Friday, August 3, 2012
Around the NFC West: St. Louis to Canton
By Mike Sando
CANTON, Ohio -- Thank you, St. Louis. The NFC West blog has made its way from Rams Park to Ohio for Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities featuring Cortez Kennedy one day (Saturday) and the Arizona Cardinals the next.
Training camps will continue, of course, and I'll make every effort to keep pace on that front as well. But with Hall of Fame events running almost non-stop beginning Friday, there will be some temporary blind spots, for sure.
A run through the headlines should get us current for now.
A familiar theme ran through three NFC West camps Thursday. Defenses were reportedly ahead of offenses in Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco. No surprise there. All three of those teams played tough defense for parts or most of last season. All three had their problems on offense. In St. Louis, meanwhile, the Rams put on the pads for the first time as a full squad.
Lots of ground to cover.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune has some insights that should please Seahawks fans and floor Rams fans: Alex Barron is looking good. Boling: "With the team in full pads, Barron was given time with the second unit at right tackle, behind starter Breno Giacomini. And three straight plays, Barron was asked to block speedy rookie first-round pick Bruce Irvin. Barron's drop was quick enough, and punch so powerful, he dropped Irvin to his knees on the first snap. The next two, Irvin went with a spin move to the inside, and Barron stonewalled him. Those were extremely impressive efforts against a player who is young, yes, but is going to be a real nightmare for a lot of tackles in the league."
Tony Drovetto of seahawks.com says Matt Flynn's turn with the starting offense revealed little. Coach Pete Carroll: "I talked to the defense today and told them to dial it up and make it as hard as we can make it on these guys for getting comparisons and good information. So we’re going to continue to do that and continue to make it hard. We’re not going to cater at all and make it easy for the quarterbacks." Noted: Spoken like a defensive-minded coach. I can recall former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren coming off the field steaming mad after his offense struggled in practice.
Also from Drovetto: camp highlights, including a note on Byron Maxwell's progress.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times saw more good things from one of the Seahawks' young receivers. O'Neil: "Receiver Ricardo Lockette has been one of the most impressive players through the first week of training camp, and he very nearly came down with an impressive catch on a go-route down the sidelines only to drop it after he got behind the defense. He then took off his helmet, flinging it down to the ground violently. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell came over to remind Lockette to keep a more even-keel demeanor and that dropping a pass is bad enough. Costing a team 15 yards in penalties in addition to dropping it is substantially worse."
Also from O'Neil: From Facebook to the NFL?
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic has the latest on Cardinals rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley, who seems to be making the most of limited reps. Boivin on Lindley's background: "Lindley never even played youth football because his mom didn't want him to be injured. He was a baseball player who played pick-up football games with older cousins. When he arrived at El Capitan High in Lakeside, Calif., he approached the football coach and told him he had never played organized football but, hey, he'd like to play quarterback. Coach Ron Burner saw his arm strength and agreed."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com writes about Arizona's defense having the edge against its offense in practice. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "The defense has been together in the system and they are going through the install and they played well at the end of last year. With the quarterbacks it’s a little different because we went through the offseason working on a bunch of fundamentals and getting them up to speed on the offense and they haven’t operated like our defense did. And we have some new guys on the offensive line."
Also from Urban: In Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield, the Cardinals trust.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams enforcer Harvey Dahl took exception when linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar took a shot at running back Steven Jackson in practice. Coach Jeff Fisher: "They’re competing, and they understand. The issue is allowing those things to carry over to the game. You cannot let those kinds of things carry over to the game. But out here, you can understand and appreciate them protecting their teammates."
Also from Thomas: Craig Dahl and Darian Stewart are splitting time at one safety spot.
Roger Hensley of stltoday.com polls colleagues on differences they see in the Rams with Jeff Fisher as head coach. Thomas: "I think we’ll see a more physical, aggressive team -- on both sides of the ball -- because Fisher will demand it. That’s one reason he brought CB Cortland Finnegan in on defense and also why he hired Paul Boudreau as his offensive line coach. In their own ways, they will be tone-setters."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers notes from practice, including one about the Rams' defensive line making it tough for the offensive line to find a rhythm. Noted: That could make it four NFC West camps with defenses ahead of offenses.
Also from Wagoner: a Greg Salas update.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com has a quarterback update from 49ers camp. Also: "One of the more entertaining parts of the practice came immediately during a blitz pick-up session. Running back Frank Gore absolutely leveled inside linebacker Tavares Gooden. Then, Gore kept trying to get back in the action only to be turned away, as the coaches wanted others to get work. Anthony Dixon, whose pass protection has been a weakness, had good showings against Patrick Willis, Kourtnei Brown and Aldon Smith before Willis got a measure of revenge with a swift move to get around him."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along an explanation on the 49ers' red zone troubles from offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Roman: "Were we as good as we wanted to be? Heck no, heck no. We didn't have enough time on task last year to be where we wanted to be in the red zone. It was a matter of execution more than anything."
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News offers 49ers notes, including this one: "Of Alex Smith's five interceptions last season, his final two came in opponents' end zones in back-to-back games, Nov. 20 against Arizona and Nov. 24 at Baltimore. None of his final 227 passes was intercepted, including 68 attempts in the playoffs."