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 noon p.m. ET!
What do you expect from Vernon Davis this season in their new offense, along with the other weapons defenses will have to worry about like Gore, Crabtree, Morgan, etc?
Mike Sando (12:00 PM)
I expect greater involvement in the passing game and more maturity from Vernon Davis. The latter part seems to be the trend for him under Mike Singletary, at least to this point. Davis might always be vulnerable to his emotions, but he seems to be trending in the right direction. The touchdown catch he made at Arizona last season reminded us what he can be.
RAY GORDON REID ( LAS VEGAS NV 89101)
QUESTION TO MIKE SANDO AT 12.O5 HI MIKE WHICH NFC WEST TRAINING CAMPS YOU GONNA AT FIRST
Mike Sando (12:02 PM)
Probably the Cardinals. I visited every other NFC West team during minicamps or OTAs. The thinking was that I spent a lot of time with Arizona last season, for obvious reasons, and I wanted to see some of the other teams this offseason. And with Beanie Wells unavailable to practice til training camp, the decision was a little easier. Now I feel like I want to see Wells and the defending division champs right off the bat.
Mackay (PG, Utah)
Does Karlos Dansby really believe that he is better off going somehwere else? Why do you think he is reluctant to sign? It is just sad to see such a great player force himself out.
Mike Sando (12:04 PM)
The franchise player value is $9.678 million for Dansby this season. The money became guaranteed once he signed the tender. I think that makes it pretty easy for him to play out the season and take his chances. He basically has a $9.678 million insurance policy against an injury that would affect his value on the market. He would have more incentive to sign a long-term deal if the franchise number were significantly lower.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
Hey Mike, How was vacation? Assuming the Rams' 'improvements' work as expected, what un-addressed or slightly addressed positions most need to step up for them to become a viable team? D-line? Tight end? Seems like the most important unaddressed need is ANYTHING that takes pressure off of S-Jax.
Mike Sando (12:06 PM)
Vacation was outstanding. I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to just shut it down, but I exceeded expectations in that department. I see depth at linebacker, receiver and defensive end somewhat problematic. Having the front seven step up -- Carriker and Long in particular -- would make a big difference for the Rams.
Hey Sando, love the blog.What are the chances Willis has a Defensive MVP type season? I understand he'll need to get more sacks but from what it sounds like, the niners d sounds good enough to alleviate some of the pressure off of Willis allowing him to make more big plays.
Mike Sando (12:08 PM)
I think Willis plays well enough to deserve consideration for that award even if he doesn't have the stats. He's a force. I do think he would need a combination of interceptions and sacks to get the necessary acclaim for that award. And it would help if the 49ers fielded a top-10 defense while winning a few more games.
David (Cold Lake, Canada)
What are your feelings about the quality/effectiveness of the current Seattle safeties, Grant and Russell? Was doing "nothing" regarding the safety position in the off season a mistake?
Mike Sando (12:09 PM)
I think they are good enough for the Seahawks to win games as long as the team scores more points and mounts a better pass rush. I do not buy the idea that those safeties are horrible.
John (Helena, MT)
Hey Mike,What is the latest word out of Seattle on Walter Jones rehab. Is he expected to be full strength for training camp and can we expecct him to back to his dominating self in the regular season?
Mike Sando (12:10 PM)
The word from Jones himself has been that things are going well. I did see him running off to the side during minicamp/OTA practices. The long layoff will put a premium on his conditioning at this age. I think that is the main thing we'll want to monitor heading into camp. Is he in shape?
Mike, are you still thinking Seattle over Zona this season?
Mike Sando (12:12 PM)
I never thought that this offseason. The early schedule-based projections favored Arizona. I do think Seattle has the potential to win the division, but I need to see their big three -- Hasselbeck, Jones and Kerney -- functioning at a high level through camp.
Do you think Beanie Wells will make a significant contribution this year? If the Cards can manage a significant running threat to go along with their passing game, what team in the NFC West has the best chance to topple them from the division title?
