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 4 p.m. ET!
Travis M. (Tucson)
Bill Simmons wrote "Give me one good reason why both of us shouldn't lay down big wood on the Rams at +200 to win the NFC West right now. (Waiting.) Kevin Kolb? Kevin Kolb???? That's the best you can come up with? Will I get arrested if I wagered on the 2011 Rams to win the NFC West? Would it be considered larceny?" What do you think? Or are you not a betting man?
Mike Sando (3:58 PM)
Simmons has the advantage of viewing this division from a distance. From a distance, yes, the Rams should win the division with Sam Bradford behind center and some high-end talent (Robert Quinn) joining some new veteran seasoning on an already above-average defense. There's still a chance the Rams will not prevail, however.
GReg (Casa GRande)
Who is emerging as the Rams' No. 1 receiver? Is it Mike Sims-Walker?
Mike Sando (4:01 PM)
Emerging? No. Projecting? There's a chance. Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola have been the top two receivers in camp to this point. A groin strain has prevented Sims-Walker from doing much lately. He still has time to emerge, and he should emerge, but he has not emerged or even started emerging. Gibson, Sims-Walker and Amendola got first-team reps in the three-wide packages Thursday.
Spencer (Gilbert, AZ)
Mr. Sando, I was wondering if you could compare the secondaries of each division. They all seem to need some help, but I was wondering which one you think is the best now as well as maybe the improvements needed. I'm tired of seeing people arguing for their teams' whether it's Niners, Cards, Rams or Hawks fans. Everybody thinks theirs is the best and I'd like to know what you think. Thanks!
Mike Sando (4:06 PM)
These are flawed secondaries. If Adrian Wilson is healthy and Patrick Peterson is up to speed, I would go with the Cardinals' secondary. Wilson is not healthy. Peterson is not yet up to speed. So there are question marks. The Rams might have the best cornerback combination with Bradley Fletcher and Ron Bartell, but the depth behind those guys is sketchy. The 49ers' secondary has been missing both starting corners to injury. I'm not fully sold on the corner situation there. The depth as safety is good, but I cannot sign off on the 49ers' secondary as the best in the division without seeing more from their corners. Seattle's secondary is full of promise, particularly at safety, but veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant hasn't played great over the last few seasons. The other corners are young and unproven. So, to answer your question, I might go with the Rams' starting secondary in a one-game situation. But every team in the division has issues on the back end.
Travis M. (Tucson)
As a Niners fan, I hate the idea of Steven Jackson catching more passes out of the backfield as you mentioned in your thoughts and observations from Rams Camp. However, from a fantasy football standpoint it intrigues me. What kind of numbers do you think Jackson will put up this year? Do you think he'll remain healthy enough to reach the 90 receptions he put up in 2006? How much do you think Cadillac figures into the Rams' RB plans? Thanks Sando and keep up the great work!
Mike Sando (4:10 PM)
Thanks, Travis. I'd be surprised if Jackson approached 90 receptions. Danny Amendola will probably lead the team in receptions. Lance Kendricks could be up there. Jackson caught 46 passes last season. I could see him getting 60+ receptions over the course of a season.
Greg (San Francisco, CA)
Hey Mike - while the 49ers made some decent moves in free agency to remain respectable, as a fan I get the overwhelming impression that Jim Harbaugh is more than willing to sacrifice (note: not "give up") this season for the greater good of the overall development of the team -- read, the QB spot. Fair assessment? If so, a wise plan given that he has a pricey 5-year deal?
Mike Sando (4:13 PM)
Urgency cannot be faked. Jim Harbaugh is competitive and wants to win now, but there's no question he has a longer-range plan in mind. Put him on a one-year deal and the priorities would have shifted in free agency. NFL teams have to think strategically. The 49ers knew they weren't going to get a game-ready franchise quarterback this offseason. As a result, they're not a championship contender.
Do you at any point see Carson Palmer becoming a Hawk?
Mike Sando (4:14 PM)
I've spoken to people with other teams in the league who suspected the Seahawks would make a push for Carson Palmer even before the regular-season opener. I don't get that feeling from the Seahawks. To answer your question, yeah, I could see it, but maybe it's a year from now.
