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!
Ron LaCroix (Edmonds WA)
Hi Mike. Did you see a lack of leadership by the Arizona quarterbacks?
Mike Sando (1:01 PM)
Hi Ron. I'm not going to spend one day in a camp and make a definitive assessment of the quarterbacks' leadership. I was looking for a spark, a wow factor, and did not see it. It was one day in June. It was not definitive. But I'm reminded of the QB competition a couple years ago. No one really made a move. No one really stood out. That was a bad sign.
B (Glendale, AZ)
Mike, I know you went to Arizona's FanFest yesterday. Was there any rookie or UDFA whose play stood out the most? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:03 PM)
The receiver, No. 17, LaRon Byrd, was one. Great size, really looks the part. And they like him.
How long will the Clemons-Seahawks standoff last?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
I'd expect Chris Clemons to show for training camp. If not then, he'll definitely show for the season. There's no way he'll miss game checks. No way.
So Sando, Harbaugh was just dying to discuss me again eh? Didn't have anything to do with the 'tact' you initiated? And, by the way, what did Norther Cali ever do to you?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Haha. No one said anything about tact. Just tack. I wanted to talk about potential changes in offensive direction. Harbaugh's answers weren't leading very far. Some of that was understandable; it's early and the team has not yet defined itself. But when he said he's not into impressing the media, I had to call him on it. And when I did, he took the conversation in another direction. While I referenced Peyton Manning first, he mentioned his Michael Crabtree comments unsolicited. He called Alex Smith the smartest guy he's seen, or words to that effect, without being solicited on that subject.
Jeff (Hermosa Beach, CA)
Who do you see being a surprise or breakout player this season for the SF 49ers?
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
One of the defensive players I spoke with (not sure which one; need to look through my notes) pointed to Ahmad Brooks. I'm going to follow up on that when time permits.
So will Steven Jackson's challenge to WR Brian Quick cause that player to become that #1 reciever for the Rams?
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
It cannot hurt. Jackson was basically putting Quick on notice, hoping his comments would help the team get maximum performance from a promising rookie at a position of need. It's likely Quick will need some time to find his way, and a huge plus if he does not.
Mike, how high do you think Rob Housler's ceiling is? Is it Gronkowski/Graham high? He seems like he is cut from the same mold physically
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
The quarterback sometimes determines how high the ceiling can go. I don't think Housler projects as a fearsome blocker. I do think he can catch 50-plus passes pretty easily. The QBs will determine if he hits that range or exceeds it. Ken Whisenhunt said the Cardinals have had receivers running open left and right. He said Andre Roberts had a very good year last season, but didn't get rewarded. Housler looks like a potential breakout player for Arizona. The feeling when the Cardinals drafted him in 2011 was that Housler would need a year.
Daniel (Toronto, Canada)
Who are your early picks for offensive and defensive rookies of the year for the NFC west. As a Rams fan, I'm hoping you drop a couple Rams names (Brian Quick and Janorris Jenkins perhaps?)
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
The return game could help Jenkins get noticed. I know you pointed to offensive and defensive categories, but Jenkins factors in the return game as well. Let's say he makes a big impact as a returner and also picks off some passes. In that case, I think he'll be right in it. I'd list him among the 2-3 favorites. Bruce Irvin is an intriguing one too simply because the Seahawks have a very specific role in mind for him, and he'll be in position to do what Raheem Brock did a couple years ago: approach the 10-sack range. On offense, it's early. I'm not sure.
Andy (Syracuse, NY)
Mike, I've read in several places that Colin Kaepernick has been inaccurate at times this offseason. Do you think that Josh Johnson will end up becoming the number 2 QB behind Alex before the season starts or is it too early to tell?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Too early to tell.
Sorry Sando, shouldn't be accusing you of tact, my bad.Harbaugh was undoubtedly badgered by the media on said issue. I really don't think 'impressing' the media is at all the point. Harbs wants his players to know he has their backs, period. Both 11 and 15 have been under much fan scrutiny, and his comments are intended for them.
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
I think it's pretty clear by now Harbaugh has their backs. That was well established even before he said Michael Crabtree, who had six drops last season, possesses the best hands he's ever seen. Repeat: Jim Harbaugh, who has been around football his entire life and played in the NFL for some 15 years, has never seen better hands than the ones Crabtree possesses. Ever.
