NFC West: Anthony Davis

NFL Nation: 4 Downs -- NFC West

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
10:00
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video
Catch us if you can.

That’s a message the Seattle Seahawks could send out to the rest of the NFC West.

It is also something the San Francisco 49ers might say to the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams. But the Cardinals and Rams might have a statement of their own: We’re coming for you.

By almost everyone’s estimation, the NFC West is the best division in the NFL. It includes a Super Bowl champion in Seattle along with a team in San Francisco that, arguably, came up one play short of reaching its second consecutive Super Bowl.

It also includes a team in Arizona that won 10 games, one of which was a victory at Seattle -- the Seahawks' only home loss in 2013. And there's a team in St. Louis that won two of its last three games to finish 7-9 while playing most of the season without starting quarterback Sam Bradford.

So the question heading into 2014 is whether the Cardinals and Rams are in position to catch the Seahawks and 49ers. Have Arizona and St. Louis closed the gap on what might be the NFL’s two best teams?

The Cardinals have been active in free agency, signing cornerback Antonio Cromartie, offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, tight end John Carlson, receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn, running back Jonathan Dwyer and offensive lineman Ted Larsen.

Clearly, the competition in this division keeps getting better.

The four writers who cover the division for ESPN.com’s NFL Nation -- Terry Blount in Seattle, Bill Williamson in San Francisco, Josh Weinfuss in Arizona and Nick Wagoner in St. Louis -- take a look at where things stand in the NFC West on four key topics. We also polled our Twitter followers to find how they viewed the issues.

First Down

The Cardinals have made significant moves in free agency. The Rams, aside from keeping Rodger Saffold, have mostly stood pat. Which is closer to the playoffs?


Terry Blount: This is a no-brainer for me. The Cardinals are a team on the rise with one of the NFL's best coaches in Bruce Arians. He took a 5-11 team and transformed it to 10-6 in one season. He was 9-3 at Indianapolis in 2012 while filling in for Chuck Pagano. Arizona was 7-2 in its last nine games and won three of the last four, with the only loss being 23-20 to the 49ers in the season finale. The Cardinals could become a serious challenger to the two-team stronghold of Seattle and San Francisco. However, I do believe the Rams will have a winning season if they can hold their own in the division games.

Nick Wagoner: It's hard to evaluate this without seeing what happens in the draft, especially with the Rams having two premium picks. Even then it would be unfair to judge right away. Still, I have to go with the Cardinals. They were trending up at the end of the season and patched a big hole with offensive tackle Jared Veldheer. Losing Karlos Dansby was a blow, but adding cornerback Antonio Cromartie to a talented stable at the position makes them better. The Rams, meanwhile, are clearly counting on a whole lot of in-house improvement and a big draft. Keeping Saffold was important (and lucky), but it seems risky to pin all hopes on a leap to the playoffs on a group of young players all making a jump at the same time.

Josh Weinfuss: Arizona is the easy answer, and that's not because I cover them. The Cardinals were 10-6 last season and the first team kept out of the postseason. All the Cardinals have done this offseason is fix deficiencies and plug holes. Their offensive line got markedly better with the addition of left tackle Jared Veldheer. Their wide receiver corps and kick return game were solidified with Ted Ginn, and they now have one of the best cornerback tandems in the league with Antonio Cromartie coming on board. General manager Steve Keim looked at what went wrong in 2013 and went to work on fixes. It should put the Cardinals over the playoff hump.

Bill Williamson: It has to be Arizona. The Cardinals were so close to making the playoffs last season. They would have likely been dangerous in the postseason too. I like the way this franchise is shaping up. It seems like it is well run and well coached. The roster is also getting deep. Carson Palmer will have to be replaced sooner or later, but the Cardinals are on to something. The Rams certainly have some nice pieces and are probably the best fourth-place team in the NFL, but they aren't close to matching what Arizona has going for it.


Second Down

The Seahawks and 49ers played for the NFC title in January. Any reason to believe either won't return to the postseason?


