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Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Around the NFC West: 49ers' line

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee blames the 49ers' coaching for the team's last-place ranking in one of Football Outsiders' offensive line metrics. Barrows: "If 71 percent of your runs are up the middle (only Jacksonville had a higher percentage), opponents have a pretty good idea of what's coming at them. Players also complained privately that their protection schemes never varied throughout the season. Again, that made the 49ers predictable and put the players in an unenviable position."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' offensive line, fully expecting the team to address the position in the 2010 draft. Maiocco on center Eric Heitmann: "He was again the team's most consistent offensive lineman, and his starting job does not figure to be challenged for another year or two. Heitmann enters his ninth NFL season. He is very good working in tight spaces. Getting out front to lead screens or plays to the outside is not his strength. He has good size and better strength than a lot of centers, which is why the 49ers feel comfortable running the ball up the middle so often. Signed through 2011."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider wonders how Ahmad Brooks might respond to a successful 2009 season.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are assembling their draft board and the combine probably won't influence it as much as one might think. O'Neil: "That draft board will change and the scouting combine will certainly impact that, but it's most often that a player demonstrates or reinforces a short-coming. A defensive back who doesn't have the top-end speed you want from a cornerback is an indication he may in fact end up as a safety. A quarterback doesn't have the arm strength he will need to make some of the throws outside the hashmarks that an NFL quarterback must make."

Pro Football Weekly has this to say about former Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell's potential landing in Chicago: "The word out of Halas Hall is that the Bears' front-office reshuffling might continue, with director of college scouting Greg Gabriel heavily rumored to be a good bet to follow in the footsteps of fired pro personnel director Bobby DePaul — although probably not until after the draft. If Gabriel does indeed split the scene, and the Bears, as expected, replace DePaul with former Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell, there is speculation that Ruskell could become the head personnel director at both the pro and college levels, answering directly to Bears GM and longtime pal Jerry Angelo. We also hear there's a possibility Southwest area scout Chris Ballard, a Lovie Smith favorite, could move up the ladder to replace Gabriel."

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 rounds up various mock drafts to see which players are projected as landing in Arizona. Outside linebackers keep making the list even though coach Ken Whisenhunt expressed confidence in the team's young depth at that position.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to release free safety Antrel Rolle, one of several high-profile personnel issues facing the team this offseason. Somers: "Rashad Johnson was a big disappointment as a rookie last season. If he had played up to potential, the Cardinals probably could afford to let Rolle leave. Rolle's departure will be felt especially in the team's sub packages. With Rolle and (Matt) Ware in the lineup, Wilson can be moved close to scrimmage, where he can do the most damage. If Rolle leaves, the Cardinals are dangerously thin at safety, even if they re-sign Ware. On another front, the Cardinals remain interested in re-signing linebacker Karlos Dansby. But I don't expect that to happen."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' reduction of ticket prices appears more dramatic than reductions elsewhere around the NFL. Thomas: "With the final three games of 2009 blacked out, and the prospect of more TV blackouts looming in 2010 with a less attractive home schedule, some team officials were afraid the season-ticket base would erode even further if the franchise merely announced a price freeze for 2010."

Also from Thomas: This is the first time in the Rams' 15-year St. Louis history that the team has reduced ticket prices.