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 (1:03 PM)
Greetings. Just noticed we had one person in our predictions contest forecast a 31-21 Rams victory over the Saints last week. Pretty incredible. Will build the next "You called it" item around that. OK, on that note, let's get going.
Justin (NY, NY)
Besides at QB, where else can the Niners improve to be truly considered "elite"?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
The offensive line remains a work in progress. I expect them to develop younger replacements at center and right guard. They have a couple rookies who could project as factors next season. The line needs more time together overall. The team could stand to improve at wide receiver, which could include further development from Michael Crabtree and the addition of another player there next season. The secondary is the other area where the team could stand to improve.
Hey Mike, Thanks for all the GREAT 49er coverage! Do you think the 49ers can generate enough offense for a playoff run. Defense is amazing and running game is stellar, but my concern is if we face NO or the Packers, if we get caught in a shootout, we don't strech the field enough to keep up with these teams. What are your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Thanks. I'm building a blog item around that for after the chat. The 49ers have the most efficient offense in the NFL and I'll explain what that means as I work through the item.
Hey Mike, love the blog. I'm a huge Niners fan and have absolutely been enamored with Jim Harbaugh so far this season. But there is one thing that has bothered me about the coaching so far. Last year, Alex Smith was at his best in the red zone, but they seem to very reliant on the short ground game this year. With Edwards, Crabtree, Davis, etc. he should be unstoppable. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
Smith has five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 101.2 NFL passer rating in the red zone this season. I'm not sure what the run-pass percentage is in those situations, but Frank Gore is a good option down there as well.
Ricky Entenmann (Angels Camp, CA)
NaVarro Bowman is having an excellent year. He really has raised his game. Do you think offenses scheming against Willis has helped Bowman improve?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
Playing alongside Willis helps Bowman whether or not teams are scheming for Willis. If they are scheming for Willis, that would help Bowman as well. Bowman is playing well regardless.
cameron (spokane wa)
Sando, is it fair to think after almost two years as our coach that Pete Carroll just doesn't have what it takes to make the right decisions? I mean, he is a good judge of talent, but time and time again, he makes poor decisions regarding running said talent. I want him to do well but don't think it's possible. Please, your thoughts.
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Criticism of Carroll is fair. I would not judge him fully without knowing what he plans to do at quarterback. This coming offseason will be defining on that front.
Anyone else feel that Marshawn Lynch isn't cutting it as the No. 1 back? Love his attitude, work ethic and max effort ... but the results aren't there. Can blame the young line but they don't seem to be the complete problem to me.
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
I don't think Lynch is the answer or the problem, really. The team needs better quarterback play, then better line play, better tight end play, then better play from Lynch.
What do you think will happen if John Skelton plays Sunday and he lights it up for the Cardinals?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
I was thinking this thought exactly earlier in the week. The financial commitment the team has made to Kevin Kolb requires Kolb to be the starter for the longer term. But let's just say Skelton somehow passed for 400 yards with four touchdown passes and the Cardinals won big. Then what? The team might need to let Kolb's sore toe heal a while longer, I suspect.
Dr. H. Doofenshmirtz (Tri-State Area)
Is Whisenhunt's job secure? I don't see many more victories for the Cardinals this year.
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
I think his job is secure through this season. The rest depends on how the team finishes, how Whisenhunt handles the team, whether Kevin Kolb shows enough promise, etc. I do think Whisenhunt will probably be back next season.
If the Rams would have gotten a Lloyd caliber WR during free agency, do you imagine a different record, if so, what record?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Yeah, I think the Rams might have been much closer in the Philadelphia game, and in the Washington game. But they probably would not have more than one additional victory, based on the schedule. With Lloyd available at Green Bay, perhaps Sam Bradford gets rid of the ball before taking the hit that injured his ankle. Tough to know.
The 49ers aren't losing control of the division this year. Congratulations! If the Rams finish in second place, though, does that do enough to ensure Stan Kroenke doesn't make any drastic changes in the offseason? Do you remember him doing anything drastic to any of his other sports enterprises in his first year or two owning the teams?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Good question. Kroenke purchased the Denver Nuggets in 2000. Dan Issel stayed as coach for a year or two, then was gone. I think it's easier to change an NBA coach, though. In the NFL, there is much greater fallout throughout an organization because staffs are so much larger. I think a strong finish to the season would probably be enough for the Rams to keep Steve Spagnuolo, but that is me talking, not Kroenke talking. He isn't tipping his hand.