Mike Sando (12:13 PM)
Yes, I do think Wells is in position to make a significant contribution. The team wants to become more balanced, if practical, and Wells should get plenty of touches.
I believe the Cardinals plan to use Anquan Boldin as they did last year, and then trade him in the offseason for as much as they can get. If that happens, do you think Breaston and Doucett have the tools necessary to compliment Fitz and maintain their potency on offense, or will they need to bring in other WRs?
Mike Sando (12:15 PM)
I think the Cardinals would be fine at receiver as long as Larry Fitzgerald were healthy. Longer term, the team will want to find some stability at tight end. That would help the wide receivers as well. Remember, though, that Boldin's eventual departure, if it happens, could coincide with Kurt Warner's retirement, which in turn could make it harder for the receivers to do their thing. At which point losing Boldin could appear costlier.
Any chance Isaac Bruce doesn't make the cut with Crabtree, Morgan, Hill, Jones and Battle on the roster?
Mike Sando (12:16 PM)
The thought has crossed my mind. I tend to think Bruce has enough left to justify playing time, but I do wonder how the team would have approached Bruce's indecision on retirement this offseason if the 49ers had known Crabtree would fall to them at 10.
Jerry (Folsom, CA)
S-Jax is a beast if healthy. Big if. Anything being done differently by him or the team to help him play 16 games this season?
Mike Sando (12:18 PM)
I asked him that question personally when visiting the Rams this offseason. Jackson made it clear he thought the injuries he suffered were a bit fluky. I know this: Playing through injuries becomes easier when a team is succeeding. And if the run blocking improves, perhaps Jackson will not take as much punishment.
Dave W. (Ukiah, Ca)
Mike, Glad to have you back from vacation...hope it was relaxing. Do you think OT Alex Boone has a shot to make the roster for the 49ers? I watched him quite a bit at OSU and I think he could be a real beast on the right side of the line if given the right support. I know he has a long road to come back from the problems with alcohol but that makes me root for him even more. I know Coach Sing seems more than willing to give him a shot but have you heard anything more on this troubled but talented young man?
Mike Sando (12:20 PM)
Off the top of my head, yes, I would think he would have a chance. Injuries will probably help the team make decisions on the line. Marvel Smith's health will be a key variable. I need to study the numbers a little better. Teams generally keep nine offensive linemen.
you a fantasy guy mike? who's the top fantasy rb, wr, qb of the nfc west?
Mike Sando (12:21 PM)
I used to play fantasy football in the first half of the 1990s, when I was a fan and not covering the game. Back then, life was good if you had Emmitt Smith on your team. Looking at the NFC West right now, I would take Steven Jackson at running back, Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin at receiver and Kurt Warner at quarterback, with Matt Hasselbeck also in the picture.
Dorothy Mantooth (Boise, ID)
Mike, big fan of the blog. Any thoughts on who has the strongest special teams in the NFC West?
Mike Sando (12:23 PM)
The 49ers, probably. They are solid at kicker, punter and snapper. We'll see whether an increased role in the defense affects Manny Lawson's playing time on teams. Lawson is one of the very best special-teams players around. He can dominate. And then Allen Rossum provides some pop in the return game if healthy.
Chad (Grand Rapids, MI)
Mike what colleges and classes do you think i should go for if i want to be a sports journalist/reporter? How would i get there? I would like to work for ESPN.
Mike Sando (12:26 PM)
I get that question a lot. My answers aren't very good. I had no idea coming out of college where things would take me. The Internet as we know it didn't even exist. The advice people in the business gave me 20-plus years ago -- to not worry about majoring in journalism and to just plug away -- worked out. Even three or four years ago, I never had any idea I would have the job that I have now.
Ken (Scottsdale, AZ)
What are your thoughts on Steve Breaston? Conventional wisdom would say that he the classic 3rd receiver benefiting from two All-Pros. Bur from watching every game, he rarely dropped passes. Made catches all over the field. And really wasn't the wide out who's stats were based on a couple of deep balls.
