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Friday, September 23, 2011
Around the NFC West: Rams' RB questions

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Depth at running back wasn't supposed to be a problem for the St. Louis Rams this season.

Signing veterans Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood gave the team better options behind starter Steven Jackson.

Two games into the season, a quadriceps strain is threatening to keep out Jackson for another week, while hamstring problems are keeping Williams from practicing.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jackson took limited reps in practice Thursday, while Williams hoped to get some work in Friday. Jackson: "I was able to get out there today, practice a little bit, get a few reps in. I'm starting to familiarize myself with the game plan and knowing what Baltimore does. So mentally, I'm right on key with the team. I just have to continue over the next few days to see how the quad reacts to me actually doing physical work that's football related."

Also from Thomas: Williams takes responsibility for a "bonehead move" against the Giants on Monday night.

Will Horton of RamsHerd breaks down Sam Bradford's pass distribution against the Giants. Horton: "After drafting Lance Kendricks, there was talk that Josh McDaniels might try to emulate the 2010 Pats. But if Monday's game is any indication, expect much more of a Broncos-like attack. Fantasy prognosticators, take note of how often Mike Sims-Walker and Brandon Gibson were targeted between 10 and 20 yards out from the line of scrimmage. Both could fill that coveted 'Brandon Lloyd' slot." Noted: We should find out over the course of the season how much the Rams' success in the passing game had to do with their own improvement vs. the Giants' injury problems on defense.

Also from Horton: Thoughts on the Pro Football Focus review of the Rams' effort in Week 2.

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis thinks the Rams can beat the Ravens, a team he sees living on reputation defensively.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers think officials erred on a critical offside penalty against Ahmad Brooks in Week 2.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers quarterback Alex Smith felt fine Monday, a day after suffering a concussion.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Jim Harbaugh must open up the 49ers' offense after gaining no more than 209 yards in either of the team's first two games. Noted: Establishing some semblance of a running game would give the 49ers much better options on offense while boosting their yardage totals.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers will spend 10 days on the road during their trip to Ohio. Inman: "Sandwiched between games Sunday at Cincinnati and Oct. 2 at Philadelphia is a five-day layover in Youngstown, Ohio, hometown of the DeBartolo family, which purchased the 49ers in 1977."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' extended road trip is designed to combat a poor record in the Eastern time zone, but the team has struggled similarly on the road in other time zones, too. Branch: "San Francisco is 3-19 in the Eastern time zone since 2003. Then again, the 49ers aren't so hot in the Central time zone (4-20) over their past eight non-winning seasons. And they've gone 2-7 away from home in the Pacific time zone since 2003 -- proving they can get their clocks cleaned without moving their clocks forward."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley for thoughts on the switch from Aaron Curry to K.J. Wright at strong-side linebacker. What Bradley has to say about Wright differentiates the rookie from Curry. Bradley: "K.J. is very instinctive. He plays very smart situational football. He’s just such a quick study. He picked up on this stuff that we taught him playing Sam linebacker."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks "finally ran out of patience" with Curry. Williams: "While Curry has floundered, other linebackers taken after him in his same draft class have flourished. Washington’s Brian Orakpo (selected No. 13), Houston’s Brian Cushing (No. 15) and Green Bay’s Clay Mathews (No. 26) all have a Pro Bowl to their credit in young careers. Earlier this season during training camp the Seahawks restructured Curry’s contract, making it easier to part ways with the underperforming linebacker at season’s end if they choose." Noted: The Seahawks' general manager, John Schneider, was with the Packers when they took Mathews and B.J. Raji in the first round of that 2009 draft.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says it's not clear how serious Beanie Wells' hamstring injury might be. Noted: Wells' durability has been a concern throughout his NFL career. Hamstring injuries tend to linger. The Cardinals lack sufficient depth behind Wells to challenge defenses over the course of a game without him. They can be much more physical in the running game with Wells than they can be without him.

Also from Somers: Darnell Dockett says the Cardinals need to reduce penalties without letting opponents push them around. Dockett: "We just have to be smart. I always emphasize to my team, 'Don't never be a punk. If somebody do something to you, you do something back.' If you just continue to let them do it, then you're going to have a long day. We're not going to let nobody just push us in the helmet, push in the back, step on our hands and do crazy stuff. You have to respond sometimes but also you got to be smart about it." Noted: Over the last couple seasons, Dockett has tried to push around the Seahawks. He elbowed Matt Hasselbeck in the neck area after a play two seasons ago. He also hit Chris Spencer in the back area with his helmet. Neither of those incidents carries much weight when the teams play again Sunday because there's been so much roster turnover. I informally polled Seahawks offensive linemen to see whether the elbowing incident had come up among them this week. The few I spoke with didn't even know about it.

More from Somers: The Cardinals' offensive line played well at Washington.