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!
Michael (New Jersey)
Big 49ers fan and wondering how big of a blow do you think the loss of Josh Morgan will be for the rest of the season?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
The 49ers now have no depth at the position, basically. They'll be OK once Braylon Edwards returns, but one more injury will really set back the receiving corps. Fortunately for the 49ers, they're big on using two tight ends. Both their tight ends factor in the receiving game. They have a head coach and offensive staff that appears well-suited for adjusting. They just need to avoid additional injuries at the position.
Hey Mike, first time I have spent any time with your blog, but enjoyed what I read. Big Raiders fan here, and was wondering if you have any insight as to whether this Aaron Curry trade was a pre- or post-death of Mr. Davis thing. It feels like a Davis deal, so it makes me wonder if the structure was in place before his death.
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
Thanks for dropping by. Those involved in the deal have been pretty hush-hush to this point because the league has not approved it. I'll try to find out how long this was in the works. Curry has obviously been a player on the block, so I doubt the Seahawks and Raiders spoke about it for the first time since Davis' passing. However, it's also tough to know how involved Davis was in trade discussions during his final weeks. Your instincts are right, though, in sensing that this was a classic Al Davis-type move. Bill Williamson and I were talking about that yesterday. I like the move for both teams. Curry just wasn't getting it done for Seattle. He was increasingly a liability. They needed to get something for him while they could. For the Raiders, they get a relatively low-risk reclamation project.
How many false starts will the 49ers have Sunday, and is it even possible to wear down a defensive line that goes nine deep?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
The 49ers have 10 false-start penalties so far this season, tied with Green Bay for third in the league behind Chicago (17) and Seattle (12). They had a bad false-start game at Cincinnati, but only one such penalty at Philadelphia. They'll likely commit a few in this game. I think the 49ers have more to worry about in pass protection than against the run. If I were them, I'd try to get that running game going early. Also, Alex Smith's quick passes have been a good weapon so far.
Hi Mike, I'm a little unhappy with the Rams' offensive line blocking this year and don't know who to blame more. I think the receiver routes are longer than last year's, so Sam Bradford has to hold the ball longer, which means the line has to block longer. I am starting to think we gave the line maybe too much credit and they (tackles) might in fact not be as good as we thought. And/or the new offensive coordinator might not be as much a genius as we first thought.
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
There's enough blame to go around. You also need to factor for losing in Week 1 Steven Jackson for a while and Danny Amendola for the season. Those were the two most important non-QB skill-position guys on the team this season.
Omar (Baltimore, Maryland)
Your MVP rankings have Matthew Stafford above Calvin Johnson, though 9 of Stafford's TD passes have gone to Johnson - so why is Frank Gore above Alex Smith when Smith has the third highest passer rating in the league, is second to Brady when dealing with the blitz, and has achieved the highest QBR rating in one game out of every quarterback in the league?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
Very much appreciate the selective use of NFL passer rating and Total QBR. Both are bad stats unless they support what we already think or want to think, right? I kid, but only a little. In my opinion, the 49ers have done a very good job supporting Alex Smith, not the other way around. The game against Tampa Bay was a big step forward for Smith. More games such as that one and he'll be in the conversation. I just think the 49ers have leaned harder on Gore than Smith over the last couple games, and Gore is on pace over the last two games to really be a factor. It's a good debate to have. I think Stafford is carrying the Lions a lot more than Smith is carrying the 49ers.
David (Las Cruces, NM)
Hey Mike, what is your feeling about the 49ers' wide receiver (TE's included) situation going forward this season after a relatively small splash in free agency post-Morgan's injury?
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
I've wondered why they drafted Ronald Johnson over Doug Baldwin when Jim Harbaugh coached Baldwin at Stanford and arguably should have anticipated, more than anyone, the impact Baldwin is making in Seattle. Think the 49ers could use Baldwin now? That is a subject for the blog at some point.
Dr. H. Doofenshmirtz (Tri-State Area)
If the Kevin Kolb experiment fails and the Cards are in a position to get Luck or Jones in the draft, how hard will it be, contract-wise, for them to part ways with Kolb?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Sensational question. I think the contract with Kolb binds the team to him unless Kolb absolutely bombs out or suffers a career-ending injury. It's pretty amazing that Arizona has lost four in a row after requiring a punt return for a touchdown to beat Carolina at home in the opener. Your question is one to revisit if the Cardinals keep losing.