Blount: They were the two best teams in the NFL last season, and there's no legitimate reason to think they won't be among the best in 2014. Seattle has lost 10 players who were on the Super Bowl roster, but other than wide receiver Golden Tate, none of them were on the team's priority list to keep. The 49ers move into a shiny new stadium. The only question for San Francisco is the precarious relationship between coach Jim Harbaugh and team executives. Who knows what the future holds there, but it shouldn't matter on game day.

Wagoner: Aside from some debilitating injuries, it's hard to see how either team has taken a major step back. The Seahawks have lost some good players in free agency, but even those players seemingly already had replacements in place. Nobody does a better job of developing talent than Seattle. The Seahawks still have holes to patch on the offensive line and losing receiver Golden Tate is a blow, so there could be some hope the offense will regress. But the defense makes it all go, and it doesn't look like it's going to lose any of its most prized components. As for the Niners, they are the more likely of the two to take a step back, but it's hard to see them taking enough of one to fall out of the postseason. For most of their key free-agent losses they were able to quickly come up with a replacement as good or better than the player lost, and retaining Anquan Boldin says they are looking to make another run at the Super Bowl. Plus, they will have a fully healthy Michael Crabtree ready for the season. Until proven otherwise, these two teams remain the class of the NFC and probably the NFL.

Weinfuss: The only reason either of them won't make the playoffs in 2014 is because the Cardinals or Rams will take their place. The gap between the top and bottom of the NFC West has closed significantly this offseason, making the West much like the Southeastern Conference in college football; everybody will beat up on each other. It's likely the West, if it's anything like last season, can see three teams in the playoffs -- its champion and the two wild cards. If one of the teams between Seattle and San Francisco were not to make it, it's tough, but I think Seattle might slip. The Seahawks lost a significant part of their defensive line and will be going through a Super Bowl hangover. That's risky to deal with and still make the playoffs. On the other hand, San Francisco will be hungry from losing to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game.

Williamson: I believe these are the two best teams in the NFL. So it's difficult to fathom that either team won't find its way into the playoffs, barring major injuries. Arizona, though, could create an issue for the Seahawks and 49ers. The Cardinals are going to win a lot of games, so both Seattle and San Francisco have to be careful or things could get tricky. In the end, I can see all three teams making the playoffs. This is the reason this division is so intriguing and so fun: Every game is critical. There is just not much room for error. Look at the 49ers last year. They went 12-4, but a 1-2 start hamstrung them. They could never fully recover despite having a great overall regular season. The same intensity will be a factor in 2014 in the NFC West.


Third Down

Will Rams quarterback Sam Bradford come back strong from an ACL injury, and what effect will he have on St. Louis having its coveted breakthrough year?


Blount: I think Bradford will be fine as far as the ACL goes, but this is a make-or-break year for him in my view. Bradford was playing pretty well before his injury last year, but the verdict still is out whether he can be an elite quarterback. He enters this season with the best supporting cast he's ever had, but playing in this division with teams that emphasize physical defensive play makes it difficult to show improvement.

Wagoner: All indications from the Rams are that Bradford's rehab is coming along well and he's on schedule to make his return in plenty of time for the start of the regular season. He apparently had a clean tear of the ACL, but he has been rehabbing for a handful of months and should resume throwing soon. Bradford's healthy return means everything to the Rams' chances in 2014. Believe it or not, this is his fifth season in the NFL and, much like the team, this is the time to make some noise. The Rams attempted to open up the offense in the first quarter of 2013 with Bradford to miserable results. They switched to a more run-oriented attack in Week 5 and the offense performed better. Bradford also played better as the run game opened up play-action opportunities in the passing game. It will be interesting to see if the Rams choose to go a bit more balanced with Bradford at the controls or if they continue at the same run-heavy pace they played with backup Kellen Clemens. Either way, Bradford's contract has two years left on it. If he wants a lucrative extension, this is the time to prove he's worth it.

