NFC West: Anthony Sherman

A look at what to expect as the Arizona Cardinals begin the Bruce Arians era:

[+] EnlargeBruce Arians, Steve Keim
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsNew coach Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim, right, have given the Cardinals' roster a major overhaul.
Biggest change to expect: The Cardinals, the only NFC West team with a new coach, were going to be better on offense this season even if they had retained the previous coaching staff. They have a chance to be much, much better with a more competent quarterback (Carson Palmer) and upgraded personnel on the offensive line. The scheme will change Insider as well even though Arians shares Pittsburgh roots with predecessor Ken Whisenhunt. Arizona will no longer play with a fullback, explaining why the team traded Anthony Sherman, who had been a draft pick from the Whisenhunt era. The offense will put greater emphasis on deeper pass routes.

What success would look like: Larry Fitzgerald smiling again. Running backs healthy enough to average better than 3.1 yards per carry. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles picking up where Ray Horton left off. Daryl Washington restoring the team's confidence in him. Tyrann Mathieu making his mark on the field, not off it. Patrick Peterson returning a punt for a touchdown again. Palmer reviving his career with a healthy Freddie Kitchens coaching him. Avenging 58-0.

Protecting the nest: Winning at home is where it starts for the Cardinals. They lost home games to Buffalo, St. Louis and a by-then-struggling Chicago team last season. The 2013 home schedule won't be easy with playoff teams such as Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis and Atlanta scheduled to visit. Two visiting teams with losing records last season, St. Louis and Detroit, also could be tough. There is simply no realistic way to compete without winning at home, however.

More or fewer wins? "More" is the answer reflexively given how bad the Cardinals were while falling from a 4-0 start to 5-11 last season. We figured Palmer could be worth another three victories over last season if he played about as well as he did with Oakland. Arians and general manager Steve Keim have turned over much of the roster, however, so we're still getting a feel for this team. I'm looking forward to visiting Cardinals training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium beginning Sunday.
Cornerback Javier Arenas is the player Arizona will receive in return from Kansas City for fullback Anthony Sherman, the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers reports.

This move makes sense on the surface.

Sherman did not fit the Cardinals' new offense, which does not utilize a traditional fullback. Arenas, a 2010 second-round choice by the Chiefs' previous leadership, projects as a slot cornerback in a division that has added slot receivers Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin.

"Size hurts him, but Arenas is feisty and a big-time asset on special teams," said Matt Williamson, who scouts the NFL for

The Chiefs signed veteran corner Dunta Robinson before using a fifth-round choice for cornerback Sanders Commings. They added cornerback Sean Smith in free agency. They already had Brandon Flowers. Arenas was apparently the odd corner out.

The Cardinals plan for 2013 third-round choice Tyrann Mathieu to play weak safety and slot cornerback, but Arenas would come to Arizona with game experience. Mathieu and Arenas are both 5-foot-9. Arenas is listed at 197 pounds. Mathieu is listed at 186. There is overlap between the players. Arenas could also provide some insurance for Mathieu, whose off-field issues have made him a higher-risk player in the Cardinals' eyes.

Arenas started nine games last season and played 693 snaps on defense, the third-highest total among Chiefs defensive backs behind Eric Berry (967) and Flowers (840).
Anthony Sherman should not go down in Arizona Cardinals history as a disappointing draft choice just because the team traded him after two seasons.

The 2011 fifth-round pick quickly became a solid starting fullback. But with new head coach Bruce Arians implementing a fullback-averse offense this offseason, Sherman became expendable through no fault of his own. That is why Arizona traded the 24-year-old blocking back to the Kansas City Chiefs in a deal Adam Caplan reported and Adam Teicher confirmed Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Sherman
Denny Medley/US PRESSWIREFullback is not a position valued by new coach Bruce Arians, so Anthony Sherman was traded to the Chiefs Wednesday.
"I have not been a fullback guy -- never have been," Arians told reporters during the NFL owners meeting in March.

The reasons for Arians' thinking are strategic. Fullbacks, for all their value in blocking, simply don't threaten defenses the way players at the other skill positions do. They tend to be one-dimensional players, so when they come into the game, defenses have a better idea what to expect. Some coaches have little use for fullbacks as a result.

