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 Burgandy (San Diego, CA)
When the Seahawk's O-line finally gels, how much improvement do you think we will see in Tavaris Jackson?
Mike Sando (1:02 PM)
You'll likely see significant improvement from how he has appeared during the preseason, based simply on production. I'm not sure how much he'll improve overall from his Minnesota days. He did not improve appreciably with the Vikings even though he had superior talent around him much of the time. The Seahawks can do a better job handling Jackson, but can they give him better weapons than the Vikings gave him over several seasons?
Sean 5-11 (Anchorage, AK)
Based on the 49ers' adoption of the West Coast offense, won't the skills of Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree be kind of overlooked with the emphasis of short-yardage passes?
Mike Sando (1:04 PM)
That could happen. The key will be for Alex Smith to deliver those passes accurately and on time to maximize yards after the catch. Smith has not shown over his career a great ability to do that, in my view. But if he improves in that area, Edwards and Crabtree have the ability to get extra yardage.
Joe (Santa Clara)
If you were GM, what type of contract (that he would realistically agree to) would you give Frank Gore?
Mike Sando (1:06 PM)
Tough one. The organization must consider what Gore likely has left at this point. Gore will naturally feel as though he's earned more than that. If I were the 49ers, I would politely explain my position, let Gore reach the end of his contract and then consider franchising him for a season.
Sean 5-11 (Anchorage, AK)
Mike, after your extended stay in STL and watching their training camp, do you see an emergence of Rams' players, aside from Steven Jackson to Pro Bowl caliber? Chris Long? Sam Bradford? Danny Amendola? James Lauranitis? Thanks for your input.
Mike Sando (1:09 PM)
I asked Steven Jackson which teammate was most likely to earn Pro Bowl honors next. He said Donnie Jones. I teed him up and sort of hoped he'd come up with a non-specialist. And I'm sure he meant no disrespect to anyone else on the team. I'll go with James Laurinaitis in part because some of the better NFC inside linebackers -- Patrick Willis, Brian Urlacher -- have withdrawn from Pro Bowls recently.
Greg (Vancouver )
Is Charlie Whitehurst really going to beat out Tarvaris Jackson for the Seahawks' starting job?
Mike Sando (1:13 PM)
I do not get that sense. The team was strategic in its thinking when endorsing Jackson for the job. There was a feeling Jackson needed a confidence boost after negative experiences in Minnesota, and that he might benefit from the public endorsement. I see no reason to undermine Jackson at this point based on that original thinking. Jackson has not bee horrible. He has struggled to sustain and finish drives for reasons that go beyond his own performance. Dropped passes and some protection issues come to mind. That does not excuse Jackson entirely. He's responsible for recognizing and dealing with some of the pressure that has come his way. But if the Seahawks felt as though Jackson needed strong backing to fulfill more of his potential, why undermine him so early in the process?
Wes Mantooth (San Diego, CA)
Their schedule aside, with having both offensive and defensive coordinators from the epic Giants-Pats superbowl, how possible is it for the Rams to crack the 10-win plateau this season? Thanks.
Mike Sando (1:15 PM)
It's impossible to set aside the Rams' schedule when considering what their record might be. I think 10 victories is unlikely. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks 8-10 victories is a reasonable expectation. We discussed that in a podcast that is set to run on ESPN.com Friday.
Chase (Lake Havasu)
If you were Cards GM right now, with the exception of QB play, are you more worried about your OL or pass rush?
Mike Sando (1:16 PM)
Probably the outside pass rush, just because it's easier to coach up an offensive line.
Mike (Eugene, OR)
Do you think the Seahawks' run defense can realistically get back to where it was last year before Bryant got injured? Given the way our division looks being able to reliably stop the run could help the Seahawks win close games. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:18 PM)
Yes, I absolutely think that is possible with Red Bryant in the lineup and Brandon Mebane getting more time at nose tackle. Colin Cole's status is worth monitoring here. He's injured and his contract could need some adjusting from the Seahawks' standpoint. But with good size in the secondary, Leroy Hill's reemergence and Aaron Curry's strength at the point (scout lingo there) against opposing tight ends, Seattle should be pretty good against the run once its defense jells a little. The 49ers could prove otherwise in the opener. They have the potential to run the ball well. But overall, Seattle should be strong against the run with its current players healthy.
Any idea when Michael Crabtree will be back, and do you see him as more of a slot receiver now with Braylon Edwards being the deep threat? I think this could maximize his skills and really set him up for a big year, if Alex Smith can get him the ball accurately and on time.
Mike Sando (1:22 PM)
The slot is a natural place for Crabtree in three-receiver groupings. We saw some of that last season. We have not seen how the 49ers plan to use Crabtree in 2011. Having Crabtree miss another offseason lowers my expectations for him. His timing with Alex Smith wasn't great last season. How can it be good this season with Crabtree generally keeping his distance during player-organized workouts, then missing all of camp?
Chase (Lake Havasu)
Some people don't believe Larry Fitzgerald is worth the contract he signed. I fully believe he is worth that money over the next five years, but the last three of those years, I am not so sure a 32-year-old receiver will be worth $15 million a year. Your thoughts?
Mike Sando (1:25 PM)
The Cardinals couldn't afford to let Fitzgerald get away. They were going to have to pay a premium for him. At least they got him under contract for a long, long time. They don't have to worry about the price going up three or four years from now. The NFL revenue pie could continue to grow over the next eight years, which would help Arizona in this situation. Fitzgerald is one of those rare players at a less-than-premium position who can justify a high, high price tag. I didn't have a big problem with what Arizona paid for him.
Mike, what's the one thing, now that you have seen all the camps, that has surprised you for each team?
Mike Sando (1:29 PM)
We actually had a category for this in each of the teams' Camp Confidential files. Brandon Gibson emerging for the Rams, Dashon Goldson re-signing for the 49ers, cornerback depth in Arizona post-DRC and Zach Miller's addition were the four surprises I singled out after attending camps. Updating those, I might go with Brandon Browner looking pretty solid as a 6-foot-4 corner in Seattle, NaVorro Bowman stepping up at inside linebacker for San Francisco, Patrick Peterson not yet starting for Arizona and Harvey Dahl appearing more athletic than anticipated.
meanly78 (deerfield beach)
Do you think Aldon Smith the first-round pick for the Niners has shown enough in preseason to warrant a starting role, and if so who plays the other outside linebacker spot.
Mike Sando (1:31 PM)
Yes, I would throw him out there and not look back. Just let him develop. And then I just don't see how the 49ers can keep Ahmad Brooks out of the lineup on the other side. John Clayton and I were discussing this on the phone the other day. There's a school of thought suggesting Brooks is really best suited for only a situational role, and that turning him into an every-down player would take away what he does best. That would be something to monitor.
Kyle (St. Louis)
Mike, I caught your poscast with Bernie M. Is it really fair to say that Donnie Avery is injury prone? He only missed one game his first two seasons. He also seems to be right on schedule for recovery from an ACL injury. He's at full speed currently. Maybe this is being overblown?
Mike Sando (1:34 PM)
Donnie Avery has been nicked up quite a bit and played at far less than 100 percent in some of those games. The Rams just had no one else better. Check out his player news on KFFL to see what I mean. Lots of injury-related notes over the years. I give him credit for fighting through things when he could and producing upon his return to practice last week.
How is Robert Gallery looking to you after two weeks? I have my concerns. He appeared to get manhandled frequently last weekend, and he looks lost in pass pro. Isn't his familiarity with Cable's scheme one of the reasons the Seahawks brought him in? I know he has a rookie to his right, but is this a legitimate point for concern? I have not been impressed with Unger either, but am a little more willing to give him time to adapt to his new teammates and new system.
Mike Sando (1:36 PM)
Yes, this is a legitimate concern based on what we have seen so far. Gallery should still be better than what the Seahawks had at that spot last season. But it's clear his signing was a Tom Cable production all the way, not a case of the organization going after the most talented guard prospect available, independent of connections to the staff. And that is OK. There were good reasons for Cable to sign a veteran player he knew and trusted, particularly with so many younger guys on the line. Gallery does have value that way. The Seahawks must be hoping he picks up his game for the regular season.
dana (houston texas)
Is there any real faith in alex smith coming from camp, or is this just like every other year where he looks good in practice, and struggles in games, especially in short field situations?
Mike Sando (1:37 PM)
I'm leaning toward the like-every-other-year feel until proven wrong.
Joe (San Francisco, CA)
The Frank Gore "holdout" talk. I understand both sides. He wants to negotiate while he has leverage and the 49ers want to make sure he is healthy coming off last year's injury. How much of the holdout talk is from him vs "talk" being put out there by his agent?
Mike Sando (1:41 PM)
As a general rule, agents drive these conversations through the media far more than players do. Gore has no real leverage, in my view. It's not like this is a Super Bowl team that would fall off the face of the map without him. The team was 4-7 with Gore last season and 2-3 without him. His presence down the stretch might have helped the 49ers beat the Rams in Week 16, but that is debatable. And he wasn't going to be the difference in late-season defeats to Green Bay and San Diego.
champ (san dieGON)
Why are people so high on Sam Bradford when his numbers do not warrant it? Isn't it more accurate to say that Sam Bradford was the result of a poor team naturally getting better and his numbers were inflated by yards after catch from screens, and the team just naturally getting better, and the division stepping back?
Mike Sando (1:46 PM)
Bradford's poise, durability and strong play for a couple stretches (11 touchdowns, one interception over a six-game stretch) made a positive first impression. His numbers suffered from a few things. One, the team ran out of viable bodies at wide receiver. Two, he was a rookie starting from Week 1, never easy. Three, Steven Jackson was banged up all season, suffering groin and finger injuries. No one should say Bradford had a great season. We should simply acknowledge the fact that he performed admirably for a rookie while showing traits -- mobility, poise, accuracy, arm strength, etc. -- that suggest he could succeed in the future.
Matt M. (Wilmington, NC)
I have heard a lot about the Rams wide receivers. With every projection of potential receivers making the roster I alwasy see the two rookies: Pettis and Salas. Are either of these guys showing much promise? I havent heard a whole lot about them. Did you see much out of them on your visit to St. Louis?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
Austin Pettis looked pretty good last week. I do think it is safe to assume both get roster spots.
Steve (Walnut, CA)
What are your thoughts about why the Seahawks chose not to pursue a big, run-blocking FB to give them success in the run game similar to the Mack Strong and Shaun Alexander duo?
Mike Sando (1:47 PM)
How many of those guys are out there?
Northwest Guy (Gig Harbor, WA)
Sando, saw something in one of your posts that caught my interest. Either you said, or quoted someone as saying, that the Hawks' true interest was in getting Carson Palmer. If that is the case, when is he available? Does he have to wait more than one season? Also, how well do you think he'd fit with the Hawks and would he be more or less a stopgap in your opinion like Tarvaris Jackson?
Mike Sando (1:49 PM)
Yeah, an executive from another team told me he thought the Seahawks must be holding out hope for getting Palmer even this season. I don't get that sense from the team. Seems to me the Bengals will likely keep Palmer off the market this season, then consider their options in a year, at which point Seattle could definitely have interest depending on what other options are out there. Palmer would be an upgrade over Jackson, but his lack of mobility could be troubling.
Rafael (DC (Earthquake country!))
Any chance Golden Tate lives up to potential? Or will he rot on the bench behind the Seahawks other receivers?
Mike Sando (1:52 PM)
The Seahawks said on draft day 2010 they had Tate rated as a first-round talent. So far, we have not seen it. Nothing I have seen suggests he is close to putting it all together, even though Tate has made some spectacular catches in practice over his two seasons with the team. I do think he'll get more playing time, though. They need to see what he can do during games.
I admit, in the second round of the draft, I was expecting the Cards to take a pass-rusher, not a running back. But Ryan Williams looked every bit the part (even though it was only a couple preseason games). With you having seen him in person, would you have thought it realistic to expect him to replace Beanie as the starter?
Mike Sando (1:54 PM)
Wells was going to open the season as the starter. I thought Williams had a good shot at winning the job by season's end. His injury was a huge setback for depth and playmaking ability at the position.
Hey Mike, why doesn't the league allow for the early games the West Coast teams play on the East Coast be move to 4 p.m. ET? Teams like the Niners are at a real disadvantage in those games.
Mike Sando (1:55 PM)
Because the league doesn't care enough about the issue to make it a bigger priority. That is the bottom line. Sure, there would be some challenges, and TV concerns would need addressing. But first the league would have to feel as though this were a big issue.
Jason (Greeley, CO)
Which NFC West returner was hurt the most by the new rule change, The Hyphen or Leon Washington?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Let's go with The Hyphen, LaRod Stephens-Howling, because he plays home games indoors and kickers will have an easier time booming the ball through the end zone at University of Phoenix Stadium. Washington should have more chances playing in the elements at CenturyLink.
T-Mout (South Louisiana)
Why did the Seahawks pick up QB Jackson instead of someone better?
Mike Sando (1:58 PM)
Because they wanted someone familiar with their offensive system following a lockout-shortened offseason.
Mike Sando (1:59 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. See you on the blog.