Our midweek look at important injury situations in the division ...
Arizona Cardinals: Running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams remain on schedule to play extensively after rehabbing from offseason knee surgeries. Their continued health should be prominent on the Cardinals' minds. The team did not line up a veteran replacement. Wells has not played against Seattle since the 2010 season, when he carried 14 times for 54 yards and a touchdown during a 22-10 road defeat. He hasn't played at home against Seattle since 2009, his rookie season. Wells rushed for 85 yards and two scores in that game. Both teams have changed dramatically since then, of course. Injuries will affect Arizona most on the offensive line. With Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges on injured reserve, D'Anthony Batiste will start at left tackle. Batiste, 30, last started a game in 2007, at guard. Right tackle Bobby Massie is a rookie. A year ago, he opened the 2011 college season for Mississippi against Brigham Young, losing 14-13 at home. The Cardinals can feel much better about their season if Batiste and Massie exceed expectations.
St. Louis Rams: Defensive tackle is the position of greatest concern for the Rams. A high-ankle sprain will prevent rookie first-round draft choice Michael Brockers from playing. Another defensive tackle, Trevor Laws, is on injured reserve. Two more, Darell Scott and rookie Matt Conrath, missed practice Wednesday with knee injuries. The Rams still have starter Kendall Langford, a free-agent addition from Miami. Jermelle Cudjo, undrafted in 2010, and Kellen Heard, claimed off waivers from Buffalo, are the other defensive tackles on the roster. St. Louis figures to spend significant time in its sub packages against Detroit in Week 1, perhaps taking pressure off its interior run-stuffers. The Lions ran 653 plays with three or more wide receivers last season, second only to Buffalo, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
San Francisco 49ers: Running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) and receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Neither has played recently. The 49ers' have ample depth at running back whether or not Jacobs plays. Kyle Williams would replace Ginn as the 49ers' punt returner. The punts Williams muffed in the NFC Championship Game raise obvious concerns about his readiness to handle the duties at Green Bay in another game featuring conference powers. Williams has bounced back strongly enough, however, to make this game more opportunity than something for him to dread. I'd be surprised if Williams suffered similar gaffes when given another chance, particularly in the absence of challenging weather conditions. Depth at outside linebacker is the other top concern for the 49ers after Parys Haralson landed on injured reserve. Haralson started every game last season. He was supposed to provide insurance while sack leader Aldon Smith transitioned to a full-time role. Newly signed veteran Clark Haggans, 35, is the insurance policy now. He started 16 games for the Cardinals last season, but it's a little concerning that Arizona kept Quentin Groves instead.
Seattle: Having a healthy Sidney Rice at wide receiver is crucial for Seattle given injuries to other players at the position. Golden Tate suffered a knee injury in the final exhibition game and probably will not play. A hamstring injury has limited Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks' leading receiver as a rookie last season. Rice and Braylon Edwards appear most likely to start. Both are healthy. Edwards has outperformed expectations. But if Baldwin and Ben Obomanu are the primary backups, depth isn't ideal. Seattle will want to emphasize the ground game anyway. That will be easier to accomplish if 1,200-yard rusher Marshawn Lynch can overcome back spasms. Lynch participated in the Seahawks' walk-through practice Wednesday. He'll be limited in the regular practices. His situation isn't necessarily dire at this point. Lynch has managed and overcome back issues previously. Still, there's a heightened chance rookie Robert Turbin could get additional carries. Turbin has proven to be a powerful runner with surprising ability to pull away from linebackers through the line of scrimmage. The offense would not be the same without Lynch, however.