Weinfuss: Short answer, yes, Bradford will come back strong. Just look at how he started in 2013. He was on pace for a massive year statistically before he got hurt. If he can pick up where he left off, Bradford will return with a bang and show he's still one of the better quarterbacks in the league. As we've seen, a top-tier quarterback can be the difference between sitting idle in the standings and having a breakthrough year. With the talent that surrounds the Rams, with tight end Jared Cook, running back Zac Stacy and wide receivers Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Austin Pettis, among others, Bradford may singlehandedly help close the gap between the Rams and the top of the NFC West.

Williamson: I have to be honest: I'm not a big Sam Bradford guy. I think he's just OK. Just OK doesn't cut it in this division, especially considering the defenses he has to play six times a season in the NFC West. He's serviceable, but he's not the answer. Given the state of this division, I cannot envision a scenario where Bradford is the reason the Rams become the class of the NFC West. I think they can get by with Bradford for the short term, but the Rams are going to have to start thinking about the future at this position much earlier than expected when Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft.


Fourth Down

If you had to start a team with either Seahawks QB Russell Wilson or 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, whom would you choose?


Blount: You must be kidding. Give me Wilson every time, every day in every situation. Yes, Kaepernick is 5 inches taller than Wilson. Is there really anyone left who thinks Wilson's lack of height matters? Wilson also is at his best in pressure situations. He lives for it. And he is a more polished person on the field, and off it, than Kaepernick. That's not an observation. It's a fact. But this isn't a rip on Kaepernick. You would be hard-pressed to find any 25-year-old as polished as Wilson. The 49ers can win a Super Bowl with Kaepernick, and probably will soon. But if I'm starting a team, whether it is in football or almost any other life endeavor, I'll take Wilson without a doubt.

Wagoner: Wilson. For those of us covering other teams in the division, it's hard not to admire what he brings to the table. He presents himself as the consummate professional, and even opponents praise him for his work habits, intelligence and ability. He's already got the Super Bowl ring, and it's easy to see how he could add a few more. He's not all the way there in terms of his potential either, and it's probably safe to assume he's just going to keep getting better as his career goes along. That's nothing against Kaepernick, who is a unique talent in his own right, but there aren't many young quarterbacks in the league worth choosing over Wilson.

Weinfuss: Russell Wilson would be my pick, mainly because of his poise and maturity behind center. Colin Kaepernick is undoubtedly talented, but I get the sense he still has a lot of growing to do as a quarterback. He's tough to bring down, especially in the open field, but when he's pressured in the pocket, Kaepernick seems to panic and I wouldn't want that in a quarterback. I also think Wilson, despite his physical stature, is built to last. He's heady enough to stay out of harm's way, and his poise in the huddle will go a long way in leading a team.

Williamson: I'd take Kaepernick. I know it's a tough sell right now, since Wilson's team has beaten Kaepernick and the 49ers three of the past four times they've met, including the NFC title game, and the fact that Wilson has won a Super Bowl. I respect the value of Super Bowl wins and believe quarterback is the most critical position in sports. I'm sure I will smell like a homer with the Kaepernick pick. But moving forward, I just think Kaepernick has a higher ceiling. I think he can take over games more than Wilson can at a higher rate. Players built like Kaepernick and as athletic as Kaepernick just don't exist. He is special. He works extremely hard at his craft and is well coached. I'd take him, and I wouldn't look back. This isn't a knock on Wilson. He is proven and is going to be great. But if I'm starting a team, I'm taking Kaepernick, and I bet more general managers would agree than would disagree.

 
In what is becoming a sort of offseason tradition, St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long is again stoking the flames of the Rams-49ers rivalry by responding to a tweet coming from the San Francisco area.

Davis
C. Long
Last year, it was the words of safety Craig Dahl, a former teammate of Long's, that drew a response from the defensive end and cornerback Cortland Finnegan. On Thursday, it was a tweet from San Francisco offensive tackle Anthony Davis.

Under the Twitter handle @AnthonyDavis76, Davis, who plays on the right side and whose primary responsibility is to deal with Long twice a year, began the exchange by tweeting Tuesday that "My rookie year Chris beat me every way you can beat a man. Ask him wassup now tho...…" with a link to an Instagram photo of him blocking Long.

