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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Around the NFC West: Doom and gloom prevails

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says you, the tortured 49ers fan, would have to "go out on a limb that would be out of Tarzan's comfort level to pick the 49ers as a playoff contender. They lack an established quarterback and a game-breaking receiver, and they're learning a new offense." Other than that, optimism boils over.

The Arizona Republic, following right along in the NFC West pride department, rolls out a feature breaking down "Cardinals low points in Arizona" -- and this might be one of them. The franchise is coming off a promising 8-8 season under Ken Whisenhunt, and this is what it gets? Alas, the Cardinals have earned our skepticism.

Mark McKenna of the Tri-City Herald takes a more optimistic view of hometown product Adam Carriker, the Rams' second-year defensive tackle. Back in the day, Carriker supposedly heaved a football 80 yards while wearing a protective boot on his foot. "I can't throw it that far anymore," Carriker said. "But I think I can still throw it a good 70." Carriker described himself as about 80 percent following shoulder surgery, but said he would be full strength by the regular-season opener.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee describes the 49ers' extreme makeover heading into camp. Barrows wonders how Mike Nolan and Martz will coexist. Barrows: "The 49ers have a conservative, defensive-minded head coach and a risk-taking, iconoclastic offensive coordinator who used to be a head coach. Both men have strong personalities. Both crave control. So far, the relationship between Nolan and Martz has been cozy and cordial, and both coaches realize their own success hinges on the other man. But with a head-coaching job on the line -- for both men -- who knows what will happen should the team struggle."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat breaks out a Q-and-A heading into camp. He still doesn't see a Larry Allen reunion as likely: "The re-signing of Larry Allen is not exactly a priority for the 49ers right now. He's asking for too much money."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals showed up almost in full as the team prepared to open camp in Flagstaff. Unsigned rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the only no-show.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revisits the Rams' third-round draft choices from 2006, noting that none of the three will play a snap for the team this season. Jon Alston and Dominique Byrd are long gone. Claude Wroten, suspended for one year Wednesday, isn't eligible to return until May 2009. On the plus side, only eight Rams players must achieve "elite" status for the team to succeed this season.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times calls on the Seahawks to save the city from sports doom following the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City. Kelley pens Mike Holmgren's pre-camp address, working in a shot at NBA commissioner David Stern: "I want you cornerbacks to crack every wide receiver who dares come across the middle. I want you to treat them the way David Stern treated Seattle."

Danny O'Neil, also of the Times, takes a look at the Seahawks' situation at linebacker on his blog. The team will most likely keep seven, as usual.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News reminds Mike Nolan of the coach's tenuous job status. Also: According to Purdy, Nolan took a shot at retiring quarterback Trent Dilfer in describing the team's priorities at the position this season. Thanks for the memories, Trent.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune catches up with Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who says his contract concerns won't impact his attitude this season.

Back with our first NFC West mailbag shortly.