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 (12:59 PM)
Hello. About to get going here.
Sando what do you think of Long and Quinn's chances of getting to Cutler with that horrible line up in Chicago?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
The pass-rush hasn't gotten the sacks I expected to see thus far. I do think Chris Long will get a sack this week, yes. He is due.
erockez (Santa Clara)
What is Randy Moss's demeanor around the locker room? Up until yesterday we had not heard a peep from him in over a month. I know you have been to both of the 49er games.
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Moss seems quiet when the media is in the locker room. We're not in there enough to say what he's like. I do know Vernon Davis and other players have loved their interactions with Moss. They say he's a great teammate.
Derek (Rock Island)
Has any division ever went 4-0 in back to back weeks?
Mike Sando (1:05 PM)
It's tough to do because teams have bye weeks and division games regularly. I don't know if it has happened with other divisions. Not with the NFC West since realignment.
Derek (Rock Island)
Interesting stat came up at the 49ers press conference with Jim Harbaugh. The told him Alex Smith has been sacked 51 times since the beginning of last season, the most in the NFL. With that said how scary do the niners become if they can shore that up a bit?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
It's definitely one area for improvement. I think it comes down to having ways for Alex Smith to unload the football. Smith is smart. He knows the offense. The 49ers need to have answers for quick pressure. Smith can make those throws. It's not all about pass protection. I'm surprised the sack numbers have been so high, really. Some of it is Smith deciding against taking a risk and just eating the football instead.
Alex (South Dakota)
Are the Rams a dirty team? I want to win, but not at the expense of our reputation turning bad.
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
I'm not seeing flat-out dirty play. I'm seeing a team playing on the edge of the rules, a team that isn't going to be the victim any longer.
If or when will we start to see LMJ play a role in this offense? A Sproles like contribution would add just another element for teams to have to prepare for.
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
The 49ers already have two really good backs in Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. I think they can afford to bring along LaMichael James at their convenience. It's a little bit like how I see the Randy Moss playing-time issue. They don't need him every play. Work him in naturally, don't force it. The 49ers can get James ready for later in the season in case they need him.
You think the NFCW can make it another 4-0 this weekend? I actually like our chances better this go around. GB for the Hawks and Philly for the Cards will be tough still.
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
The odds of all four winning are not good. But I do think every team in the division has a good chance. I'd put the Cardinals at more than 50-50 against the Eagles. I'd put the 49ers at 80-20 against the Vikings. I'd put the Seahawks at 50-50 or better against the Packers in Seattle. And I think the Rams are probably 40-60 at Chicago based on the state of the Bears' offense right now.
Auto update reads off.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
Thanks for the reminder. My oversight on that.
Chex Norris (San Diego)
Last year it seemed like the 49ers benefited greatly from good field position set up by their defense and special teams. This year it seems more like it's Alex Smith sustaining long drives. With Ginn hopefully coming back soon, how scary are these 49ers??
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
Good point there. I need to look at starting field position and scoring drive length for the 49ers. Could be a good angle to pursue. As for Ginn, let's see if he can get/stay healthy.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Mike, I'm picking the Seahawks to upset Green Bay on Monday evening (my birthday!). Do you think this is a risky pick on my part?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
Sure, it's risky, but I just think Seattle can apply the blueprint San Francisco applied. The Seahawks will likely run the ball well in that game. Their defense will likely make the Packers one-dimensional. Really like the way Richard Sherman is playing at cornerback. Green Bay doesn't have imposing receivers. Should be a competitive matchup.
When do you think Michael Floyd will actually get some playing time in? Do you think with Heap being injured he would be a good fit to fill the receiving TE roll? I heard the guy can BLOCK very well and he has decent size.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
I was just looking up the Cardinals' personnel use against Philly last season. They went with about 50 percent snaps featuring three or four wide receivers. They averaged 8.2 yards per play from three-receiver personnel (1.3 from 1WR, 5.3 from 2WR, 3.6 from 4WR). Maybe they can find a way to work in Floyd a little. If they do, it will be because Floyd has earned it in practice. That has to happen first.
If the Seahawks beat GB on Monday and Arizona loses to the Eagles, who will you rank higher on your power rankings and why?
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Seattle would rank higher than Arizona because of the role venue would play in the evaluation. The teams were basically even in Week 1, with Arizona prevailing narrowly at home. Last season, the teams were fairly even in Seattle, with the Seahawks prevailing narrowly at home.
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Revisiting the Cardinals' offense, they went 18 snaps with no tight ends, 22 with one tight end, 29 with two tight ends and two snaps with three tight ends when they defeated Philadelphia last season.
So Sando...any adjustments to the "fortunate if the Rams get 6 wins" prediction for the St Louis Rams?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Yeah, I would adjust that upward if Sam Bradford continues to play the way he is playing. Bradford's performance level is far and away the No. 1 on-field reason for the Rams becoming competitive. If he plays this well all season, the Rams would have a hard time finishing worse than .500.
Is Kevin Kolb the new Alex Smith?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Not yet. A little early for that.
Are some of these 49ers defensive players saying anything about that last minute loss to the Favre-led Vikings last time they were in Minnesota? Do you think that serves as motivation at all for this week?
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Nah, too long ago. Too much has changed. The 49ers' entire identity has changed.
Is the media blowing Moss's playtime way out proportion? It was said a long time ago he was going to be used sparingly to keep him fresh?
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
I don't think his playing time to this point is a big deal. The 49ers are playing offense the way they want to play offense. They're working in Moss. No need to force it. Great luxury.
John (Memphis, TN)
Watching that Rams win likely made my neighbors angry from all the yelling. 2 questions - will you go to Seahawks/Rams in Week 4 (I'll be there) and with Pettis returning, what do you think his role will be in the offense?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
Yes, I'll be in St. Louis for the Seahawks' game there. Then Arizona plays at St. Louis four days later. I'm hoping to make that one as well but haven't planned that far out. I don't see a huge role for Pettis right away. The other guys are playing pretty well. Guess we need to monitor Steve Smith to see what his trajectory looks like.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
Watched some of the 49ers-Lions game, and the announcers claimed that Alex Smith had previously been coached that a sack was as bad as an INT...now he's told a sack is preferable..so why complain that he's not turning the ball over?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
Because taking more sacks than any other QB takes can be dangerous to the long-term health. Sure, a sack is better than a turnover, but an incomplete pass is better than a sack.
Kyle (St. Louis)
How did Sam Bradford fare under pressure against the Redskins? I remember an article you wrote recently stating that he wasn't performing well when pressed.
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Bradford completed 11 of 15 passes for 110 yards and one touchdown with one sack and a 116.0 NFL passer rating when the Redskins rushed with five or more defenders. He completed 4 of 8 passes for 29 yards with one touchdown and a 98.4 NFL rating when under duress or being hit. That is pretty good, actually. I'd say he fared better than he has in the past. Before this season, Bradford completed 40 of 157 passes for 373 yards with one touchdown, two picks and a 36.4 NFL rating in these situations (under duress or being hit). Side note: Having access to ESPN Stats
Lotharun (Turlock, CA)
Alex Smith for MVP. Even as a 49er fan I wince when I see the Sando MVP discussion. You have him in second behind Matt Ryan. Do you wince even a little when you type about how well he's playing?
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
"Wince" isn't quite the word but I get what you are saying. What I'm trying to do is separate from the equation what we thought and knew about Alex Smith in the past. I'm trying to go by the things we should go by: how he leads his team, how his play affects his team's chances of winning, etc. And by those measures, Smith is on a high level right now. I also think having TD passes helps. Right now he has four in two games. It is tougher to hold up a guy for MVP when he's on pace for modest numbers.
Matt (Lady Lake, FL)
What is wrong with Steven Jackson?
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
Groin injury. He keeps suffering soft-tissue injuries that make me wonder if he's just too tightly wound from all the conditioning. Watching Daryl Richardson run the other day, I really had a sense this could be Jackson's last season with the Rams.
Are you using a website to come up with those stats for Bradford or is that from you? That's great information regardless.
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
I used to chart a bunch of stuff myself, but now ESPN Stats & Information does it. I have access to a file that has updated information. It's an Excel file, so it's in my language, so to speak. I can dial up stuff instantly.
If the Cards win against the Eagles, do you keep Kolb in on Week 4 if Skelton is healthy?
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Absolutely. There was no lifetime agreement with John Skelton. Now, if Kevin Kolb has a really rough game with three picks and six sacks, and Arizona wins because Patrick Peterson scores on a return and the defense dominates, then all bets are off and it's time to consider Skelton. But there's no reason to undercut Kolb a second time if he is making some strides and the team is winning. It's not like Skelton is Kurt Warner.
Pantalones Gigante (Seattle)
It truly appears Russell Wilson has been coached to not scramble and stay in the pocket unless absolutely necessary, and he is following orders. Considering his talent, they don't seem to be rolling him out or sending him running much. For all the talk of his "dynamic play" from Schneider and Carroll, this seems counter-intuitive. Do you think they will open that up a bit in the coming weeks?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
I think there's a tendency for a player who has been typecast to seek ways he can prove the skeptics wrong. Too short to see the field from the pocket? A scrambler? Well, watch me throw from the pocket. I also think quarterbacks must throw well from the pocket to succeed. So it's good Wilson is giving that a shot. Let's see what happens if the running game keeps gaining momentum. That could open the door for the bootlegs and movement plays.
I've got a question regarding the QBR statistic used by ESPN. Isn't the reason it correlates so highly with winning (in comparison to the traditional passer rating stat) due to the fact that it accounts for more of the overall team strength? By accounting for sacks (which can often be a function of coverage and/or pressure), it reflects the quality of the offense's line and receivers more than passer rating. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
The formula gives quarterbacks a portion of the blame for sacks. A QB with a better line is going to have an easier time producing, for sure. It's still a team game. I think QBR is best for reflecting how a player is performing over a longer term, like a full season. The per-game results are valuable too, but can be prone to some sample-size issues (as can any stat when applied to a smaller sample). For example, QBR said Russell Wilson was better than Sam Bradford in Week 2. Now, it said both were good, and I agree with that, but Bradford seemed to carry more of the offensive load for his team.
Matt M. (Wilmington, NC)
Could you really see the Rams getting rid of Jackson after he has quietly suffered and led this team through so many years of losing? He has always been the true definition of a team player to me. The thought of the Rams dropping him for a newer back makes me kinda sad...
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
Depends on whether Jackson can be healthy enough to factor consistently. And it also depends on what other options the team has at the position. No one gets a roster spot just because.
What's the difference between Trent Dilfer and Alex Smith? what puts Alex Smith on 'mvp watch' that never put Dilfer even near it?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
There was no MVP Watch when Dilfer was playing. Haven't compared the two.
Mike, I like what you said about the Rams not being the victim any more, but I still see them having trouble with runs up the middle.
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
No doubt. They're missing Michael Brockers and playing to their strengths. They are not going to focus all their energies trying to fix something that can't really be fixed right now. They are setting it up to make some plays in the red zone and mitigate the damage.
Golden Tate getting fined for his hit on Lee is absolutely ridiculous! .... not even a helmet to helmet hit, it was just a good football play
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
In my view, the hit violated the rules as the rules are written because Tate's helmet impacted a player considered defenseless. Criticize the rules, but not the application of them.
Way to dodge the question. What's the difference between Trent Dilfer and Alex Smith skill-wise?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Alex Smith can move better than Dilfer could move. Smith probably does a lot more before the snap than Dilfer did throughout his career. Part of that is because of the way the game has changed.
Will the Cards' ground game (or lack thereof) cause them problems the rest of the season? I can't see the passing game improving without their backs getting some more ypc.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Oh, I think the running game has to come around at some point. The one question I have is whether opponents can focus on the run without worrying much about the QBs hurting them down the field. That would be the one concern.
Does Bruce Irvin become worthy of his draft position this year, next year or never?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Looking like it's going to take a while, like he's thinking out there. I'd watch for him to hit stride during this season. He'll get enough playing time to work his way through it.
Why does the NFL not allow Alex Smith to wear a SF Giants baseball hat after the game during his post game press conference?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
I think it's on the slippery slope theory, that if they allow one guy to go this far, they'll have a lot of guys going way farther until the NFL and its sponsors are no longer comfortable with what is being portrayed.
Ehab (Washington DC)
Which game are you attending this weekend?
Mike Sando (1:51 PM)
Packers at Seahawks on Monday night.
Heard an interesting interview with Steve Young speaking about the NFC West. He mentioned a long term ebb and flow with NFL football in terms of defense vs offense. He then questioned whether defenses were beginning to adjust to the various rule changes and start to catch up to the dynamic offensive schemes we've seen the last few years. What are your thoughts? This arms race type way of looking at NFL trends seems to make sense from an NFC West perspective at least. I've seen a lot of previously dynamic pass-oriented offenses look very one-dimensional against NFC West teams so far this year.
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
An interesting point. Something has definitely happened to the Packers' downfield passing attack. Some of it could be the offensive line and diminished run threat. League-wide scoring is higher already this season, however.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
After the HUGE sample size of two whole games - who has the better DEF - Seattle or AZ?
Mike Sando (1:53 PM)
You pick one and I'll take the other. Holding the Patriots in check gives the Cardinals an early edge.
Northwest Guy (Gig Harbor, WA)
Sando,Settle a blog fight for us... 9er fans keep making comments about how Seattle is "copying" San Fran's game plan, stout defense tough run game etc. Can you put this to rest by pointing out to SF fans unequivocally, Pete Carroll and Gus Bradly were at this before Harbaugh even arrived.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Interesting point. I think the 49ers have been a year or so ahead of the Seahawks from a talent standpoint, but there's no question Pete Carroll was trying to install this blueprint before Harbaugh came to the 49rs. Check out my column from the 2010 Seahawks victory at Chicago. http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/25652/carroll-seahawks-get-signature-victory
Pantalones Pequeño (Seattle)
Some football analysis sites gave Breno Giacomini the best run-blocking grades on the Seahawks offense after the week 1 Arizona game. This surprised me, since Okung is supposedly a beast and Breno is just not as physically gifted. What are your thoughts as to the strengths and weaknesses on the Seahawks o-line?
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
Yeah, I saw that from Pro Football Focus. Gotta be a good sign when the run game goes off like that even though four-fifths of the offensive line wasn't grading out positively. Russell Okung did not play in the game. Frank Omiyale was going to have his hands full just breaking even. Rookie J.R. Sweezy rotated with John Moffitt. That leaves Giacomini, Max Unger and Paul McQuistan to evaluate. Unger would usually be the best of those three.
Do you travel to one NFC West game each week? If so, how do you decide which one?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Yes, I attend one per week. There are usually a couple weeks later in the season when I do not attend a game. Depends upon what is at stake. I'm not going to fly across the country to see a 4-10 team, for example (I would do it, but that's probably not the best use of resources). Usually I decide based on the best matchup. If there are two division teams playing one another, that can help. If the game is in an NFC West city, that can help because it lets me stay through Monday for day-after-game interviews. And then if the venue is accessible from Seattle without forcing me to connect seven times on the return trip, that can factor.
Did you hear about RG3 complaining that the Rams were playing dirty? Sounds like a whiner to me.
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Yeah, has he been around long enough to complain about such things in the absence of anything really blatant? Pretty new-school of him. Sometimes mobile QBs want it both ways. They want to run the ball and threaten defenses that way while still getting the protections reserved for pocket passers. It doesn't work that way. At the same time, if the Rams were delivering cheap shots (and I saw one in the first half, still have to re-watch the second half), that should be noted.
Mike Sando (2:02 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. See you on the blog.