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 (1:00 PM)
Hello, and welcome to the NFC West chat. Here we go.
Hey Sando, what are the Rams doing to address Bartell's absence in the secondary?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Great question. I would expect Justin King to move up the depth chart. The team brought in some corners for tryouts, then signed Tim Atchison, who went to camp with them and was on the practice squad earlier. This tells me the Rams are going to try to scheme their way around this issue for the time being. I wonder if a cornerback could be had by trade at some point before the deadline.
Will this be the week that Rams' receivers stop dropping perfectly thrown balls by Bradford?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Now would be a good time for that. The Rams rank second in the NFL with four drops through one game. They ranked among the leaders (most drops, that is) last season.
Chris (Fresno, Ca)
If the 49ers' offense really struggles again this week, like fails to score TDs in the red zone or fails to convert on third down, is it safe to say that Jim Harbaugh is not the offensive mastermind we thought he was? Or is it all because Alex Smith and the line are the worst combination in the NFL?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
It's way, way too early to make any sort of meaningful evaluation of Jim Harbaugh's capabilities in building an effective offense. This is a young offense. Harbaugh had very little time during the offseason to tweak it, develop continuity, install his offense, etc. Also, the 49ers played against a strong Seattle run defense. Harbaugh played the game in a manner that allowed the 49ers to control the game most of the way without risking turnovers.
David (Cold Lake, Canada)
Hi Mike,With the return of Robert Gallery I was wondering what you think about leaving Seattle's offensive line as is: Okung, Carpenter, Unger, Moffit, and Giocomini so that this group can get as many reps together as possible in order to gel. Would Seattle be better off having Gallery back up at guard or is his veteran presence that necessary for communication on the line? If this is going to be a tough season by the look of things, should the young guys just play? Have Gallery back up at guard and Polumbus back up at tackle. Thanks!
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
Your thinking appeals to me after seeing Robert Gallery during preseason. If Gallery looked like a Pro Bowl-caliber guard, by all means, put him in there. But if he struggles over the next few games, why not go younger? As for moving Carpenter into that left guard spot, that's a trickier one. He really has not had time to get going at right tackle.
Dr. H. Doofenshmirtz (Tri-State Area)
I've heard a lot of people kind of downplaying Cam Newton's 422 yard debut because the Cardinals have a bad pass defense. But let's face it, how many teams are playing good pass defense now? One? Maybe two? How will the Cardinals D look at the end of the year?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
The Seahawks and 49ers played pretty good pass defense in this division, and the Rams were effective in limiting Michael Vick to a poor completion percentage, despite allowing a couple big plays. Overall, though, you're right. There were more passing yards in Week 1 than in any other week in league history. And the success Seattle and San Francisco enjoyed against the pass reflected factors beyond their pass defense. I'm skeptical about the Cardinals' ability to rush the passer well enough to play consistently against the pass. Dan Williams looked pretty good against the run, from what I saw, though. And Daryl Washington looks good.
The Cards totally screwed-up getting rid of Hightower, who I think runs over them this week. Going to be a long day in DC!
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Hindsight is 20-20. The Cardinals had no idea Ryan Williams would suffer a season-ending knee injury.
Thanks, Tim Hightower, for the ammo. The cards will crush the Skins! You heard it here first,and I'll be back next week to gloat!
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
I didn't think there was much to Hightower's comments about expecting to win the game Sunday. Hightower just doesn't seem like the type to stir up things that way.
Do you think the Seahawks are heading in the right direction under PC and Schneider?
Mike Sando (1:17 PM)
Pete Carroll and John Schneider are heading in the right direction in terms of getting younger and putting together the defense. They have tried to address their offensive line and situation at receiver/tight end. But it all comes down to how they handle the quarterback situation, and so far, the results have been decidedly underwhelming. Schneider made it clear upon his arrival that he believed in drafting quarterbacks every year. He obviously knew the value of Aaron Rodgers. But the team hasn't drafted a quarterback in two years with Carroll having final say, and the acquisition of Tarvaris Jackson wasn't very exciting. Does Carroll value elite quarterback play sufficiently? I am not yet sure.