Mike, with so many holes and I know it's still early but, do you think the Rams did a pretty good job in the offseason? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
Yes, I do think they've done a good job. We do not know how well the draft choices will pan out, but when I look at the Rams, I see them making great use of that No. 2 overall choice. They've set themselves up for three drafts while still adding enough prospects in the short term to address the foundation. The Rams made targeted strikes in free agency with Cortland Finnegan and Scott Wells. They did not overpay for a wide receiver, even in the draft (and I think the feeling is that sixth overall would have been higher than people wanted to take Justin Blackmon).
Is Tarvaris Jackson really showing he's a good QB or is the Seahawks/media trying to turn him into trade bait?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Tarvaris Jackson has earned the respect of his teammates by playing hurt and being a good team guy. Pete Carroll is going to promote competition among the quarterbacks. He's going to praise each guy at nearly every opportunity. That is his approach. We need to filter what he's saying. Learning to read between the lines on him is important.
Mike (Mountlake Terrace, Washington)
Offensive line is by far the hawks biggest question mark going into next season in my humble opinion Mike. So, I was wondering how you feel about it based on what you have seen and heard
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
In Tom Cable they trust. Last season proved the team's ground game can function without all its players healthy. I like the depth Seattle has developed but also feel as though the injury situation is a concern. Russell Okung has been hurt too frequently. James Carpenter could be a total loss. Those are concerns. I think the line will be strong if Okung is healthy. It'll scrap and be effective even if he's not. The depth is pretty good. The scheme is solid.
Do you agree that the play of Anthony Davis this year is key to the 49ers success this season? I feel like if he lives up to potential we have the makings of the best running game in the NFL.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
I still think Alex Smith is the key. Anthony Davis is an important part of the offense. They do have a couple good tight ends. They are creative in their running game. Smith should have the smarts to get rid of the ball more quickly against pressure. I'm looking to see if Smith can make that step this season to avoid some of the sacks he took. I know some of them -- quite a few of them -- were not his fault. But the 49ers still have to find a way for him to unload the football in some of those situations.
Decarizzy (Bay Areaauuhh)
Sando i saw you in the background in the brandon jacobs interview, with your COOL GUY shades on hahaha
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
New prescription sunglasses. Haven't had any for maybe 20 years. Now that I've got 'em, I want to wear them all the time. Might wear them to Seahawks practice even though it's not sunny.
Mike - who's the starting QB for Seattle on opening day? Is anyone traded prior to?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
I'll go with Matt Flynn because it's the most logical thing to do. I figure no one is going to beat out Flynn by a huge margin. It'll be relatively close. There's no need to rush Russell Wilson into the lineup unless he's just spectacular. We know what Tarvaris Jackson can do. Might as well give Flynn his shot unless he absolutely flops.
Abiye(Frisco,Cali) [via mobile]
How was Alex Boone looking while you attended 49ers minicamp do you expect him to be the starter. Also what number is manningham?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Mario Manningham is No. 14. Boone looks the part. We can't tell how he's playing because they don't have pads on. Linemen can only prove themselves when wearing pads. However, Joe Staley and others said they expect Boone to win that job. It's really looking like he's the prohibitive favorite. They love Boone's mentality and think he's one of their six best offensive linemen.
Assuming there are no injuries, who do you think has more receptions between Baldwin and Tate this year?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
Doug Baldwin should finish the season with more receptions than Golden Tate even though Tate has a shot an breaking through this year. Baldwin is a proven commodity from the slot, a very smart player and might be more competitive than anyone on the team. He is a fighter.
Bryan (West Chester)
Which team really has the best chance of challenging the 49ers? I just don't see anyone in the division that really improved that much.
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
That depends upon what you think of the 49ers. I think the 49ers will be good again, but it's still likely they'll finish the season with less than 13 victories. Let's say they win 10 or 11. Let's say the other teams in the division are a little improved. That makes it a close race.
Randy (Toledo, Ohio)
What kind of speed did you see out of Moss compared to the other receivers? They say he's still fast but it's hard to believe he hasn't lost a step.
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
Moss has lost a step, no question, but he's still lithe and athletic. He looks fast to me. They are not really going full speed consistently in these practices, however.
Dave (Elko NV)
Hi Mike, I'm wondering if you got any impressions about the Card OLine while you were visiting. Do you think they'll be better than last year?
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
This is the year we find our more definitively whether Russ Grimm can mold young talent. I can't say with any confidence that the line will be better. Arizona needs its quarterbacks to help out its line by getting rid of the ball. The opposite happened last season. The result was a shaky line looking worse than it should have looked.
