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 (1:08 PM)
OK, here we go.
Are you surprised by Beanie's success this year? I always thought he could be solid as a starter, but he looks real good and ran real well on a good Giants run defense.
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
I knew Beanie Wells had the talent. He has shown that. I was surprised to see him come back from the hamstring and get 27 carries. But if he is healthy, he will produce and run physically. I was actually late to the chat today because I lost track of time while putting together a Wells-related item that will run later on the blog.
Eric (Paris, Fr.)
Hey Sando! Which QB is having the best season so far in the West? It has to be Alex Smith ... by default!
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
Smith, without question. He and Tarvaris Jackson have both avoided mistakes, but Smith has done enough to get to 3-1. The 49ers' strength on defense and special teams has combined with Smith's improved ball security to keep the 49ers in games. This has been a winning formula so far.
Mike, will Josh McDaniels give Steven Jackson the amount of carries he needs instead of getting Sam Bradford hit every play.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
The Rams are going to be behind in games. They will be in frequent passing situations. It'll be tough to commit carries to Jackson later in games. I think Jackson emerges from this season with fewer carries as a result.
Chris (Woodbridge, VA)
Hey Mike, how's it going? I was lucky enough to make the trip to Philly and see the 49ers' comeback in person. Great game. I noticed Aldon Smith was on the field quite a bit. And if it wasn't for Michael Vick, he might have had about five sacks that game. What are your thoughts on him and has he made his way into the starting line up yet?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
The 49ers generally do not reveal lineup changes in advance. I think Smith is doing well and on his way to starting at some point this season. The 49ers' coaching staff appears to be doing a good job developing younger players. NaVorro Bowman looks like a different player this season, a dominant one. Smith is making obvious strides. I think he's going to be a very good player.
Patrick (San Clemente)
When is Coach Wiz going to realize that he cannot run a football team while calling all of the plays? Do you think the Cardinals need an offensive coordinator to be more consistent and start winning those close games?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
The Cardinals have a very good record over the years when leading after three quarters. They have slipped up in that area this season, but that has been the trend in the NFL. The Cardinals' weakness in pass coverage makes them vulnerable to losing leads late in games. I'd say Kevin Kolb's learning curve is a little steeper than they would have hoped, too. The idea this season was for Mike Miller to call more of the plays.
Do you think the Rams may view Luck as a powerful trade option sitting at 0-4?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
The Rams don't have a very good view looking out their earholes right now.
The Seahawks defense has looked strong at times and seems like they are one or two players away from having an elite defense. I have read that getting an elite cornerback is what is holding them back but personally think an elite linebacker would be more impactful. What do you think Seattle needs to make their defense take the next step forward?
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Adding another strong pass-rusher to help Chris Clemons would help the defense more than adding any other player. After that, it would be a cornerback, but they might be "adding" a good one later in the season as Walter Thurmond gets healthier and up to speed. The team thinks Thurmond has a chance to become a No. 1-type corner.
Paul (Albany, OR)
Frustrated Ram fan here. Should the front office have done anything different roster wise to provide better depth for this team? Injuries are a regular part of this violent game and should not be used as an excuse year in and year out. We are not talking about a quarterback like Peyton Manning going down, and yet the Colts look better prepared for that catastrophe than the Rams do for what has happened to them. Please pull me away from the open window!!
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Your frustrations are legitimate because the offensive line and defensive front seven have failed to meet expectations even though both have been reasonably healthy this season. Those two areas should have sustained the team better and guarded against blowout defeats. Instead, those areas have fallen short, magnifying the impact legitimate injuries have had on the team. Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola were two of the players the Rams could least afford to lose. The team did a good job adding depth behind Jackson, and a horrible job adding depth behind Amendola. There was no fallback plan at wide receiver if something happened to Amendola. The injuries to the secondary are just unfortunate. Take away the top three corners from any defense and there will be serious coverage issues. There is not a ton more the team could have done at that position.
If Jason Smith keeps up his poor play for the remainder of the season, given his draft status, do you see the Rams telling him to either take a drastic pay cut and possibly try him at guard? Or do they just cut ties and look for a replacement? As always you the man Sando, can I get a hat trick today?!