When a fan asked Davis why he didn't make the statement with Long's Twitter handle -- @JOEL9ONE -- attached, Davis responded simply "he already know."

Long apparently didn't already know and opted to respond by lobbing some barbs back in Davis' direction after a disclaimer of "I don't usually talk ill of an opponent on here unless I'm provoked directly... But some guys are just attention starved. U got it boss."

From there, things spiraled into a war of words, some of which aren't appropriate for our family-friendly Rams blog. Here's a sample of some of the exchange.


 


 

Of course, the entire exchange, including the ensuing conversations with fans looking to get involved can be found on Twitter.

While the Rams and Niners rivalry doesn't quite meet the level of Niners-Seahawks, the fact that Long and Davis actually battle on every snap should only add more intrigue to games that have consistently been among the most physical in the league the past two years.
Some offseason Twitter shenanigans may add some intrigue to the battles in the NFC West this fall.

San Francisco 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis and St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long engaged his some back-and-forth insults on Twitter on Thursday.

It began innocently enough earlier in the week when Davis wrote on Instagram that Long handled him in his rookie season in 2010, but he has since held his own against the Rams star. Long apparently didn’t like it and tweeted an insult toward Davis.

They both followed up with some tweets about the other. The 49ers and Rams play twice each season, so this March Twitter battle will certainly become a topic again later this year.

This isn’t Long’s first Twitter fight involving the 49ers. Last year he went at it on Twitter with some San Francisco fans.

NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

At first glance, it looks as though the 49ers got shortchanged on the All-NFC West list, especially on defense. After all, the San Francisco defense is clearly one of the NFL's best.

So, to see only defensive tackle Justin Smith and inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman represented could raise eyebrows. However, one must consider that the NFC West is a fantastic division for defensive play. Try to find a more talented group; it'd be difficult.

The 49ers did well in total. They placed eight players on the 26-man All-NFC West first-team (as voted on by the four writers who cover the teams in the division). Seattle had eight on the first team, Arizona seven and St. Louis three.

So the 49ers were represented. Arguments certainly could have been made for linebackers Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks, as well as safeties Donte Whitner and rookie Eric Reid. But again, the players on this team are solid.

The 49ers were recognized for their strong offensive line -- the list includes three-fifths of the group with tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis and guard Alex Boone. No argument there. This is a physical group that sets the tone.

Tight end Vernon Davis, receiver Anquan Boldin and punter Andy Lee were all worthy picks.

It was a tough call between Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore at running back. We went with just one. Lynch has 1,160 rushing yards and Gore has 1,114. Gore is a big part of what the 49ers do, but Lynch is vital to the Seahawks' offense.

A major argument could be made for San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson to be on the first team. He has been a major cog this season. But again, in total, the 49ers fared pretty well on this list.

A happy Rutgers reunion Sunday?

December, 11, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It’s no secret that Anthony Davis and Greg Schiano were not close while Davis played for Schiano at Rutgers. The two had issues, and Davis was disciplined more than once.

Davis, now a standout right tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, has publicly lashed out at Schiano since joining the NFL. Schiano is now the coach at Tampa Bay. The 49ers visit the Buccaneers on Sunday.

Davis
On Wednesday, Schiano heaped praise on Davis during a conference call with Bay Area media. When told of Schiano’s words, which included saying he loved him, Davis listened intently. Asked if he would shake hands with Schiano before the game, Davis said: “If we make eye contact. I’ll acknowledge him out of respect.”

Davis said he wasn’t a great fit for Schiano’s intense motivational style, saying he is more of the self-motivating type. Still, Davis steered clear of igniting any dispute with his former coach.

“It was a learning experience,” Davis said. “If you can make it there under him, you can make it anywhere.”

It is clear Davis has no such issues with his current coach. Jim Harbaugh is thrilled with Davis’ play.

“Anthony Davis is having a really good year,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “Consistently good every game. He’s playing at a very high level, kind of top-lineman kind of level. He’s having an outstanding year.”

Reinforcements on the way for 49ers

October, 14, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers remain optimistic they will get four players back to practice this week after injuries.

