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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Around the NFC West: When youth's served

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Losing an established veteran player unexpectedly can hurt. It can also help.

Marcus Trufant's season-ending back injury could fall into both categories. It hurts because the Seattle Seahawks, like most teams, could always use another starting-caliber cornerback. It helps because it clears the way for the team to develop younger players, including Walter Thurmond.

The situation with Takeo Spikes in San Francisco comes to mind. Spikes was a valued veteran leader in 2010. His departure to San Diego in free agency seemed like a setback at the time, but without him, young replacement NaVorro Bowman has grown into one of the better young linebackers in the league. He's been much better than Spikes, actually.

Dynamics tend to be different in the secondary, where there's enough playing time to go around given the need to play more than two cornerbacks a high percentage of the time. Thurmond was going to develop with or without Trufant, but the process accelerates now that Thurmond is starting.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Thurmond, who started one game as a rookie from Oregon last season. Williams: "The University of Oregon product is part of a young starting secondary that, although inexperienced, has the potential to make big plays. The Seahawks have five interceptions and have given up just six passing touchdowns this season, tied for fourth overall. Seattle gave up 31 passing touchdowns last year, third-worst in the league."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' low-key approach to the quarterback position continued Tuesday when the team remained on the sideline while Oakland paid a huge price for Carson Palmer.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says this about guard Adam Snyder during his player-by-player review for the 49ers in Week 6: "Started at right guard, and played the first three quarters before exiting with a right shoulder stinger. . . Had block on defensive tackle Nick Fairley on 8-yard run for [Kendall] Hunter in first quarter. . . . Had a holding penalty called on him in the third quarter that was declined. . . . During his time in the game, he held his own against Ndamukong Suh, who lined up over him most of the time."

Also from Maiocco: the defensive player review. On Bowman: "Started at inside linebacker and played every snap in the game. After a film review, the coaches adjusted Bowman's tackle total from 13 to 17 tackles. . . Had good position on third-and-goal incomplete pass intended for Jahvid Best to hold Lions to field goal in the first quarter. . . Overran Best on 13-yard gain late in first quarter. . . . Avoided attempted block of tight end Will Heller and stopped Best for 1-yard gain in third quarter. . . . Broke up third-and-5 pass to [Brandon] Pettigrew with 1:19 remaining."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic counts the Cardinals among NFL teams no longer able to claim lockout-related relief given the success Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers are enjoying. Defensive end Vonnie Holliday: "The 49ers are separating themselves and we have to have a sense of urgency. It's not like maybe in years past in this division where everybody is right there together. We're chasing them, and we have to start now. We can't wait."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals running back Beanie Wells, who played Little League with LeBron James and spent his bye week overseeing construction of an add-on room at his mother's home.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are paying for letting Steve Breaston get away, making life tougher for Larry Fitzgerald. Noted: I think the Cardinals have plenty of talent at receiver. The 49ers don't have anyone approaching Fitzgerald's ability level. They recently lost starting receiver Josh Morgan to a season-ending injury. Braylon Edwards has been out for weeks. The team is 5-1 anyway. The Cardinals need better play at quarterback and better play on defense more than they need another receiver, in my view. Early Doucet is performing pretty well on third down as it is. Something for Bickley and I to discuss during our weekly radio conversation Friday.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says new labor rules might prevent teams from getting as much out of a bye week.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts during a chat on what's wrong with the Rams' pass-rush this season. Thomas: "The Rams have trailed by at least 14 points at halftime in four of their five games. They have led for a grand total of 6 minutes 28 seconds all season. It's a lot easier to rush the passer with a lead, and when the opposing team is in obvious passing situations. I think this has as much to do with it as anything."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams' acquisition of Brandon Lloyd was a risk worth taking. Softli: "The hope is Lloyd can accomplish more than just leadership, because the Rams don't need leadership. They are getting that from Steven Jackson, Sam Bradford, James Hall, James Laurinaitis and Quintin Mikell. They need more Blue players (playmakers and difference-makers). Ones that show up every day, play consistently at a high level and bring a ton of production in every game. As we know, history will repeat itself, but the question is which Brandon Lloyd did the Rams trade for, last season's Pro Bowler or the journeyman that several teams didn't want on their roster?"