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Monday, August 30, 2010
Around the NFC West: Anderson favored?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Arizona Cardinals will look beyond the stats when naming their starting quarterback for the 2010 regular season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "It's not as much about stats as it is about chemistry with the team. In that position it's about how you handle everything that's thrown at you." If the Cardinals were happy with Matt Leinart on this front, they never would have named Derek Anderson their starter for the third exhibition game. It's also unlikely Leinart would suddenly meet expectations in these areas. Anderson would appear to be the favorite to start, then, unless he also appears deficient in these areas. Whisenhunt previously said he thought through the decision. Why make the change without being reasonably certain Anderson would measure up more favorably in these areas? Anderson and Leinart both put up good numbers against Chicago on Saturday night.

Also from Somers: He thinks the Cardinals have probably made their decision at quarterback, and probably in favor of Anderson. He also asks a logical question: "Maybe the tepid endorsements (of Leinart from teammates) had something to do Whisenhunt's approach with Leinart. The coach never went all in with him, so why would the players?" Somers thinks the Cardinals would try to trade Leinart instead of releasing him, should the team decide Leinart no longer has a place on the roster.

More from Somers: Cardinals players steer clear of the quarterback discussion.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com also thinks Anderson is the favorite to start. Urban: "It was interesting that twice, Whisenhunt noted the quarterback choice will come down to chemistry with the team and how the QB handles things when he is in the fray -- and that it won’t necessarily be about stats. Given that Leinart has completed 19-of-23 preseason passes and not turned it over, Whiz’s comments seem to pump the brakes on the idea Leinart could be the favorite. One of the issues swirling around Leinart for a while has been whether he is able to inspire the team."

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic handicaps the Leinart-Anderson race to start for Arizona.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says rookie safety Earl Thomas was the team's top defensive player in the third exhibition game Saturday night. Coach Pete Carroll: "We drafted him because he’s a playmaker. He was the best playmaker in the country."

Also from Farnsworth: a closer look at Thomas' interception return for a touchdown. Strong safety Lawyer Milloy said he hasn't played with a faster teammate. Milloy: "The one thing I like about Earl, he has an attitude, too. He definitely has the potential to be very good, very special in this league if he does the right things."

More from Farnsworth: Carroll liked what he saw from his defense, even though the Seahawks lost the game at Minnesota. Also, the team might be changing its mindset on the road, as this strong statement from Matt Hasselbeck suggests: "Pete has done a great job of really changing our mindset when we go on the road. Understanding how to handle what we’re really up against when we’re on the road. If anything, I think we proved to ourselves things that have really been annoying issues on the road in the past are nothing we need to worry about because we kind of dealt with it and we know how to handle it."

Brian McIntyre of scout.com says the Seahawks' inability to get off the field on third down stands out as a problem for Seattle on defense despite some solid individual efforts against the Vikings.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Charlie Whitehurst has appeared "progressively worse" during the preseason. O'Neil: "He remains firmly entrenched as the back-up, but he was particularly bad in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game. His 47-yard pass to Golden Tate was a highlight, but his next three throws were increasingly worse, culminating in an interception that two different Minnesota defenders were vying for."

Also from O'Neil: It's been a while since anyone in the Seahawks' secondary has generated excitement the way Thomas has lately. Ken Hamlin's rookie season comes to mind. A few hard hits early in Hamlin's rookie season drew comparisons to Kenny Easley, but Hamlin could not sustain his early success. By 2005, the Seahawks found out they were better with the steadier, headier Marquand Manuel in the lineup.

More from O'Neil: The Seahawks' running game is stuck in neutral.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com didn't see much from Seahawks rookie Dexter Davis against Minnesota, and I would agree. Davis appeared to be running in sand on a couple pass-rush chances I saw.

John Morgan of Field Gulls counts the ways Seattle protected left tackle Mansfield Wrotto against the Vikings, noting that such tactics will not work as well over the long term.

Also from Morgan: high marks for Walter Thurmond even though the Packers exploited Seattle's rookie corner. I would agree. Thurmond is playing aggressively.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks Donnie Avery's injury will lead to more playing time for Danny Amendola, who has been nicknamed "White Chocolate" by rookie teammate Mardy Gilyard. Thomas: "It looks like Amendola gets the first crack at replacing Avery in the starting lineup opposite Laurent Robinson. Amendola already was playing a lot as the slot receiver in three-receiver sets, but this would basically put him on the field for every play on offense. The Rams didn't make a lot of personnel changes at wide receiver over the offseason. Much of their hope at the position lies in developing young returning players, many of whom got their first taste of extended NFL playing time last season." The fact that Gilyard is handing out nicknames to veterans reflects the needed swagger the rookie receiver brings to the Rams.

Also from Thomas: Patriots owner Robert Kraft prank-called new Rams owner Stan Kroenke during the recent preseason game between the teams. Fun stuff.

More from Thomas: a game-by-game look at the Rams' 2010 schedule, with a predicted upset victory over the Cardinals in Week 1.

More still from Thomas: an entertaining look at the Rams' past quarterbacks in St. Louis, featuring classic stories.

More yet from Thomas: a position-by-position look at the Rams' offense, noting that Keith Null appears likely to secure the No. 3 quarterback job.

One more from Thomas: a look at the defense, with special mention for linebacker Larry Grant, who has impressed.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Thaddeus Lewis as the rookie quarterback tries to unseat Null as the Rams' third-string quarterback.

Also from Coats: a look at how some big-name quarterbacks got their start, with Sam Bradford's development in mind.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are thrilled with Bradford. Guard Adam Goldberg: "Sam is super impressive at everything. He's super impressive in the huddle, super impressive in the meeting room. He's obviously super impressive with the ball in his hands, in the pocket, outside the pocket, handing the ball off, following through with his fakes after he hands off. He just does everything right. His [voice] volume is right. He's loud enough and clear enough so we can all hear him, but he's not nervous and yelling so the defense can hear him. He's calm and composed and nothing really shakes him."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com gives high marks to several 49ers players for their efforts against Oakland on Saturday night. Maiocco on rookie tight end Nate Byham: "He entered the game on the 49ers' second offensive snap. He's a blocking tight end who has the versatility to play in the backfield, making it unnecessary for the 49ers to retain a second fullback."

Also from Maiocco: Coach Mike Singletary was pleased with David Carr's performance under the circumstances. Nate Davis had virtually no shot at unseating Carr this offseason based on the money the 49ers committed to Carr and the experience Carr offered. We could take away the "virtually" after Singletary criticized Davis last week.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sizes up the 49ers' roster and sees the team saving a spot for its best backup left tackle, Barry Sims. Barrows: "Sims is a known commodity, and that's what a team that expects to make the playoffs wants if something should happen to its left tackle."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are a tough, hard-hitting team.

Also from Cohn: Two days before the 49ers had trouble getting plays into the huddle on time, Alex Smith complained about headset troubles.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Raiders coach and former Idaho offensive lineman Tom Cable gave high marks to 49ers rookie guard Mike Iupati, also from Idaho.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks Smith could do a better job leading his receivers.