Mike Sando (12:29 PM)
Breaston is unconventional. He's tough for a defensive back to get a read on. He brings a little special-teams swagger and abandon to a position generally defined by precision. I think it works to his advantage. Plus, he is fearless. That is where his special-teams background shines through. I see Breaston as a good complimentary receiver, particularly with Fitzgerald and Boldin around.
Aaron W. (Columbus, OH)
Wouldn't the Rams be in the running for best special teams? Donnie Jones is arguably the best punter in the NFL, and if the Rams could get Brown into range to kick field goals, I have no doubt that he would also put up "Top NFC West" numbers. Since this is based on quality and not stats, wouldn't it be a fair argument to say that the Rams have the better special teams? Especially with Avery or Darby running returns?
Mike Sando (12:30 PM)
I'm not sure if the Rams have enough depth throughout their roster to be as good throughout special teams. Sure, they appear strong at kicker and punter. But remember, this was a team that signed Gary Stills last offseason. I think the Rams probably have some work to do in developing depth on special teams.
Is Seneca Wallace a good back up QB?
Mike Sando (12:32 PM)
Yes. I like a backup QB with mobility. If the starter gets hurt, you figure protection problems could be a factor. And if you have protection problems, it's nice to have a backup with mobility. That said, Wallaces throws the ball well. He is a very good deep-ball thrower. The question at this point is whether the new offensive system in Seattle sets him back. Wallace had become pretty adept at running Mike Holmgren's offense. Now he'll have to start over with a new system, and he will not get as many reps if Matt Hasselbeck is healthy.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
I just checked Calais Campbell's profile and it says he's 6'8. Is that true? He's huge. Do you see significant improvement in him with this being his 2nd year in camp?
Mike Sando (12:35 PM)
I'm a terrible judge of height unless people are taller than me. I am 6-4 and can vouch for Campbell's height. He looks good getting off the bus, as they say. Very legitimate size. Maintaining leverage is the perpetual challenge for players with that kind of length. I think Campbell will improve, but I have a hard time believing he'll be as good as Antonio Smith had become. Smith used his hands well and had become a pretty solid 3-4 end.
Liam (Ptown, California)
Assuming the niners don't make the playoffs this year, do you think they should package their 2 1st rounders to draft a QB next year? Or do you think Alex Smith or Shaun Hill can really lead them to a championship?
Mike Sando (12:38 PM)
It's great for the 49ers that they might have that kind of flexibility. But if you are going to make that type of upward move in the draft, you had better be sure about the college prospect. They knew in 2005 that Alex Smith carried risk based on the system he ran in college. I would not expect the 49ers to take that kind of risk again with the current leadership team in place. They would have to be getting more of a finished product.
Mike, I'm really curious to see if you can name a team worse than the Rams in the NFL. Is there any chance they win more than 4 games?
Mike Sando (12:40 PM)
The Rams underachieved in going 2-14 last season. They arguably have less talent heading into this season, but the vibe is better. I put it this way: The Rams might have been a 6-10 team that underachieved to 2-14 last season. This year, they might be a 2-14 team that wins five or six games. It's all talk right now and I will not pretend to know how each of the 32 teams will come together. But I do think the Rams will win more than two games this season.
Alan (Grandview, MO)
Any thoughts on the potential for the Seahawks to have a significantly better season this year, as opposed to last year's horrendous season?
Mike Sando (12:41 PM)
They won only four games last season. Getting to 8-8 would qualify as significant improvement. I do expect significant improvement in the record. Too many things went wrong last season.
Krag Klages (Phoenix, AZ)
Do you see Cody Brown having an immediate impact? Or will he have to wait a year or two and develop?
Mike Sando (12:43 PM)
I have a feeling they might need him this season. I say that because the team has some older players in the front seven -- Okeafor, Berry, Haggans -- and sometimes it's tough to ask older players to carry the load for a full season.
David (Spokane, WA)
Is Arizona the favorite to win the west or was last season a fluke?
Mike Sando (12:44 PM)
The Cardinals' success was not a fluke, but I do expect a better fight from the rest of the division. Arizona went 6-0 in the NFC West last season. I see that record falling off a bit and I see the Cardinals have to fight it out a little more.
