NFC West: Alan Branch

Snap judgments: Seahawks' mindset

June, 18, 2013
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Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider made headlines in 2010 for their willingness to constantly churn the Seattle Seahawks' roster. Three years later, they've built the roster to a point where player retention has become a bigger focus.

As the chart below shows, Seattle has on its 90-man roster players responsible for logging 87.4 percent of offensive and defensive snaps last season. That is the highest percentage in the division.

The chart at right shows the 2012 contributors no longer on the roster. Note that tight end Anthony McCoy landed on injured reserve after suffering a torn Achilles' tendon during organized team activities.

Seattle moved on from defensive tackle Alan Branch, defensive lineman Jason Jones, linebacker Leroy Hill and cornerback Marcus Trufant after those players played fairly meaningful roles in 2012. The draft brought defensive tackles Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams. Free-agent addition Cliff Avril will affect the rotation at linebacker, where Hill's production had waned. Antoine Winfield replaced Trufant as Seattle sought to upgrade its nickel corner position.

Note: The percentages at defensive back changed slightly for Seattle since Monday when I included the 122 snaps safety Jeron Johnson played. I had accidentally excluded his snaps from consideration.
NFC West teams naturally expect more from earlier draft choices such as 2013 first-rounders Jonathan Cooper, Tavon Austin, Eric Reid and Alec Ogletree.

All four of those early choices could wind up starting in 2013. It's an upset if they do not.

Last year, 92 of the 135 players (68.1 percent) drafted in the first four rounds started at least one regular season. Twenty-five of the 118 players (21.2 percent) drafted in the final three rounds found their way into the starting lineup.

With that disparity in mind and with rookie camps having concluded Sunday, I've singled out five late-round picks from 2013 with a shot at making at least one start as a rookie, in my view. Who else comes to mind from your vantage point?
  • Jesse Williams, DT, Seattle Seahawks. Williams, taken with the fourth pick of the fifth round (137th overall), was the first player any NFC West team selected over the final three rounds. He has a relatively clear path to the starting lineup after the Seahawks decided against re-signing veteran Alan Branch. Seattle did select another defensive tackle, Jordan Hill, in the third round. However, Hill projects more as a pass-rusher at this point. Williams projects more as a run defender on early downs. Free-agent addition Tony McDaniel could be the player standing between Williams and the starting lineup. McDaniel has five starts in seven NFL seasons.
  • Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams. The Rams plan to use a committee of running backs. They traded two sixth-round picks to Houston for the fifth-round choice (160th overall) they used for Stacy. The team lacks an established starter after parting with Steven Jackson. Isaiah Pead, a second-round choice in 2012, projects more as a change-of-pace back. Daryl Richardson, a seventh-rounder last year, will also compete for playing time. There's a chance Stacy will emerge as a primary back on early downs. Terrance Ganaway would be the other power runner on the roster.
  • Luke Willson, TE, Seahawks. Wilson was the third of three fifth-round picks for Seattle and the 158th player taken overall. He is not going to beat out starter Zach Miller. However, Willson has a shot at emerging as the No. 2 tight end. And if that happens, he could find his way into the lineup for games when Seattle opens with two tight ends. Coach Pete Carroll singled out Willson as one of the more impressive players at the rookie camp.
  • Stepfan Taylor, RB, Cardinals. Arizona has Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams at running back. Both would presumably start ahead of Taylor if healthy. However, Mendenhall missed 10 games with Pittsburgh last season. Williams missed 11 games. So, at least on the surface, Taylor could have a shot at starting through injuries. He's the first running back the Cardinals have selected under coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim.
  • Spencer Ware, FB, Seahawks. Ware still has to earn a roster spot. There are no guarantees that will happen. If he does, however, Ware might be the only fullback on the roster, which would give him a clear path to the starting lineup whenver Seattle opened in a two-back personnel grouping. I wouldn't rule out Seattle finding a way to keep incumbent fullback Michael Robinson as well as Ware if the decision made sense from a special-teams standpoint and if the team felt it could go lighter at another position, such as linebacker. Carroll sounds high on Ware, but the team also values Robinson.
Percy Harvin and Tavon AustinGetty ImagesSeeing Tavon Austin (right) go the the Rams at No. 8 validated Seattle's trade for Percy Harvin.

