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May 18, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Mike Sando

Mike Sando
  (4:02 PM)

Good to be here. And, yes, I did turn on auto-update. Let's get rolling.

PatW (Moses Lake, WA)

If Skelton beat out Kolb, Do you think the 5 and 2 record we saw last year would continue? I think if Skelton got his mechanics right, helping his accuracy, he could be a solid starter. Thoughts?

Mike Sando
  (4:05 PM)

The investment Arizona has made in Kolb would ideally lead to the Cardinals giving Kolb another shot before bailing on him entirely. I mean, why pay the $7 million bonus this offseason? But if Skelton does win the job, I think he'll be inconsistent. Just didn't see enough last season to make me think he would be the answer. That performance at San Francisco comes to mind.

Kevin W (Bellevue, WA)

From what you've seen and heard, how has Ricardo Lockette developed since last year's training camp? How raw is he compared to last year?

Mike Sando
  (4:07 PM)

Lockette hasn't played much, but I was very impressed with what he showed late last season. He has a flair for the big play. There's no evidence to suggest he's ready to become a factor from play to play, but I don't think the Seahawks are counting on that from him. They want the big-play factor from him. We won't have a feel for his progress on a play-to-play basis til training camp.

Jeff (Seattle)

Who is your favorite player, for each team in the Division, to interview?

Mike Sando
  (4:08 PM)

Off the top of my head, Steven Jackson from St. Louis, Michael Robinson from Seattle, Vernon Davis from San Francisco and Larry Fitzgerald from Arizona. There are other good ones.

Dennis (MI)

How competitive do you see this division turning out this year?

Mike Sando
  (4:09 PM)

Looks like we have three teams with the ability to be .500 or better. I think it'll be very competitive. San Francisco should be the favorite, but teams rarely win 13+ games, so I would expect that total to come back into a more realistic range, opening the door for the team that gets better-than-expected play from its quarterback.

ripstardust (Las Vegas)

It's striking to me how many 3-4 rd. draft picks are regularly considered for starting roles in Seattle. Do they seem to rely more heavily on the mid/late rounds of the draft than other teams that you follow?

Mike Sando
  (4:11 PM)

The Seahawks blew up their roster, so they had more jobs to offer. That is one consideration. I would also say middle rounds, not just third- and fourth-rounders. Kam Chancellor was a fifth-rounder. Richard Sherman was a fifth-rounder. I also think Seattle's defensive staff and personnel department have a good thing going. They seem to know exactly what they want.

erock (Santa Clara)

When are you heading to the 49ers facility and who are you most excited about seeing?

Mike Sando
  (4:12 PM)

I'll be visiting the 49ers during their mandatory June minicamp. Randy Moss is the player I'm most interested in seeing. What will the 49ers get from him? Just want to size him up and get a feel for the dynamics. Michael Crabtree is another one.

Damian (Seattle/Key West, FL)

What is your best guess/gut feeling for the division as a whole and their total combined record?

Mike Sando
  (4:14 PM)

Was thinking about this yesterday and this morning, just sort of reformulating expectations. Maybe put the 49ers at 10-11 wins, Seattle at nine, Arizona at eight, St. Louis at 4-6 wins? It is hard to know. I go back and forth on these.

Griz (Montana)

Let's say Matt Flynn is moderately successful next season. Could you still see Pete Carroll switching to Wilson since he seems to fit Pete's QB philosophy a bit more? Mobility and bootlegs are Wilson's strength and it seems to be what Carroll prefers in QBs. Seahawks

Mike Sando
  (4:15 PM)

Moderately successful will not be good enough for Flynn to hold onto the job. The Seahawks love Russell Wilson and want to see if he can overcome the one big strike against him: lack of height. They feel like Wilson has everything else. They're optimistic, but they just don't know for sure based on the height. That one trait explains why Wilson was still available in the third round.

Randy (Toledo, Ohio)

Don't you predict SF to win the division! Why are your predictions a kiss of death? Was it a pact with Satan?