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Would this be your third one of the day? I'm not counting. Jason Smith would be in line for a big paycut given what the team has gotten from him. And if he refused that cut, I think he could become a casualty whenever that were to happen.
danny (tacoma, wa)
The Seahawks are getting killed in the first half so far this season. What do they have to do to become more explosive early, and does it include Charlie Whitehurst?
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
The Seahawks have tried to minimize turnovers. I think that has made them less explosive early in games. Teams will open up the offense later in games if they are trailing, and sometimes the defensive team plays differently too. I'd say the Seahawks need to continue improving their passing game to score more points early in games. Pete Carroll likes to say it matters how you finish, not how you start. That is true unless you're starting as poorly as the Seahawks have been starting.
Jeff (Hermosa Beach, CA)
Hey Mike, am a big niner fan. Had Patrick Willis taken a step back this year or am I just noticing the improvement of the other LB's this year when I watch them play.
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
I've had the same question come to mind and I'm not sure. NaVorro Bowman looks really, really good. There was a play in the Philly game where Willis chased Vick toward the sideline and didn't get there in time. There was also a play when Bowman chased Vick and got him in the open field. These were different plays, but I also could not help notice Bowman sometimes outshining his more accomplished teammate. It's a great development for the 49ers. It's not like Willis is playing poorly. I wouldn't even say he has taken a step back at this point. It's just a situation to monitor.
Since the Rams have shown they are unable to protect Bradford, do you see a lot of short routes and rolling him out of the pocket going forward to make sure he survives what looks like a lost season?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
I would have expected more such routes already this season. To answer your question, though, yes, I do expect more shorter passes.
Jared (SLC, UT)
What kind of record do you expect the 49ers to end up with?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
I had projected 6-7 victories for them, but with the Rams tanking so badly, I think they'll have an additional victory there. The comeback victory over Philadelphia was one I had not expected. Right there, the 49ers go into the 8-9 range for projected victories based on things we could not have reasonably expected to have happened.
Building off of Patrick's question, what do you think of the Cards play calling in the 4th quarter? Twice they have had a lead with under 5-6 minutes and called 3 consecutive pass plays, only to go 3 and out, eating no clock, and eventually losing. With Beanie Wells running so well, what's the thought process behind these calls?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
The Cardinals ran the ball four times in a row beginning with 7:00 remaining in the fourth quarter and ending with Beanie Wells' touchdown run for a 27-17 lead with 5:20 remaining. The Giants then scored a touchdown to make it 27-24 the next time the Cardinals got the ball. Arizona then ran the ball on first down, making it five consecutive running plays from the 7:00 mark to the 3:37 mark. Was this the time of the game you were referencing?
John Stringer (Seattle )
Do you see a front runner in the division or do you see wide open like last year?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
The 49ers are the front-runner based on their record, the strength of their defense, the strength of their special teams and their demonstrated ability to protect the football while forcing turnovers to this point. But I would not call it a slam dunk for the 49ers to win the division. It's more like a slightly contested 12-foot jumper.
Brad (Spokane, Wa)
Hey Sando Seahawks fan here, but watching how bad the Rams have been this year what do you think they could get for the 1st overall pick? I just think with their injuries this year they have a real shot at putting up the worst record.
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
That is a great question and you can bet the Seahawks will be among the teams with interest in drafting a quarterback. I just could never, ever see the Rams trading the top pick within the division. That would make no sense. I could see them trading the top pick to, say, Miami or somewhere far, far away and out of the conference.
Jude Brandon (Mad City)
Are you surprised at Kevin Kolb's play? Personally, I never thought of him as a starter.
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
I thought he would have a better feel for the pocket and move with greater purpose.
Justin (San Juan Capistrano)
Yo Sando, heard you say on Bernie's show that you don't think 7-9 takes the division this year. Why the change of heart? Harbaugh?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
I've consistently said I thought eight wins would be enough to win the division. Sure, we could see another 7-9 team win it. I just think the winner will have eight or nine victories this season.
What sort of impact will the pending move to L.A. have on the Rams search for a new coach and GM?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
There's no question the Rams' rough season makes it tougher to win over that fan base in St. Louis, which is already most loyal to the St. Louis Cardinals.
