Nine thoughts from Gate C9


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Nine thoughts from Sea-Tac's Gate C9 on my way to Phoenix to see the Cardinals and 49ers:

  • LaDainian Tomlinson is one of my running backs in the NFC West Gridiron Challenge. He has 402 carries for 1,906 yards and 19 touchdowns in 16 career games against the Raiders.

  • Barring a lopsided game, Steven Jackson's rushing numbers against Seattle will provide a feel for the Rams' offense and the Seahawks' defense. Jackson has rushed for 64, 70, 93 and 66 yards in four road games against the Seahawks. The Rams spent lots of cash in free agency for center Jason Brown this year and left guard Jacob Bell a year ago. How those two play against Seattle's Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane could be telling. Cory Redding and Aaron Curry give the Seahawks more size in their front seven. Based on my most recent listed weights and projected starters, the Seahawks have on average the second-heaviest front seven in the NFL.

  • The Cardinals had only five runs of 20 yards or longer during the 2008 regular season, tied with Indianapolis for fewest in the league (the Panthers and Giants had 24 apiece). The Cardinals were one of five teams without a run of at least 40 yards. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, speaking Saturday on Sirius radio, said he was encouraged when Cardinals broke two 20-plus runs during the exhibition season. The 49ers allowed only eight 20-plus runs last season, tied for seventh-fewest in the league. The Cardinals drafted Beanie Wells to break long runs.

  • The 49ers' Justin Smith, Parys Haralson and Nate Clements have given the Cardinals' offense some problems in the past. I thought Smith was particularly disruptive against the Cardinals in Arizona last season. Haralson had two sacks against the Cardinals in the 2008 opener. Clements has played Larry Fitzgerald tough most of the time.

  • NFC West teams are taking different approaches to encouraging leadership. The Rams' Steve Spagnuolo has emphasized team while going out of his way to avoid anointing players as leaders. The Rams are electing captains on a week-by-week basis. The 49ers' Mike Singletary has taken a different approach. His decision to anoint Vernon Davis a season-long team captain seemed to be made with the intent of the designation becoming self-fulfilling. Davis had made strides, no question. Naming him a captain puts pressure on Davis to live up to the designation. It's a smart gamble by Singletary given how much the 49ers have invested in Davis.

  • The Seattle and Arizona defenses have stressed accountability this offseason. Seahawks coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley have called out players in front of their teammates. Coaches pointed out "loafs" as part of team video study sessions early in the offseason. Players took on those duties as training camp approached. Both defenses need the emphasis to carry over into the regular season.

  • None of the current starting quarterbacks in the NFC West was drafted by his current team. The Seahawks and 49ers have extra first-round picks in 2010. The Rams could be in the market for a quarterback -- and in position to draft one early -- depending on how Marc Bulger plays this season.

  • Rams tackle Alex Barron can't escape Seahawks pass rusher Patrick Kerney. Barron moved from right tackle to left tackle, only to have Kerney move from left defensive end to right defensive end. Should be a good matchup.

  • The 49ers and Seahawks are each counting on an unproven safety. The 49ers went with Dashon Goldson. The Seahawks went with Jordan Babineaux. Both teams wanted more playmaking from the position. I'm anxious to see whether those players justify the moves.

That's it. About to board my flight.