John Smith (Seattle)
When will the delicate and sensitive receiver, Sidney Risotto ever play for the Seahawks.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Sidney Rice misses one game and you're out of patience? I'd give him a little more time here.
Bobby (Salem, OR)
The Seahawks got "Leon Washington'ed" on Sunday. With Michael Robinson out, do you think we are going to see more returns against the Seahawks in the next few weeks?
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Seattle will have to be better prepared for being without Michael Robinson. The team should not suffer additional breakdowns regularly.
Mike (New Jersey)
Do you think there's any truth to the idea that Harbaugh kept the offense in check because of the ineptitude of the Seahawks? Lots of talk out there that we might open up the playbook against the Cowboys.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Yeah, I think Jim Harbuagh felt pretty good about the likely point total the Seahawks were going to reach, and he proceeded accordingly. Every team must pass more when it needs to score points. If the Cowboys put points on the board, the 49ers will have to open up their offense -- not because of anything Harbaugh believes in, but because that is just the way things work.
Matt (Bay area)
A lot of people say Frank Gore looked bad in Week 1. I feel like it's just the Seahawks stacking the box and having a good defensive line. Do you agree?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Seattle's defense had more to do with how Gore looked than Gore had to do with it, in my view. He did not have much of a chance.
Drew (San Diego)
Mike love the blog, watching the Niners/Seahawks game on Sunday, was it just me or did it seem like Frank Gore lost a step?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
I need to see more from Gore. He didn't have much of a chance in that game. If he lost a step, how would we know? He was getting drilled in the backfield some of the time. Also, he missed the final five games last season, had no minicamps, held out briefly and did not play extensively in the preseason. He could need some time to get up to speed.
Matt M. (Wilmington, NC)
Where was Lance Kendricks at on Sunday for the Rams? I saw him drop a pass in the red zone. Do you think Sam Bradford lost some confidence in him after that dropped pass?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Yeah, that dropped pass was a killer. Kendricks might have scored on the play, it appeared. I wouldn't say Bradford lost confidence. This was one game. Let's see how things play out over a longer period of time.
Cadillac sure does look like a great signing, doesn't he? It will sure be nice once Steven Jackson is back healthy, though. The game could have been a lot different with him running behind the blocking the Rams gave to Cadillac, don't you think? Not saying he didn't have a great game, but Jackson might have taken his second 9-yard carry to the house had he not already been gimped up.
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Cadillac Williams seemed to hit the holes quickly. Jackson offers more in terms of the ability to wear down defenses, carry defenders, impose his will, etc. And yes, Jackson might have been gone on his second carry as well. This would have been a different game with Jackson in the lineup from start to finish.
Brian (St. Louis)
If Hakeem Nicks plays on Monday night, there is a good chance he will burn the Rams depleted secondary. Do the Giants have too much on defense to stop the Rams from having a high scoring game? This assumes that the Rams won't shoot themselves in the foot with drops again.
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
The Giants have a lot of injuries, too, and quite a few of them are on defense. The Rams should have an easier time putting up points. It's going to take a very strong effort from the Rams' front seven, particularly the line, to take heat off the secondary.
Tom (Ft. Huachuca, AZ)
After week one, I think the NFC West is the Cardinals division. The Rams were underwhelming, the 49ers lack talent at QB and the Seahawks will be terrible. Have you changed your mind?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
The Rams' injuries change their outlook. Going through the schedule very quickly yesterday, I had the Cardinals getting to 8-8 or 9-7 pretty reasonably with a healthy Kevin Kolb. I still have questions about Kolb's durability over the course of a season, and the defense has some issues. But with the Rams' situation worsening, Arizona has to like its chances right now.
tom page (bellevue,wa)
Seahawks look like a top ten defense, if the offense can keep them off the field. Agree?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
I need to see the Seahawks against a team with a stronger and/or more aggressive passing attack.