RENTON, Wash. -- The more the Seattle Seahawks watched game tape on Tavon Austin, the more they realized the West Virginia receiver would not last long in the 2013 NFL draft.

Back in mid-March, the Seahawks could not know Austin would land with the NFC West-rival St. Louis Rams. They had recently traded the 25th overall choice to the Minnesota Vikings to acquire another multidimensional wideout, Percy Harvin.

John Schneider, the Seahawks' general manager, felt relief Thursday when the Rams traded up eight spots in the first round to make Austin the first skill-position player selected.

It's not that Schneider was happy to see such an elite talent land in St. Louis. Quite the opposite. Even the Seahawks' suffocating secondary could have its troubles against a receiver as gifted as Austin. It's just that the way the first round played out affirmed the Seahawks' decision to acquire Harvin. They could not have secured another wideout with as much playmaking potential had they held onto the 25th overall pick.

Austin wasn't going to be there for them.

Once the Rams moved up from 16th to eighth for Austin, no NFL teams selected a wideout until the Houston Texans drafted Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins at No. 27. Cordarrelle Patterson went to the Vikings two picks later.

"Quite honestly, it made me feel at peace just because of where we were with the Percy deal when it started," Schneider said following the third round Friday night.

Both Hopkins and Patterson are obviously talented, but if they had struck evaluators as fitting into the Austin/Harvin mold, teams would have been tripping over one another in a rush to draft them earlier.

Schneider's thinking came into clearer focus in the weeks since Seattle made the move for Harvin before free agency opened March 12.

"I really wasn't quite sure, didn't feel really strongly about the difference makers at the receiver position at that level of the first round [in the 25th-pick range]," Schneider reflected. "And then the closer we got to the draft, the tape on Austin, it just kind of became obvious that he was going to be an extremely high pick."

That commentary should please Rams fans and Seahawks fans alike. Each team's leadership thought Austin was special. The Seahawks knew they had to deal for Harvin if they hoped to land a similar player. Not that Austin and Harvin are interchangeable. While both threaten the end zone as receivers, runners and returners, Harvin has a much sturdier build. He's part running back and part receiver in a much fuller sense. But touchdowns are touchdowns, and both teams expect their new wideouts to supply them multiple ways.

"We really do think Percy is our No. 1 pick," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He is part of this class."

Acquiring Harvin and addressing other areas of the roster during free agency left Seattle without significant needs entering this draft. That allowed the Seahawks, already loaded in the backfield with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, to indulge in Texas A&M running back Christine Michael.

This was a luxury pick and arguably a nonsensical one. It's also the sort of move smart organizations make. Seattle didn't have a need at quarterback when the team used a third-round draft choice for Russell Wilson last season. That move worked out pretty well.

The Seahawks could realistically be in the market for a new back two years down the line if Lynch's bruising style shortens his career. Having Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter on the roster didn't stop the San Francisco 49ers from using a second-round choice for LaMichael James last year. The 49ers took some heat when their 2012 draft class failed to produce much, but such is life for contending teams.

"We'll let these guys go at it, make sure everybody is aware of the competitive opportunity and hopefully that continues to make them elevate," Carroll said. "Sometimes there is a subtle way they help us by making other guys play well."

Not that Seattle was without needs entirely.

"Defensive tackle was definitely a need for us -- adding depth to the position," Schneider said. "That was the one spot that quite honestly, when you're putting it together, you are nervous you are maybe pushing players because of the need."

Seattle used its third-round choice (87th overall) for Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill. He'll probably contribute more as a pass-rusher than a run stuffer, differentiating him clearly from Alan Branch, who left in free agency. The Seahawks felt the talent at defensive tackle was about to drop off quickly as the third round gave way to the fourth. That gave them additional incentive to grab Hill.

