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!
Drew B (STL)
With Isaiah Pead out for the opener serving a 1 game suspension, do you see him climbing back into the starting rotation or assuming the same role as last year?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
I didn't really see Pead as a starting running back in the NFL because he seems to project more as a change-of-pace back. Now, he could still compete for most carries on the team. But in terms of being a starter, I'm not sure he's going to be that. I would say Pead will immediately climb back into the rotation and probably play a prominent role within that rotation, even if he is not starting.
DTrain_BeastMode (Seattle, WA)
Being his first full season, do you see that having any impact on CK's performance? For the way he plays, do you see him at a higher risk for injuries like RG3?
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
I'm expecting Colin Kaepernick to continue playing at a high level with a full offseason as the starter. He doesn't really take big hits. He took sacks on five percent of drop-backs in the games he started, which was below the NFL average (5.9) for players with at least 150 pass attempts in a starting role. Kaepernick was a flat-out runner in college, so he can take a hit. I expect him to be pretty smart about how he runs the ball.
Tigre (South Of The Border)
Hey Mike, thanks for keeping us entertained and informed during the off-season. My question is do you think Mangini was hired in anticipation of the 49ers losing one of their top coaches in the near future?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Thanks. I think that was a consideration, yes, but not necessarily the overriding one.
With the addition of Winfield and Jeremy Lane's play last year, what kind of role do you see Thurmond playing this year now that he is healthy?
Mike Sando (1:11 PM)
The Seahawks are very good at cornerback throughout the roster. Thurmond mostly has to stay healthy. If he does that, I think they'll find a way to get him on the field at times. But it's pretty clear that Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will start, and Antoine Winfield will be the primary slot corner. Let's see if Thurmond can stay healthy first.
Tigre (South Of The Border)
Did the Rams do enough at RB to contend this year? The O-line is improved, but I think ultimately they're going to miss Steven Jackson's leadership and toughness.
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
I'm not overly excited about the situation at running back because the group is so unproven, but I'd rather watch the young guys battle it out than watch Steven Jackson for another season. And I think that is what it came down to. Also, it's never going to be Sam Bradford's team if it's Steven Jackson's team.
All the hype on the Rams' offense seems to be with Quick, Austin, Cook, and Bailey. However, I think more of it should be going to Givens. He's proven the most so far in the NFL and should hopefully only get better. Do you agree?
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
Totally agree. Chris Givens is too often a forgotten man. He had all those receptions of 50-plus yards (five, as I recall) but late in the season he also showed more versatility. He is someone they can really be excited about. The most proven wide receiver on the roster, if you think about it.
Has Chris Harper already leapfrogged guys like Kearse and Charly MArtin?
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
Well, we're not even in camp or the preseason games, so we should not anoint him, but I anticipate him being ahead of those guys.
What remains the weakest position on the Cardinal roster? My guess is pass rusher...
Mike Sando (1:19 PM)
Some of that depends how much 3-4 defense they play. In a 3-4, I would think OLB would be the biggest weakness. I have a few questions about safety, too. They might be fine there. I'm just not sure what they've got. As far as the pass-rush in general, Arizona has gotten to opposing quarterbacks without having a single rusher with 12-15 sacks. They ranked sixth in opponent sacks per drop-back last season (6.8 percent). Denver (8.3), St. Louis (8.2), Cincinnati (8.1), Green Bay (7.4) and Houston (6.8) were in the top five.
Chris Robot (335iRobot) (Mesa, AZ)
There is a lot of positive vibes coming from the early goings of Cardinals OTAs. Not that I would expect a lot of negative talk but last season there was a lot of reporters talking about how the defense looked dominating and the offense was NOT crisp. Not it appears that there are reporters saying the WR corp looks great (Fitz, Floyd, Roberts) and Palmer is throwing the ball well. Both sides of the ball are having their praises sung and I'm having a hard time keeping myself contained. Have you heard any rumblings from Arizona's offseason thus far?
Mike Sando (1:20 PM)
Yeah, I think a new coaching staff and improved quarterback situation produces optimism, and that a lot of that is justified right now.
What's the battle shaping up like for Leroy Hill's old spot? Has anyone flashed during OTAs that you'd expect to have the jump on the starting role? Or is this Malcolm Smith's job to lose?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
There was a desire last season to go with Malcolm Smith, but they needed him on special teams and decided to let him focus on that. I do think he's going to fill a lot of that void, but they are going to move guys around. KJ Wright will probably play on the weak side in some packages with Cliff Avril among those playing strong side in those situations.
Greg Cosell recently said on a podcast with Doug Farrar that Cardinals O-line coach Larry Zierlein views RT Bobbie Massie as a better Guard. Levi Brown is back, but has played at a Pro Bowl level as a RT in the past. Jonathan Cooper was drafted #7 to play LG, moving Daryn Colledge to RG, but also getting reps at Center. My point is, things hardly seem settled there, but I don't mean that in a bad way. How do you think it all turns out?
Mike Sando (1:26 PM)
I think Levi Brown starts at left tackle, Jonathan Cooper at left guard, Lyle Sendlein at center, Daryn Colledge at right guard and Bobby Massie at right tackle. They did pay a bonus to Colledge, so it looks like he's part of the plan this year.
Pete Carroll seems to make a point of mentioning Doug Baldwin when he talks about the WR position. Is his potential role being downplayed too much?
Mike Sando (1:28 PM)
Baldwin is a bit of a forgotten man because Percy Harvin is there and everyone got bumped down a spot on depth chart. Baldwin has to stay healthy first. I would think there will be fewer chances for him from the slot.
Mike, please rank NFC West QB's by their arm talent (Stength, accuracy, catchable ball ect). If you can, please include back ups.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
That would take a little time. I'm pretty sure Colin Kaepernick has the strongest arm in the division. Russell Wilson presumably anticipates throws well to compensate for his lack of height, which makes seeing the field a little tougher from inside the pocket (where he has been effective). Carson Palmer at one time owned arguably the best deep ball in the league. I'm not sure how much he has lost there, but he has some competition for that in this division. I haven't even mentioned Sam Bradford, but he would rate well in the areas you mentioned. This would take some time to sort out.
Coaster (N. Cali)
What's with the discrepancies in your reporting on the Revis/Harvin trade situations? If I recall, your line of thinking was that the 49ers would have locker room issues if the 49ers traded for Revis and paid him but you didn't seem to have those same concerns with the Seahawks acquiring Harvin. To me, the 49ers have the more stable locker room and players who have been getting extensions tend to not have ill feelings toward other players getting paid. The Seahawks locker room has proven to be immature and their young guys are all still waiting to be paid. Can you explain your thought process on these dynamics?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
The concerns were not really mine. The concerns belonged to the teams. I know the 49ers' philosophy is to generally not pay big money for guys from other teams, for the reasons you stated. That was one reason they did not pursue Nnamdi Asomugha. I raised that as a potential concern relating to the Percy Harvin acquisition in Seattle, while pointing out why the Seahawks did not see it as a concern (they said they could still re-sign their own core guys, and they started it off by re-signing Kam Chancellor). In conclusion, I think the Seahawks did take a risk by paying big money for a veteran player from another team, and I'll be watching to see whether it seems to affect their ability to sign other players down the line.
Jean-Luc Picard (USS Enterprise)
Would it be a good idea for the Hawks to put Clemons back in "ahead of schedule"? It seems to me a player north of 30 coming off major surgery probably shouldn't start playing again until everything is fully healed.
Mike Sando (1:35 PM)
I'd err on the safe side there. They need him back for a late-season push.
Mike - You seem to be the only person I have heard comment that the hiring of Mangenius could be a result of a difference in philoshophy between Baalke and Fangio. Any correlation to the drastic change in QB performance against the 49er difference in from reg season to playoffs? The pass rush disappeared due to a lack of rotation during the reg season and injuries allowing QB's to torch the secondary. Is it possible Baalke is sending a message to Fangio?
Mike Sando (1:39 PM)
I thought Trent Baalke made it clear this offseason he liked the team's depth on the defensive line. He made it clear he thought that depth didn't play as much because of the defensive philosophy. Baalke is in charge of building depth. Vic Fangio is in charge of the defensive philosophy. In general, personnel guys want to see their players play. So, if you think the 49ers' defense suffered late in the season partly because of depth issues in the defensive front, it is fair to wonder whether Baalke would have wanted to see more of those younger players getting reps during the season. I don't see how anyone could see Eric Mangini's hiring 100 percent in the context of him being a senior offensive consultant. I thought it was worth expanding the view a little bit and at least considering other possibilities.
Razoreater (South Bend)
Mangini quote "Being at ESPN and getting a broader view of what?s happening in the league, maybe that can have value." Have the 49ers essentially bought the rights to Mr. Mangini's brain cells where an encyclopedia of the NFL's past two seasons resides?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
I think that is overstating things. It's not like the 49ers don't already have a strong macro view of the NFL over the past two seasons. However, I'm sure they valued an outside view from someone who knows the league well and seems to be quite smart.
Mike G (Alaska)
Has there been any correlation to more injuries to teams that went further in the playoffs the previous year...with less time off to recover...then coming out too fast in OTA's and sustaining more injuries?
Mike Sando (1:43 PM)
I don't know for sure. However, the chances for injury increase as a player spends more time on the field. That seems pretty obvious. There become more opportunities for getting hurt. That doesn't mean there's a correlation every time. It just means your chances for injury increase. As far as the time between the Super Bowl and OTAs, it seems to me players would have ample time to recover from most of the wear and tear.
Brian Goudy (Boston)
Sando how do you feel about the loss of Brandon Gibson for the Rams? Is he someone, dare say, Bradford made look better than he actually was? He made some plays, but he also didn't more often than not in my book.
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
I'd rather see the other guys play than move forward with Brandon Gibson taking away reps from those other guys.
I look at the Rams and I see a team ready to make a jump to be a good competitive team, but, in my opinion, they have so many question marks on offense. Their defense will keep them in most games this year, but I see their offense having a tough time. Thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
The unknown is a little scary. I understand where you are coming from and wonder whether you are going to be right. However, sometimes the unknown is an upgrade.
Baltimore Defense (Safely inside the 5 yard line vs SF)
What do you say to the many 49er fans that want to disqualify everything Matt Williamson says just because he doesn't rank them as highly as they do?
Mike Sando (1:45 PM)
That is hilarious. Matt loves what the 49ers have done. He thinks Colin Kaepernick can become the best QB in the division long term (although he thinks Russell Wilson is ahead of Kaepernick right now).
Have you heard the theory of the seahawks going possibly to a base nickel defense?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Red Bryant would be a very highly paid backup in that scenario.
I read that Phil Dawson has been going to Candlestick and has practiced. I know he is only a kicker but they are the ones who can win/lose a game. Was the addition of Dawson an under the radar pick up for the Niners?
Mike Sando (1:48 PM)
Seems like kicking accuracy can be pretty variable from year to year. I'd have to research that a little more, but my feel is that more teams should go with rookies than we might imagine.
John Carbeau (Valley of Sin)
Who should be the 49er's leading WR until Crabtree returns? Are the 49ers finally going to start getting Vernon Davis in the ball? It's almost comical how little they use the best pass catching TE in football. No TE is better with the ball in his hands.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Wide receivers could be in better position to have more receptions. Anquan Boldin comes to mind there. Davis should become a bigger part of the offense -- like he was in the playoffs.
Mike, I wasn't looking for one of your amazing spread sheets...just wanted a gut call of who has the best arm talent. But, if you want to do a blog post and poll some of the great QB minds at ESPN, please do so!
Mike Sando (1:50 PM)
If you just asked about arm talent in general, I would go with Colin Kaepernick most likely. But I like the arms in this division overall. No problems there.
James (Mesa, Az)
Hi Mike, thanks for hosting the chat. Arians said earlier this year that he likes competition on the o-line. I've heard multiple sources say he likes to play young guys. I know we paid Daryn Colledge a bonus, but I love this kid Watford. Having Colledge cross trained at all the interior positions makes him a good fit to be our util lineman like Snyder was supposed to be and Hadnot was before him. How crazy am I to hope for Watford to win the RG spot? Too early to tell I know, but too early to ask?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
That's not a bad call at all, James. I was a little surprised they paid the bonus to Colledge. Maybe I should be careful about reading too much into what paying that bonus represented. I'm thinking they envision Earl Watford starting within the next two seasons. Just not sure it happens this year.
Eddie Roche (Holliston)
Sando if by some miracle the Rams were to win the NFC West in 2013, can you give any insight into how those on the blog would react? I can't even imagine to be honest.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
It would be wild. Mike Martz was the coach when the Rams last won the division title. Marshall Faulk was the leading rusher. Torry Holt had nearly 1,700 yards receiving. It's been too long.
Brandon (Pullman, WA)
Sando I think he means because Leroy Hill is gone they would play with an extra DB, not without big Red
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
OK, I see what you mean. When I think nickel, I think no Red Bryant. Most of that stuff is going to depend on the opponent.
Also, I would love to see a post polling QBs from ESPN regarding NFC west QBs foot work, pre-snap reads/adjustments, leadership, intangibles, ability when a play breaks down, football IQ and arm talent. Thanks Sando you are the man!
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
I also like some of those categories. Sounds like a fun project. It's on my radar.
Mike Geary (Wallace)
We know Antoine Winfield has been a great player in his NFL career. At his advanced age, are the Seahawks going to use him more in a safety role when faster players are on the field? As a Hawks fan I don't want to see him on guys where this is a clear speed mismatch.
Mike Sando (1:57 PM)
I'm thinking he plays near the line of scrimmage, covering from the slot and supporting the run.
Stan (Greatest 49er fan ever)
Harvin, Avril, and Bennett are already injured. Is it too early to laugh at the Seattle front office? They could learn a lesson from Baalke.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Injuries happen to every team. Michael Crabtree and Justin Smith had surgeries this offseason. That wasn't the fault of the front office unless you think Justin Smith was injured from overuse. I think Seattle is expecting the three guys you mentioned to play extensively.
Brandon (Pullman, WA)
I look forward at some point to your yearly post about how many players each team is going to keep at each position. The Seahawks have some interesting depth at certain positions, such as Sherman, Browner, Winfield, Thurmond, Simon, Lane, and Maxwell all play the CB position.Do you see some tough cuts coming this year? I'll also be interested to see who makes the practice squad.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Yeah, I've gotten away from those positional roster breakdowns recently, but I've been doing those for probably close to 15 years. They are good exercises. And there will be some tough decisions. I don't think these teams will be bashful about parting ways with players they've drafted relatively early in the past, if necessary. This could be a big summer for guys like John Moffitt, for example.
Mike Sando (2:01 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat. See you on the NFC West blog.