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Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Around the NFC West: Early RB issues

By Mike Sando

Good morning, NFC West. We've got some news and notes on running backs to sort through as the Thursday night preseason openers approach for every team in the division but Arizona, which opens Friday.

Let's get right to the specifics.

Arizona Cardinals: The team has already been without Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, the projected top two backs if healthy. Both have had knee-related issues. Rookie Andre Ellington left practice Tuesday, possibly for an injury to his neck area. Mendenhall resumed practicing this week, but he remains limited. Arizona ran extremely low on players at this position last season, so the early personnel shortages are a bit concerning.

St. Louis Rams: Coach Jeff Fisher pointed to Daryl Richardson as the starting running back over Isaiah Pead. Rookie Zac Stacy is another one to watch. Fisher: "Daryl comes back as our starter because he played significantly more last year than anybody, and so Isaiah is working himself up and competing with Daryl. And you’ve got the rest of the guys that are just going to battle it out, and we haven’t ruled anybody out from that matter. But we're going to try to get as many carries as we can."

San Francisco 49ers: Undrafted rookie D.J. Harper is getting high marks for his blocking in particular. That is often an area where rookie running backs struggle. But as Matt Barrows notes, Harper knocked Pro Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman to the ground during pass-blocking drills, catching the attention of running backs coach Tom Rathman. This one falls into the file-it-away category. A rookie runner probably isn't going to factor for the 49ers in the regular season.

Seattle Seahawks: Rookie second-round choice Christine Michael has stood out for his explosive running, but he left practice Tuesday and was headed to ice his back. It's not clear whether Michael was injured or simply needing some routine maintenance, but with No. 2 running back Robert Turbin still coming back from a foot injury, depth at the position is a question mark.