How has Patrick Peterson played so far? I haven't heard much of him?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Peterson and the Cardinals have not played very well in pass coverage this season.
Sando, how about more screens to Steven Jackson and hope one of the WRs steps up?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
I have not yet done my "five observations" piece on the Rams from Week 4, but in looking at the game, I recall seeing the Redskins jump all over a screen to Jackson, or at least a dump pass in the flat to Jackson.
Chex Norris (San Diego)
Hey Mike! Do you see the 9ers signing NaVorro Bowman to a long-term contract sooner rather than later?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
That has been their M.O. to this point with Joe Staley, Patrick Willis and others. You could be onto something there.
Cole (St Louis, MO)
Given the Rams' awful start, how serious is the threat to Spagnuolo's and/or McDaniels' jobs at this point? I am conflicted as a fan as to weather or not I blame them or the front office more. Your take?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
A lost season would make it tough to sell the current regime to fans for one more season. At the same time, all the injuries could buy some understanding from ownership. I'd say the coach and GM there should be nervous.
Roderick (Baldwinsville, NY)
What kind of chance do you give the Niners against the Bucs this weekend?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
This game interests me because Josh Freeman comes so highly recommended these days, while perceptions are that Alex Smith is only holding back the 49ers. I think the 49ers will win the game at home with the Bucs coming off a short week and facing cross-country travel.
Travis M. (Tucson)
How would you grade Jim Harbaugh's performance so far this year? As a 49ers fan and long time Alex Smith supporter, I couldn't be any happier for the two of them.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
I've been impressed. Also think the schedule has worked to their favor with Seattle starting the NFL's youngest offensive line since 1995 in the opener (without Sidney Rice, either), and then getting an easy opponent (Cincinnati) for one of the road games. Make these 49ers play their opening schedule from last season and they would have a harder time being 3-1 at this point. But they are 3-1, and Harbaugh/Smith get credit for that.
Zach Miller has not even really been used. Looking on it now, was it really necessary for him even to be acquired in the first place?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
The Seahawks never saw it as necessary. They never thought the Raiders would let him get away. But when Miller remained available on the market, the Seahawks felt like he was the type of young, Pro Bowl-caliber player that is tough to add in free agency. So they moved on him.
Ryan (Medford, OR)
Mike, I was watching ESPN the other day and I heard someone say that they expected Detroit to be good because of how often they have picked high lately. I thought that was true until I realized that STL has as many top 2 picks since 07 as DET. Why has DET surpassed STL?
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
This is something I was thinking about earlier in the day. One, Matt Stafford has already been through what Sam Bradford is going through. He's further along. Two, Stafford has Calvin Johnson. Bradford doesn't have anyone one-fourth as good as Johnson. Those would be two big differences. And then when the Lions were picking second, they got Ndamukong Suh, the consensus No. 2 choice. When the Rams were picking second, they were doing so during that horrible 2009 draft. They took Jason Smith, who has not lived up to No. 2 expectations by any stretch, but who still looks better than so many players chosen early in that class.
Travis M. (Tucson)
Sando, your chats may get me fired one day, but I don't care, keep up the great work!
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thank you. Check's in the mail.
Chex Norris (San Diego)
Since the 49ers don't have much money tied up in QB's and look like they'll be out of the "Luck-ery", will they go after a big name for their secondary? Any free agent corners you have in mind after this season?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
The 49ers have consistently stayed away from the big-name guys in free agency recently. That probably continues.
Travis M. (Tucson)
Scale of 1-10, 10 being best, what do you think of QBR so far? I know that it's statistically based on the possibility of winning the game and how the QB affects that, but I still don't like it. Might just take getting used to. It has predicted more winners that Passer Rating.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
I like QBR and think it can help tell us which players with high NFL passer ratings at a given point might not be playing that well, after all. I think QBR would be better if it were easier to explain. I also am very interested in a wins-above-replacement type metric for quarterbacks and I wish QBR could tell us that clearly. I like the expected-points model and think it has great promise. Seems to me we could use that to get wins above average or wins above replacement, which would be more meaningful to me than a percentage. But I really like QBR in conjunction with NFL passer rating. Having the two stats side by side makes me feel better informed.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat.