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Tuesday, November 1, 2011
NFC West Stock Watch

By Mike Sando

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks coach. Coaches lose credibility with their players over time when they risk defeat with imprudent decisions. Carroll handled the quarterback situation questionably against Cincinnati on Sunday. He clearly botched the sequence when the first-half clock ran out, preventing the Seahawks from getting points. He did not stop the team from calling another option running play for quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, even though Jackson was still playing with an injury stemming from the last time Seattle called such a play. Making mistakes is bad enough. Refusing to correct them is worse. Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times recently ran through some of the other questionable decisions from Carroll. The Seahawks deserve better for their $35 million investment.

2. Russ Grimm, Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach/offensive line. Grimm's Hall of Fame pedigree and long-established reputation as a top offensive line coach have largely buffered him from criticism. That should change given where the Cardinals' line stands five seasons into Grimm's tenure with Arizona. Grimm hasn't been able to turn a top-five draft choice, Levi Brown, into even an average starting NFL tackle. Quarterback Kevin Kolb, though largely to blame for holding the ball too long, nonetheless needs better protection than the Cardinals' line has afforded him.

3. Charlie Whitehurst, Seahawks QB. Carroll's patience with Whitehurst finally ran out against the Bengals. Whitehurst is likely finished in Seattle unless an injury forces him into the lineup and he suddenly performs at a high level for an extended stretch. The team needed to find out about Whitehurst this season. Carroll made it clear he's seen enough when he benched Whitehurst after only seven pass attempts Sunday. Whitehurst took two sacks during his brief time on the field. He appeared unsettled by the rush and unsure what to do.

RISING

Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson celebrates one of the two touchdowns he scored in the Rams' upset win over New Orleans.
1. Steven Jackson, Rams RB. Jackson is the Rams' emotional leader, but that leadership had its limits when a quadriceps injury was preventing Jackson from performing at a high level. Jackson has shown over the past two games an ability to run with abandon. Jackson carried 25 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams' 31-21 upset of New Orleans. He now has 28 career 100-yard rushing performances with the Rams, one more than Marshall Faulk. Only Eric Dickerson (38) has more in franchise history. Jackson's four receptions tied him with Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch for sixth on the Rams' career list (343 catches). Jackson also moved past Faulk for third on the Rams' list for most yards from scrimmage.

2. Chris Long, Rams DE. Long's three-sack performance against Drew Brees and the Saints came after a quiet week for Long and the Rams' defense at Dallas. This was a breakout game in every way. Long had one sack in each of the Rams' first three games this season. He then went three games without one before breaking through against Saints right tackle Charles Brown. Long next faces an Arizona team that has juggled personnel at right tackle, switching between Brandon Keith and Jeremy Bridges. Long's rise could continue.

3. Robert Quinn, Rams DE. A few unestablished young players in the division qualified for consideration in this spot. Richard Sherman, Greg Salas, Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield come to mind. Patrick Peterson was another consideration, but his punt return for a touchdown wasn't his first of the season, and the Cardinals ultimately lost. The San Francisco 49ers' collective stock has already surged, making it tough to pinpoint one player from that team following a routine victory over Cleveland. I went with Quinn because his stock had sagged quite a bit early in the season. He wasn't even active for the opener. But with a sack and blocked punt against New Orleans, the rookie first-round draft choice played an important role in the Rams' first victory of the season.