Good morning/afternoon. Great to be here.
Recently, you wrote"The disparity in win-loss records largely accounts for coach Ken Whisenhunt's decision to let Skelton compete with Kolb for the starting job in camp."No other reasons, huh? Is Whisenhunt so incompetent, in your mind, as a head coach that he would put such value in this one stat to make such an important decision to spit valuable reps with the first team? Don't you think a past Super Bowl winning offensive coordinator would have a bit more insight into the intricacies of player evaluation?
Sorry I wasn't clear there. Let me expand. My point was that it was tough for Whisenhunt to argue with the results. He's a big believer in choosing the QB he thinks the team will respond to, and the fact that the Cardinals got hot with Skelton gave Skelton some credibility in the locker room that might not exist for Kolb. So, from that standpoint, the won-lost results influenced the thinking, in my view.
I have not heard much about Stewart Bradley since he restructured his deal. Have you heard if he is picking up the 3-4 scheme that he was having issues transferring to last season?
The team is only now beginning to practice in pads. Too early to say much. I'd expect Bradley to fare better this season, but Paris Lenon probably starts unless he gets hurt.
Sando - Now that Seattle has signed Unger, who do you think is next on the list for a contract extension? I am happy they are extending guys before their contracts are up.
I don't see a clear pecking order. Seems to me they would want to see more from Kam Chancellor before re-doing his deal so early. They do have a few guys heading into contract years, but not truly front-line guys. Alan Branch, etc.
The Seahawks seemed to have made retaining current players a focus of this offseason. Red Bryant, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Clemons, Max Unger, etc. This seems to suggest the team has "turned the corner" and believes this is the unit that with the best chance to succeed. Thoughts?
Yeah. Now they need to see if they've got a QB to take them to the next level.
Anything in particular you will be paying close attention to when visiting Rams camp? Personally I am curious if Bradford begins keying in on a particular receiver. I also would like to know how Steve Smith looks on his bad wheel, and I really excited to see what Janoris Jenkins can do.
Steve Smith is a big one to watch. Key variable for that team. Isaiah Pead is another one. Can he show enough to command playing time? Tight end is a position of interest. They have something like eight tight ends on their roster. Can Lance Kendricks bounce back? Mike Hoomanawanui? Of course I'll be watching Jason Smith at right tackle as well. There are so many things to watch. Robert Quinn is another one. The hard part will be remembering that we can't make judgments after one or two practices. First impressions will have to suffice.
Hey Mike, nice to have you back at QB for the NFC West. My question is about Dashon Goldson. How big to you view his signing the Tag is for the 49ers' this year? Especially in lieu of the fact that they don't have a lot of depth at that position.
Goldson had no other choice realistically. Rules prevented him from signing anything other than the franchise tender til after the season. Holding out would have gained nothing for him while hurting the team and, eventually, costing him money. It's good for the 49ers that Goldson did the sensible thing. Sure beats having him stay away in an effort to make a point.
Hey Mike, what's your camp schedule look like? Where ya headed and when? Really interested to hear your analysis of what you see coming from Cards Camp. I'll be headed up Saturday with the family for the Red & White scrimmage.
Well, I'm heading to St. Louis tomorrow and will be there til heading to Canton for HOF stuff on Thursday of next week. That's a really long stay in St. Louis, but the fact is, I haven't gotten there enough for various reasons. I will then spend the bulk of a week in Seattle before heading to San Francisco for a few days and, later, to Arizona for a couple days. I'll also be at the Cardinals' first preseason game in Canton.
Can the 49ers find more of a passing game? They'll need it, as the schedule gets tougher in 2012 -- San Francisco will be forced to keep up with top offensive teams. Will featuring more of Alex Smith mean more turnovers and more mistakes? The Niners had the NFL's worst third-down conversion rate in the red zone last season, constantly settling for three points. Will they be bolder in the red zone during Jim Harbaugh's second season at the helm?