Receiver Mario Manningham, cornerback Eric Wright and rookie defensive linemen Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial are “anticipated” to practice this week, coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. This reiterates what Harbaugh said last week about the group. The 49ers have a walk-through practice Tuesday and then have a full-fledged practice Wednesday, which would be the player’s first real test.

Once the players start to practice the team will have 21 days to activate them to the 53-man roster or shelve them for the season. All four players, barring setbacks, are expected to be activated.

Harbaugh said Sunday Dial, a fifth-round pick from Alabama, could be activated as soon as Sunday against Nashville.

The 49ers are thin on the defensive line. Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey injured his hamstring in the first quarter Sunday and did not return. He was jogging on the sideline, didn’t have much of a limp after the game and said he thought he’d be fine. Monday, Harbaugh said there is no new information on Dorsey’s health.

In other 49ers’ notes:
  • Harbaugh said several players stood out in the 32-20 win over the Cardinals on Sunday. He pointed out the play of tackle Anthony Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
  • Asked if the 49ers would be interested in trading for a receiver such as Hakeem Nicks, Josh Gordon or Kenny Britt, Harbaugh said that is “endless speculation” and the 49ers are not interested in “endless speculation.”
  • While Kyle Williams hasn’t been spectacular on punt returns, Harbaugh defended his work and said Williams is doing a good job.
  • The 49ers signed guard Al Netter to the practice squad. Netter was previously with the team. Tampa Bay signed guard Patrick Omameh from the squad last week.
  • 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone toldCSN Bay Area how difficult it is to turn on and off his emotions on the field.
  • 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin discussed his charity celebrity dinner at Morton's the Steakhouse in San Jose on Nov. 11. The Anquan Boldin Foundation benefits under-privileged children.
  • The 49ers leave for a 10-day trip Friday when they go to Nashville for Sunday’s game against the Titans. They then fly directly to London to play Jacksonville on Oct. 27. What’s Harbaugh’s travel plan like? Pretty simple: “I’m going to go with the clothes on my back, pack my playbook, a tooth brush and a great attitude.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- There were no surprises on the San Francisco 49ers injury report Friday.

As expected, linebacker Patrick Willis (groin), tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) and tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) were all listed as questionable. Willis is probably the biggest question.

But if he doesn’t have a setback Willis could play. He missed last week’s game at St. Louis with a groin injury that knocked him out of the third quarter of a Week 3 loss to the Colts. Thursday, San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Willis is more than “50-50” to play.

Willis will likely be a game-time decision. Michael Wilhoite will take his place against Houston if Willis can’t play Sunday.

Meanwhile, the NFL confirmed a Bay Area News Group reported 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith was fined $7,875 for a facemask penalty against the Rams. Safety Donte Whitner was previously fined $21,000 for a hit in the game. Whitner is appealing the fine.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The incremental injury news was positive Thursday for the San Francisco 49ers.

Right tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday. That is a good sign he will be able to play Sunday against Houston. The Texans have blitzed more than any team in the NFL this season. Thus, Davis’ role will be vital.

Star inside linebacker Patrick Willis (groin), tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) and No. 3 cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) all were limited Thursday for the second straight day. Barring setbacks, all three players have a strong chance to play against the Texans.

“I think Pat’s getting a lot better, making great progress,” San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday. “I think the chances are better than 50-50, but we don’t know for sure yet.”

Patrick Willis is making progress

October, 2, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Prior to practice on Wednesday, San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith said he believed that inside linebacker Patrick Willis will “definitely” be back on the field Sunday against Houston.

Willis
Later in the day, Willis made nice strides by practicing on a limited basis.

Willis suffered a groin injury in a Week 3 loss to Indianapolis, and he missed the 49ers' game last Thursday at St. Louis. Willis said he is making progress and is hopeful he can play Sunday, as is coach Jim Harbaugh. I think if there are no setbacks Willis should be able to play.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha also was limited in practice. He missed last week’s game with a knee injury. Tramaine Brock played well in Asomugha’s place, and I’d expect Brock to stay the No. 3 cornerback against Houston and have the chance to keep the job if he continues to plays well.

