There are no guarantees competition will draw out the best from an athlete.
The situations at right tackle in St. Louis and quarterback in Arizona come to mind. The results tend to be more positive, in some cases, when a player's entire career, not just a starting job, is on the line.
Two notable cases in the NFC West come to mind.
Braylon Edwards stepped up his game when the Seattle Seahawks signed Terrell Owens a few weeks back. Edwards now appears likely to earn a roster spot in Seattle. Meanwhile, in Santa Clara, Calif., the San Francisco 49ers have watched running back Anthony Dixon rededicate himself following the arrival of Brandon Jacobs, Rock Cartwright and, to a lesser extent, rookie LaMichael James.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are talking as though Dixon, once considered a sure roster casualty, will stick around at the mandatory reduction to 53 players Friday. Barrows: "Dixon, who seemed hopelessly buried on the 49ers' depth chart at running back when training camp began, has taken advantage of recent injuries at the position and has strung together two solid games. On the radio Tuesday, both general manager Trent Baalke and offensive coordinator Greg Roman sounded optimistic about Dixon's chances of making the final roster." Noted: Might Dixon, who has gotten work at fullback, stick at the expense of Cartwright?
The 49ers' website has this to say about receiver Michael Crabtree: "Teammates and coaches have raved about Crabtree’s leaner build this offseason and how his improved health has enabled him to develop a greater rapport with starting quarterback Alex Smith. This time last year, Crabtree was battling a foot injury that remained with him through the start of the regular season. But now, Crabtree’s summer of work has translated into consistent preseason playing time. His role in the 49ers offense to date, five catches for 28 yards, is one of many reasons Harbaugh believes the team is much improved heading into the 2012 season."
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien, who slept in the 49ers' player lounge during a two-week period.
Also from Inman: a look at the 49ers' player ratings on "Madden NFL 13."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Jacobs gave fans a window into the hatred directed at players anonymously.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Matt Flynn was back at practice in a reserve role.
Also from Farnsworth: Robert Turbin steps in for Marshawn Lynch.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says ESPN's Jon Gruden expected Russell Wilson to win the Seahawks' starting job if given a legitimate chance. Noted: That was the word from Wisconsin's coach and others who knew the quarterback well.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Wilson runs the ball on instinct, not by design. Wilson: "I'm always wanting to throw the ball and if something closes, if I go through my progression and it closes, it's like, 'Bam.' It happens so fast and you're out. You're just trying to get something positive."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune updates Bruce Irvin's progress. Seattle's first-round draft choice has no sacks or tackles through three exhibition games. Line coach Todd Wash: "Out here (on the practice field), he plays very carefree. He just plays, (but) he gets into the game and he’s worrying about keeping contain and whatever else he might need to do. He knows how to play; we just need him to cut loose."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at how injuries are forcing the Cardinals to adjust their thinking on the offensive line. Somers: "The unit that opens Thursday night's game against the Broncos likely will feature three different starters from the one that opened the preseason. D'Anthony Batiste is scheduled to move from right tackle to left, with rookie Bobby Massie starting on the right side. The two played those positions beginning in the second quarter last week against the Titans, and the entire unit played better after the move. Rich Ohrnberger is expected to start at right guard in place of Adam Snyder, who missed Tuesday's practice in order to have an elbow examined."
Also from Somers: thoughts on John Skelton's struggles in practice.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team's final exhibition game could determine whether the team pursues Alex Barron, Chad Clifton or another veteran tackle.
Also from Urban: William Powell's fight for a roster spot.
Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees the Rams' moves to trade Jason Smith and release Danario Alexander as part of the delineation between previous and current team leadership groups. O'Neill: "Fisher just got here. He can't account for Smith, be held accountable for where he was drafted or how he has performed. What he can do is turn the page, for the organization and for Smith."
Also from O'Neill: Janoris Jenkins hit a bump in the road against Dallas.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says trading Smith was easy for the team. Burwell: "This was not a colossal bruise to the football smarts of the existing Rams brain trust, merely a little necessary clean up on Aisle One from a big mess left behind by previous failed regimes. General manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher were able to ditch Smith with a clean conscience, mainly because this mistake doesn't count against their records. Trading him away was not only the smart thing to do, it was also the most compassionate thing to do, because after all those concussions, Smith was no longer the big, mean and bruising young prospect that was drafted three years ago, and because of that he may never live up to the high expectations of the organization and the fan base."