"If you're a defensive coordinator and I send in a fullback and take out a tight end, I'm going to get your best call for that," Arians explained. "If I've got two tight ends, you don't know if one of them is going to play the fullback or one of them is going to be split out wide. You are going to be in that down-and-distance call. You don’t have a specific call."

Sherman started 11 of the 28 games he played in Arizona and logged 448 offensive snaps, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He carried the ball once and had 13 receptions for 111 yards.

The Cardinals drafted Sherman to develop him into a lead blocker while getting quality special-teams snaps from him. With former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt becoming the San Diego Chargers' offensive coordinator recently, Sherman will twice a season in the AFC West play against one of the men responsible for drafting him.

"Two things, besides just being a good blocker, is that he’s an athletic player, he can catch the ball and do some things from that position athletically that can help us, and he’s a very good special-teamer," Whisenhunt said of Sherman during the 2011 draft. "When you have a role where you're expecting that player to get 15 or 20 snaps a game, he's got to have another significant contribution to your team. That’s how you build the strength of your team and we feel like he was probably, if not the best, at least in the top two or three of all the college players we looked at as special-teamers, and that’s important."

Sherman should be a better fit in Kansas City, where new Chiefs coach Andy Reid runs an offense featuring two backs a higher percentage of the time. Reid's Philadelphia teams did not rank among the NFL leaders in most plays featuring two backs, but they weren't far off the league average.

Also: A look at Javier Arenas, the slot corner Arizona is receiving from the Chiefs in return.
Anthony Sherman has played 28 games with 11 starts in two seasons as the Arizona Cardinals' fullback.

The 2011 fifth-round choice should be on notice following Bruce Arians' recent hiring as head coach.

"I have not been a fullback guy, never have been," Arians said during the NFL owners meeting last week.

Arians prefers tight ends to fullbacks for the versatility they can provide.

"If you're a defensive coordinator and I send in a fullback and take out a tight end, I'm going to get your best call for that," Arians explained. "If I've got two tight ends, you don't know if one of them is going to play the fullback or one of them is going to be split out wide. You are going to be in that down-and-distance call. You don’t have a specific call."

The Cardinals' former leadership valued Sherman as a lead blocker and for his contributions on special teams. Arians was addressing fullbacks in general, not Sherman in particular. But if he views Sherman as an old-school blocking back with little else to offer, that would be bad for Sherman's prospects.

"If here comes the fullback, let’s get eight in the box," Arians said of a defensive coordinator's mentality. "The more flexible tight ends can be, one of them playing fullback, one of them being a threat as a receiver, the other being the dual in-line backfield blocker, the more pressure you can put on the defense."

That doesn't necessarily mean Sherman is doomed in Arizona. The Indianapolis Colts' offense made at least some room for a fullback with Arians as its coordinator last season. Robert Hughes, signed in October, played 28 snaps. But it wasn't an ability to play fullback that appealed to Arians.

"I see him more as a running back who can play fullback and gives us good quality depth," Arians said last season. "Big, power back and I didn’t really know he could do this job. He’s found a nice niche for himself. He’s got great hands. Again, he brings another receiver with some speed on the field. He's not a traditional thud fullback."

Sherman has one carry and eight receptions while playing about 22 percent of the offensive snaps over the past two seasons.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 19, 2012
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.
The Arizona Cardinals, though struggling of late, have often been at their best on fourth down. The Cardinals rank first in win probability added and sixth in expected points added through fourth-down plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

For those unsure of the metrics, a few bullet points of explanation:
  • Quarterback Kevin Kolb's 15-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts on fourth-and-10 against the Miami Dolphins helped force overtime.
  • Fullback Anthony Sherman forced a fumble the Cardinals recovered following a 58-yard punt against Philadelphia on another fourth-down play.
  • John Skelton's 37-yard strike to Michael Floyd at Green Bay came on fourth-and-6.
  • Against Buffalo, the Cardinals' Rashad Johnson took a direct snap on a fake punt, running 24 yards on a fourth-and-2.
  • Etc.