Tight end Vernon Davis was limited, but he played last week after missing Week 3 with a hamstring injury. He is expected to be fine; the team doesn’t want to push him.

One injury to keep an eye on, though, is the shoulder problem that kept right tackle Anthony Davis out of practice Wednesday. It may be precautionary, but the 49ers will need Davis on Sunday when they face star pass-rusher J.J. Watt.

#NFLRank: A full NFC West accounting

August, 31, 2013
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Fifteen San Francisco 49ers and 13 Seattle Seahawks helped the NFC West account for a disproportionate number of players listed in the #NFLRank project from ESPN.

Sixty-three voters helped rank 100 top players on each side of the ball. NFC West teams accounted for 20 players on defense and 16 on offense. The 36-player total works out to 18 percent representation for the NFC West, above the 12.5 percent expectation for any division.

The chart shows where NFC West players ranked on each list. I shaded offensive players in gray to better distinguish the rankings.

The 49ers' Patrick Willis and the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald have long been perceived as the best players in the division. They've got additional competition, but those two ranked higher than anyone else in the NFC West.

There were sure to be oversights in a project of this scope. Defensive end Calais Campbell of the Cardinals stands out to me as the most glaring one. I might have placed him between Patrick Peterson and Chris Long in defensive rankings as they stood for this project.

Three Seahawks cornerbacks earned spots on the list even though one of them, Antoine Winfield, reportedly could be released by the team Saturday in the reduction to 53 players Saturday.

A quick look at ranked players by team:

San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Willis (3), Aldon Smith (10), Justin Smith (11), Vernon Davis (18), NaVorro Bowman (18), Joe Staley (25), Mike Iupati (32), Frank Gore (37), Colin Kaepernick (42), Ahmad Brooks (56), Anthony Davis (60), Donte Whitner (64), Michael Crabtree (78), Anquan Boldin (83) and Jonathan Goodwin (92).

Seattle Seahawks: Richard Sherman (8), Earl Thomas (17), Percy Harvin (26), Marshawn Lynch (27), Brandon Browner (46), Russell Wilson (47), Russell Okung (49), Kam Chancellor (49), Max Unger (57), Bobby Wagner (67), Winfield (70), Cliff Avril (74) and Chris Clemons (85).

St. Louis Rams: Long (40), James Laurinaitis (57), Jake Long (61), Cortland Finnegan (63).

Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald (7), Patrick Peterson (19), Daryl Washington (59) and Darnell Dockett (79).

#NFLrank: 49ers' late push on way

August, 28, 2013
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The San Francisco 49ers trail the Seattle Seahawks by one in the final quarter.

They are in good position to prevail, however.

Vernon Davis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis stand tallest among the as-yet-revealed players in the #NFLrank project highlighting 100 top players on each side of the ball. Seattle's Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman remain leading candidates to appear as the project continues.

Sixty-three voters ranked players for the project. The chart highlights 49ers among the players ranking 21st through 100th on offense or defense. We'll learn the 20 highest-ranked players on each side of the ball over the next couple days.

The 49ers have placed 10 players on the list so far. The Seahawks have placed 11, the St. Louis Rams four and the Arizona Cardinals two.

San Francisco's total includes eight players on offense and two on defense. Seattle's breakdown is more evenly distributed: six on defense, five on offense. But with top 49ers defenders such as Bowman, Willis and the two Smiths still unranked, the numbers should even out some for the 49ers.

Note that quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson both fell in the 40s. Both were ascending late last season. Both have a chance to climb further this season.

710ESPN Seattle audio: Clayton Show

July, 28, 2013
7/28/13
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Good morning, NFC West. I've wrapped up a three-day stint at Seattle Seahawks camp and am en route to see the Arizona Cardinals for the same duration. Our first "Camp Confidential" piece of the 2013 season will focus on the Seahawks and run on the blog in the coming days. I've been gathering for that piece while in camp with Seattle. Here's a link to our equivalent pieces from last summer.