Was the performance the Rams defense put on against the Saints just an occasional thing, or can we expect to see it week in and week out. They don't exactly face any 'elite' offense for the rest of the year, and what I saw last week was what I saw for most of the year last year.
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
The Rams-Saints game looked like a fight featuring one angry guy and another less engaged guy. The Rams took it to the Saints. I do think the schedule will help the Rams look like that a few more times this season. It's huge having Steven Jackson healthy and Brandon Lloyd as part of the offense. They really need to get Sam Bradford back out there.
Adam (San Francisco)
Is there a front seven in football better then the 49ers' front seven? At the midway point, it really seems like the whole group warrants consideration, with Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Justin Smith as shoo-ins.
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
I cannot think of another front seven better than the 49ers' front seven right now. Getting Ray McDonald back healthy is important. The thing is, the 49ers could still improve up front. Aldon Smith should get better.
J. Beal (Denver, CO)
Hey there, Mike - If the 49ers do wrap up the NFC West this month, do you see them taking a bit of a rest and giving CK and some of the other unknown players a go, or do you see them playing for seeding and a bye in the playoffs?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
I could see Colin Kaepernick getting reps in blowout situations, or in the final week before the playoffs, but I suspect Jim Harbaugh will want the team to keep the same mindset all the way through. He will not want to let off. I would not be surprised to see him go for two during the final minutes of a Week 17 game with no implications.
Following the draft, I thought the Rams made a mistake by passing on Mark Ingram. Early in the season I was feeling pretty smart. Last Sunday's game (against the Saints, ironically) made the strongest case against that so far. Do you think Quinn was the right choice to draft over Ingram?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Yes, from a positional value standpoint, I would rather have the defensive end. Now, Quinn did not play last season and we still need to find out more about him. But from a philosophical standpoint, I like helping the pass rush. The Rams can find a running back in a later round.
When the Rams traded for Brandon Lloyd it signalled that they still had their sights set on the 2011 season. With Sam Bradford and Mark Clayton on the verge of returning to action and the fact that the schedule gets a whole lot easier, it feels realistic that they could go on a good run here. Any chance they could make it interesting this year? Why would they not sign Leigh Bodden to replenish their lost depth at CB?
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
The Rams are too far behind to dig their way back into the NFC West race unless the 49ers absolutely collapse, which should not happen given schedule and defensive strength. We also need to see when Sam Bradford returns. A defeat at Arizona this coming week would change perceptions again.
Steve D. (Palisades Park, NJ)
Hey Mike, Gore seems to be taking on a heavy load, is it just me or do you think that Kendall Hunter should be seeing more carries as it seems he has the tools to break off some good runs.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
That would make some sense. Hunter has looked pretty good. Gore has gained a higher percentage of his yards against eight-man fronts than has any back in the NFL this season. That could wear him down. As we saw last season, though, the backup can still get yards for San Francisco. Perhaps Hunter would be good enough to carry the load if needed.
Your thoughts on 49ers going 12-4.
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
History says teams lose games along the way. I have a hard time finding three likely defeats the rest of the way, however, as long as the 49ers beat the Redskins this week. They have a tough one at Baltimore and a Monday night home game against Pittsburgh. They still have to play at Seattle, which can be tricky if the Seahawks show up. But I would not want to take the under on 12 victories for the 49ers right now.
Scott (San Jose)
I think the Niners dont have enough DB depth to compete with the Packers and Saints. What do you think?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
I think the 49ers would rush for 200 yards against the Saints and get a lot of hits on Drew Brees. The matchup with Green Bay would be tougher. That is a pretty high bar to set, though. What if Alex Smith got the "W" over Aaron Rodgers in a playoff game? That would seem about as likely as the 49ers going 6-1 this season with three fourth-quarter comeback victories on the road.
RYAN (REEDLEY, CA)
Steven Jackson has looked great lately after injuring himself in that first game vs. the Eagles. Do you think he can sustain this level of play or will all those carries finally catch up with him?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
The carries catch up to him inevitably. He does look great right now. Let's see how he is doing physically late in the year. The team needs to draft a back in 2012.
Josh E (Glendale, AZ)
It seems like most comparisons being made about the current 49ers team point to their 98 season. Do you see this as being relevant, and more importantly do you see any comparisons that can be made to the 49ers teams that won Super Bowls?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
The comparison is relevant to the degree that the records are the same through seven games, but that team was set up differently with Steve Young and friends.
Rob (Augusta, Ga)
If the Seahawks win enough games to fall out of say the top 5-8 and the marquee QB's are gone by the time they draft, would they settle for a "lesser" talent just to fill the void and placate fans or would they go after the best player available at the time?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
Frightening question for a lot of Seahawks fans I know. They just about have to draft one early this coming year. I think they'll be picking high enough to do so given that some teams ahead of them might already have quarterbacks.