Dan (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
How do you see the Seahawks' running game working this weekend with a new fullback, Eddie Williams? What does he offer the Seahawks out of the backfield?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
I'd expect him to help more on special teams.
Ron LaCroix (Montesano)
I have a feeling the Hawks are gonna surprise the Steelers Sunday with a competitive game IF the OC opens up right from the start and gets the Steelers on their heels. Anyone crazier than me?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Attempting passes to Mike Williams before the third quarter would help.
Brad (Visalia, CA)
Tell Tom, the obvious Cards homer, to take it easy with the division champion predictions. It's one game. You gotta take into consideration the opponents of each team. The Cardinals barely beat the worst team in the NFL last year (and they were at home) that had a rookie QB in the lineup. The Rams lost to a team that is expected to be one of the better ones in the NFL and was a division winner last year. The 49ers beat the Seahawks, which isn't saying much. We will find out more about the 49ers against the Cowgirls this week.
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
It's fair to say the Rams suffered some pretty tough injuries, though.
Is it just me or does the 49ers O-line seems to be getting pushed around a lot. Is it a physical issue? Need to pump some more wieghts? Will Dallas push the 49ers around more than Seattle?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
Dallas presents different problems because Demarcus Ware is so dynamic as a pass-rusher. Seattle's big guys up front -- Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, even Alan Branch -- are huge obstacles. Mebane and Bryant are real problems against the run. Branch was good in this game, too. And then the 49ers' offensive line is better on paper than grass right now, in my view. They have a lot of high picks but aren't getting great play from them consistently. Remember, though, it is one week.
Tim (Costa Mesa, CA)
Do you think the 49ers would ever use Kendall Hunter on first or second down? It seems he would be more effective then, rather than using him solely in third-down situations.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
That would require taking Frank Gore off the field, which seems unlikely.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Is there an area where you see the 49ers offense having an advantage on the Cowboys' defense?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Vernon Davis should be a matchup problem.
tom page (bellevue,wa)
Do you expect the Seahawks to shut down the Steeler's running game and force Big Ben to beat them through the air? How does it turn out?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
I do think Seattle's run defense will fare well, but the Seahawks probably will not score enough points for it to matter.
I thought the Seahawks' lack of pass rush was concerning. I don't know whether that was more a scheme/play call thing or a lack of ability. The Niners were certainly running a lot. Any thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
I had the same though initially, then realized the 49ers didn't pass all that frequently. They ran the ball seven of 12 times on third down. Alex Smith moved around some, too. I'd give Seattle an incomplete grade for its pass rush. Remember, too, that the 49ers went 1-12 on third down.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Sando, I was very, very, very impressed with Kolb's first start. Even though I thought he may have left the pocket early a few times, he looked very comfortable being mobile and kept his eyes downfield looking for a receiver. The fact that he didnt get the ball to Fitz as much as some would have liked is encouraging to me. Shows he is looking at the whole field and not just keying in on one receiver.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Yeah, Kolb impressed me overall as well. I just liked the way he played the game. He ran with purpose and not recklessly. He made the Panthers pay for pressuring him. There were some areas that needed improvement, but overall, he left a positive impression with me as well.
Sando, now that crabtree has continued to have injury issue along with being the "diva" that he is, is it time for the Niners to trade him and get what they can? With Morgan playing well and having better yards per catch and Ted Ginn Jr. looking like he is going to have a big year, can we or should we get rid of the only bad apple in the bunch? With a lot a good WR class coming out at the end of the year, whats your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
The injuries are most concerning. The fact that his foot was an issue going into the draft and remains one now is concerning. I'd be getting a little impatient too, but the trade value would not be all that great. I'd give him this season before reassessing.
Tim (Costa Mesa, CA)
Do you think Ray McDonald will continue to play well, or was his play based more on the offensive line he was facing coupled with Tavaris Jacksons holding onto the ball?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
I'd expect Ray McDonald to be solid but not nearly as spectacular as he appeared against Seattle for the reasons you cited.