Desperation or trickery fueled most of these plays. The time is coming in the NFL when teams act more aggressively on fourth down because they're playing the percentages, not just because desperate times call for desperate measures. Tim Livingston recently promoted the idea, suggesting Oregon coach Chip Kelly might be just the man to lead a modernization of NFL strategy.

Kevin Seifert and I picked up the discussion during our latest "Inside Slant" podcast. We also discussed evolving thoughts regarding concussions while two of the teams we cover, San Francisco and Chicago, head toward a "Monday Night Football" matchup amid uncertainty regarding their quarterbacks' availability. San Francisco 49ers owner John York and Seattle Seahawks team physician Stan Herring came up during our conversation, as did the St. Louis Rams' defense.

Fantasy Watch: Running backs in Week 8

November, 4, 2012
Our latest look at playing time in the NFC West, with an eye toward fantasy football and beginning with running backs:

Fullbacks generally don't factor for fantasy stats, but it's still interesting to see how many snaps they played.

Game situations tend to dictate whether they're on the field.

A team playing from behind generally wouldn't use a fullback as much, although Arizona, with its injury depleted backfield, did keep Anthony Sherman on the field quite a bit against the 49ers on Monday night.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

October, 24, 2012
Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback Kevin Kolb (ribs) will miss the game against San Francisco on Monday night. Safety Kerry Rhodes (back), cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) and guard Adam Snyder (quadriceps) are also dealing with injuries. Rhodes and Toler missed the Minnesota game. Snyder started but did not finish it. Teams playing Monday night file their first formal injury reports Thursday. For that reason, the situations in Arizona and San Francisco are a little cloudier. The Cardinals do expect to have special-teams captains Anthony Sherman (knee) and Reggie Walker (concussion) back from injuries. It's not clear whether tight end Todd Heap will be back this week from the knee injury he suffered at New England in Week 2.

St. Louis Rams: Receiver Danny Amendola returned to practice on a limited basis, but he's not expected back from his chest injury for a few weeks. Left tackles Wayne Hunter (back) and Rodger Saffold (knee) did not practice. Receiver Chris Givens (illness), linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh) and defensive end Eugene Sims (knee) also sat out Wednesday. Backup defensive tackle Matt Conrath (knee) was limited. The Rams have done a very good job getting backup offensive linemen ready to play. They've also been aggressive in trying out out new personnel up front when it gives them a chance -- not a guarantee, but a chance -- to upgrade. Update: The Rams announced Friday that Brandon Gibson, not Givens, was the player missing practice due to illness.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers emerged from their Thursday night victory over Seattle knowing Joe Staley's concussion wasn't a factor, after all. Staley and the offensive line played very well. Having additional days off between games should help San Francisco emerge healthier against Arizona. If quarterback Alex Smith's injured factor was to blame for the quarterback's less consistent deep throwing, perhaps the recovery time will help him on that front. Frank Gore is expected to play despite injured ribs. One question, however, is whether his reps will suffer any as a result. The team has yet to play Brandon Jacobs in a game. The depth behind Gore appears strong. Receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) missed the Seattle game.

Seattle Seahawks: Receiver Doug Baldwin (ankle) has a high sprain suffered Thursday night. He'll probably miss multiple games. That means Charly Martin will reemerge in the offense. Braylon Edwards could get additional snaps as well, particularly if Golden Tate's consistency does not improve. Tate and Martin could get more work from the slot with Baldwin out. That would also open up reps for Edwards on the outside. Cornerback Walter Thurmond is practicing following a lengthy rehab from a broken fibula. The team has through next week to activate Thurmond from the physically unable to perform list. Guard John Moffitt (knee) is also back at practice this week, but it's not clear when he'll return to the rotation on game days. Defensive tackle Jason Jones (ankle) and special-teams linebacker Malcolm Smith (concussion) are expected to play.
Levi Brown's injury and an underwhelming quarterback competition were supposed to doom the Arizona Cardinals in 2012.

The team surprised skeptics by winning its first four games anyway.

The injury news has worsened. The Cardinals have fallen to 4-2 as they prepare to face the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7. Arizona will be without quarterback Kevin Kolb and safety Kerry Rhodes. The team is listing cornerback Greg Toler and fullback Anthony Sherman as doubtful.

