Wednesday, September 21, 2011
NFC West: Injury situations that matter
By Mike Sando
Arizona: Inside linebacker Daryl Washington continues to miss practice with a calf injury suffered during the regular-season opener. He did not play against Washington and will be missed if unavailable again this week. Washington flashed playmaking ability last season and picked up where he left off. The other starting inside linebacker, Paris Lenon, practiced fully despite briefly leaving the Washington game. The Cardinals should have strong depth at the position, but veteran newcomer Stewart Bradley has struggled getting comfortable in a 3-4 scheme. He and Reggie Walker could play more against the Seahawks. Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling was limited in practice and could return from a hand injury. He's a threat on kick returns and tends to get the ball when Arizona puts him on offense, but if the hand injury threatens ball security, that could change. Beanie Wells is commanding more carries, anyway.
St. Louis: The Rams think running back Steven Jackson wouldn't have tested his strained quadriceps during pregame warmups in Week 2 if he weren't close to returning. That suggests Jackson could be back on the field against Baltimore in Week 3. The Rams need him, but can they count on his health? Recent history suggests they cannot even though Jackson has played through most of his injuries. Backup Cadillac Williams suffered a hamstring injury Monday night, but he's expected to be available. Depth at receiver and cornerback is also a concern. Receiver Danny Amendola will push to get back from a dislocated elbow as early as the Rams will let him back on the field, but it might not happen this week. Amendola's backup, rookie Greg Salas, muffed a punt Monday night and emerged from the game with injured ribs. The corner situation remains dicey, although it hasn't gotten appreciably worse after Tim Atchison landed on injured reserve. The team signed corner Josh Gordy from its practice squad to replace Atchison, who also had roots on the practice squad. Losing starter Ron Bartell and projected third corner Jerome Murphy previously forced the Rams into a tough spot. Linebacker Ben Leber (groin) and defensive end C.J. Ah You (wrist) are also injured. Ah You will not play Sunday, leaving more snaps, in theory, for rookie first-round pick Robert Quinn. The Rams practiced later than usual Wednesday, so an official report was not yet available.
San Francisco: Losing receiver Braylon Edwards to knee surgery was the big story from 49ers headquarters Wednesday. It's not clear how long Edwards will miss, but he's not playing against Cincinnati in Week 3. Michael Crabtree's expected return would help, but he hasn't practiced much with the team under coach Jim Harbaugh. Joshua Morgan, Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams figure to play more prominent roles. This could be the week tight end Vernon Davis gets more involved in the offense as a receiver. He made key plays against Seattle in the opener, but the 49ers haven't been leaning on the pass. Davis met with Harbaugh this week to discuss his role after catching only seven passes for 65 yards in the first two games. He went through two stints last season with equal or less production in consecutive games. Each time, he had a 100-yard receiving game the next week. Fullback Moran Norris has a lower leg injury that could threaten his availability. Bruce Miller, whose primary value is on special teams, would replace him. It's possible the team would run fewer two-back personnel groupings without Norris. The team has averaged 2.2 yards per carry from two-back personnel on early downs, compared to 3.7 with one back. UPDATE: The 49ers disclosed that quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion against Dallas, but Smith practiced fully Wednesday.
Seattle: Receiver Sidney Rice returned to practice and will try to play despite a torn labrum. Having him available and anywhere near full strength would significantly improve the Seahawks' prospects in the passing game, particularly against an Arizona secondary that has struggled. But it's too early in the week to know whether Rice's shoulder will hold up. The offensive line will shuffle again with Robert Gallery requiring groin surgery. The dropoff from a diminished Gallery to a healthier Paul McQuistan might not be significant, but it's been four seasons since McQuistan started. If necessary, the team could always shift right tackle James Carpenter back to left guard, with Breno Giacomini going back into the lineup at right tackle. But McQuistan gets first crack at starting. Fullback Michael Robinson continues to miss practice with an ankle injury. The team feels his loss on special teams. The same is true with cornerback Byron Maxwell, who also missed practice with an ankle injury. Losing Robinson and Maxwell during the opener at San Francisco played a role in the Seahawks' late special-teams collapse. Coaches have had time to prepare contingencies, but getting Robinson back in particular will help.