We're going to see a bolder Alex Smith this season. We saw glimpses of him in the playoffs, but they ran out of wide receivers. I also think we'll see some more turnovers, specifically interceptions, from Smith this season.
Hey Sando, Great to have you back, now don't ever do that to us again. History tells us that the 49ers will drop significantly this year, but is it fair to say they are different because of Harbaugh? Much of the talent that shined last year (Smith / Gore / Davis on the final 2 drives of the Saints game, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, and Lee in general, etc) were on the team with previous coaches and they couldn't get it done. Singletary had the pieces, but Harbaugh could put them all together. So am I being rational to laugh at 7.2 wins and say we are different, or is it just false offseason hope?
Good to be back. It's a relief when people notice you've stepped away for a bit. Haha. I do think Harbaugh and staff give the 49ers an edge. This team should definitely beat those projections. I've pointed to 9-10 victories as more realistic. There's no shame in that type of record. It's true that the 49ers might be unlikely to: go 7-2 again in close games, toss so few interceptions, stay as healthy on defense, etc. But we should also expect continued progress within the offensive and defensive systems. All the key players are returning. There should be some growth.
Back in just a sec here ...
Cortez Kennedy is having a conference call for the Hall of Fame right now.
Kennedy just said he really likes Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, and also Vince Wilfork, among current defensive tackles. He thinks Suh will be even better once he settles down and blocks out non-football stuff (people telling him how great he is, trying to be a tough guy, etc). But he thinks Fairley has a similar body type to his own: low center of gravity, etc.
You got to have at least one game highlighted on your calendar this year....What game are you most looking forward to watching? NFCW or otherwise...
Funny you would mention that. I know the 49ers-Packers game is huge, but the NFC West purist in me (haha) covets that Seattle-Arizona opener. It's a rematch from Week 17, both teams have quarterback question marks, so the storylines should have great implications within the division. That is one I can't wait to see.
Been a long time Sando. The blog was horrible while you were gone. Still an avid reader, and appreciate your insight. Now to the meat. After seeing Adrian Wilson reduce his contract for the betterment of the team . . . (?) Do you think that Kolb will consider it, especially if Skelton somehow wins the QB battle? Or do the Cards just cut ties with him and Whiz at the end of the year to promote Horton . . . Could be a tricky offseason for the Cards if Kolb does play above average.
Hi Mackay. Good hearing from you. If Kolb plays above average, the team probably fares well enough for the status quo to continue and Kolb to earn the money in the future of his deal. If Kolb struggles or is just OK, I think the team would probably move on. Would that necessarily bring down Whisenhunt? It could, but not necessarily. There will be other factors at work.
With everyone in the pacific northwest claiming that Kam Chancellor is the greatest thing since Starbucks, is he going to play at the level everyone thinks he is at? Or just be a hitter over the middle (which is what he really is)?
I thought his coverage abilities were better than how you stated them to be. This season is a "prove it" year for him, I think. Seattle faces some tough passing attacks.
Sando, Yesterday we mention the success of Doug Baldwin, he had a great year. Some said it makes a player like Crabtree look bad because the stats where close and they pointed out each players draft status. I said it is also an indication of how bad the HAWKS WR performed last season as well. When an UFA comes in and becomes the leading WR of that team. It is an indication of how bad the starters and rest of the WR on the depth chart performed, when the UFA not only moves up the Depth chart, but becomes the leading WR by a considerable amount. They said you cannot compare those WR because they are on the same team and not in direct competition. Your thoughts?
The expectations for a player do affect how we analyze their performance. Value matters. The fact that Baldwin was the Seahawks' leading receiver statistically reflects well on him AND poorly on the rest of the receivers. We don't have to choose between the two. Baldwin was very good on third down. He showed tremendous toughness. He put together an excellent rookie season. That really doesn't have anything to do with Crabtree. Would I rather have Baldwin as an undrafted free agent or Crabtree as the 10th overall pick? I'll go with Baldwin for the value.
Mike, welcome back. With the release of BMW do you see seattle going into the season with this a group from the current roster or do you feel they may look for a veteran other than Rice to help mentor the youngsters? Thanks Mike! GO WHITWORTH PIRATES!!
Thanks, Duane. Those Whitworth Pirates are indeed tough. Seattle does plan to look at some veteran receivers. It's not clear, though, whether any of those veteran receivers will factor when it matters. Seattle will go young at the position overall.
The factor I was thinking of is assuming that Horton keeps the Cards defense paying stalwart, and becomes a top H.C. candidate. If Kolb fails, Whiz fails, and having Horton leave would be a huge blow. If Kolb doesn't work out you almost have to say goodbye to Kolb and Whiz as to not lose Horton, who arguably has the brighter future. His defense is obsessed with him. You don't hear the players talk about their coaches the way the D talks of Horton.
I see what you're saying. Would Ray Horton really be that hot of a candidate after 1.5 good seasons in the role? I suppose he could be. Quite a few layers of speculation there.
When the niners crash back down to Earth this season, will we see comparisons of Harbaugh to what Mora did in Atlanta?
Nah, I wouldn't think so. The 49ers should be in position to remain competitive. I like their direction right now even if going 13-3 again is unrealistic (and it is for any team).
La Canfora reporting via Twitter that the Hawks are working out Braylon Edwards. Are they desperate to find an over the hill or retread WR for the team?
They want to consder their veteran options after releasing Mike Williams. Edwards would be one option. That is my read.
With Vernon Davis coming on huge in the playoffs, new my dynamic(on paper) back field and an improved receiving corps (on paper), who do you envision has the most TDs for the 49ers this season?
Davis would be my choice. He really started to get the offense late in the season. He's been a pretty consistent TD scorer in the past. He has the best chance, probably.
Mike, love the blog, and this isn't just sucking up so you'll answer my question! If you were to complete the following sentence for each team at the end of the season "In retrospect we should have seen that _____ was a problem that was going to impact their season" How would you do it?
That's a good way to approach things (not the sucking up part). For the 49ers, I would say we should have known Alex Smith would not hold up for a full season again; the Rams would not be OK at offensive tackle or outside linebacker; the Seahawks weren't going to be appreciably better at quarterback after adding players unproven at the NFL level; and the Cardinals' QBs were who we thought they were.
Should people look at Whisenhunt's job security differently than other coaches / teams? He does have 4 non losing seasons in 5 years. The previous 6 coaches over the 19 years only gave us 2 non losing seasons.
The fact that Whisenhunt has a 4-2 postseason record and took the team to the Super Bowl differentiates him from previous Cardinals coaches. It does not insulate him from the realities of the game. If the Cardinals revert to 2010 form, that's tough to defend. People would view the 7-2 finish last season as an aberration. I think it's fair to ask about Whisenhunt's security if the team struggles this season, and unfair to ignore the success he has enjoyed in the past.
Would it be too optimistic for Rams fans to hope for a quick turnaround with Fisher like Seattle did under Pete and San Fran did with Harbaugh?
Depends what we're calling a quick turnaround. Finishing with 5-6 victories seems like a reasonable expectation. It's really tough to go 2-14. Many bad/unfortunate things must happen. It's reasonable to expect fewer of those bad things to happen this year. Even without a coaching change, the Rams were probably going to enjoy some improvement.
Mike, Is there a player that you personally looking foreword to following his development.
Russell Wilson, Janoris Jenkins, Ryan Williams and Joe Looney are a few that come to mind (one per NFC West team). Wilson will test theories about shorter quarterbacks. Jenkins has some boom-bust potential that should be compelling to watch unfold. Williams' status following the knee injury seems pivotal for Arizona. Looney was an under-the-radar draft choice (to a degree) with the talent to make a big difference on the line if healthy (at some point).
