Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Juliano Bill (Brazil)
Is Schofield the answer to the empty side of the Cardinals' pass rush?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
O'Brien Schofield is the Cardinals' answer. He is the answer this season, at least. They'll have a much better idea after watching him play a full season. The thinking makes sense. He would have been a higher draft choice had he been healthy coming out of college. The Cardinals took a chance on him, gave him time to recover, got him some playing time last season, with generally promising results. Everything seems to be on schedule. I suspect they'll still be in the market for OLB help next offseason.
Jarred (Clovis, CA)
Morning Mike, love the work you do with the blog and chat. The 49ers entered last season with little to no expectations about making a postseason run, but much to my delight, they were finally able to put things together and live up to their potential and talent. They enter this upcoming season with high expectations and almost have that "Super Bowl or bust" attitude. Seeing as you have spent some time around the 49ers, how do you feel they are handling the high expectations thus far? Thanx.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks, Jarred. I see no change to their attitude. They realize last season doesn't carry over automatically. There was a lot of room for improvement on offense, and they know it. If the team does not meet expectations this year, I don't think it'll have to do with the attitude they took into training camp. There are some new faces on offense, though, and Randy Moss is an "X" factor. There will be a different chemistry and that's always a little risky. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. It's not like they could sit back and leave the offense alone.
Have you seen much of Chris Givens? He has kind of stolen the spotlight from Brian Quick in preseason, supposedly looks great. What did you think of the player going into the draft?
Mike Sando (2:05 PM)
I'm supportive of the Rams' efforts to add badly needed speed to their offense. The Donnie Avery experiment had run its course. Givens is the next one in line. I'm going to withhold judgment til training camp on the knowledge that non-contact practices are set up perfectly for speed players. There's no bumping at the line, no physical aspect to the game at all. How will he respond to actual coverage? We don't know.
What can you tell me about Rams new linebackers Rocky McIntosh and Jo-Lonn Dunbar? I am certain they will shine compared to Brady Poppinga and Ben Leber, but am I crazy to no longer view LB as a problem area? Rams could actually run out a darn good D if players meet expectations.
Mike Sando (2:07 PM)
The Rams couldn't address all their deficiencies in one offseason. Linebacker got put on the back burner. McIntosh is probably a stopgap-type player. He's younger than Leber was, so he should have more left. But the reviews weren't all that positive from his days in Washington. The Redskins replaced him with a younger player. Dunbar looks like the safer acquisition and more of a starter, based on what we know right now. But I think the Rams will be addressing outside linebacker in the offseason. Ideally, Dunbar would be their best backup.
Alek B. : Oakland, CA [via mobile]
Hi Mike, considering that before the 49ers drafted LaMichael James, they did not draft a halfback in the second round or higher since 1992, James don't you think they have huge plans for him? Regardless of what position you play, a second-round selection is a starter or at least should be.
Mike Sando (2:12 PM)
Yes, that's a reasonable expectation. Even if he doesn't start, he needs to play a lot to justify the draft position. Here are the halfback types drafted in second rounds from 2008-2011: Ryan Williams, Shane Vereen, Mikel Leshoure, Daniel Thomas, Dexter McCluster, Ben Tate, Montario Hardesty, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte and Ray Rice. James is not a big, bruising back, so he might not project as a workhorse for the long term. But he needs to play extensively.
Do you see Harvin getting traded? With the picks stockpiled for next year, could the Niners put together a package the Vikings would like? It seems better to have too much talent and figure it out later, from the Niners' perspective.
Mike Sando (2:13 PM)
I don't see the Vikings trading Percy Harvin. Don't really see a big need for the 49ers at receiver, but if they could get him, I agree with you. Figure out how it all works later. Adding talent is good.
Mike Sando (2:14 PM)
By the way, following up that earlier question about the 49ers, sure enough, Amp Lee was the last halfback San Francisco drafted in the first two rounds. That was in 1992. Before that, it was Ricky Watters in 1991, Dexter Carter in 1990, Terrence Flagler in 1987 and Roger Craig in 1983.
Sando, while the Hawks don't generally have "big" names at WR, are they being sold short on their talent level?
Mike Sando (2:16 PM)
Yeah, probably. I like their prospects at the position. Some of them are unproven, so skepticism is justified, but they've got some young players with upside: Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette are four. Much hinges on Sidney Rice being healthy. So far, Rice hasn't been healthy enough of the time.
With the Chris Clemons situation playing out like it is, it appears that Seattle holds most of the leverage but are wisely playing it carefully because any major extension could set a precedent for other stars in the future to renegotiate like Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Do you agree?
Mike Sando (2:18 PM)
Yeah, there's long-range thinking at work. The team doesn't want to be re-doing deals early all the time. There's a balance between getting max value from a rookie contract and waiting too long to re-sign core talent. Future salary caps are appearing flat, so that could be a consideration as well. Overspending could come with a higher price than in past seasons, when the cap was increasing enough to provide flexibility.
Tristan A. (San Francisco, CA)
Which is the better hypothetical destination for Percy Harvin: Seattle or St. Louis?
Mike Sando (2:19 PM)
Both could use him. In Seattle, Harvin would know the offense already, or at least be familiar with it, because he played for Darrell Bevell previously.
Will chat run late today since some of us came late due to our favorite Blogger not posting a link?
Mike Sando (2:19 PM)
Good point. I tweeted it. Need to post it as well.
Ryan F. (Where the Rams should be)
Mike, do you agree with how the Rams are approaching Defensive play calling by committee? I've never heard of a team doing it this way, and I'd really appreciate your take. Thanks!
Mike Sando (2:23 PM)
Someone will take the lead once the season gets going. Dave McGinnis is the most likely candidate. I do think there is more collaboration on play-calling that some people realize. But one person needs to be primarily accountable for it. The Rams will be no different. I wouldn't be too concerned. Jeff Fisher knows how to facilitate game-day operations.
OleSagginSeahawk (60 miles west of Seattle)
Mike, here's a long-shot question regarding seventh-round pick J.R. Sweezy, DT from North Carolina State. With him changing from defense to offense, how often do drafted players make a successful transition from "D" to "O"? Not too mention a seventh rounder. Odds have got to be way against him. Thanks.
Mike Sando (2:27 PM)
Bruce Miller converted from defensive end to fullback for the 49ers last year. He made the transition successfully. However, I think teams have lower standards for fullbacks because the position has been left behind by the college game. There are so few polished fullback prospects coming into the NFL. Teams are making do with tight ends and players converted from other positions. Sweezy faces a tougher transition because the margin for error is smaller on an offensive lineman. His techniques will be put to the test play after play. I agree that it's a tough transition. But this was a small bet the Seahawks made.
Tigre (South Of The Border)
What is the likelihood that AJ Jenkins lands on the 49ers' Practice Squad? Some of the Faithful are putting him behind Williams, which would make him the 5th WR in the rotation. They're not going to carry more than 4 WRs + Ginn as a ST/WR on gameday, right?
Mike Sando (2:28 PM)
Zero likelihood. Players must be released and clear waivers before landing on practice squads. The 49ers would not release their first-round pick. Another team would claim him and the 49ers would have Jake Ballard regret times a thousand.
Old Ball Coach (SF)
Do you think with the additional weapons, that San Francisco stays a run-first team?? They can't count on a huge turnover ratio again. Old Ball Coach sees 9-10 wins.
Mike Sando (2:30 PM)
The 49ers will not abandon their core identity, which remains as a physical team with lots of variation within its power run scheme. I asked Joe Staley about this at minicamp last week. He wasn't expecting wholesale changes either. Now, they want to have more ability to break the big play. But they still want to be a hard-nosed run team.
Gee Mike...thanks for posting the link today.......oh wait :-(
Mike Sando (2:31 PM)
It's up there now!
Tristan A. (San Francisco, CA)
Can Aldon Smith double his sack production with double the playtime? I know that seems unrealistic, but he only played half of the D snaps last year and has plenty of potential. What do you think?
Mike Sando (2:32 PM)
That would be an unreasonable expectation, since he was already on the field for all the obvious passing situations, plus those plays when the opponent went with obvious passing personnel. He will not have twice as many opportunities for sacks, in other words.
Jim (Brookings, OR)
After going 13-3 Alex Smith still faces doubts as to how good he actually is (and deservedly so). What type of numbers do you think he has to put up this year to get some respect?
Mike Sando (2:32 PM)
Pro Bowl numbers would do it.
I am back after a long layoff Sando. I need your opinion on the Cardinals offensive line situation. Will the re-signing of Levi Brown and the addition of Adam Snyder really pay dividends, and will Bobby Massie have a strong enough training camp to get the start at right tackle?
Mike Sando (2:36 PM)
This year, more than others, is when we find out how well Russ Grimm can coach 'em up. Grimm hasn't had too many younger prospects to work with. He had Brown, and that hasn't worked out as well as hoped. The team drafted a few linemen this year. Arizona needs Massie to develop sooner rather than later. I'm not sold on the line fixes at this time. We have a pretty good idea what Brown offers. We have a pretty good idea what Snyder offers. Maybe Massie has the talent and motivation to lock down the job at right tackle. I'd probably favor Bridges in the short term. He's a tough veteran with a lot of fight.
