernick comes in and shows flashes of dominance. What do the 49ers do? Who do they keep? Thanks Sando, love your work.
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
Thanks, Pierre. That would be a great problem for the 49ers to have. They would uprobably have to go with Kaepernick given that injuries have been a problem for Smith in the past. Ideally, though, they would bring back both players. Smith has been grateful for his chances to this point.
Steve (San Jose)
Hey Mike, every time I hear Harbaugh talking about a power running game, and how the offense will go through Frank Gore, that really worries me. Isn't that what the last two coaches tried to do? I know Harbaugh is an improvement, but that strategy brings up some bad Jimmy Raye memories of running up the middle three times for no gain and punting. Can you help put my fears to rest?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Yes, Jim Harbaugh does want to lean heavily on a power running game. Brock Huard told me Harbaugh's running game was extraordinarily diversified. So, all run games are not the same. And then we should assume that Harbaugh, as a former quarterback, will have a better feel for the passing game and how to use it in conjunction with the run game. You are right about the overall philosophy, though. It's the execution of that philosophy that will change.
I am a Rams fan in Philly. I love the Josh McDaniels hire. However, I continue to hear all this hype about how he will use the tight ends in this offense (trying to mimic the success that his former boss had last year). However, I do not recall him having any such success with tight ends in the past. His offense always seemed to target wide receivers over tight ends. If true, is he significantly altering his offensive methodology in order to put more of a focus on tight ends? I am not sure that is such a wise move.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
They are going to use Lance Kendricks as a receiver and as someone to create matchup problems. Billy Devaney is on the record saying McDaniels had more to do with that selection than he had to do with influencing which receivers the team drafted. I think your question is a good one, and I suspect there's a more nuanced, technical answer for us to flesh out this offseason. Every offense can feature the tight end. It is possibly McDaniels simply hasn't had a Kendricks-type player in the past.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
Sorry about that. Ducked out for a second. Back.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Could you see Seattle hosting the Super Bowl?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Great city. Better weather than some of these other sites have experienced in recent Super Bowls (Atlanta, Dallas). I am just not sure whether the infrastructure is a great fit (roads, hotel rooms, those sorts of things). Would love to have one in Seattle, though.
CRWallace (Phoenix, AZ)
I am confused about the tender offers. If Steve Breaston is tendered at a first-round pick, does that mean the team that would sign him would give up its first-round choice, or does that mean that the Cards would get an extra first-round choice.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
It means both. If another team signed Breaston and the Cardinals declined to match the offer, Arizona would receive the other team's first-round choice in the 2012 draft. Unless, of course, the rules change as part of a new labor agreement.
Vegas Tee (Las Vegas, NV)
Could Matt Moore beat out Charlie Whitehurst if Matt Hasselbeck did not come back? Also, will Marshawn Lynch have a breakout year?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
Whitehurst has not won a starting job to this point. I would see no obvious favorite in such a competition. On Lynch, I think his production will improve behind a more physical offensive line.
Ben Roan (Virginia)
Am I the only one who thinks Ted Ginn needs to find his way on the starting line-up? He is the speed they need.
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Ginn impressed me during offseason camps a year ago. He then suffered an injury that wiped out the start of his season and really set him back. I do think he has something to offer an offense -- less than what his draft status suggests he should offer, but enough to justify a role in an offense that doesn't have standout receivers.
Hey Sando, big fan of your work. I was wondering, with all the talk about Alex Smith being the starter for the Niners, do you think it is still a possibility we bring in a big-name free agent QB? Also, I was wondering if you think there are any possibilities they go out and get any other high-profile free agents to get them back in contention?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Thanks, Jason. I do not see the 49ers going after a prominent quarterback beyond Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick. However, I do think there is a chance Kaepernick might outplay Smith through the summer in pushing for the job.
Aaron (Vancouver, WA)
Who is the replacement at DT if the Seahawks lose Mebane in FA?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Kentwan Balmer started when Brandon Mebane missed time last season. It's early to make such a projection for 2011, however. The Seahawks could make moves in free agency affecting their pecking order on the defensive line.
Robert (Dublin, CA)
I am a long time Rams fan from California. What do you think is the biggest need for the Rams to address once free agency begins? I was thinking free safety, running back and outside linebacker.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Let's throw defensive tackle into the mix as well. That was a position some analysts thought the Rams would address in the first round of the draft. I think it's a position of need. We discussed on the blog Wednesday whether Albert Haynesworth might make sense for them. Brandon Cofield is a more realistic name to keep in mind. He played for Steve Spagnuolo on the Giants and does not have a contract for 2010. The Rams fared well in adding Fred Robbins from the Giants last offseason.
Keith H (Seattle)
Mike, the guys over at SI yesterday were touting the Rams front seven on D as an emerging power. Are they? Or will their improvement back off a bit by "deviation toward the mean?" In other words, they come back down to earth a bit. Your thoughts, please.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
This was a subject I addressed on the blog Thursday morning. I generally agree with the premise Kerry Byrne put forth in his piece for SI.com. The questions I raised fell along two lines. One, was it realistic to expect similar production from Fred Robbins and James Hall at this stage of their careers? Two, to what degree did the 2010 Rams' statistical gains reflect the quarterbacks they faced last season relative to 2009? As I wrote on the blog, "The Rams benefited in 2010 by removing Kurt Warner (twice), Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Brett Favre (2009 version) and even Vince Young (2009 version) from their schedule. They face Rodgers, Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Joe Flacco this coming season."
