Around the NFC West: Leinart, pass rush


Darren Urban of azcardinals.com thinks defensive end Calais Campbell can get 10 or more sacks in a season. Urban: "But in the 3-4 alignment, the Cards need speed and youth outside. Will Davis looked decent as a rookie before getting hurt. We’ll see on Cody Brown; he’s going to go through a rookie year all over again after getting injured in the preseason. The Cards think Mark Washington looks the part and could be a find after getting him on their practice squad. Stevie Baggs isn’t young (he’s 28) but maybe he has turned the corner in the CFL. If one of those guys -- plus whomever the Cards draft at the spot, and they will take a pass rusher, I’d think -- pans out, the Cards’ pass rush could be formidable, given what they already showed they can do." Matt Leinart is another key to the pass rush in Arizona. Rushing the passer becomes much easier when a team has points on the board and a lead.

Also from Urban: a look at Baggs, signed from the CFL.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic analyzes the Cardinals' specialists. Somers on kicker Neil Rackers: "There is a contigent of fans who would like to see Rackers replaced. And it's true he hasn't been good in the clutch. But as with any change, the Cardinals need to ask themselves if they can find anyone better. Rackers was one of several kickers who struggled in the playoffs." The Cardinals could need Rackers more in the clutch as their margin for error shrinks without Kurt Warner.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with Ray Brown, the 49ers' new assistant offensive line coach. Brown: "Being smart, being tough, being physical, knowing what to do, knowing your assignments. All those things are going to apply to modern-day football. It's never going to change. It's going to be about leverage. It's going to be about being physical. It's going to be about being a good man. And I think that has a lot to do with whether you're successful or not. We got some good people in this organization. We got some young players who need some grooming and growing. We got great teachers on the staff. I think those combinations will lead us to being a much better football team."

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' running backs. Maiocco: "So, do the 49ers need another running back to give them more of an outside threat? I think it will be difficult for a rookie to get much playing time on offense. But, clearly, where the 49ers need help is in the return game. It would fill a major need to get an elusive running back to play no more than a handful of offensive snaps a game while also taking over the punt- and kick-return chores."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Brown and 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari have much work to do in helping the line improve.

Also from Barrows: summaries of recent interviews 49ers quarterback Alex Smith conducted with radio stations. Smith: "There is no formula for winning on offense. You can't go out there and say, 'Hey, we're going to run the ball 40 times a game and we're going to be three yards and a cloud of dust.' That's just not the way it is. Defenses are too good in this league. You have to be able to do both. You have to run and pass it. You have to be able to line up in different formations and be able to give defenses different looks and you have to be versatile. And I think that's where we're headed and where we need to be headed."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks' coaching staff under Pete Carroll isn't particularly young, at least in key spots. Johns: "If you look strictly at the 11 primary assistant coaching positions on the team -- offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive line, tight ends, defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs and special teams -- Carroll's core staff is actually slightly older and more experienced than last year's group."

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Luke Butkus and Dave Canales were two previously unreported names to surface on Carroll's coaching staff.

John Morgan of Field Gulls says an improved offense is one key to sprucing up the Seahawks' pass rush. The Seahawks never had great defenses during their most successful seasons under Mike Holmgren, but they did maximize their defensive ability by putting up points.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams tried out a defensive end prospect from Canada, Ricky Foley. Thomas: "One of Foley’s former B.C. Lions teammates, Cameron Wake, had 5.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins. The Rams could have a glaring need at the defensive end position in 2010. Leonard Little is an unrestricted free agent, and is contemplating retirement. James Hall also is an unrestricted free agent, and Victor Adeyanju will be a restricted free agent in an uncapped year."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Marshall Faulk is the latest former Rams player to criticize the current leadership. Faulk: "I don’t like the road that they’re going down. With guys like myself. And guys who can help deal with what it’s like in St. Louis. And I think that they just don’t know. I’m not out to hurt the team. I want to see the Rams survive. I have a job to do in talking about the Rams, and trust me -- it hurts me, it pains me, to see what’s being put out on the field. My objective is not to belittle or down-talk the Rams. I want to talk good about them. I want to praise them. I want to be sitting here right now, reliving the days when we played well, and happy because the Rams are in the Super Bowl. Sometimes, in their cloak-and-dagger atmosphere of shutting down Rams Park, and not inviting guys into this and that, and wanting to keep everything in house, you alienate yourself from getting opportunities of getting inside information. And having guys and people who could be very instrumental to the program help you. They've taken down photos of some of the great Rams players. For what? Why? I don’t want to take shots. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure -- there’s never been a first-time head coach, a first-time GM and a first-time president turn a team around. You need some experience from somewhere. You need some help. You need some inside information. Because all of your jobs are new." Great fodder for scheduled media appearances by Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney as Super Bowl week wraps up Friday.