The Seahawks hold 10 picks in the fourth through seventh rounds. Schneider and Carroll previously found K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in that range. Others such as Turbin, Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane, Anthony McCoy, J.R. Sweezy and Malcolm Smith came to Seattle in those rounds.

There might not be a Tavon Austin or Percy Harvin out there, but as the Seahawks and Rams discovered, that was the case eight picks into the draft.
The Seattle Seahawks entered the 2013 NFL draft with few (if any) pressing needs.

The team flaunted it a bit, it seemed, by using a second-round selection for a running back even though Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin combine to make that position one of great strength.

Seattle addressed one of its needs in the third round by selecting Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill with the 87th overall choice. San Francisco traded into the 88th slot to take pass-rusher Corey Lemonier from Auburn, and fellow division rival St. Louis was set to be on the clock shortly at No. 92.

The Seahawks will be saving money at defensive tackle in 2013 after letting Alan Branch leave in free agency. Seattle added free-agent defensive tackle Tony McDaniel in a modest deal. Hill will join the rotation. Scouting reports suggest he's better at rushing the passer than defending the run. We'll hear more from coach Pete Carroll in a bit.

Kiper mock 4.0: Seahawks thoughts

April, 13, 2013
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Our Saturday series analyzing Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth 2013 mock draft Insider concludes with a look at his projection for the Seattle Seahawks.

This Kiper mock, unlike its predecessors in 2013, runs through the second round. That provides an opportunity to check out what Kiper has in mind for the Seahawks, who traded their first-rounder (25th overall) to Minnesota in the Percy Harvin deal.

56. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

Kiper's give: He's fallen due to draft depth at the position, but Hankins helps at a need position.

Sando's take: The players Kiper projected to Seattle at No. 25 in his first and second mock drafts were both available when the Seahawks selected in the second round of this one. Hankins was one of them. Kiper had Seattle taking him 25th overall in his second mock. Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, projected to Seattle at No. 25 in Kiper's initial mock for 2013, went to Houston at No. 57 in this one. Teams generally don't allow the most talented defensive linemen with size to slip very far in the draft, so it's worth asking whether Hankins would be available this late.

Selecting an interior defensive lineman would make sense for the Seahawks. Alan Branch, a free-agent addition before the 2011 season, provided value at the position over the past two seasons. The Seahawks weren't willing to make much room in their budget for Branch this offseason, leaving Branch to sign with Buffalo in a soft market. Seattle has more than $25 million in 2013 cap space committed to veteran defensive linemen Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Michael Bennett. The team could use a lower-cost player to develop at defensive tackle. Hankins would qualify as one.

Seattle signed veteran defensive tackle Tony McDaniel to a one-year deal. He's a low-cost addition to the rotation. McDaniel has five starts in seven NFL seasons.

A run through McShay's two-round mock

March, 29, 2013
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Thoughts on Todd McShay's latest mock draft Insider projections for NFC West teams:

Arizona Cardinals: Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson (first round, No. 7 overall) and North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon (second round, No. 38) were the projections. Quarterback and offensive line were trouble points last season. Arizona needs to plan for the future -- and present -- at both positions. Johnson was the third offensive tackle drafted under McShay's scenario. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, the choice for Arizona at No. 7 in McShay's previous mock, was not available this time. The Cardinals haven't drafted an offensive lineman in the first three rounds since taking Levi Brown fifth overall in 2007. Steve Keim, promoted to general manager this year, reportedly wanted Adrian Peterson instead that year. Keim's read on offensive linemen would appear well qualified. He played on the offensive line at North Carolina State. The Cardinals have stressed drafting for value, not need. Defensive line and wide receiver are two positions the team might be less apt to address early, however. Coach Bruce Arians has said those positions are strengths.

St. Louis Rams: Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (first round, No. 16), North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams (first round, No. 22) and Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (second round, No. 46) were the projections for St. Louis in the first two rounds. West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin had been the projection for St. Louis at No. 16 in McShay's previous mock. This time, Austin went to Tampa Bay at No. 13. The Rams seem to like their receivers more than outsiders like them, but they could still draft one early. Defensive line is already a strength for the Rams, but that's no reason to steer clear of Williams if the value is right. Having two picks in the first round takes off pressure from a need standpoint. Lacy makes sense in the second round. He's a bigger back at 5-foot-11 and 231 pounds. Coach Jeff Fisher has said he'd like to add a bigger back this offseason. Lacy did have turf-toe issues in college, however. That is something to consider.