Adam (Springfield, MO)
Mike, thoughts on the Rams deactivating Quinn before Sundays game? I understand being patient with the guy, but only one other healthy first round pick missed opening day. Cause for concern?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
It's concerning if he's inactive every week. We'll probably see him active this week.
Tom (Ft. Huachuca, AZ)
Are the Rams in trouble? They were awful against the Eagles last week, and with Bradford's injury history going all the way back to college, you have to think that a Bradford injury this year will totally set them back. Here's my question: Are the Rams the most reliant on a single player for success in the NFC West? Without Bradford, they're by far the worst team in the division in my opinion.
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
The Rams would not be as bad as the Cardinals were last season without a viable quarterback. Their schedule might make them look worse, but the Cardinals went 5-11 against a ridiculously easy schedule in 2010. The 49ers would have issues transitioning to a rookie quarterback if something happened to Alex Smith. As for the Rams, Bradford practiced Wednesday and expects to start Monday night.
Kyle (St. Louis)
The Rams will take Crabtree! He'll fit right in with his injury.
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
I know he isn't in the NFC West, but your thoughts on Cam Newton?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Great first game. His accuracy and poise stood out. He's going to face tougher defenses, including in Week 2 (Green Bay). He will struggle at times. But he's going to be a difference maker as a rookie. He just seems determined to be a factor.
How does the Arizona offensive line hold up against Brian Orapko and Ryan Kerrigan this week? Do you think that the Cardinals' front seven is able to get meaningful pressure on Rex?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Seems to me this will be a tough matchup for the Cardinals. It's on the road, which makes it tougher. Kolb will have to be on point in getting the ball out quickly. The Redskins allowed only 3.8 yards per carry with a long run of 14 yards against the Giants, so it's not yet clear whether the Cardinals' running game can take pressure off Kolb. I'd be concerned about the Cardinals' defense after what happened last week.
In your opinion, would the Rams have beat the Eagles if it was not for injuries?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
I'm not convinced of that.
Hey Mike! Choose one Cam Newton that good or Cardinals pass defense that awful?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Those things are not exclusive.
Hans (Sully, Canada)
Sando, in my opinion I feel like this season is a win / win for the seahawks. Either they pick up there play, especially in the QB position and we maybe are set at QB if TJ can show he belongs and we can use a 1st rounder next year on another position OR we suck and we get a top QB in next years draft and are set for the next decade. What do you think?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Wouldn't you fear Tarvaris Jackson playing just well enough for Pete Carroll to stay the course with him in the risky belief it doesn't take top quarterback play to win it all? That scenario would not seem like a "win" for Seattle.
Vic (Reading PA)
Mike, people are already talking about the Rams offense being the same dink and dunk as last year. I argue that it was a scheme to try to take advantage of the Eagles' weaknesses. I believe vs. a depleted Giants defense, we will see more downfield attempts. Thoughts? Was this scheme or will Josh McDaniels dink and dunk like Pat Shurmur did because of personnel issues?
Mike Sando (2:03 PM)
Josh McDaniels and Sam Bradford are on the record saying they will attempt more downfield throws this season by design. I have to think they'll do that against opponents more vulnerable against the pass than Philadelphia was, coverage wise.
Hans (Sully, Canada)
Sando why you take two questions from the same guy. Spread the love man!!
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
This is two for you, right?
Jesse (Grandpa's medicine cabinet)
How did you feel CB Brandon Browner did in his 1st start?
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
Liked what I saw. He was actually covering Vernon Davis effectively at one point. Amazing for a cornerback. He was physical, drew a couple penalties, but offered something the team could not get from Kelly Jennings: physical play against big receivers.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. I've got a doubleheader looming this weekend. Will be at the Cardinals-Redskins game on Sunday, then the Rams-Giants game Monday. Should be fun.