Yo (Charlottesville, VA)
Who is the BEST non-injured CB on the Rams roster? Does it matter who's "best" or are they all so bad that their only hope is zone coverage? Should a safety play the dime this week against GB? How much worse did Wragge play against the skins than LG Jacob Bell usually does?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Good questions. I'll be taking a closer look at the Redskins-Rams game and will let you know what I saw from Tony Wragge. He played 66 of 75 snaps in that game after not playing previously this season. I'll get back to you on that one. At corner, it's a wash. Al Harris might be the best guy right now. It probably doesn't matter, though. They have no starting corners on their roster. I do see lots of zone coverage schemes against the Packers.
Mark (Kent, England)
Do you think that the Cardinals, Seahawks or Rams are capable of beating San Francisco at this moment in time? Are any of them showing signs of improvement?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
The Seahawks would give them a good game in Seattle, I suspect. Right now, I think the 49ers would have their way with the other teams in the division.
Adam (Granite bay, Italy)
How good does 49ers rookie Aldon Smith actually look? It seems as though most of his sacks so far have been coverage sacks and that he is not burning lineman the way Von Miller is burning them.
Mike Sando (1:27 PM)
There is truth in what you're saying, but overall, Smith has still been pretty good. He used his length to tip a pass against the Seahawks that might have produced a big gain on a receiver screen when Seattle was rallying. I have not seen him turn on the jets, so to speak, in beating guys around the corner. He's a big guy, though, not a pure speed rusher.
Spike (San Jose, CA)
Great job with the blog Mike, I enjoy your NFC West insights! My question is, can the 49ers sustain their type of success for the rest of the season? It's wishful thinking to assume Alex Smith will be the third-ranked passer the rest of the year, especially with a thin receiver corps. Convince me on how my Niners can win the NFC West!
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Take heart, Spike. The 49ers do not need to continue their current pace just to win the division. They are 4-1. I doubt they'll get to 12-13 victories this season. Right now, though, you have to like their chances at 9-10 victories for the season. That will be enough.
Kyle (St. Louis)
Do you think the Rams should start Robert Quinn? If the defense will be playing more zone to protect the CBs, the DL will have to generate a pass rush by themselves. I think Quinn is better suited to do this than James Hall, don't you?
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
James Hall's bad back has possibly been a factor for him this season after colliding with Chris Long on a David Garrard sack during preseason. Quinn has been getting 40-50 snaps per game over the last three games. Only Long, Hall and Fred Robbins have played more snaps on that defensive line this season even though Quinn missed the season opener. One problem so far is that the Rams haven't been in the lead. They haven't been able to free up their pass-rushers. That makes it tough to get much value from a pure pass-rusher such as Quinn.
Deric (Twin Falls, ID)
Is it fair to say that Seattle's pass defense is better then the stats tell?Seems to me that the Seahawks find themselves on the receiving end (pun intended) of more passing plays due to teams not being able to run the ball, yet for the most part Seattle's secondary seems to do what is needed for the most part to force drive ending plays.Does this assessment have any merit? Or am I just trying to find good in a bad part of our team?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
The Seattle defense ranks third in third-down conversion rate. That is a good sign. I also think the pass defense has been pretty good. There are times, such as against the Falcons, when an over-reliance on Chris Clemons as a pass-rusher has hurt the team. Overall, though, I think the pass defense has been OK and should get better provided two things happen: Walter Thurmond continues on his upward path, which appears likely; and Marcus Trufant's back injury isn't a big deal, which is unknown.
Who do you think will have a better pro coaching career, Harbaugh or Carroll? I know it's too early to tell so far, as far as Harbaugh goes, but what are your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
Advantage, Harbaugh, because he's younger and figures to be in the game longer. It sure appears as though Harbaugh is a good one.
Josh (Chattanooga, TN)
How have we not had a single question about Lebron James, yet? He's been tweeting with Coach Carroll. Seems like he's pretty serious about joining an NFL squad, and Carroll even tweeted a picture of a Seahawks jersey that SAID Lebron on it! How many TDs would he get this year for Seattle, Mike?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Athletes are funny about the cross-sport thing. NFL guys tend to think they can play basketball at a high level, but I highly doubt very many, if any, could compete in the NBA at a high level. I do think some NBA guys could project as NFL players a little easier, but I'd be interested to hear Lebron's thoughts after he caught a pass in the flat and got chopped down at the knees by some guy earning in a season what Lebron gets in a day. Football hurts.