San Francisco 49ers: Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins (first round, No. 31), Stanford tight end Zach Ertz (second round, No. 34) and Florida International safety John Cyprien (second round, No. 61) were the projections from McShay this time. Margus Hunt, the player McShay projected to the 49ers at No. 31 his previous mock, lasted until the 39th choice in this two-round version. The 49ers could use impact players at the positions addressed by McShay's projections. Would Jenkins fit along the line at 346 pounds? That seems heavier than the 49ers would prefer for their scheme, especially if playing defensive end is part of the expectation, but McShay says Jenkins could do that for the 49ers. The team has not drafted a true defensive lineman since using a 2009 seventh-round choice for Ricky Jean Francois. Ray McDonald was a third-rounder in 2007. Justin Smith was a free-agent addition in 2008. Ian Williams and Demarcus Dobbs stuck as undrafted players more recently. Glenn Dorsey was signed in free agency this year after the 49ers watched Jean Francois and Isaac Sopoaga depart. Perhaps this is the year the team drafts a defensive lineman early.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks do not own a first-round pick. McShay has them taking 335-pound Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams (second round, No. 56). Under this scenario, Williams would be the seventh defensive tackle selected. Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei, Sheldon Richardson, Sylvester Williams, Jenkins and Kawann Short were off the board. The seventh defensive tackle went 87th overall last year. Drafting a defensive tackle makes sense from a need standpoint. Seattle signed veteran Tony McDaniel as a lower-cost alternative to Alan Branch. Using a second-round choice for another one would put into place an affordable future starter and someone to contribute to a rotation right away.
Tony McDaniel's scheduled visit with the Seattle Seahawks appears to reflect where the team stands with incumbent starting defensive tackle Alan Branch.

McDaniel, 28, has been a role player for the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has five starts in seven NFL seasons. McDaniel played between 25 percent and 40 percent of the defensive snaps in 11 appearances with the Dolphins last season.

Branch, also 28, started all 16 games for Seattle last season. He has started all 31 games in which he has appeared for Seattle since signing with the team before the 2011 season.

Branch earned $3.25 million per year with Seattle before becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Signing the 6-foot-7 McDaniel as a lower-cost alternative could provide some insurance for Seattle heading into the draft.

The NFL suspended McDaniel for one game in 2010 following his involvement in a domestic dispute.

2013 UFA counts for NFC West teams

March, 12, 2013
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The NFL has released its official list of restricted and unrestricted free agents.

The chart breaks down the UFA counts by team in the NFC West.

A quick look at the lists, which include a couple players who have already reached agreement on new contracts:

Arizona Cardinals

UFA offense (4): D'Anthony Batiste, Pat McQuistan, Rich Ohrnberger, LaRod Stephens-Howling

UFA defense (8): Michael Adams, Nick Eason, Quentin Groves, Vonnie Holliday, Rashad Johnson, Paris Lenon, James Sanders, Greg Toler

RFA: Brian Hoyer, tendered to second-round pick.

Note: The Cardinals announced Johnson's agreement to a three-year contract.

St. Louis Rams

UFA offense (8): Danny Amendola, Kellen Clemens, Brandon Gibson, Steven Jackson, Barry Richardson, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Chris Williams

UFA defense (6): Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Mario Haggan, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Rocky McIntosh

RFA: Darian Stewart, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: The Rams announced Hayes' agreement to a three-year contract.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA offense (4): Leonard Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Randy Moss, Delanie Walker

UFA defense (6): Dashon Goldson, Tavares Gooden, Larry Grant, Clark Haggans, Ricky Jean-Francois, Isaac Sopoaga

RFA: Tramaine Brock, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: Walker has reportedly agreed to terms on a contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Seattle Seahawks

UFA offense (2): Cameron Morrah, Frank Omiyale

UFA defense (5): Alan Branch, Patrick Chukwurah, Leroy Hill, Jason Jones, Marcus Trufant

UFA special teams (2): Steve Hauschka, Ryan Longwell

RFA: Clint Gresham and Chris Maragos, tendered to right of first refusal; and Clinton McDonald, tendered to seventh-round choice.
Reports linking former Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins to Seattle and San Francisco invite a closer look at where the nine-year NFL veteran stands at age 32. Thanks for asking, @bmarleylives.