As a Seahawks fan, I would absolutely support them offering a 2012 first-round pick for Ryan Mallet today.
Mike Sando (4:16 PM)
So, you would throw out all the considerations that made Mallett's stock fall during the draft, based on what we've seen in a couple weeks of camp?
Bobby (Salem, OR)
I know it's early in the preseason, but where do you see the Seahawks at the end of the season? I could see them being a much better team than last year but only having a 5-11 record. What're your thoughts on an improving team doing worse record-wise the following year?
Mike Sando (4:17 PM)
Yes, I think along those lines sometimes. I thought the 2010 Seahawks were a four- or five-win team that got to seven wins on the strength of a weak division schedule and a couple surprising victories (thank Leon Washington for one of them). But history has shown predictions are tough to make.
Mike Sando (4:19 PM)
Got a quick radio commitment here. Will be back soon and go overtime today.
Mike Sando (4:24 PM)
Back at ya.
Mike Sando (4:25 PM)
Was talking Rams with 710ESPN Seattle for a moment there.
How do you see the Seahawks QB situation playing out this season?
Mike Sando (4:26 PM)
Tarvaris Jackson will start until he gets hurt, at which point Charlie Whitehurst will take over for a while. They'll likely end the season with both guys getting starts and no real indication that either is the long-term answer. They'll then make a bolder move to find a longer-term quarterback. I think that scenario makes the most sense.
Mike (Phoenix, Arizona)
Do you think the Cardinals have a good enough ofensive line and running back situation to protect Kevin Kolb? Because I do not. Thanks, Sando!
Mike Sando (4:28 PM)
Your concerns are valid and I do think protection for Kolb is a concern this season. The situation at running back should be OK from a pure running standpoint. The protection aspect could be a concern at times. Kolb will have to beat the pressure by getting rid of the ball quickly. If he can do that, the passing game can flourish.
As a Cardinals fan, I was torn about the Kolb trade. The biggest reason I supported the trade was to convince Fitz to stay, but he may not stay anyway. Would you have gone for the Kolb trade as Cards GM, or would you have continue to build through the draft, considering next year's draft class has some good QB options?
Mike Sando (4:29 PM)
The trade made sense for the Cardinals coming off a 5-11 season and given where the team stood at the position without Kolb. I'm generally OK with the move because Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's value took a hit with the coordinator change and Patrick Peterson's selection in the draft.
Oz (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Sando - Have you heard fellow ESPN employee Colin Cowherd and his thoughts that the Cardinals are one of ten teams who are possible Super Bowl contenders. His main premise is the poor division (and how that results in the playoff seeding) and belief in Ken Whisenhunt. You have seen all the camps now and watched each coach run their teams. You seemed impressed by the tempo of Harbaugh. What about Whisenhunt? He was sensational his first three years and had a bad one last year. From what you have seen up close and the way the players respond, you think his future results will more closely mirror 2007-2009 or 2010?
Mike Sando (4:33 PM)
Jim Harbaugh was impressive organizationally and in his attention to detail on offense in comparison to his predecessor, Mike Singletary. What came before goes into the Harbaugh analysis. Whisenhunt has a good feel for his team and seems very prepared for situations on game day. That stuff doesn't matter so much without the quarterback. Kolb's addition gives Whisenhunt more to work with, but not as much as Kurt Warner offered. I think we'll see results between what we saw from 2007-2009 and what we saw last season. The defense has question marks too.
Ben Spann (Columbia SC)
Mike,I am a big Rams fan but keep hearing that the Cardinals could take the division with the addition of Kevin Kolb. He may improve their offense but wasn't the defense atrocious also. I know the addition of Patrick Peterson may help but they created another hole when they traded DRC.
Mike Sando (4:34 PM)
Adrian Wilson's injury situation and the absence of strong outside pass-rushers hurt more than subtracting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
D (Valley of the Sun)
Sando, the local beat writers continue to beat the dead horse of the Cards needing a second receiver. I think this is the third need behind a pass-rusher and offensive tackle. Since you were up in Flaggstaff, did you notice a concern on the offensive line? Wouldn't they be proactive in maybe bringing in a Flozell Adams or another tackle to put on the left side and move Levi Brown back to the right? I can't figure out why the Cards would spend all that money on Kolb and then not protect him, especially when they are going up against many good pass-rushers this year. Thanks.