Mike Sando
  (4:18 PM)

Football is largely unpredictable, especially in a division without established, reliable quarterback play. It's not like the AFC East, where everyone is trying to catch up to Tom Brady. We went into last season with Sam Bradford appearing on the rise, the 49ers breaking in a new staff under tough circumstances, Arizona spending big on Kevin Kolb, Seattle coming off a weird season featuring a 7-9 record and a playoff victory. So many variables in this division. The 49ers are the logical favorite based on what we saw from them last season.

Jeff (Seattle)

When you say Seattle at 9 wins and AZ at 8, are you weighing those numbers based on potential for friction in blog "discussions?"

Mike Sando
  (4:20 PM)

I'm weighing them based on impossible projections for quarterback play. Kevin Kolb and to a lesser extent John Skelton left a negative impression last season. In Seattle, Matt Flynn (and Russell Wilson) represent the unknown. They have the perhaps imaginary upside that Kolb possessed last offseason. We assume there's a potential to get better.

Joker (SD)

Assuming Alex has a second productive season under the current regime does that change his status of bust in your opinion or do we have to wait until the book of work is set equivalent to the amount of negative seasons?

Mike Sando
  (4:21 PM)

I've moved past considering whether Alex Smith was a bust. He was a bust as the No. 1 overall pick, yes, but he is no longer playing under his original contract. Jim Plunkett was a bust with the Patriots, but not with the Raiders. After a certain point, the bust conversation becomes a hindrance. I think we've passed that point with Smith. He's a good value under terms of his current deal.

Will (Tallahassee)

Are you saying that even if the Rams come into the season healthy, as opposed to last season, and maintain relative good health amongst their starters on offense and defense, that they would only get 4 or 5 wins? Really Sando?1?1

Mike Sando
  (4:23 PM)

I could be gunshy on the Rams after last season. Let me put it this way: After going 15-65 over a five-year period, the burden of proof is on the Rams. We must assume disaster until the Rams give us reason to assume better. Have you looked at the schedule? They gave away one home game already. Which 7-8 teams are they going to beat?

Sean (Buffalo)

OK Sando stop ducking it.. would you finally agree Smith still hasn't reached his full potential?

Mike Sando
  (4:25 PM)

Smith has not reached his full potential. Most players do not reach their full potential.

Ryan (Seattle)

Seahawks starting offensive line when the season starts?

Mike Sando
  (4:27 PM)

Early guess might be: RT Breno Giacomini, RG Deuce Lutui, C Max Unger, LG Paul McQuistan, LT Russell Okung. The thinking would be: Lutui is one of the five best when in decent shape; James Carpenter will be on physically unable to perform list; John Moffitt is also coming off a knee injury and I'd like to see how he fares before suggesting he'll jump right back into the lineup.

Randy (Toledo, Ohio)

You did a mailbag question about whether Flynn was the "most developed QB in the division". I read that and was thoroughly confused, I would think he'd be the least developed considering the lack of playing time and brand new system he's being thrown into. Could you explain the "developed" concept and why a guy with so little experience could even be in the conversation for it?

Mike Sando
  (4:28 PM)

We were discussing Flynn's background under Mike McCarthy in the Green Bay system. He has been developed the Green Bay way, which might give him an edge over quarterbacks who have suffered through multiple coordinator changes.

Will (Tallahassee)

In a chat a few weeks back, you named your all-division defensive team. You failed to put Cortland or JL55 or Chris Long on your list. JL55 is debatable because of Patrick Willis, but you really think that Carlos Rogers is a better corner than Finn?

Mike Sando
  (4:30 PM)

I don't recall making that selection at cornerback, but the truth is, I watched Carlos Rogers every week last season. I did not watch the Titans very much at all. Might need to see Finnegan play in the division before putting him on an all-division team. Chris Long is very good and could be a worthy selection. He has competition in this division, however.

Anthony (Anaheim, CA)

Seattle with 9 wins? What did they do to get two wins better? Or do they have a weaker schedule?

Mike Sando
  (4:31 PM)

They will not have Charlie Whitehurst starting a game for them. They will not be reliant upon a quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson) with a torn pectoral. There is some projection involved at the quarterback position. That projection could be incorrect. Do not know. In general, though, I think Seattle will get better play from the quarterback position.

Drew B (St. Louis, MO)

Mike;You have to admit that the rams have defensively upgraded almost instantly from last year. James Lauranitis is only going to get better now with Langford and Brockers in front of him. Quinn will more than likely be full time this year with Long on the opposite side. Not to mention the upgrades at every CB position. There has to be some optimisim there... right?

Mike Sando
  (4:34 PM)

Do you think Quinn will be better than James Hall right now, as an every-down NFL defensive end? I do not think so. Could be wrong. Seems like he'll have to grow into the role. The run defense should be improved, for sure. The secondary will be much better. I think optimism is warranted. I'd be shocked if the Rams went 2-14 again. I was shocked they went 2-14 last season. The home games against Seattle and Arizona in Weeks 4-5 will be pivotal, I think.

Dennis Ashley (Oroville, CA)

Mike: The Seahawks defense was ranked 9th overall last year; with the addition of Irvin to complement Clemons on the pass rush and Jason Jones rushing up the middle; with 3 of the 4 members of the secondary in the Pro Bowl; I am thinking a Top Three defense this year. Your reactions?

Mike Sando
  (4:35 PM)

I think Seattle will have a good defense, but with some really good quarterbacks on the schedule, it's unlikely the Seahawks will finish among the top three in yards allowed. I'd say top 10 is a good goal once again.

EDTGO (NY)

Sando I read your article who mentioned Flynn as the most developed QB in the NFCW. But I see the same hype/pattern in HAWK fans as I saw in Card fans last year. Flynn like Kolb last year biggest reason for the hype is that they had not played much. People saw tape on Smith, Tjax and Bradford and saw weaknesses, Given the limited tape on Flynn like Kolb, the fans where riding high on him. Do you see the same situation repeating itself.

Mike Sando
  (4:37 PM)

You could be 100 percent correct in that. I do see similarities, for sure. The feeling in Arizona last season was that the quarterback play had to improve even if Kevin Kolb were mediocre, and that the improvement would help the team win a few more games. The team did win a few more games, improving from 5-11 to 8-8, but how much did that have to do with quarterback improvement? The defense improved tremendously over the second half of the season. Patrick Peterson's punt-return touchdowns were huge. And then John Skelton, not Kolb, helped pull out some comeback victories.

alvaden (Phoenix)

Any reason for the change in positions between the Seahawks and Cardinals this year versus last? Both were ascending last year, both had a top 5 defense by end of season. Both have unproven QB situations, both have 1000 yard rushers. Is it this year's draft?

Mike Sando
  (4:39 PM)

The main reason would be general impressions about the quarterback position. Those impressions could be wrong. I also think Seattle's defense was more consistent throughout the season and could be reliable. It is possible, though, that the Cardinals' defense will continue its late-season trajectory. In the end, I'm not trusting the Cardinals' quarterbacks as much.

Damian (Seattle/Key West, FL)

With the Arizona Cardinals bringing the new WR weapon, do you see Larry Fitzgerald's number going down at all?

Mike Sando
  (4:40 PM)

Not really. Larry Fitzgerald is a great player. He had a couple of his best seasons with Anquan Boldin on the team.

Jeff (Seattle)

Serious question: If three teams from the West make the playoffs, with the Hawks playing in SF on a Saturday and the Cards playing somewhere else on a Sunday...would that be the greatest day in your ESPN blogging career or would it be the next weekend with the Hawks hosting the Cards in the NFC Championship game?

Mike Sando
  (4:41 PM)

Having two NFC West teams in the NFC Championship Game would be the greatest day in the history of the NFC West blog. I'd love it, regardless of which NFC West teams were playing in the game.

Randy (Toledo, Ohio)

Sando, I can't recall if you've answered it before, but who's schedule do you feel is laid out in the most brutal way? I would think SEA with the rough start that whoever their QB is gets to begin with.

Mike Sando
  (4:43 PM)

Each schedule has its own tough spots. Seattle does get three NFC West home games in the final four weeks, a chance to make up ground in the division if necessary.

Chex Norris (San Diego)

Do you consider the 49ers D the top in the NFL going into the season?

Mike Sando
  (4:44 PM)

Yeah, cannot think of one I'd take instead.

Anthony (Ogden, UT)

The Rams have been getting very high draft grades for a few years in a row, building through the draft, and now have one of the highest paid coaches in the US. How long before it all comes together? I'm a 49er fan and I think the Rams will be the second best team NEXT year.

Mike Sando
  (4:46 PM)

Those high draft grades didn't prevent ownership from firing the people responsible for making those picks. Ron Bartell, Donnie Avery, John Greco, Adam Carriker, Jason Smith ... not many contributions from some of those early picks.

roaddog (sacramento)

At what point is someone drafted "too high" to be used on special teams? Say punt/kick returner... Patrick Peterson may be an exception, but surely there is a rule of thumb here.

Mike Sando
  (4:48 PM)

Deion Sanders did it, too. Joey Galloway did it. Ted Ginn Jr. did it. If you're a dynamic talent, you could factor into the return game as a high choice. Tim Brown is another one, going back a few years.

tom page (bellevue, wa)

Draft grades are meaningless, they are based on what the writer thinks versus what teams think. Teams know more than the media in 100% of the cases.

Mike Sando
  (4:48 PM)

Teams know exactly what they want. That is the key part of this. Bruce Irvin might be a bad pick for some teams, but the Seahawks think he fits exactly what they want to do.

ripstardust (Las Vegas)

How much of the 49ers meteoric rise last year was due to health, versus the talent of players/coaches? I'm wondering if that was a "flash in the pan" or if they have staying power at the top of the NFC?

Mike Sando
  (4:50 PM)

Alex Smith's health was a big factor. I didn't expect him to start all 16 regular-season games. Thirteen wins is a high bar to clear. The 49ers could be just as good this season without winning as many games.

Deccarizzle (Bay Area)

Who's to blame for the 49ers losing the NFC championship game?

Mike Sando
  (4:51 PM)

The Giants.

OleSagginSeahawk (West of Seattle)

Mike, I'll reference you to your head coach pay article. I ask fellow commenters and they didn't seem to have the answer, either. Players get a bonus for reaching Pro Bowl status and playoffs. Do head coaches get a bonus ($) on top of their base salary in the same fashion? What's the norm?

Mike Sando
  (4:53 PM)

Good question. Contracts for head coaches remain shrouded in some secrecy. Seems like I've heard of coaches getting bonus pay for on-field accomplishments, but I do not know what is the norm. Sounds like something I should look into.

ripstardust (Las Vegas)

Two years ago, when SEA made the playoffs at 7-9, there was talk of changing the playoff rules/structure to prevent losing teams from having home field in the 1st round, or even from making the playoffs at all. Has that talk died, or are there still some who think changes like that could happen?

Mike Sando
  (4:55 PM)

That talk has pretty much died because that situation was an exception. People want the division title to mean something.

Dennis (MI)

Is the NFC west the worst division in the NFL?

Mike Sando
  (4:55 PM)

This is weird. It appears as though there was a two-year lag in this question getting through. Hope 2010 was a good year for you. Things have been looking up in the NFC West for a while.

tom page (bellevue, wa)

Is Cortez Kennedy the first player you have been an advocate for make it to the HOF?

Mike Sando
  (4:57 PM)

Yeah. I've been a HOF selector for the last three years, representing the Seattle market. So when a former Seahawks player is a finalist, my job is to present the player's case to the other selectors. That was the case with Kennedy. It has not been the case for others yet. Walter Jones could be next in line from the Seattle market.

OleSagginSeahawk (West of Seattle)

Sando- It was reported that Bruce Irvin ,wearing shorts and flip flops, leaped over a 6' blocking dummy. As tall as you are, and if you stood still, Could he clear your heigth? No dummy reference intended. hahaha

Mike Sando
  (4:58 PM)

These guys are freakish athletes. I'm 6-4. Guessing I'd take a knee to the face, which some of you would probably find amusing!

Pete Carroll is better than you (Pasadena, CA)

Yo, Mike Sando!!! Do you enjoy reading our comments? I feel we are probably one of the more amusing fans in the ESPN blog world.Please discuss and thanks for being the [man].

Mike Sando
  (4:59 PM)

Yeah, I do enjoy the comments sections on blog items. The interactivity and sense of community are a big draw for me. Makes things much more enjoyable for me. Also, I learn from others and value that aspect as well.

Mike Sando
  (5:00 PM)

Thanks for dropping by the NFC West chat. Back to the blog. See you there.