Matt (Lady Lake, FL)
Matt Barrows is reporting that Carlos Rogers would like to be extended before FA. Wouldn't the Niners be wise to extend him asap? I know they have been particular about extending "their own" whenever possible; do you think they have an order in mind to keep the locker room stable and if so what is it?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
I see no advantage for the team to signing Carlos Rogers as soon as possible. Before free agency is soon enough. He's not going anywhere before then.
Dr. H. Doofenshmirtz (Tri-State Area)
It's long been rumored that the Seahawks were interested in Carson Palmer. Any idea if they were in the mix to get him at the trade deadline, and did that drive the price up for the Raiders?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
My understanding is that the Seahawks were in on Carson Palmer previously, but not at the time the trade came down with Oakland.
I know there has been injuries, but there should be no excuse that the Seattle special teams should be so bad. How does it need to be addressed?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
The best solution I know is to put better players on the coverage units.
So Cal 49er (Los Angeles)
The 49ers are #1 in the division with a 4 game lead and clearly the BEST team in the division. Which divisional game do you think stands the best chance for an upset? Rams, Hawks, Cards?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
At Seattle. The Seahawks have the next-best defense in the division. Their stadium is the loudest in the division.
How do the Cardinals feel about their WRs besides Fitz? Any chance they move Early Doucet to the No. 2 spot and Andre Roberts to the slot? Upgrade at receiver in the offseason?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Doucet seems to have found a home in the slot. I wouldn't change that up. I tend to think Roberts has fallen through the cracks for a few reasons: Kevin Kolb is not comfortable, Larry Fitzgerald is the top target overall, Doucet has been terrific on third down and the team is throwing to tight ends, who make for good security blankets when a quarterback isn't comfortable. I'm not saying Roberts is the answer or Roberts is playing well. I'm just saying there seem to be other factors affecting his lack of involvement. Yes, I could see the Cardinals upgrading in the offseason.
Jake (Hollywood, CA)
Do you see the Seahawks trading for/picking up an experienced QB rather than addressing the position in the draft? Who might be some options?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
That depends on how Tarvaris Jackson plays the remainder of the season. I'm thinking Jackson comes back as the veteran presence, Charlie Whitehurst is not re-signed, Josh Portis remains as a developmental guy and the team drafts a quarterback early. The drafted QB either starts right away or sits behind Jackson until ready.
Do you think the Seahawks' brass will let Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell play this thing out for 3-4 more years? I see positive signs on both sides of the ball, and the best thing for the team is long-term chemistry, especially if a rookie QB takes over next year.
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
The team needs to win more games for ownership to give Carroll 3-4 additional years to get things right.
Travis M (Tucson)
There was a lot of talk about the Rams defense making a big jump this year. We may have seen that in the Saints game, but also the Seahawks and 49ers have made tremendous improvements on that side of the ball. Do you think this has to do with the fact that building a defense quickly is easier than building an offense quickly? Or is it more likely that the NFC West teams looked around and figured "Hey, we don't need to score 30 points to win games around here, let's just shut down our division's offenses."
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
The 49ers have very good talent in their defensive front seven. They have been good in that area for years and have gotten better with some targeted moves/good scheming. I think the Seahawks' defensive coaching is very good. Pete Carroll, Gus Bradley and those guys have done a good job adapting their scheme for talent (think Red Bryant) and then adding good young players. That could be a reflection of having a defensive-minded head coach. The situation in St. Louis has been surprising and doesn't lend itself to a two-sentence analysis.
Captain Hindsight (USA)
How come gambles that don't work are always considered poor decision making and the ones that work are considered gutsy and clever.
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Results matter. That is one reason. It doesn't mean Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman are smart for sending Alex Smith on QB runs, though. I've questioned their tactics on that front. It's easy for coaches to blame QBs for failing to slide properly and those sorts of things, but coaches have to know their players are competitive and will not always make decisions in the interests of self-preservation.
What do you make of the Seahawks offense so far? It looks like Rice is coming on, and the line is getting better.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
The line did not get better in this past game. Sidney Rice did not catch the ball as cleanly as he has in the past. I think the offense is in for a rough one at Dallas, but having Tarvaris Jackson in the lineup and having the projected starting line back together will help over time.
Do you think 49er fans are getting to cocky at this point?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
No, they're too busy booking travel to Indianapolis.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
On that note, time's up. Thanks for coming along.