Jenkins has played about two-thirds of the available defensive snaps over the past five seasons. He has started at defensive tackle in the Eagles' 4-3 scheme and at defensive end in the Packers' 3-4.

Jenkins
The Eagles parted with Jenkins last month after deciding against paying a $5 million roster bonus for the 2013 season. Philadelphia has a new coaching staff. Jenkins is an older player. Five million dollars was too much for the Eagles even though Jenkins' base salary ($825,000) contributed to a seemingly palatable 2013 cap figure ($5.8 million). The team had renegotiated Jenkins' contract last offseason after signing him away from the Packers with a five-year deal in 2011.

Jenkins played for the Packers when Seahawks general manager John Schneider was with Green Bay. Seattle has decisions to make along its defensive line. Tackle Alan Branch can become a free agent. "Leo" end Chris Clemons is coming off ACL surgery. Base end Red Bryant is coming off a foot injury. Jenkins could provide insurance or a starting option at tackle. He could also provide insurance for Bryant's spot.

The 49ers also have decisions to make along their defensive line. End Justin Smith is coming off elbow/triceps surgery. Starting nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and versatile backup Ricky Jean Francois can become a free agent.

Foot and ankle injuries slowed Jenkins at times last season. He still started all 16 games.

ESPN's Adam Schefter expects Jenkins to visit the 49ers and Seahawks. Jenkins has already met with the New York Giants.

Eight in the Box: Must-keep free agents

February, 15, 2013
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to “Eight in the Box,” a new NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: Which free agent is essential for each team to keep from its 2012 roster?

Arizona Cardinals: Cornerback Greg Toler. The Cardinals’ defense will undergo something of a makeover with new coordinator Todd Bowles calling the shots, but that’s more likely to affect the front seven. A good, big, young cornerback is tailor-made for any defense, and Toler improved during his fourth season in 2012. He shouldn’t break the bank, either.

San Francisco 49ers -- Tight end Delanie Walker. The beauty of the 49ers’ offense rests in its multiplicity, and Walker, the 6-foot, 242-pound tight end who can block, catch, cover kickoffs and run a 4.5 40, is aptly nicknamed the “Swiss Army Knife.” Safety Dashon Goldson is a priority as well, but Walker’s versatility is too valuable to pass up.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive tackle Alan Branch. The Seahawks’ hybrid defensive front is predicated upon two reliable tackles who can eat up space and provide an interior push. Branch is a mountain at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, and he frees up space for teammates.

St. Louis Rams: Defensive end William Hayes. Head coach Jeff Fisher heavily influences the defense in St. Louis, which starts with pressure. That should only increase after recently tabbing Tim Walton as his new defensive coordinator; Walton comes from a pressure-heavy system in Detroit. Hayes, Pro Football Focus’ 15th-best 4-3 defensive end in 2012, is a critical cog in St. Louis’ ability to disrupt opposing passers.

Field Yates is a contributor to ESPN Boston.com and ESPN Insider.

Mike Sando will return to the NFC West blog next week.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 26, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals placed second-year tight end Rob Housler (shoulder) on injured reserve. Receiver LaRon Byrd (knee), receiver Early Doucet (concussion), guard Mike Gibson (calf), tackle Nate Potter (ankle), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and safety Adrian Wilson (illness) did not practice Wednesday. Arizona is now without its top two tight ends entering the season. Housler is out and former starter Todd Heap was released. Potter's injury is concerning because he could be diminished, or the team could have to play D'Anthony Batiste at left tackle in his place. The 49ers' Aldon Smith will be gunning for the NFL's single-season sacks record.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams held out cornerback Cortland Finnegan (thigh), running back Steven Jackson (foot), linebacker James Laurinaitis (back) and center Scott Wells (knee). Safety Craig Dahl (knee) was limited. Not much new here. The same players appeared on the Rams' injury report last week. All played during the Rams' victory at Tampa Bay. Finnegan was limited to 54 percent of the defensive snaps. Rookie Trumaine Johnson showed he can play well with increased snaps. He played 94 percent. Laurinaitis appeared to play well. He played every snap against the Bucs. Wells played every snap as well. Jackson played 82 percent. The Rams appear to be limiting snaps in practice as a precaution.