Not a football question, but have you ever eaten at Pappy's BBQ in STL? If not and you get a chance this trip, you should try it. Best in town, but get there early because they sell out between 6-7pm. Get the ribs by the way.
Count me in. Bandana's by the airport has been a spot I've hit out of convenience and because I like the food there.
Mike, was it a smart move for the Seahawks to get rid of Mike Williams considering they are seriously lacking in WR experience and depth?? Who should we expect to fill his role?
Tough to say for certain, but I suspect injuries and conditioning played a role. The team must have felt as though Williams was heading in the wrong direction. I think his production for the team had peaked and the team got out at the right time. Williams might prove me wrong on that; he proved a lot of people wrong in 2010. But he was the one who said that 2010 season meant little unless he could build on it. Also, I think Williams really suffered from the QB change. Matt Hasselbeck discovered during the 2010 season that he could throw to Williams even when Williams was covered. They developed something special at that point. That was lost when Hasselbeck left.
If Steven Jackson suffers another midseason injury, are the Rams toast? With only two rookie speed-backs likely to make the team behind him, and with a weak pass-protecting O-line, it's hard to see STL being able to lean more heavily on Bradford without exposing him to another pass-rushing onslaught and imperiling his future success in the league.
Yeah, losing Jackson would be costly. Part of me is interested in seeing what is there behind him. That wasn't the case over the past couple seasons. There's finally a set of fresh, promising legs behind him.
Mike, can you share any new Sando/ESPN football-related items/features that you might have in store for this year...?
Sure. Kevin Seifert and I will be launching a podcast at some point. We're excited about that. We put together a top-secret demo recording yesterday and managed to keep our jobs, so hopefully that's a good sign. I should throw out an open-ended question asking for feedback on what people would like to see.
Sando, do you play fantasy football?
Yes. I also run a "Gridiron Challenge" league on the blog every season. We'll do that again. My wife usually plays as well and it's fun when her team beats mine.
When do you expect Tarvaris to be released? Nobody is going to trade for him and he won't win the starting job.
Seems to me they need to see more from the other guys before making that move. I would also wonder wehther a pay reduction could be in order. Jackson is a pretty good insurance policy, though. The team feels as though it can be competitive with him.
Do you feel the Rams did well in getting Bradford protection and weapons? I still worry for his well-being.....
There are still question marks on the offensive line. Fact is, the Rams couldn't fix everything. They expanded their young talent base. Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl give them two strong vets on the interior of the line. We did not see the team add a proven threat at wide receiver. I consider Steve Smith unproven until we see how his knee responds to camp and the season. So there are some concerns there as well. I'd say Rams fans should feel better about the situation simply because Bradford is healthier and the new scheme should shield him from punishment to a degree.
Oh by the way, if you get BBQ-ed out while in the Lou and get a taste for soul food, try Sweetie Pie's. Make sure you wear some one size fits all pants before you go
I wear overalls and straw hats during my camp visits so should be OK.
A lot of people are hesitant to put any faith with the Rams' receivers and rightfully so considering the recent past. With that being said, I feel that the TE position is more of a question mark than WR for STL. Thoughts?
Both positions feature long lists of players fighting to distinguish themselves. There are numbers, but no proven top threats. The receiver position could be more important to the passing game, in which case there could be more at stake for Sam Bradford. That is something to consider.
Is it really fun when your wife wins at fantasy football? Blink once for "yes" or twice for "no".
When you're me, you either laugh at yourself or get laughed at. I've always preferred the former.
Do you agree that the 49ers have a better chance of beating the Packers in Lambeau early in the season rather than later? Better weather, plus offense always seems to be rusty early in the season, and teams depend on the run game more, and we all know no one can run against the niners!
Aaron Rodgers did not appear rusty in Week 1 against the Saints last season. However, that was against the Saints' defense. The 49ers have a better defense. I wonder, though, if facing the Packers in a snowstorm might be preferable.
Thanks for dropping by the chat this week. My pleasure as always -- especially with camps starting.