Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Around the NFC West: Willis' great start
By Mike Sando
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is putting together a Hall of Fame career. Maiocco: "Writers from around the country vote for the All-Pro team. There are many of the same writers who also vote for the Hall of Fame, so it only stands to reason that Willis is taking some significant strides early in his career toward eventually being honored in Canton, Ohio. After all, the great Ronnie Lott made first-team All-Pro six times in his career -- and just once in his first five seasons in the league." Willis is definitely heading down a Hall of Fame path. It's reasonable to think he could perform at a similar level for another five or six seasons.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Willis is the first player in 49ers history to earn All-Pro honors in each of his first four seasons. Branch: "Since 2004, Willis is one of just three Niners to earn All-Pro honors and one of two named to the first team. Running back Frank Gore was a second-team selection in 2006 and punter Andy Lee earned first-team honors in 2007 and was a second-team selection last year. The last Niners position player besides Willis to earn first-team All-Pro honors was linebacker Julian Peterson in 2003. Tight end Vernon Davis and defensive tackle Justin Smith were the only other players to earn All-Pro votes Monday after the Niners' 6-10 season."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with former Stanford defensive linemen for insights into Vic Fangio's coaching. Barrows: "(Sione) Fua said that when Fangio first arrived, he showed them films of NFL defenses he had coached, especially the Ravens defense. Fangio was a special assistant to Ravens coach John Harbaugh before joining Jim Harbaugh at Stanford in 2010."
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is in his element at the Senior Bowl. White: "Deep inside, Baalke will forever be a field-level scout, and has been since the day he made the career change from high school athletic director in North Dakota to regional scout with the Jets 14 years ago. Some scouts socialized and schmoozed at the South team's practice Monday. Not Baalke. He stood on the sideline, often alone, eyes fixed on a receiver getting around a jam at the line of scrimmage, a left tackle getting leverage on a pass rusher, a cornerback breaking up a seam pass."
Doug Farrar of Sportspress Northwest says the Seahawks can help themselves with the right evaluation at the Senior Bowl. Farrar: "Like Earl Thomas, left tackle Russell Okung proved the value of Seattle’s 2010 draft by providing key option that could be in place for years. But between Sean Locklear and Stacy Andrews, the right tackle spot is anything but defined, and Okung’s repeated ankle issues show an increased need for depth. There are several tackles in this senior draft class. So far, Wisconsin’s Game Carimi has been the most impressive. Carimi occasionally played too upright to be an effective pass blocker during his collegiate career, but work in that area has been evident. Colorado’s Nate Solder must transcend many technique issues, but there’s potential there. Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State and Anthony Constanzo of Boston College are also worth watching this week."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks can learn from the Packers' and Steelers' Super Bowl runs. Brewer: "It's rare that a champion makes a trade for a Drew Brees. It's rare that a defense is so dominant that it can win with a Trent Dilfer merely managing the game. But it's not rare to draft a franchise quarterback, even when you don't have a top-10 pick. The Seahawks need to re-sign Matt Hasselbeck and use this draft to figure out a quarterback succession plan. It has worked amazingly for Green Bay, with Rodgers stepping in for future Hall of Famer Brett Favre."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune has this to say during a chat: "I don't think Donovan McNabb is an upgrade over Matt Hasselbeck. But I think a key will be money and years. How much money Hasselbek wants and how much security. I don't know if Seattle would be willing to sign Hasselbeck to a three-year, $30 million deal." That would be approaching the average Kurt Warner commanded after leading Arizona to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune explains why he thinks Seattle needs to re-sign Hasselbeck. Boling: "If you end up letting him go, you’d better find a better alternative. Even if you like somebody in what appears to be an unimposing pool of free-agent talent, it might be months before you settle this critical issue. Meanwhile, there definitely will be a market for Hasselbeck, perhaps even among division brethren, who could quickly alter the competitive balance with a veteran quarterback. If you can sign him for a reasonable cost for a couple of years, you can draft a prospective replacement and let him be groomed by Hasselbeck."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Steelers' advancement to the Super Bowl further delays the Cardinals' search for a defensive coordinator. Somers: "Ken Whisenhunt is expecting to interview other candidates this week in Mobile, Ala., site of the Senior Bowl. He has declined to reveal their names. It is possible Whisenhunt could hire a coordinator before the Super Bowl, but that seems doubtful at this point. He admires Dick LeBeau and has wanted to use a similar defensive system in Arizona. It's been nearly three weeks since Whisenhunt fired coordinator Bill Davis, so replacing Davis quickly was not a priority. After firing his two previous coordinators, Whisenhunt knows he has to find the right person for the job this time. Four other teams -- the Titans, Raiders, Broncos and Eagles -- are searching for defensive coordinators."
Aaron Wilson of National Football Post says former Cardinals secondary coach Teryl Austin is the favorite to land the same job with the Ravens. Austin spent last season as defensive coordinator at the University of Florida.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com looks ahead to the Rams' 2011 schedule. Wagoner: "Because of the NFL’s scheduling rotation, the Rams will play all members of the NFC East and AFC North Divisions in addition to the usual home and home series within the NFC West. Additionally, the Rams will meet their division doppelganger within the NFC for the North and South divisions. On paper, at least, it appears the Rams will face one of the league’s most daunting schedules in 2011. Of course, a lot changes from year to year so teams expected to be major challenges might struggle and teams expected to be ripe for the picking could be greatly improved."
Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams should consider adding Braylon Edwards during the offseason.