San Francisco 49ers: Injuries to key players are mounting for the 49ers. Tight end Vernon Davis (concussion) and defensive lineman Justin Smith (elbow) did not practice. Davis did not finish the game at Seattle. Smith has not played since the second half at New England two weeks ago. Receiver Mario Manningham (knee) is out for the season. It's looking like Randy Moss, Delanie Walker and Garrett Celek could see more playing time than usual. That was already the case against Seattle. Moss played 74 percent of the snaps. He had been in the 30 percent range before the 49ers lost Kyle Williams and Manningham to season-ending injuries. Celek played 51 percent of the snaps against Seattle. Walker was at 77 percent. Justin Smith's injury is making life tougher for an defensive line rotation that lacks depth. It's also creating fewer favorable matchups for Aldon Smith.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks held out from practice receiver Sidney Rice (knee), tight end Anthony McCoy (back), tackle Breno Giacomini (elbow), running back Marshawn Lynch (back), linebacker Leroy Hill (hamstring), cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) and defensive end Red Bryant (foot). Cornerback Marcus Trufant and defensive tackle Alan Branch practiced. Both have been injured recently. Trufant has been out for weeks. Thurmond's continued absence could hurt if the team loses starting corner Richard Sherman to a suspension. The NFL is expected to rule on Sherman's case as early as Thursday. Fellow corner Brandon Browner remains suspended until the team's first playoff game.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 19, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals did not list running back Beanie Wells on their participation report after he played 46 percent of the snaps Sunday. Wells scored three touchdowns against Detroit and appeared to be moving well. The team had listed him on its injury report in each of the past four weeks, first with a toe injury and later for knee trouble.

Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), tackle Nate Potter (knee), defensive lineman Ronald Talley (ankle), nose tackle Dan Williams (hamstring), cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring), defensive end Calais Campbell (calf), guard Mike Gibson (calf), linebacker Quentin Groves (foot) and tight end Rob Housler (knee) were limited. Receiver Early Doucet (concussion), safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and safety James Sanders (calf) did not practice.

St. Louis Rams: Cornerback Cortland Finnegan (thigh), cornerback Bradley Fletcher (illness), center Scott Wells (knee), running back Steven Jackson (illness), linebacker James Laurinaitis (back) and defensive end Robert Quinn (illness) did not practice Wednesday.

The Rams did not list receiver Danny Amendola on their injury report, a change from recent weeks. He played 75 percent of the offensive snaps against Minnesota despite the foot injury that had sidelined him previously. Amendola caught six passes for 58 yards. He averaged 1.3 yards after the catch, a season low, but he made five first downs on those six catches.

San Francisco 49ers: Defensive end Justin Smith (elbow) and outside linebacker Clark Haggans (shoulder) did not practice. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), cornerback Tarell Brown (shoulder), linebacker Tavares Gooden (ribs), receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder), running back Bruce Miller (shoulder), linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder) and defensive lineman Will Tukuafu (concussion) did not practice Wednesday.

Smith's status is a key variable given his 185-game starting streak and the 49ers' injury situation at the position. Other teams running 3-4 defenses tend to carry six or seven linemen on their 53-man rosters. The 49ers had greater flexibility when Tukuafu was healthy and before tight end Demarcus Dobbs, a former defensive lineman, landed on injured reserve. I found it telling -- concerning might be a better word -- that Smith returned to the game against New England for just one play before departing. He's as tough and durable as they come.