Brandon (Bellevue, WA)
In your opinion, which NFC West team has the larger fan base?
Mike Sando (12:45 PM)
Niners first. Seahawks second.
Anthony (Bowling Green KY)
Mike, i keep reading alot of hype on the 49ers first pre season game agaist Mike Nolan. It sounds to me like its just trying to make a story line out of the preseason in a game that wont matter at all.
Mike Sando (12:47 PM)
The most important thing for the 49ers in that game, regardless of the opponent, is getting a chance to evaluate the quarterbacks. The Nolan dynamic could be relevant. I doubt he wants to look horrible out of the gates at the expense of the quarterback he mishandled last season.
KoryB55 (Salinas, CA)
Yo Sando-Is there any kind precedent for using your TE as your main deep-threat in the offense? If so, what do you think about the 49ers employing Vernon Davis as such? He's clearly flat-out faster than either Crabtree, Morgan, or Bruce. Plus, the respective skill-sets of Crabtree and Morgan seem to point more towards them progressing as over-the middle, possession type WR's. Obviously, Davis hasn't done nearly enough to prove to NFL defenses that he can be a consistent downfield threat, but I would think that as deep-threat, the mere thought of his speed alone would be enough to keep at least one Safety from crowding the box. Even if the 49ers just use his speed as a diversion, that would bring some value. Whaddaya think?
Mike Sando (12:47 PM)
Davis has to become a better route runner. Otherwise it becomes easy to just make sure he doesn't get behind the secondary.
John (Helena, MT)
How has Lawrence Jackson looked at the Seahawk workouts? Can the Seahawks expect a huge improvement to what appeared to be a somewhat disappointing rookie season? Also, what do you believe Cory Reddings impact be for the team?
Mike Sando (12:50 PM)
Jackson looked good. I think he'll be better this season. He appeared lost at times last season. On Redding, I'm very interested in seeing how they plan to use him. He should give them some flexibility on the line. The idea will probably be for Redding to play end on early downs as needed and then slide to tackle for pass-rushing purposes when appropriate.
Could you imagine what the landscape of the NFC West, and NFC in general, would be if the Cardinals drafted Cutler instead of Lenihart? Cutler to Fitz and Boldin? Wow.
Mike Sando (12:51 PM)
I have thought about that, but would you rather have the 2008 Jay Cutler at quarterback or the 2008 Kurt Warner at quarterback? Would the Cardinals have reached the Super Bowl without a veteran quarterback playing at a high level?
Arizona Tough (Phoenix)
I understand Beanie Wells has lost a bunch of weight and is looking stronger and moving faster. If that is so, will the Cardinals offense be more balanced this fall?
Mike Sando (12:52 PM)
Expect the offense to be more balanced during the 2009 regular season than it was during the 2008 regular season. Remember, though, that Arizona showed more balance in the playoffs. I would expect an attempted continuation this season. Situations dictate those sorts of things, however. If the Cardinals fall behind on the road, as they have at times in the past, they will have a harder time maintaining balance.
Jason (Omaha, NE)
hey mike, what are your thoughts on the seahawks getting rid of julian peterson, and do u feel Curry is gonna be able to step up sufficiently enough to fill that gap in the linebacking corp?
Mike Sando (12:55 PM)
I thought the move was risky at the time. But with Aaron Curry on the team, perhaps Seattle was simply getting rid of an older player a year early instead of a year late. Peterson was very talented. Curry strikes me as someone more likely to master all aspects of the defense and provide additional flexibility to the coaching staff.
Gavin Newsome (San Francisco)
Do you agree with me that there is nothing that can keep the Niners in SF? What's your take on the stadium plans?
Mike Sando (12:56 PM)
Sounds like the Santa Clara stadium has a good chance of becoming a reality. I think a Santa Clara stadium makes great sense for the team given that the 49ers are already there.
Mike Sando (12:59 PM)
Thanks for dropping by the chat. Hope to see you on the blog -- and on my Facebook page.