The Cardinals should have a healthier Darnell Dockett after a hamstring injury slowed the veteran defensive end previously. Strong games from Dockett and defensive end Calais Campbell figure to be key against the Vikings' Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.

Peterson and Harvin each have four games with 100 yards from scrimmage this season, as the chart shows. Harvin had another game with 98. Peterson ranked fifth (628) and Harvin eighth (603) in yards from scrimmage through Week 6. Larry Fitzgerald (430) and Andre Roberts (304) lead the Cardinals in that category.

Three players have reached 100 yards from scrimmage against the Cardinals this season. Miami Dolphins receivers Brian Hartline (253) and Davone Bess (123) did it in Week 4. Buffalo's C.J. Spiller (110) did it last week.

Marshawn Lynch (97), Wes Welker (95) and Stevan Ridley (95) came closest.

The Vikings' Peterson expects to play despite an ankle injury that sidelined him part of the week. He practiced Friday and expects to start.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

October, 17, 2012
Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback Kevin Kolb (ribs) will miss the game at Minnesota, giving John Skelton his first start since the season opener. I've broken down their statistical similarities and differences since Week 12 last season in case you're interested in taking a look. Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) and safety Kerry Rhodes (back) were among those not practicing. Sherman's injury forced Reagan Maui'a into the game against Buffalo. A penalty Maui'a committed for spiking the ball following a reception came at a crucial time. Rhodes left the Buffalo game with back spasms. He has played very well at times and would be missed. Darnell Dockett continues to play through a hamstring injury. That could limit his endurance. Tight end Todd Heap (knee) hasn't played since the New England game. He was limited in practice.

St. Louis Rams: Receiver Danny Amendola remains out indefinitely, putting pressure on other receivers to make up the difference in the middle of the field and in the red zone. Those are areas where the team hasn't performed consistently enough of late. The Rams remain without left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee). Wayne Hunter has played better than anticipated in relief. Saffold was expected to miss at least a month when injured one month ago. He missed practice Wednesday. The team also practiced without Hunter (back), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (back) and linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh). Jenkins and Hunter are expected to start against Green Bay. Running back Steven Jackson is no longer on the injury report after working through a groin injury. Rookie Daryl Richardson will continue to get carries on merit, it appears.

San Francisco 49ers: The team listed receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) and left tackle Joe Staley (concussion) as limited in practice Wednesday. The short week complicates their situations. Staley can play Thursday night if a neurologist clears him. If Staley sits out, right guard Alex Boone will move to left tackle. Veteran Leonard Davis would presumably fill in at right guard. He did against Buffalo. Running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) was also listed as limited, but health doesn't appear to be the primary reason for his continued inactivity on game days. The team has good depth at the position. The other backups behind Frank Gore contribute on special teams. Jacobs is looking like an insurance policy. Two years ago, the team lost Gore for the final five games. Quarterback Alex Smith's finger injury is not expected to limit him.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks appear healthier than they've generally been in recent seasons. They're the only team in the division yet to list a quarterback on the injury report. Strong safety Kam Chancellor has been cleared to play despite an ankle injury, coach Pete Carroll told reporters Wednesday. Clinton McDonald, a contributor in the nickel defensive line this season, is expected to return. Seattle will be without former starting guard John Moffitt.
A periodic look at which players are playing and when, continuing with the Arizona Cardinals' offense:

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

October, 10, 2012
Arizona Cardinals: Life without the injured Ryan Williams at running back begins Sunday against a Buffalo defense that allowed 621 yards to San Francisco, including 311 on the ground. Utility back LaRod Stephens-Howling expects to return from a hip injury. He was limited Wednesday. Arizona will presumably incorporate Stephens-Howling into its no-huddle offense and into its spread passing sets. He's not an every-down back, but when healthy, Stephens-Howling provides big-play ability in doses. The Cardinals did not sign a veteran back after losing Williams (for the season) and would-be starting back Beanie Wells (until Nov. 25). William Powell and Alfonso Smith are the leading candidates to carry the ball on early downs. Defensive end Darnell Dockett (hamstring) played sparingly in Week 5 and was limited Wednesday. Tight end Todd Heap practiced on a limited basis. A knee injury has kept Heap out for the past three games. Cornerback Greg Toler, who pulled up with a hamstring injury while allowing a touchdown pass at St. Louis, did not practice. Cornerback Michael Adams also missed practice with a hamstring injury. The Cardinals figure to need their cornerbacks against Buffalo, a team that uses three-plus receivers extensively. Fullback Anthony Sherman (22 snaps at St. Louis) and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (six snaps) also sat out. Sherman has a knee injury. Groves has a hamstring injury. Quarterback John Skelton is back from his ankle injury, but he's not full strength. Kevin Kolb remains the starter.