Kicker David Akers (pelvis), guard Alex Boone (knee), linebacker NaVorro Bowman (shoulder), running back Frank Gore (wrist), guard Mike Iupati (shoulder), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder) were full participants.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive tackle Alan Branch (ankle), defensive end Jason Jones (knee), running back Leon Washington (illness), receiver Sidney Rice (knee), cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring) did not practice. Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) was limited.

The already diminished depth at cornerback would become a bigger issue if the NFL were to suspend starter Richard Sherman following his hearing Friday regarding a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. The league generally announces suspensions early enough in the week for teams to adjust their rosters in time for practices, however.
NFC West defensive lines are on alert this week.

Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle each allowed a 100-yard rusher in Week 7. They had allowed only one total during the first six weeks of the season.

The St. Louis Rams didn't have to worry about Green Bay's ground game Sunday, but their defensive line struggled to pressure the quarterback as the game progressed. That helped Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers enjoy target practice against the Rams' secondary.

Those interested in more of the details can check out a few resources I recommend:
  • Rick Venturi's defensive film review for the Rams. He thought defensive end Chris Long reverted to bad habits from earlier in his career. I spoke with Long after the game and was struck by his demeanor. Long was forthright about having played poorly. I'd expect better from him against New England in Week 8. Venturi's offensive film review is expected out Wednesday.
  • Khaled Elsayed's piece for Pro Football Focus looking at which players around the NFL struggled the most in Week 7. Long and NFC West defensive linemen Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch, Darnell Dockett and Isaac Sopoaga showed up on the list. That level of carnage seems unfathomable given how well the defenses in this division have played overall. It was a rough week, for sure.
  • PFF's game analyses for Seahawks-49ers and Cardinals-Vikings.

Good morning to all, and happy reading.

2012 Seahawks defensive snaps: Weeks 1-5

October, 13, 2012
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A periodic look at which players are playing and when, continuing with the Seattle Seahawks' defense:

SEATTLE -- A few NFC West thoughts from CenturyLink Field as the Seattle Seahawks prepare to open their 2012 exhibition season against the Tennessee Titans:
  • Skies are clear and the temperature is about 80 degrees. It's a perfect night for summer football.
  • The Seahawks are wearing their new uniforms: dark blue pants with bright green piping, dark blue tops with bright green numbers and bright green markings, dark blue helmets. It's a lot of blue. Does the green glow in the dark? I know the big guys prefer the dark pants to the light gray ones. They're ... slimming.
  • Both teams have a No. 8 in uniform: Matt Hasselbeck for the Titans, Jermaine Kearse for the Seahawks. Strange.
  • Teams generally don't like to travel great distances for preseason games, but this trip is a homecoming for so many Titans, especially in the front office.
  • The Seahawks distributed a list showing the following players not expected to play in this game: Terrell Owens, Sidney Rice, Walter Thurmond, Allen Bradford, Jameson Konz, Matt McCoy, Barrett Ruud, John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Kellen Winslow, Ricardo Lockette, Doug Baldwin and Alan Branch. Some of those players are in uniform and warming up on the field, notably Rice and Winslow. Not listed: Marshawn Lynch. Not expecting to see much of him, but we'll see.
  • The Titans listed three players as unlikely to play: Terrence Wheatley, Brandon Barden and Dave Ball.
  • I'll be heading to San Francisco for a few days with the 49ers beginning Sunday. Looks like they won't have leading sacker Aldon Smith for the short term. The team re-signed outside linebacker Kenny Rowe, who went to camp with the 49ers a year ago. Safety Mark LeGree, a Seahawks draft choice who also spent time with Arizona, was released to make room on the roster. Smith has a bruised hip.
  • The Cardinals brought back veteran fullback Reagan Maui'a to help get them through camp. Jared Crank suffered a neck injury.
  • The St. Louis Rams kick off their preseason against Indianapolis at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday. It's an odd time, but it could give me a chance to watch the Rams before heading to Candlestick Park for the 49ers' fan-oriented session later in the day.

Enjoy your Saturday night. I'll be back with notes after the game, and probably sooner as well.

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