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How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

9/29/2009

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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

 Rodgers-Cromartie Falling

1. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Cardinals. The 2008 first-round draft choice possesses rare speed and athleticism for a tall cornerback. He's also struggling. The Colts' Peyton Manning exploited Rodgers-Cromartie in deep coverage more than once Sunday night. "DRC" seemed to peak in the NFC Championship Game. He was less stellar in the Super Bowl and gave up big plays during the exhibition season. Raw talent isn't enough. Rodgers-Cromartie must play smarter.

2. Olindo Mare, K, Seahawks. Coach Jim Mora backed off his postgame comments after Mare missed twice in six field goal tries during a 25-19 defeat to the Bears. Still, it's never good when the head coach repeatedly uses the phrase "not acceptable" to describe your performance.

 Hightower 3. Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals. The Cardinals spent last week trying to help Beanie Wells secure the ball, only to watch Hightower lose a fumble in the red zone against the Colts. The turnover proved devastating for Arizona. Hightower is not the most dynamic runner. It's important he do the basic things well.

Rising

 Davis 1. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers. Watching him develop under coach Mike Singletary must make 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan a happy man. Davis has met Singletary's challenges and become a positive force in the receiving game. His two touchdown receptions at Minnesota gave the 49ers a good chance to win.

2. Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch are making most of the money among Seattle receivers, but Burleson could join them if he produces anywhere near the way he did in Week 3. With nine catches for 109 yards against the Bears, Burleson put himself on pace after three games for 106 catches and 1,221 yards over a full season.

 McDonald 3. Ray McDonald, DL, 49ers. His team needing a spark, McDonald blocked a Vikings field goal try, setting up Nate Clements' 59-yard return touchdown as the 49ers made a strong stand in the Metrodome. Chronic knee problems have threatened McDonald's career, including when he underwent another surgery this past offseason. McDonald bounced back strong and has made a difference early in the season.