Tristan (San Francisco, CA)
Lol, barely any Arizona question so far. I guess I should start it off. Can the Cardinals' defensive line (assuming they are healthy) challenge SF for the best in the division?
Mike Sando (2:41 PM)
I think that's feasible if Justin Smith starts acting his age one of these years. It has not happened to this point. The Cardinals might have better depth at nose tackle. All four lines in the NFC West look pretty good. There are unique talents on the lines. Calais Campbell is a unique player at 6-foot-8. Red Bryant is a unique player as a 340-pound five-technique defensive end. Bruce Irvin could be a unique player in that he's a pass-rusher with potential 4.4-second speed. Chris Long had 13 sacks for the Rams last season. Robert Quinn is joining him in the lineup this year.
I am interested to know how the extra pre-season game for the Cardinals will help or hurt them going into the season.
Mike Sando (2:42 PM)
I was generally in favor of it from Arizona's perspective because they need to evaluate quarterbacks in game situations. Having five chances instead of four seems favorable. Now, if a key player gets hurt, there will be second-guessing.
DeadSkinOnTrial (Santa Clara)
Who do you see as a surprise team in the NFC West?
Mike Sando (2:44 PM)
The 49ers are favored, so they cannot be a surprise team. Seattle is getting some dark horse consideration from Tedy Bruschi and others. Arizona has the potential to be a surprise playoff team. People are really down on their QB situation. The defense looks good. The offense has playmakers in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams and multiple tight ends.
335iRobot (Mesa, AZ)
The duo of Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield shows some promise. Acho was able to notch 7 sacks with 10 starts and Schofield had 4.5 sacks with limited spot duty ala no starts. Considering how aggressive the scheme of Ray Horton is, what would you project for this pass rush duo this upcoming season IF both are healthy for all 16 games. Haggans has to figure into the equation obviously but I think the Cardinals are better served playing the youth and allowing Haggans to be a veteran backup.
Mike Sando (2:45 PM)
Haggan does project as a veteran backup. If Acho and Schofield both start 16 games apiece, I'd expect a combined 17-18 sacks, maybe.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will Randy Moss on the outside eliminating so much double coverage allow Vernon Davis to challenge Gronkowski's touchdown record for tight ends?
Mike Sando (2:47 PM)
I wouldn't go that far necessarily -- Tom Brady is not the quarterback, after all -- but I do see good things from Vernon Davis based on how he finished last season (once he became comfortable in the offense). Look at his last five games, counting playoffs: 28 receptions for 536 yards and five touchdowns.
With all of the appeals and accusations that New Orleans members are doing, I think they are ticking off Goodell. All the while, the person who was originally the front ring leader, Williams, remained out of the spotlight. He took his punishment and just seems to be waiting it out. Do you believe by the approach New Orleans is taking and the difference Williams is doing will increase the odds that Goodell will reinstate Williams sooner than had he followed the same path as NO?
Mike Sando (2:49 PM)
Yes, I think Williams' only chance was to take this route. I think Williams had everything to gain from assisting the NFL in its investigation. He needs to remain in the background and hope that it pays off for him after the season. It's good for him when others (the Saints) take the heat.
Jim (Brookings, OR)
I'm really curious to know if there are actually any differences in the intensity level of the different teams practices?
Mike Sando (2:52 PM)
I went to minicamps for the 49ers, Cardinals and Seahawks. My impression was that the Seahawks were practicing faster than the other teams were practicing. There is a chance I was reading too much into things, knowing Seattle had been punished. I was trying to guard against that. But I saw Seattle practice before and after I saw the other teams practice, and that was just the impression I had.
Thank you for the good morning articles. What are your thoughts on Sidney Rice playing at a heavier weight? He seemed plenty fast enough so think it should do him wonders.
Mike Sando (2:54 PM)
You're welcome. My feeling is that Rice should have a better chance this season. Getting both shoulders fixed should help him start fresh. He supposedly hadn't been able to lift right before the surgery. Remember, too, that the lockout prevented him from working out under the supervision of the team training staff.
Mike B. (Niner Nation)
Even with the added weapons on offense, do you see the Niners altering their offense any, if at all? Or do you think they wil continue to run it like past years?
