NFC West: Alge Crumpler
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com addresses whether Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer is more likely to be under center for the 49ers next season. Maiocco: "There is a better chance that Kolb, rather than Palmer, will be the 49ers' quarterback in 2011. After all, Philadelphia is entertaining offers for Kolb, while stubborn Bengals president Mike Brown appears unlikely to cave into Palmer's trade demand. How the organization addresses the quarterback position during the draft will determine the team's approach to adding a veteran to the mix when there is a new collective bargaining agreement." The 49ers would not give up their first-round choice for Kolb, in my view.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' best late-round draft choices since 2000. On Eric Johnson: "Johnson played in just 71 games over seven seasons due to a variety of injuries, but he was productive when upright. In 2004, he led the Niners with 82 catches, the most by a tight end in franchise history. Of the 13 tight ends selected in the 2001 draft, Johnson (240 catches, 2,178 yards) ranks third in career catches and yards behind the first two taken -- first-rounder Todd Heap and second-rounder Alge Crumpler. By the way, the next two tight ends drafted after Heap and Crumpler were third-rounders Sean Brewer and Shad Meier. Or is it Sean Meier and Shad Brewer?"
Also from Branch: the second part of his installment on the 49ers' best late-round choices since 2000. On Eric Heitmann: "The reliable and consistent Heitmann became the first 49ers rookie offensive lineman to start a game in 15 years when he debuted in 2002 and has since become a three-time winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award, the top honor given to a Niners offensive lineman. His future appears uncertain after a broken leg and neck injury wiped out his 2010 season, but he’s already logged 114 starts. That’s a nice investment on the 239th player selected in a draft."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with Cortez Kennedy for his latest piece on the 35th anniversary team. Farnsworth explains how Kennedy came to be known as "Big Dawg" among teammates. As former teammate Jeff Bryant put it: "When you go hunting, you want to take the big dog. That’s Tez. He’s our ‘Big Dawg.’"
Also from Farnsworth: Dennis Erickson and others speak to Kennedy's dominance. Erickson: "Cortez might’ve been as dominant a defensive tackle that’s ever played. He was dominant when I had him in Seattle in the four years I was there, and he was dominant before I got there. I don’t know if you can see a defensive tackle who dominated a game like he did when he was with the Seahawks."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt left Wednesday to attend workouts at Clemson and North Carolina. That explains why Whisenhunt wasn't in attendance at Jake Locker's pro day.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Buffalo could be the key team in determining whether the Cardinals get a crack at Texas A&M pass-rusher Von Miller. Urban: "Buffalo could use a QB, but Chan Gailey seems to want defense, so Miller has been a popular possibility for a team that uses the 3-4 and needs a pass rush. If the Cards want Miller, it seems the Bills will be the key. The Bengals figure to go offense, whether a QB or WR. The Cards, who have hinted many times they aren’t necessarily looking QB early, still don’t seem to make sense with a pick like that. Here’s the question, assuming Miller is gone: Could you make Da'Quan Bowers work in your defense? Is Patrick Peterson good enough?"
Also from Urban: a chat transcript in which he sizes up veteran quarterbacks Marc Bulger and Kyle Orton as possibilities for Arizona. Urban: "I think Bulger does fit this offense, and he wouldn't cost a draft pick like Orton would. I don't know exactly how they feel about Orton, although I am sure that possibility has been considered."
What should this tell us?
One, Watson had great appeal relative to a weak crop of free-agent tight ends, but otherwise not so much. Two, the upcoming draft appears deep at quite a few positions, including tight end.
The chart shows where teams have found Pro Bowl tight ends in the draft since 2000. Eleven of them earned Pro Bowl recognition. Seven were first-round choices and three of those seven -- Kellen Winslow, Bubba Franks and Jeremy Shockey -- went to Miami. An eighth, Alge Crumpler, was an early second-round choice (35th overall).
Note: I added the Redskins' Chris Cooley to the list. He wasn't on the list initially because fullback was his listed position coming out of college. Thank you, Facebook friend Ben.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Yes, the Rams were awful in their exhibition opener. Allowing 340 yards rushing is never a good thing. The offense also struggled. A few observations after watching the first few series:
- The Rams have no chance on defense without Will Witherspoon at middle linebacker. A sore shoulder caused Witherspoon to miss this game. Without him, the Titans repeatedly exploited replacement Tim McGarigle, who came to the Rams as a seventh-round choice in 2006.
- Titans tight ends Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler flattened McGarigle on a third-and-2 run up the gut. Third-and-2 is often a passing situation in the NFL, but not when the Rams have this personnel on the field defensively.
- Right after the third-and-2 play, LenDale White broke into the clear even though McGarigle was unblocked. The young middle linebacker simply missed. Crumpler engaged strong-side linebacker Quinton Culberson for a few yards and the Rams had no chance.
- White was at it again on the next play. Again, McGarigle wasn't there to stop him. Finally, on the next play, the Rams found a way to stop White. But defensive end Leonard Little was the one to bring him down.
- Rookie defensive end Chris Long made no discernable impact early in the game. I thought otherwise when the Rams stopped the Titans on a fourth-down running play, but replays showed Long's backup, James Hall, driving Scaife into guard Jake Scott on the play. Long was not on the field. Hall created a chain-reaction by pushing Scaife into Scott, who moved backward into White's path, blowing up the play. The Rams have been high on Hall in camp. This was an impressive play.
- On offense, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger had little chance to succeed early in the game. The Titans weren't going to respect the Rams' ground game without Steven Jackson. The Rams opened in one-back, two-tight end personnel. They pulled right tackle Alex Barron on a sweep to the right. Titans cornerback Nick Harper chopped down Barron as if Harper were the one delivering the block. The defense swarmed running back Brian Leonard.
- The Rams came back with four-receiver personnel on their second offensive play. They tried a draw play, but the Titans were not fooled. After two plays, the Titans had stuffed the Rams' real running game and sniffed out their manufactured one. This was going to be a long night for the Rams, particularly with left tackle Orlando Pace still getting his bearings after two injury-shortened seasons. Pace should be fine, but he wasn't close to peak level here.
- The Rams took over deep in their own territory after that fourth-down stop by Hall. They played it safe with heavy personnel (two backs, two tight ends). The Titans manhandled this grouping. On second down, Kyle Vanden Bosch crumpled Rams tight end Joe Klopfenstein. Titans rookie defensive end Jason Jones then knifed past Rams guard Richie Incognito before smashing into Leonard in the backfield.
This matchup was a very difficult one for the Rams. Tennessee is physical on both lines. Jeff Fisher's defense is well established. The Rams are still learning Al Saunders' playbook. They were without Jackson, the focal point of their offense. Pace was not 100 percent. The Titans were going to expose the Rams' poor depth at linebacker. I didn't know they would expose it for 340 yards, but the Titans might be better than expected.