Around the NFC West: Assessing Rams trade


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down the Will Witherspoon trade from the Rams' and Eagles' perspectives. Also, the Rams assured running back Steven Jackson that they were never going to trade him. Thomas: "Sunday against Indianapolis, the Rams plan to start Paris Lenon at weakside linebacker in Witherspoon's place. Larry Grant will start at strongside linebacker. Next week, linebacker David Vobora returns from a four-game suspension for violating NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams had "no choice" but to trade Witherspoon for a receiver. Burwell: "Because of injuries -- and a mind-boggling offseason failure to foresee that they hadn't fortified the roster adequately with more proven receiving talent -- the Rams' offense has found it a struggle to generate any consistency. The offense was restricted by a group of backups who have yet to prove that they can get open against even the most basic defensive coverage on a regular basis."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' faith in Michael Crabtree says as much about their offense as it says about Crabtree. Barrows: "(Agent) Eugene Parker must be slapping his forehead and yelling 'Doh!' at the top of his lungs. When he and Crabtree finally came in from the cold, the 49ers were 3-1, were enjoying an avalanche of praise and had virtually all of the bargaining power. A week later, the 49ers suffer their worst defeat ever at Candlestick Park and immediately elevate Crabtree to the starting lineup. Parker's negotiating stance was built on the hunch that the 49ers were desperate for Crabtree. Turns out he was right, but he blinked one week too early." I don't think the 49ers would have caved under any circumstances. Staying away under the current situation would have made Crabtree less popular among fans.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks Crabtree's sudden move into the lineup puts pressure on Shaun Hill and Jimmy Raye to get him the ball. I wondered during camp whether an offense featuring Crabtree and Brandon Jones might be better off with a stronger-armed quarterback such as, hmmm, let me think, Alex Smith. We never found out, although Smith didn't do enough during the exhibition season to justify serious consideration. Kawakami: "So only a few weeks after reporting, Crabtree is right in the thick of things, after zero training camp and no organized team work of any kind since the final game of his Texas Tech career. Clearly, coach Mike Singletary, Jed York and general manager Scot McCloughan believe Crabtree can be an instant difference-maker. But only if he has a quarterback who can get him the ball. And that’s on Hill, who has never had this kind of pressure before."

Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says the 49ers haven't gotten their money's worth from Nate Clements. Poole makes good points about Clements' struggles against Terrell Owens and Roddy White. Clements has matched up favorably against Larry Fitzgerald, however. He is also a tremendous tackler, which contributes to the 49ers' soundness against the run. Seems to me Clements could become more consistent in his fundamentals. Sometimes he seems to suffer from lapses.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says Crabtree might need time to win over fans. Jerry Rice, Cliff Branch, Terrell Owens and Vernon Davis have been there before. Ratto: "The Bay Area has a history of harsh grading when it comes to wide receivers. Jerry Rice did a year in fan purgatory because of a string of early drops. Cliff Branch was in the Raiders fans' pooch hut for more than two years for the same reason, and came to like playing on the road more than at home because of that. And though he was loved early as the logical inheritor to Rice's throne, Terrell Owens left town as PE1 -- Public Enemy No. 1."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers' blowout loss before the bye week might have opened their eyes to a few realities.

John Morgan of Field Gulls breaks down the Seahawks' situation at left guard.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with Marcus Trufant, who practiced Tuesday for the first time all season. Trufant: "I want to play right now. I wish we had a game this week. But it’s one of those things. I'm working hard and I hope that I can play in Dallas. We're going to kind of see how things go."

Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune says Trufant felt the "mental grind" of a long rehab process.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers wants to be viewed as one of the guys. Bickley: "In the preseason, he recovered his onside kick against the Packers, emerged from the pile and spiked the ball with great fury. He drew a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration. It was far more acceptable than the antics of Bill Gramatica, who blew out a knee celebrating a short field goal, becoming the poster boy for goofy kickers everywhere."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic breaks down Larry Fitzgerald's touchdown reception against Jordan Babineaux on a play the Cardinals had been waiting to run all season. Good context and background information here.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals would like Beanie Wells to take a deep breath and slow down. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "He's a young player and so geeked up. Normally, guys will take a drop step and then they'll go because it times up better with the quarterback. Beanie is getting there sometimes before the pull of the guard or he's getting there too tight for the quarterback."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explains how charity work affects Matt Leinart and Karlos Dansby. Both shared thoughts on life outside football.