Mike Sando (4:37 PM)
Those darned local beat writers. Seriously, I don't think Kent Somers and those guys in Arizona are beating dead horses. Kent has consistently pointed out issues at right tackle with Brandon Keith coming off injury. He was out front on that one, and I agree. The need for a No. 2 receiver is secondary. Let's face it, though, the Cardinals need to draft a tackle every once in a while. I do think Jeremy Bridges could step in and compete, though. He's pretty ornery.
Big Jim (San Francisco, CA)
How long into the regular season before Harbaugh benches Smith and comes to the realization that continuing to support an experiment that's continued to fail for six years is not good for job security, nor does it endear you to the few remaining 49ers faithful?
Mike Sando (4:38 PM)
Jim Harbaugh has nothing to do with the six years you referenced. He also has lots of job security.
Scotty (Menlo Park)
Will the 49ers win the division by the time Harbaugh's contract expires? How bout this year? Thanks Sando
Mike Sando (4:39 PM)
Yeah, I think they'll win a division title under Harbaugh. I wouldn't be shocked if they won it this year.
Who will win, the Seahawks or 49ers in the first regular-season game?
Mike Sando (4:40 PM)
Tough one with all the changes, but I'll take the home team, most likely. Seattle caught the 49ers by surprise in the 2010 opener. The tables could be turned this time.
Don (redding, ca)
I read the 49ers finished practice 12 minutes early before the Saints game last week. Why didn't they use that time to work on blitz pickups? I understand the carrot on the stick of letting people go early, but the team is behind and this was a strategically poor move. The team got embarrassed and it increased the risk of injury. What was your take on 49ers practices and blitz pickups before the Saints game?
Mike Sando (4:42 PM)
Tempo is critically important to coaches running West Coast, quick-timing offenses. Harbaugh is thinking long term. He wants to establish that tempo. I think he was OK sacrificing some game-planning elements in preseason.
slappy (san diego)
Enough about Kolb and the Cards. They have too many deficiencies elsewhere to be a contender. Let's talk about the ones who will win the division. The Seahawks.
Mike Sando (4:42 PM)
Yes, the 2010 Seahawks will win the division.
How did the Hawks reel in Rice and Miller with such an unsettled QB situation?
Mike Sando (4:43 PM)
Paul Allen's checkbook can be persuasive.
Yotam (Seattle WA)
Sando, im not understanding why people think that the Hawks will be just an average team this year. I know they have a rough road to go through, but they also remade their line, they have really good receivers, great tight ends, and a solid running back to compliment an OK defense with an average QB (who could surprise us). All in all, I see the potential to be 10-6 team. Why are people saying otherwise?
Mike Sando (4:44 PM)
Not everyone is a fan of the team. Honestly, if you were a 49ers fan or Cardinals fan or Rams fan, you would see that 10-6 projection as an absolute best-case scenario. You'd probably be thinking more along the lines of 6-10 or 7-9 or maybe 8-8.
John (Bellingham, WA)
Mike love your work. Do you think that the Hawks are building a young and powerful team, that could be better than expected? What is your take on Tarvaris Jackson? Could he be better from time spent behind Brett Favre?
Mike Sando (4:47 PM)
Thanks, John. I do think the Seahawks are building a more powerful team. They're bigger across the board. Tarvaris Jackson can be good enough to get them into that 7-9 or 8-8 range if things go well on the offensive line. But I think it'll be tough to do better than 3-3 in the division. Getting to 4-2 in the division would require only 4-6 over the remaining games to reach .500. Just not sure the Seahawks will win a division game on the road this year, given that Arizona should be better.
Brian (Greenville, SC)
With the Rams tough schedule, do you think they can be 0-8?
Mike Sando (4:48 PM)
I've gone down that road before and came out on the wrong end. Seattle had such a schedule early last season, I thought, but the Seahawks surprisingly went 4-2. I did correctly pick 1-7 for the Rams a couple years ago. I just think this team is so much better. No way this team goes 0-8. I could see 1-0.
What has been the most surprising thing to see at Rams camp this week?
Mike Sando (4:48 PM)
Might be Brandon Gibson staying with the first team and performing pretty well.
