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Wednesday, October 20, 2010
NFC West: Injury situations that matter

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Arizona: The Cardinals should be much healthier coming out of their bye week. Receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet are expected back. Their presence would very much help rookie quarterback Max Hall. The margin for error shrinks on the road. Breaston and Doucet have big-game experience. Breaston in particular can make downfield plays. Seattle could be without starting cornerback Kelly Jennings. Having more receivers healthy gives Arizona a better chance to exploit matchups. It's tough to know what veteran inside linebacker Gerald Hayes might provide, but the Cardinals need all the help they can get against the run. They've allowed 401 yards rushing in their past two road games. Hayes is returning from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. How much he practices Thursday and Friday could reveal whether he's ready to contribute significantly.

San Francisco: Frank Gore remains healthy and productive, but coach Mike Singletary told reporters Wednesday he hopes to get more carries for Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon in an effort to keep Gore from breaking down. I'll believe it when I see it, though. The 49ers have understandably had trouble removing Gore from the field. Westbrook and Dixon have fared well in limited reps, however. Veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. will continue handling both punt and kickoff return duties while rookie Kyle Williams recovers from a finger injury. Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis was limited in practice, but his knee injury is not expected to limit him Sunday. Of the other players on the injury report, only Delanie Walker (ankle) and Eric Heitmann (neck) are expected to be unavailable. Neither has played recently.

St. Louis: The Rams are hurting in the secondary. Cornerbacks Ron Bartell (thigh) and Justin King (hamstring) did not participate Wednesday. Hamstring injuries have slowed cornerbacks Jerome Murphy and Kevin Dockery. St. Louis has dealt with injuries in the secondary quite admirably this season. The Rams have yet to face a top quarterback on the road and that will not change against Tampa Bay in Week 7. That might give St. Louis a better chance if their corners are limited. Defensive tackle Clifton Ryan's migraine problems sidelined him again Wednesday, but the Rams have generally been solid up front thanks to Fred Robbins. The special teams should benefit as Chris Chamberlain regains form following a serious turf-toe injury. But with fellow special-teamer David Vobora limited by a hamstring injury, the coverage units might not be full strength. The Bucs have not been strong on returns this season, however.

Seattle: Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (calf) and cornerback Kelly Jennings (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. Mebane missed the Chicago game. Jennings did not return after suffering the injury. Seattle's defense fared well with Kentwan Balmer replacing Mebane. Balmer should be in better position to succeed if called upon again this week because crowd noise could make it tougher for the Cardinals' offensive linemen to get off the ball on time. Jennings' absence would hurt the depth at corner just as Arizona is getting healthy at receiver. Having Marcus Trufant healthy against Arizona should help, however. A back injury sidelined Trufant for the first game between the teams last season. He wasn't right physically upon his return. Seattle will not miss former Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin, either. Boldin had 14 catches for 159 yards against Seattle last season and 13 for 186 yards at Seattle in 2008.