Bryan (West Chester)
Still, didn't answer (Niners fan). Who is it going to be (Obviously not the Rams)? Who gives the 49ers the most trouble this season and why?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Sorry about that. I've put Seattle a tick above Arizona as the team most likely to challenge. The Cardinals did beat the 49ers last season. Seattle had a very late lead against the 49ers. The gap was closing last season.
Mike, Rams question here. How many games do you expect them to lose vs the NFC West this year? Obviously two to Seattle.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
Is it that obvious? I'd say the Rams win two division games this season, both at home.
Mike, when are you going to be at Rams camp, for a up close look at what they have in the way of players.
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
The plan is to arrive July 27. Unfortunately, we've recently learned the team will not practice til July 29. I will be there for that first day and stay there four additional days. That's longer than I'll stay for any other camp. I do that with St. Louis because it's my longest trip and flights are limited. When I fly to St. Louis, it almost requires setting aside a travel day on each end of the trip. So when I go there, I maximize the stay. One big hope is for the Rams to improve enough for me to attend more of their games. I've missed that. It's tough to stay connected to a team without being in the locker room after games, etc.
Ryan F. (So Cal)
Why do you think the Rams whiffed on securing a quality OLB this offseason? Do they have that much faith in the front 4 and James Laurinaitis? I for one do, but who am I...plus who really were they going to get?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
They felt as though they could not sufficiently address every position, and linebacker was one that fell through the cracks. The linebacker market was soft overall. The Rams have added a couple veteran linebackers in Mario Haggan and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. They are expected to add another one, Rocky McIntosh. It's not an ideal situation. Last year, some of the veteran stopgaps didn't help as much as anticipated. That's the chance you take going the veteran route on the cheap. I'd expect the Rams to address that position better in the 2013 draft.
Jonathan (Richland WA)
Do you think Brian Banks will make the squad as a Special teamer? I know that Ken Norton Jr said it would be really tough. Would he be worth a spot to groom? He is a feel good story but how long can it last?
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
I'd be very surprised if Brian Banks earned a roster spot as a special-teamer after being away from the game so long.
Mike (Mountlake Terrace, Washington)
With veterans returning to the Seahawks like Leroy Hill and Marcus Trufant, how do you feel their leadership helping the young players in their skill groups?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
The Seahawks have good young leaders such as Red Bryant and Earl Thomas. I don't think they're leaning on Hill and Trufant for leadership as much as those players' ages might indicate.
I know everyone likes to bash on Levi Brown but his natural position is RT. Do you think with the addition of Massie he gets to move back to the right side?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
Not right away. That would be ideal, but is there any indication Bobby Massie projects as an NFL left tackle? I ask that question honestly. Seems like Massie projects as more of a right-side guy.
B (Glendale, AZ)
Mike, Arizona drafted Fleming, signed Gay and they also have Toler returning from injury. Do you see AJ Jefferson as the oddman out in the Cards' secondary? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
That is undetermined. Injuries and camp performance will dictate that. Patrick Peterson, William Gay and Jamell Fleming will be on the team. We need to see how the other guys perform. They're all at some risk.
So mike, now that you have talked one-on-one with Coach Harbough, do you believe what he said about Peyton Manning?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
I believe Harbaugh believes what he's saying. I believe this: The 49ers were interested in Manning, but would not have paid him whatever it took. And they would not have handed over the offensive playbook to him, either. Manning would have had to fit into the 49ers, whereas the Broncos were willing to adjust for Manning to a greater degree. I think that helped make Denver a better fit from Manning's perspective.
In the unlikely case Chris Clemons doesn't play this year, how ready/effective would Bruce Irvin be starting at Leo?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
I suspect Irvin would have a hard time against the run initially, and the overall pass rush would suffer. Seattle needs two outside pass-rushers, not just one. And not just a rookie.
Mike, please grade the Cardinals QBs based on your observations: A - F
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
No way. They get an incomplete at this stage. I watched two practice sessions. One was a walk-through practice without helmets. The other was without pads.
Kolb was reportedly booed at Fan Fest last Night. He's got the big salary but obvoiusly not the fan favorite. Skelton seems to be the fan favorite and won more games than Kolb. Who is Cardinals starting quarterback to start the season?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Yeah, there were some boos. Nothing overwhelming. I lean toward Kolb as the starter out of the gates, but I don't feel strongly about it.
Mogi (Las Vegas)
Who you picking to win the season opener between the Seahawks and Cardinals, Sando? In Arizona.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
I'd lean toward Arizona at home in a game with both defenses playing well.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. I'll answer a couple additional questions in the chat wrap on the blog.