Mike Sando (2:55 PM)
There's at least a chance the team uses more three-receiver stuff on early downs. That could mean less playing time for Delanie Walker as the second tight end. Moran Norris wasn't brought back, and the team is working lots of non-fullbacks at the position. I wonder if we see less two-back stuff. Those are some things to think about as the offense adapts to the new personnel.
Tristan (San Francisco, CA)
Will Seattle's unorthodox D scheme ever copied by another team? Maybe if an assistant goes on to become a coordinator somewhere else?
Mike Sando (2:58 PM)
Tristan might be approaching the single-chat record for questions. We'll have to see. I like the question, though. Had a conversation with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on this at the Seahawks' minicamp. Pete Carroll did have a vision for the defense, but they also changed things to fit the personnel, especially early. I don't know if they would do things the same way if starting fresh someplace else. The personnel affected the approach, not just the other way around. Bradley would be someone to watch, though. I think he will become a head coach at some point in the future.
Sando, your answer to the Alex Smith question is misleading. He clearly doesn't care about numbers. And Jim Harbaugh will tell you so if you ask him.
Mike Sando (2:59 PM)
It's self-serving to not care about numbers when you don't have great numbers. The point Harbaugh is making is still a valid one: Smith can play the position well without putting up gaudy numbers for yardage and touchdowns. I was asked what Smith would have to do to get more respect. I said he'd have to put up better numbers. That's how I see it.
Hey Sando, love the blog. I was just wondering with the additions of an inside and outisde pass rush with Jason Jones and Bruce Irvin, and a QB that can extend drives (hopefully) in Flynn or Wilson, do you think 10 or 11 wins is a reasonable expectation for Seattle this year? Health provided of course.
Mike Sando (3:02 PM)
Thanks, Chris. I'd put the number in the 9-10 range as a reasonable expectation. I thought the Seahawks improved last season even though their record remained at 7-9. They were much more competitive in their defeats, but the quarterback position limited their ceiling (the 2010 team had the potential to win a playoff game because Matt Hasselbeck, at his best, was better than Tarvaris Jackson). It's tough to know how much higher the ceiling is going this year. I do think the quarterback situation has improved. The depth is better. But what is the potential? I don't know the answer to that yet.
We've been debating in your blog who will win the Week one matchup between the 49ers and Packers. Give us your really really early prediction for the game.
Mike Sando (3:05 PM)
I'm taking the Packers at home and figuring the 49ers' offense might need a little time before it travels well. It's just hard to go against Green Bay at Lambeau Field. It's a great matchup, though. The Packers are flawed on defense. The 49ers will want to make a statement early. I could talk myself into picking the 49ers and perhaps I will, but right now, in June, it's Green Bay.
Jim (Los Angeles)
Any chance the chat will run 7-9 minutes long to address questions about Seahawks?
Mike Sando (3:06 PM)
Not bad. We're going overtime, yes.
Having seen Robert Turbin and Winston Guy at OTA's how do they look? I've heard a lot of praise about Guy in articles and was wondering your opinion, and expectations (if any) for the player this upcoming season. For Robert Turbin do you expect him to secure the backup role to Lynch? How has he looked at camp?
Mike Sando (3:10 PM)
Guy was easy to watch because he was wearing a red non-contact jersey (not that contact was allowed, of course, but he was coming off shoulder surgery). I'd expect Guy to emerge as the successor to Atari Bigby. Turbin looks pretty quick for his size. We need to see him in contact situations. Seems to me he has to be the No. 2. Not that he'll get the second-most carries on the team necessarily, but he'll be the guy who plays if Lynch gets hurt.
Hi Mike,Have you met Michael Crabtree and by chance shaken his hand? I was wondering if his hands were really that soft.
Mike Sando (3:12 PM)
I've shaken his hand but don't recall much about it. Can tell you that Jerry Rice's hand is one you'll never forget. It's absolutely huge. No wonder he could snatch the ball. Not sure I can recall shaking a bigger (or at least longer) hand.
335iRobot (Mesa, AZ)
Which secondary in the NFC West do you see as being the most dominant and which secondary do you think has the most upside over, say, the next 2-3 seasons?
Mike Sando (3:16 PM)
These questions about NFC West defenses are forcing me to realize how good the division could be on that side of the ball. There's a lot to like about the secondaries in the division. Seattle had three Pro Bowlers from its secondary last year, and a fourth player, Richard Sherman, who might have been the team's best corner. San Francisco had two Pro Bowlers in the secondary and a third, Donte Whitner, who made his presence felt. Arizona's secondary had one Pro Bowler, Adrian Wilson, and arguably the most talented corner in the division, Patrick Peterson. The Rams have addressed the position this offseason. I'll go with Seattle's secondary as most dominant because the corners are huge and can dominate physically, while the safeties form arguably the best tandem in the league. Earl Thomas can be the next Reed/Polamalu type, and Kam Chancellor is a big-time enforcer. Seattle probably gets the vote for most upside as well, because all four starters are just getting going.