I have been a die-hard Seahawks fan for most of my life, yet I see the truth in a team. I feel that while this is a rebuilding year, they have taken HUGE strides from Week 1 -- heck, even Week 3. What are your honest thoughts on this current team after five games?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
My thoughts are positive for the long term. The ridiculously premature talk about James Carpenter being a bust has gone away. I'm not sure what the future holds for Russell Okung, who still seems to be playing at less than full strength coming off the ankle injury. Is he ever going to feel good enough to play at an elite level? It's clear Seattle should have a good defense for a long time. Still think they need to consider a quarterback in the offseason.
Louie (St. Louis)
I think the Rams are a lot closer to winning right now than people think. If we don't drop passes against New York or Washington, we win both of those games, Washington in a blowout, by all the TDs they dropped. This leads to my question: Can you teach a receiver to catch the ball in the NFL? I mean, it seems like something in the expectations of playing WR? Are the WRs thinking too much? You catch the ball with your head, not your hands.
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
The Rams do lead the NFL in dropped passes with 12. They have other issues, though. As for teaching players to catch the ball, I think practice makes perfect, and familiarity with an offense should free players' minds and help them catch the ball. At Rams camp, I noticed receivers standing behind thick white PVC pipes, each standing vertically from a small base. Receivers would stand with their chests near the pipe, one arm on each side of it. A teammate would throw passes to them. The pipes forced receivers to use their hands, not their bodies, when catching the ball. I liked the drill. Point is, the Rams have practiced catching the ball. There isn't much more the coaching staff can do, in my view.
Alex (SF, CA)
I think Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter should be splitting carries 50/50. Hunter brings a great change of pace to the game and is real home-run threat. It would most likely keep Gore healthy all season too. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I wouldn't quite go to 50-50, but I would play Hunter enough to keep Gore fresher and also encourage competition. I think Gore ran better against the Eagles after Hunter scored a touchdown and showed flashes against the Bengals. It's just human nature to step up when challenged.
Mike, what are your thoughts on Josh McDaniels job right now. He basically massacred the Broncos for the next 2-3 years and now came into a job with a promising young offense and the Rams are 0-4.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
I'm not impressed. Sam Bradford is taking too many sacks, the offensive line isn't getting enough push, the receivers are dropping passes. The offense has regressed. At the same time, I realize injuries have played a role in this. At no point this season have the Rams put onto the field the five skill players they envisioned growing together: Steven Jackson, Mike Hoomanawanui, Lance Kendricks, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. It's tough enough without losing key players.
tacowrecker (enjoying the chat)
Mike, thanks for the chat, man! Great cure for the mid-thursday slump! I was wondering what you think of the Cards defense? They've been trying for years to bring in a Steelers-style 3-4, and have met with abject failure. Is it time to just admit that this scheme isn't going to work here and give something else a try next offseason? It just seems like Arizona doesn't have and probably never will have the players to make the 3-4 work, and that running it doesn't make the best use of the players we DO have, such as Darnell Dockett. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Thanks. It's just a little late to be throwing out the plan. They've had five years under Ken Whisenhunt to develop a defensive identity. Whisenhunt finally got someone from Pittsburgh -- Ray Horton, as opposed to his first choice, Keith Butler -- to oversee that side of the ball. I agree that the personnel and scheme do not match up all that well, preventing the team from getting full value out of Dockett in particular. The Cardinals have used four-man lines a fair amount of the time, but they want that 3-4 to be their identity, and it's a tough sell without the rush linebackers on the outside.
The Schneid (University of Phoenix Stadium)
Mike, I was just wondering your take on the lack of a legitimate No. 2 receiver in Arizona and its impact on the Cards' offensive woes. It seems reports of Steve Breaston's demise via knee troubles were greatly exagerrated, and although Early Doucet is playing fairly well, Andre Roberts has been a no-show so far. The team needs someone to help Fitz, right? Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
The receiver situation isn't the problem, in my view. Doucet has been a big factor on third down, and the team upgraded at tight end. The Cardinals have had tight ends running open, only to miss them or, in one case Sunday, suffer from a dropped ball. I think Kevin Kolb has enough weapons around him to succeed. He just need to succeed.
Do you think Charlie Whitehurst has earned the starting QB job? He has done everything you would ask for, leading us to a win last year to get us into the playoffs, and leading us to a comeback win on the road against the Giants.
Mike Sando (2:04 PM)
I'd let the injury situation with Tarvaris Jackson answer the question. If Jackson is not 100 percent, just say so, start Whitehurst and reevaluate based on how Whitehurst plays. If Jackson is 100 percent, give him another start and make a chance if necessary. I thought Jackson looked really good in the second half against the Falcons and just OK against the Giants. He did not seem to be operating as much on rhythm against the Giants.
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat this week. See you on the blog.