Ben Spann (Columbia SC )
Do the Rams look like a more physical team during training camp.
Mike Sando (4:49 PM)
They have been a pretty physical team. I'd say they are more physical at one d-tackle spot, more physical at safety with Quintin Mikell and more physical at right guard with Harvey Dahl. Overall, yes, a more physical team.
chad (orange county, ca)
COME ON, seriously, I am 100 percent sure the Rams will win the division. Three main reasons are: 1) beast offensive line; 2) beast QB; 3) beast defensive line. Who cares to differ in the division ?
Mike Sando (4:51 PM)
I also think the Rams should be favored. The offensive line hasn't hit expectations to this point. If that changes, yes, I think the Rams will be tougher.
slappy (san diego)
Do you think that the Hawks have provided enough quality depth on the D line to weather the inevitable injuries that may occur?
Mike Sando (4:53 PM)
There are still some conditioning/injury concerns along the line. Will Red Bryant and Chris Clemons hold up after surgeries? Will Alan Branch fade, becoming what the Cardinals thought he would become instead of what the Seahawks hope he'll become?
Willie (South Bend, IN)
Hey Sando, hope you're having a good afternoon. What am I missing about Charlie Whitehurst? Every time I see him play, he does a pretty good job. What is he doing in practice that make coach Carroll continue to look to upgrade the position? Is it that he want more than Whitehurst has to offer in the long run or am I looking at the situation as a fan with rose colored glasses?
Mike Sando (4:55 PM)
Until the last week or so, Charlie Whitehurst hasn't been accurate enough or possessing enough touch on the shorter stuff. He also has not been a take-charge guy from a personality standpoint. He has fared better recently. The Seahawks were never betting big on him. They paid him $4-5 million per year, on the high side for backup money at the time.
Nate (Vancouver, WA)
Wow... Sando. You seemed to be hatin' on the Hawks. Last year you thought we would win only one game the first half of the season and now this year it seems to be lining up to be the same. Wassup?
Mike Sando (4:58 PM)
I think the Seahawks will be competitive within the NFC West again. They've done a good job improving their offensive line. They are much better at the skill positions. They have gone young on defense and we'll find out if those guys can play. Like the 49ers, however, the Seahawks have not invested franchise-quarterback money in a quarterback, because they do not have a quarterback they consider to be worthy of such a deal. Two other teams in the division have quarterbacks they have valued as franchise players. If every team is basically right about its quarterback valuations, the Seahawks would be a year away from adding their franchise QB.
Steve (Redding, CA)
After watching the first preseason do you think the 49ers made the right choice in using the No. 7 overall pick on Aldon Smith?
Mike Sando (4:59 PM)
I reject the premise. There is no way to know whether the 49ers made the right choice based on one preseason game. Smith did play well, though.
How good does Jonathan Goodwin make the Niners' offensive line when the five starters are on the field?
Mike Sando (5:01 PM)
My initial feel was that Goodwin would provide an upgrade over David Baas in the short term. The more I think about it, the less sure I am about whether it's a significant upgrade. This team needs Joe Staley to stay healthy and Anthony Davis to realize his potential at right tackle.
The Rams have a really tough schedule for the first part of the season, and a lot of people seem to assume they will lose most of the games. Do you see them upsetting any of these teams like the Eagles or Saints?
Mike Sando (5:03 PM)
The Rams will be tough to beat at home. They'll have a good shot at winning two of three home games against the Eagles, Ravens and Saints.
Bobby (Salem, OR)
An extra week of practice, an extra quarter of play. Do you expect Tavaris Jackson to play better in the first half against the Vikings? I would hope so, considering the starting receivers will be on the field this time.
Mike Sando (5:04 PM)
Yes, I expect improved play by the offense overall. Preseason is not a great measuring stick, but for a new quarterback facing some skepticism, I think it's important to get something going at some point before the real games arrive.
Mike, Tatupu still has not been signed, do you think there is something we don't know about as to why he was cut?
Mike Sando (5:06 PM)
Not necessarily, but he did have a couple knee surgeries after the 2010 season. He has some wear and tear, and he isn't going to fit with 3-4 teams, in my view. So you have a smaller pool of teams with potential interest.
Mike Sando (5:06 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. My pleasure as always.