CRWallace (Phoenix, AZ)
Do you see Daryl Washington and O'Brien Schofield starting by the end of the year for the Cards?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
I could see them starting by the end of training camp or the end of Septemeber. Washington projects as a starter right now. Schofield could get there depending on how he fares this summer, what the team does with Joey Porter and what the team does in free agency.
Andy (St. Louis)
The Rams have approximately 7 bazillion wide receivers on their roster right now after drafting Greg Salas and Austin Pettis. Out of Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson, Mardy Gilyard, Danario Alexander and the two rookie draft picks, who do you think makes the team and how many receivers will the Rams keep with Josh McDaniels? Also, do you think the Rams should go after Mark Clayton in free agency after he showed promise before going down with an injury last season?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
What, no mention of special-teams master Dominique Curry? I suspect the Rams will keep six wide receivers. Both rookies are going to make the team, most likely. They would have to bomb to miss the cut, based on when they were drafted. Avery makes the team if healthy. Amendola makes the team. We are up to four already. I think they'll re-sign Clayton, and he'll make the team. That makes five. Alexander would probably be next. That would make for six. However, I think injuries will narrow down the list. At least one of those guys will not be healthy, most likely. Now we're looking at which players can contribute on special teams. Does Gilyard emerge as a return threat? Does Curry get healthy and factor on coverage teams? I would not rule out Gibson or Robinson, but they have to earn their way into contention, probably.
CRWallace (Phoenix, AZ)
Do you see Larry Fitzgerald signing before the end of the season or waiting until after the season to see what happens in free agency?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Well, if he hits the market after the 2011 season, I think he is probably gone. And right now, even though the Cardinals have indicated money is no object, I think Fitzgerald will want to see what is out there. That changes, perhaps, if the Cardinals shore up their quarterback situation and prove they're headed in the right direction.
Charlie Whitehurst (Seattle)
Why haven't I taken on more of a leadership role this offseason?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Because Matt Hasselbeck is still in the picture and you (Whitehurst) haven't earned more of a leadership role.
Is Arizona a realistic landing spot for Hasselbeck? Or are they still targeting Bulger?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
The latest chatter says Kevin Kolb is their top priority, and that Marc Bulger might not be interested. It is all talk right now. I'd say there's a chance on Matt Hasselbeck, but he would probably not be the top choice.
Two question: What does Sando do on vacation? Second, if the lockout ends soon and we suddenly have a free agency storm, does that cancel the Fourth of July fun or would that not fly with the Sandowife?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
No big plans for vacation this year. We'll mostly hang out at home. Our oldest has a football camp he's participating in. We'll take the kids to one of the water parks in the area for a couple days. I'll sleep past 5 in the morning, for sure, and play with the kids more than usual. If free agency opens during that week after the Fourth, I'll be prepared to dive back in. This is a different year, for sure. We have family visiting that week, but will not go anywhere. My wife has been through free agency periods dating to the late 1990s. She knows what it's like. As a beat reporter, it was routine to interrupt a vacation to write about a draft choice signing.
If the Seahawks can pick one free agent to drop some loot on, will it be Nnamdi Asomugha, Sidney Rice or Robert Gallery?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Gallery makes the most sense given the Seahawks' stated desire to upgrade their line this offseason. Rice has question marks relating to his health. Asomugha would be a great addition. I'm just not sure whether he'll get away from Oakland.
Do you make much of Darrell Bevell's call to Hasselbeck on the day the lockout was lifted?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
That affirmed the Seahawks' interest in bringing back Matt Hasselbeck without revealing what the team would pay for him. It was a nice gesture, but not a surprising one. Bevell and Hasselbeck go back years to Green Bay. They would be a good match. Bevell is the perfect person to reach out to Hasselbeck given their background.
So do I beat you this year in fantasy football? Hmmmm?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
If I have another wife living in Seattle, I'm in worse trouble than I thought. We live south of there. But nice try!
John Schneider (Seattle)
Do I want Charlie Whitehurst to start next season more than others in Renton do right now?
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
The general manager is going to take a bigger-picture, longer-range view most of the time. The coaches are going to be more concerned with what makes the most sense in the next game. I would think Seattle will find more common ground on that front this coming season. They'll make a more concerted effort to get Golden Tate involved, as Pete Carroll indicated.
Cereal Killer (Jax)
With the lockout making it less-and-less likely that any rookie QBs will ready to start, any chance that an NFC West team (not including the Rams of course) goes after McNabb? I wanted him to go to the Niners last year, but I could see him greatly improving either the Cardinals' or the Seahawks' chances to win games and he'd almost certainly cost less to get than Kevin Kolb. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
I also thought McNabb would have helped the 49ers last season. That is questionable in retrospect. Arizona has no interest in him. If Seattle goes old at the position, Matt Hasselbeck would be the more logical choice.
Best O-Line in this division, and why?
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
I'm going to go with the 49ers right now because they are stronger across the board than the other lines. The Rams have potential to be right up there. The Seahawks will be improved. The Cardinals have more question marks right now.
Does Jim Harbaugh turn the Niners into an offensively competent squad this year? Or is this going to be a process? Does Colin Kaepernick play himself into the starting lineup or does Alex Smith play himself out of the starting lineup?
Mike Sando (2:08 PM)
Alex Smith is the big offseason story right now, but we should not just assume he'll be the clear choice in September. He is the favorite because he has experience and the 49ers will not want to rush Kaepernick. But Smith doesn't have a very good record in head-to-head quarterback competitions. On Harbaugh, yeah, I think the 49ers will be competent on offense. They have decent talent. It is young talent, but it is decent.
Mike Sando (2:09 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat!