Chat with Mike Sando
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, we'll have ESPN.com NFL Insider 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)
Great to be here. We will begin momentarily. Pouring myself a nice, cold glass of ice water and settling in.
Jesse Carbo (3 Putting)
IYO, which rookie QB will we see start a game first?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
My guess would be Johnny Manziel and that has not changed. Jacksonville seems more resolute about giving its rookie some time. Minnesota has more of a known quantity as a backup. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, I get the sense everyone from the owner to the fans is anxious to see Manziel.
Keyboardist David (Foxwoods)
25,000 fans at the joint practice of patriots/eagles just shows that the NFL is king.
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
Yes, but king of what? Actors and rock stars enjoy (suffer?) fame on an entirely different level. It's really striking to see. A good example is during Super Bowl week when the NFL trots out someone such as Paul McCartney or Tom Petty for a midweek news conference to discuss the artists' scheduled halftime performance. Some of these reporters who don't blink when they see John Elway suddenly go ga-ga as they make a beeline for the news conferences.
Do you think Kaepernick will take the next step and lead this offense? I am getting tired of all the Alex Smith worshipers saying the niners should have kept Alex!
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
I do think Colin Kaepernick will show signs of growth this season. I base this on how hard he works, the improved weaponry around him and the experience he is gaining as a starter. I do not think he is suddenly going to become the most polished pocket passer charged with processing max amounts of information the way Drew Brees does it, but guess what? There are only a few guys in the league who can do that consistently well.
Gabe (Portland, OR)
How much will home field determine the NFC champion this season? For me it's hard to imagine the Seahawks losing a home playoff game, it really makes it imperative that teams like SF, NO, and GB get the #1 overall seed.
Mike Sando (1:07 PM)
If the game is in Seattle, I feel like the Seahawks will be prohibitive favorites. If the game is in New Orleans, I also think that would be tough on a visiting team. We'll see how tough it becomes winning in the 49ers' new stadium.
Hello Mike. First Backup QB to start a regular season game?
Mike Sando (1:08 PM)
Trick answer: There are several backup quarterbacks who are already starting. I think Brian Hoyer and Chad Henne fall into that category. Matt Cassel probably does as well. Each one of those guys has a highly drafted "backup" behind him. I'd say one of those temporary backups will be the first into the starting lineup, unless another starter gets injured, which is tough to predict.
All we keep hearing out of Patriots camp is that they have a top 5 offense and a top 5 defense. I believe you build and win in the NFL with line play and I find the Pats offensive and defensive lines to be very average ( I thought Wilfork's play was poor before the ankle injury last year). If you can't keep the opposition from harrrasing your QB and if your defensive line can't get pressure on their QB or stop the run I don't believe you'll be very effective never mind top 5. Am I missing something? PS someone needs to tell Chandler Jones that there was an AFC Championship game he missed last Jan
Mike Sando (1:10 PM)
I wouldn't get hung up on the top-five talk, either. However, I do think the Patriots are improved since last season, based on health in particular. They got to the AFC title game last season. I see no reason why they cannot be in that conversation again, with an ever better shot at advancing to the Super Bowl. I like that team's chances and also think Tom Brady is plenty good enough to win another title.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Time to panic about the Jets CB situation? It was the weakest position group on the team when everyone was healthy. Now, what is it?
Mike Sando (1:12 PM)
The word "panic" is too strong. That team has a potentially dominant defensive front, which should take pressure of the secondary. The Jets should be in better position than most to weather depth issues on the back end.
Can Clausen become a viable backup for the Bears? Seems like he's a quick study under Trestman, and is healthy again.
Mike Sando (1:14 PM)
I'd have to say the glass is half full there, based on the way Josh McCown was able to play as the backup last season. I've heard good things about the offensive system in Chicago as far as being helpful to quarterbacks. To me, a viable backup is a guy who can give you a good shot at winning two of four starts while the starter is recuperating. I wouldn't necessarily put Clausen in that category, but the McCown precedent under Trestman makes me more optimistic from a Bears standpoint.
Hey Sando, do you know much about the 49ers' new stadium's noise capabilities? Are you anticipating the 49ers improving their homefield advantage over what they had at Candlestick?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
I know the 49ers have been extremely detail-oriented in the building of that stadium. They have also been very mindful of the advantages Seattle enjoys from a noise standpoint. I would therefore think the 49ers have done what they could do acoustically to enhance the crowd noise. In Seattle, the stadium is built on a small footprint (the smallest in the league, according to a piece Greg Garber wrote a while back). The thinking is that the small footprint enhances noise. I do not know anything specific about the 49ers' blueprint as it pertains to noise, but wouldn't you think they would have taken that into account on some level?
Everyone talks about how EJ Manuel is the key to the Bills season. I disagree. If the defense is as good as its looked this preseason, the Bills can be in the playoff conversation come December.
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Every team without a great QB becomes more dependent (to varying degrees, depending on the QB) on its defense and ability to minimize the QB position via a ground game. I do think the Bills will need a good defense AND at least decent quarterback play to challenge for a playoff spot. Also, when you consider the backup QB situation in Buffalo, we can enhance the case that Manuel must be at least decent.
At some point do we over-rate winning a single game (even if it's as important as the NFC championship). Many analysts suggest that Russell Wilson is a top tier QB after winning the Super Bowl last year while they feel Kaep has a lot of room for improvement. How does that narrative change if Kaep throws that pass a few inches further and the 49ers go onto win? From what I remember from that game the 49ers aren't even in it if it wasn't for big plays by Kaep while Wilson was largely a game manager with his only big play coming on free play from a defensive penalty where he knew he could throw it up for grabs.
Mike Sando (1:21 PM)
Those types of conversations are ones I have all the time with people in the league. I had it yesterday with Brock Huard and Mike Salk out at Seahawks training camp following our radio conversation there. The general consensus within the league is a reasonable one in my view: Wilson does a better job than Kaepernick and most QBs when it comes to avoiding mistakes, making Wilson the "safer" and more "dependable" QB both now and for the long term, while Kaepernick's physical gifts could put him in position to reach a higher ceiling over the long term. I get your point on that intercepted throw, but there were three fourth-quarter turnovers to consider in that game, not just that throw.
How much better is the terrible Bears defense and is it good enough to win a Super Bowl with the offense?
Mike Sando (1:23 PM)
I'd be quite surprised if the Bears reached the Super Bowl, based on the difficulty of the NFC in general. I also do not know how much better the defense will be. That really remains to be seen. I liked some of their moves, but there is age on that team, and with age comes some injury concerns.
Put to rest the best WR duo in the NFL, White/Jones, Marshall/Jeffrey, Fitzgerald/Floyd, or someone else?
Mike Sando (1:24 PM)
My instinctive answer is, "Calvin Johnson and whoever lines up on the other side." But I really love the Brandon Marshall-Alshon Jeffery pairing in Chicago because those guys are just so physically impressive and catch it so well. In Arizona, I'm interested in seeing what is Fitzgerald's career trajectory at this point.
Do you feel Sam Bradford makes enough of a leap this year to keep his starting spot?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
It seems as though they are so committed to him that he doesn't have to play great to keep his job. I would think he'll have a decent year and that could be enough to keep it. But they ideally should be drafting QBs and considering alternatives -- more than they have done so to this point.
Sando, I remember back in your NFC West blog days (we miss those days) you and Matt Williamson routinely opined that you felt that Colin Kaepernick had the better physical tools and higher ceiling than Russell Wilson (while Wilson had the high "floor"). Opposing fans trash talk Colin as though he's not going to get any better than the up-and-down performance he showed over the 2013 season. My question is this: do you still feel the same way about Kaepernick and Wilson and what do you want to see from Kaepernick to declare him reaching that superior ceiling over a guy like Wilson?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
Matt Williamson was really the one who was higher on Colin Kaepernick in the manner you discussed. Matt was most vocal in those thoughts as they pertained to Kaepernick vs Andy Dalton, who were from the same draft class. I would like to see how both Kaepernick and Wilson would fare on different teams, without top defenses and without top running games. That is not a knock on either, but the position is much easier to play in Seattle and San Francisco than it is in most places. If I were starting a franchise and had to pick either Wilson or Kaepernick as my QB, I would have a hard time not picking Wilson because I do think he's ahead of Kaepernick and the safer player to pick. But if I wound up with Kaepernick, I'd be happy about that as well.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
We know RBs have such a short shelf life, and some of the current elite backs are getting a bit up in age - AD, Lynch, Forte...who will be the best RB in 5 years? Shady? Lacy? Christine Michael? Or some guy in high school right now who will be a rookie or 2nd year player?
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
I might go with Eddie Lacy, a power back who is also quite nimble. I was talking to a retired Pro Bowl linebacker the other day who said he just loved Lacy for that rare combination.
Joey Higgins-Luckow (Madison, WI)
Hi Mike! Last week I got THREE questions in (pretty sure that has to be a record of some sort). Does ESPN have a feature of some sort that fans can write articles and have them reviewed by ESPN and possibly be put them on the site if they're good enough? I have a pretty good one (in my opinion, of course) defending sports writers' NFL season predictions against the fans in the comments section who all seem to complain about it. Kind of like a "three reasons why expert's predictions aren't as bad as you say they are" type of thing. Does ESPN have a section to email it in? If not, I could send it to you, and you could get the award for article of the year... I don't mind :)
Mike Sando (1:30 PM)
Yeah, send it to me on Facebook and I'll pass it along. And I'll read it, too. Anything that could defend my wayward predictions is music to my ears! Ha.
Matt (Portland, OR)
Am I the only one who thinks the Cardinals defense will take a step back now that they've lost Dansby and the suspended Washington? Their secondary looks top 5 on paper and their front 3 is strong, but losing two top notch ILB's in a 3-4 defense has to be a big blow.
Mike Sando (1:32 PM)
Lots of people think that defense will decline for those very reasons. I think those reasons are sound. I'll be watching to see how the offense compensates. That offense was pretty good down the stretch late last season. I would think the arrow would be pointing up offensively there.
Thanks for the chats! With all the 2015 HOF class talk, I was surprised Kurt Warner was barely mentioned. Shouldn't 3 SB appearances, 2 NFL MVP's, and 1 SB MVP pretty much put him into first ballot territory? I believe that was Steve Young's resume and he was a backup on 2 of them. I believe he also lead the league in YPP and completion % in 1999, which is just about unheard of.
Mike Sando (1:33 PM)
As a Hall of Fame selector, I tend to think Kurt Warner has a very good shot at enshrinement in his first year of eligibility. The interesting part is that so many other GSOT-era Rams are also newly eligible: Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Orlando Pace, Warner.
Matt (Portland, OR)
Who wins the NFC South this year?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
The Saints are my pick. I also think Carolina will not be as bad as advertised. Should be a very competitive division.
Thomas (Springfield, VA)
With the reports of the NFL considering increasing punishment for domestic violence, do you think the league would ever consider reducing suspensions for marijuana? What if players agreed to stricter testing for performance enhancing drugs?
Mike Sando (1:38 PM)
Yeah, I think the punishment for marijuana use in the NFL will ultimately become more congruent with evolving laws. The laws are ahead of the CBA at this point. On the domestic-violence front, I think the criticism pointed toward the NFL is largely misplaced. The way I see it, the NFL punished Ray Rice harder than the legal system punished him. Yet, there was no public outcry over the leagl system's handling of Rice. Why is that? Is the NFL some moral safety net here? I do think the video evidence put the commissioner in position to take a stronger stance than he took, but what about the legal system? The NFL punished Rice much, much more severely than the legal system punished him, yet nearly all the criticism is landing on the league. Is that rational? It seems politically convenient for opponents of the commissioner in particular.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
Is the Danny Trevathan injury significant enough to hurt the Broncos chances of home field in the playoffs? At first glance, it doesn't seem like that big of a loss, but he was their leading tackler last year, calls the signals for the D and was a 3 down player as their best coverage LB..in trouble or will the FA additions and the O carry them no problem?
Mike Sando (1:40 PM)
That injury hurts, but I think the season still hinges on the offense's continued excellence, the availability of Von Miller and the production of Demarcus Ware. Those are some of my keys.
Logan (Orange, CA)
Vegas has set the odds of breaking the single season sack record at 15/1. Do you think Robert Quinn has a better than 15/1 chance of breaking 22.5 sacks?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
He probably does, but other guys on that defensive line are going to get sacks as well, and Quinn could command additional blockers.
RE: Rice- so the question is why did he get off so lightly in our legal system? Probably because he can afford the best legal counsil available. That's where the commish had a chance to wrong a right in my humble opinion.
Mike Sando (1:42 PM)
The commissioner did have that chance, and it was an opportunity missed.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
Your fantasy offensive skill team lineup, go..QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs and a TE...
Mike Sando (1:44 PM)
I participated in a mock draft on Monday. You can check out the results here: http://tinyurl.com/SandoMock2014
Has Wilson or Kap ever been asked to carry an offense like Cam or Luck?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
The Panthers improved in the standings last season because they had a great defense that allowed Newton to do less. Luck is in an entirely different class from other young QBs when it comes to going 11-5 twice on a team with a weak defense and mediocre running back options. That is one reason why people in the league universally place Luck in a different category.
Snide south central [via mobile]
How long will d allen last as oak coach with his oh so predictable offense, in viewing them vs the vikes the passing game consisted of swing passes to the speedster m reesce.
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Dennis Allen is in a really difficult position there in Oakland. A list of 20 things holding back the Raiders probably would not include any mention of play calling. On the other hand, there were challenges in Oakland when that team went .500 with Hue Jackson, as I recall.
dorian (san jose )
do you think realistically there will be to many distractions injuries and the aldon smith suspension for the 49ers to overcome and contend for the superbowl let alone win it ?
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
I think the 49ers should get better as the season progresses and be in position to finish strong. Part of me wants to go against the grain a little by picking them to win the Super Bowl this year. This should still be a really good team. However, there are some real concerns on the injury/suspension front, and there is still Seattle to deal with in the NFC West, not to mention Arizona and possibly St. Louis.
Austin Ellsworth(Nebraska) [via mobile]
Considering the vikings drafted teddy Bridgewater this year how do you see Minnesota finishing in the nfc north this year?
Mike Sando (1:56 PM)
I see the Vikings having the fourth-best QB in the division, which will make it tough to finish better than third, most likely. But there is still enough volatility elsehwere in the division for the Vikings to finish higher than anticipated.
justin (Johnson City, TN)
Football Perspective, a math-oriented football web site, has stated that QBR is the BEST measurement to determine how the QB performs. Do you think that highly of QBR?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
I saw the piece from Chase Stuart asking whether Total QBR was the best measure. I have found QBR helpful. I have also found the thinking behind it to be helpful for those of us looking for ways to better analyze player contributions.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What NFL Football Games will you Be Attending in 2014?
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
I will be at the Chargers-Seahawks game Friday night and the Browns-Redskins game Monday night. It's looking like I'll be at a lot of Monday night games this year.
Mike Sando (2:00 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat this week. My pleasure as always. Have a great rest of the week.