Tristan (new york, ny)
To be honest I am not a fan. You completely dropped the ball with the Niners success last year. It was clear that the Niners and Alex Smith had something special but you and the other writers refused to give credit were credit was due. My question is, will you wait til the final hour to give the Niners the credit they deserve or are you prepared to say the Niners win 11 or more games this season?
Mike Sando (3:21 PM)
Dropped the ball? Pretty sure that was me at Candlestick Park for the October game against the Bucs, saying there was nothing flukey about the 49ers' fast start. It was pretty clear early on that San Francisco was onto something. At the same time, skepticism was warranted heading into the season given that the 49ers had a new coaching staff and little time to prepare. Of course the 49ers can win 11-plus games this season. I've said this week that 10-11 was a reasonable goal.
Jeremy K. (Fairfax, VA)
Sando, is there really a chance that Dashon Goldsen will not sign and will sit out or be traded? It appears the safety position would be in big trouble without him and he knows it.
Mike Sando (3:23 PM)
I expect Goldson to show up when it matters. He has a lot at stake. The 49ers could play hardball too. They could pull the tag and watch to see how quickly another team gives him $6 million a year on short notice. Seems like he learned last offseason how unforgiving the market can be.
Any news on how Scott Wells is doing with his new offense, and how much do you think he will help out Sam Bradford next year?
Mike Sando (3:24 PM)
Wells had knee surgery this offseason and hasn't done much. He's expected back for camp. I think his experience and leadership should help Bradford, but it's the sort of storyline that can be overplayed. Bradford has to play well independent of that.
Freddy P (9er Empire)
Mike, what are the chances the 49ers regress ala the 2007 Bears?
Mike Sando (3:25 PM)
That's an unfair question, I think. It's well established that 13-3 is a special year. I wouldn't measure the 2012 team off that standard. Would 11-5 be regressing? I wouldn't say so necessarily.
Andy Lee MVP (Chicago)
Even though the Cards have Peterson, I still believe the 49ers have the best all around special teams unit in the NFC West if not the NFL (maybe too bold). That's what separates them from the NFC West. Your thoughts Sando?
Mike Sando (3:26 PM)
Their defense has separated them as well. Not just the special teams. I do think the special teams is part of what lets the 49ers play the way they've played on offense, and still win.
A common PR move to hide bad news is to release it on Friday afternoons so that people forget about it over the weekend. Are you feeling less than excited about this chat (and maybe the looming 6 week drought in football activity)?
Mike Sando (3:27 PM)
Ha, I wish I had that kind of a PR plan for the blog (not really). I moved back this chat because my family had plans for Thursday. They were counting on me to spend some time with them while the chat was scheduled. So I made the adjustment.
What are your plans for training camp coverage Sando? Traveling equally between the four? Or just gonna hedge your bets and camp out in Santa Clara for the "relevant" NFCW news?
Mike Sando (3:30 PM)
I'll spend the longest amount of time with the Rams because I don't get to St. Louis for minicamps, generally. It's a longer trip for me. Last week, I hit camps for the 49ers, Cardinals and Seahawks on successive days. Doing three teams in three days would not be practical for someone living on the West Coast (as I do) if the Rams were one of those teams. So, training camp is a good opportunity to get some extra time there. I'll go from there to Canton to check out the Cardinals' preseason opener. I'm wondering about hitting the Cardinals first, before going to St. Louis, as they start a bit early (thanks to the Hall of Fame Game). The 49ers are an easy trip for me geographically. I'll let you know when I'll be with them. It's not set yet.
Joe C. (Fort Worth)
Hey Sando... I follow your work and follow the chats, and I can say this isn't the first time you've faced a tough question head on (i.e., one that attempts to take you to task). This is one of the reasons I AM a fan of your work... you will step up and face questions that are critical of your work.
Mike Sando (3:33 PM)
Thanks, Joe. I really welcome them. It's one thing I love about having a comments section on blog entries. Once a person lets go of the natural instincts relating to self-preservation, there are a lot of opportunities for self-scouting, as the coaches like to say. It's really just being accountable and hoping to advance the discussion. We can all learn a lot that way.
Mike Sando (3:33 PM)
Wow, we've gone about 90 minutes on this one. Guess I'd better head back to the blog. See you there, hopefully.