Before leaving Seattle, I joined ESPN's John Clayton for a 710ESPN Seattle discussion on subjects around the NFC West.

Brown
Brown
John asked whether the Tarell Brown situation in San Francisco would tick off 49ers players. Brown unknowingly forfeited a $2 million contract escalator when he failed to show for the team's voluntary offseason conditioning program. Since speaking with John, I asked a retired NFL player how he would feel in such a situation. He said he would have been ticked off at the team and especially with his agent. But he also said Brown shared responsibility for the miscue.

Clayton noted that a 49ers cornerback was losing money unnecessarily just as another cornerback from the division, Brandon Browner of Seattle, was accepting a raise. Browner, entering the final year of a deal that was set to pay him well below market for a starting corner, labeled the pay increase "a good gesture" by the team. Would such a contrast matter to 49ers players?

As Clayton and I discussed, the 49ers have done a good job rewarding key players. They have reached contract extensions with Joe Staley, Anthony Davis, Vernon Davis, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and others when several of those players had time remaining on their previous deals. The 49ers have also decided against paying some players. Dashon Goldson and Delanie Walker come to mind. And if the team lets Brown walk after pocketing the $2 million he was scheduled to receive, some might consider that unfortunate.

In the end, Brown and his agent were the ones ultimately responsible for knowing the requirements of his contract. Should the 49ers have tipped him off? It would have been a nice gesture, but that wasn't their obligation.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw is in the news after his coach, John Harbaugh, suggested Upshaw needed to cut weight by improving his diet.

"Courtney eats too much and he doesn't eat all the right foods," Harbaugh said.

Colleague Dan Graziano and I had some fun with the subject in the video above.

Separately, I've put together a chart ranking current NFC West players by heaviest listed weights, according to the teams' websites. Listed weights aren't always accurate. Years ago, I recall seeing a 330-pound defensive tackle listed at 285 pounds in the team's media guide (the player's wishes apparently carried considerable weight -- some 45 pounds -- with the public relations staff).

St. Louis Rams undrafted rookie Terrell Brown made headlines recently for topping 400 pounds. He stands 6-foot-10 and was initially listed at 385 pounds, but coach Jeff Fisher said Brown's actual weight is 403 pounds.

Just missing the cut in the chart: Levi Brown (324), Chilo Rachal (323), Anthony Davis (323), Red Bryant (323), Michael Brockers (322) and James Carpenter (321). Fifty-seven others are listed between 300 and 320 pounds.

All of those players are linemen. Seattle Seahawks tight end Darren Fells (281) is the only non-lineman listed at heavier than 268 pounds.
Using an early draft choice for an unusually young player can carry risks.



The upside: a potentially longer career window.

As noted earlier Thursday, the San Francisco 49ers' Anthony Davis and the Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas are among three players to start all 48 games over the past three seasons before turning 24. Davis has already received a contract extension. Thomas is in line for one.

The chart breaks out all others with more than 35 starts over the past three seasons before they turned 24. Rolando McClain stands out as an exception for the wrong reasons. Most of the others have met general expectations.

That doesn't necessarily mean teams should rush out to draft especially young players. In some cases, it means exceptionally talented players were good enough to attract teams' interest in the absence of college seasoning.

Four of the players in the chart have achieved Pro Bowl and first-team Associated Press All-Pro status: Thomas, Pierre-Paul, Rob Gronkowski and Maurkice Pouncey. Thomas and Pouncey have also been second-team All-Pro choices.
@HavokHawk sized up the previous item and wanted to see the information narrowed for starting lineups.

Lineups aren't set in every case. Injuries are affecting a few situations. We're still able to put together a snapshot visible in the chart at the bottom of this entry.

Among the considerations:
Reid and Ogletree are the youngest projected starters in the division, followed by 22-year-olds Tavon Austin, T.J. McDonald, Michael Brockers, Williams and Bobby Wagner. Wagner, who started as a rookie for Seattle last season, turns 23 later this month.

Seattle's Earl Thomas and San Francisco's Anthony Davis are among three players from 2010 through last season to have started all 48 regular-season games before turning 24. The New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul is the other.

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