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Monday, May 3, 2010
Reading just enough into postdraft camps

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Reading just enough, but not too much, into 2010 postdraft minicamps in the NFC West:

Arizona Cardinals

Darnell Dockett was a happy enough camper not only to attend camp, but to participate. That marked a change from the recent past even though Dockett obviously still wants a new deal.

Guard Deuce Lutui was the only notable absence from camp. Lutui still hasn't signed his tender as a restricted free agent. If Dockett and Anquan Boldin couldn't leverage new deals from the Cardinals, what makes anyone think Lutui's tactics will force them into doing a long-term deal now? He has basically no chance, it would appear, particularly after the Cardinals signed veteran guards Alan Faneca and Rex Hadnot in free agency.

The line depth appears stronger even without Lutui.

St. Louis Rams

Sam Bradford sounds determined to disprove those who have questioned how well he'll adjust to a pro-style offense and whether he can take a hit.

It can be good when a No. 1 overall draft choice feels as though he has something prove.

I thought it was also potentially a good sign for Rams fans when offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur showered Bradford with praise. Coaches can be reluctant to give players too much credit too soon, but the Rams think Bradford deserves it and can handle it.

The Rams do stand to benefit in the short term from pumping up Bradford. They certainly hope Bradford is the real deal. On the other hand, the things Shurmur mentioned -- smarts, attention to detail -- were specific and came with elaboration (as when Shurmur said Bradford was showing early command of the playbook). That's a start.

Seattle Seahawks

The offensive line appears more legitimate with Russell Okung at left tackle and Ben Hamilton at left guard. The left side of the line was a question mark before Seattle drafted Okung and signed Hamilton. There's enough talent up front now for fans to imagine what life might be like with a healthy Matt Hasselbeck (it would be much better).

The things Hasselbeck offers -- experience, leadership, familiarity with terminology, a rapport with some existing players -- should only further endear Hasselbeck to the new coaching staff as they discover what he's about. The staying healthy part will remain a concern until the reconfigured line proves itself.

The Seahawks acquired Charlie Whitehurst from San Diego because they wanted competition at quarterback. Hasselbeck is also entering the final year of his contract. Those factors created uncertainty about where Hasselbeck stood with the new coaching staff. Seeing him run the starting offense at minicamp removed some of the doubt.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers remain unwavering in their public commitment to Alex Smith as their starting quarterback, a change from recent offseasons and the right approach, I think, as they try to position Smith for success. Smith carried himself with far more confidence in this camp than in past ones, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said.

Raye, like the Rams' Shurmur, needs to have his quarterback succeed. If strong praise becomes self-fulfilling, everyone wins.

Also on offense, the 49ers gave Ted Ginn Jr. a long look at receiver, not just as a return specialist. That makes sense. It's a bonus for the 49ers if Ginn develops into a competent receiver. The team knows what he offers in the return game. Those skills will be there during the regular season if San Francisco needs them. In the meantime, why not see if he can offer anything to the offense?