Thursday, September 13, 2012
Around the NFC West: Doubling up at TE
By Mike Sando
This was looking like a year for NFC West teams to feature dynamic tight ends.
It didn't happen so much in Week 1.
Seattle released veteran Kellen Winslow on the reduction to the 53-man roster limit. Arizona found only six offensive snaps for Rob Housler in its opener.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are preparing to face one of the more dynamic tight end combinations anywhere. New England's Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez play just about every snap. Bill Belichick: "Those (tight ends) are involved in most every play: run, pass, pass patterns, protection. It makes it harder for the defense to defend when you can run behind them or throw to them, get them down field as well as in shorter areas. A good, versatile tight end can present a lot of problems to the defense." Noted: Seattle's Zach Miller and San Francisco's Vernon Davis played most extensively among NFC West tight ends in Week 1. The Cardinals' Todd Heap and the Rams' Lance Kendricks were next, followed by the 49ers' Delanie Walker, the Cardinals' Jeff King and the Seahawks' Anthony McCoy. New England, Houston, Detroit, Denver and San Francisco played the most snaps with at least two tight ends in Week 1, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at how the Cardinals use their tight ends. Urban: "The Cardinals don’t use the tight end as much in their scheme and Housler is still trying to find his niche. But on the Cardinals’ game-winning drive late in the season-opening win against Seattle, there was Heap making a couple of key catches, including the catch that gave the Cards a first-and-goal." Noted: Housler battled a hamstring injury recently and didn't get as many practice reps, perhaps setting him back. Also, the Cardinals are strong enough at wide receiver to merit using three at a time frequently, leaving less room for a second tight end.
Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has fun with the Rams' Jeff Fisher mustache campaign. O'Neill: "In the shadow of the world 's largest Fu Manchu, otherwise known as the Arch, the mustachioed masses are assured of setting a new mark for Guiness World Records. According to the Rams' marketing department, which has filed the necessary papers with Guiness, the record for fake mustaches worn in one place at one time is 227. The huge gathering emulating Fisher on Sunday can't do anything but help his award-winning chances."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates Rodger Saffold's neck situation. Thomas: "The big left tackle can laugh now, because amazingly, he was back on the practice field Wednesday at Rams Park. There's no way he'll play in Sunday's home opener against Washington; his neck remained stiff as he talked with reporters after practice. But he did get a little bit of work in during practice and was listed as limited participation on the team's official injury report."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams made the right move trading away the second overall choice in the 2012 draft at the expense of selecting Robert Griffin III.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with receiver Doug Baldwin regarding the near-catch against Arizona in the end zone Sunday. Baldwin: "It was an opportunity that I had. I had the ball in my hands. Technically, according to NFL stats, it's not a drop. But for me, it's a drop. For what I want to do in my career and where I want to be, I need to make that play. I'm upbeat about it now, because there’s nowhere to go but up from here."
Also from Farnsworth: Playing John Moffitt at right guard could help improve communication on the line.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at how long-range thinking (releasing Winslow) clashed with short-term goals (repeated failures in the red zone Sunday) for the Seahawks. Noted: This was absolutely the case unless there was reason to think Winslow wouldn't have been available for the opener. Winslow does have knee troubles, but the termination of his contract did not carry a "failed physical" notation. He was presumably healthy enough to contribute. The price for keeping Winslow on the roster would have been $3.3 million in salary (guaranteed had he been on the roster for Week 1) and a conditional draft choice that would have been owed to Tampa Bay.
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle looks at what the Seahawks should do differently in Week 2.
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News previews the matchup between 49ers tackle Anthony Davis and Lions defensive end Cliff Avril. The two went after one another last season. Davis: "He doesn't like me, man. I don't know why. I don't need any new friends. It's cool. It's not about one person going against one guy."
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at Tarell Brown's matchup against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. Lions coach Jim Schwartz on Johnson's role in the winning touchdown pass to running back Kevin Smith against the Rams: "If you look at the play, there were four people on (Johnson). The play was designed for Calvin. We make no mistake about that. We were trying to hit Calvin on the back line, but when they slough four guys off on him -- they had him doubled and also had two linebackers underneath -- when that happened, that freed our running back up to be wide open in the flat. That's the dynamic that Calvin brings. It’s very rare that he’s not doubled, some way, somehow."
Also from Branch: The 49ers can tie an NFL record for consecutive NFL games without a turnover if they avoid one against Detroit. New England has the record of seven games.