St. Louis Rams: Leading receiver Danny Amendola will miss roughly six weeks, beginning with St. Louis' game at Miami. That will probably affect the Rams' ability to throw quickly and productively against pressure, and to convert on third down. Amendola ranks third in the NFL behind Wes Welker and Victor Cruz with 24 receptions from the slot. He made eight of those receptions on third down. Safety Quintin Mikell practiced without limitation Wednesday less that a week after suffering a concussion against Arizona. Linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh), fullback Brit Miller (ankle) and left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) did not practice. Saffold has missed three games and was expected to miss at least four. Defensive linemen William Hayes (back) and Eugene Sims (head), key contributors both, were limited in practice.

San Francisco 49ers: Coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Alex Smith told reporters they're not concerned about the injury Smith suffered to the middle finger on his throwing hand. The injury did not appear serious, but it was initially a concern. This could be the week San Francisco debuts running back Brandon Jacobs, who has not played since suffering a knee injury during camp. Letting Jacobs suit up against the New York Giants, his former team, would seem fitting. The 49ers are getting good play from their existing backs, however, and Jacobs doesn't offer much on special teams. One question is whether the 49ers could use Jacobs in short-yardage situations. Frank Gore has two first downs on six third-and-1 carries this season. Anthony Dixon has one first down (a touchdown) on his only third-and-1 carry. Gore converted the team's only fourth-and-1 rush. Add it up and San Francisco has converted four times in eight short-yardage chances, the same figures Jacobs posted with the Giants during the 2011 regular season.

Seattle Seahawks: Center Max Unger will join the injury report for Seattle this week with a hip injury that was expected to keep him from practicing Wednesday. Former starting guard John Moffitt, a contingency at center when healthy, was also among those missing practice. A knee injury will keep him inactive this week. Eight players have started on the offensive line for Seattle this season, tied with Jacksonville for most in the league. Seattle does have options at center. Lemuel Jeanpierre has started there. Defensive linemen Clinton McDonald (groin) and Jaye Howard (foot) did not practice. The team continues to list running back Marshawn Lynch as limited with a back injury. He has 121 touches this season, second-most in the NFL behind Arian Foster (142). Lynch had 313 touches last season.
The NFL handed down only one fine from 16 personal fouls stemming from NFC West teams' final games using replacement officials.

The low number was telling.

Commissioner Roger Goodell usually metes out fines for such penalties when the league feels as though the flags were thrown for good reason.

In this case, Seattle's Brandon Browner was the only player receiving a fine for Week 4 flags from NFC West teams' games. He'll pay $7,875 for unnecessary roughness committed against Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings. Officials flagged Jennings, too, but they did not fine him.

The chart shows all Week 4 personal fouls against individual NFC West players or their opponents, sorted by team and shaded for your viewing pleasure.

The NFL did levy a $15,750 fine against Philadelphia's Jason Babin for a horse-collar tackle against Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling. Officials did not flag Babin on the play, although the penalty appeared to be blatant.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 26, 2012
Arizona: Beanie Wells' turf-toe injury will sideline him until at least Nov. 25, putting pressure on second-year pro Ryan Williams to remain healthy. The team re-signed Alfonso Smith for depth, but Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell are ahead of him. Powell looked good while carrying 42 times for 249 yards (5.9-yard average) and three touchdowns during the preseason. Quarterback John Skelton practiced on his injured ankle, an indication he'll be available against Miami. Kevin Kolb presumably remains the starter. Defensive end Darnell Dockett (hamstring), tight end Todd Heap (knee), fullback Anthony Sherman (hamstring) and Stephens-Howling (groin). Dockett's injury will be one to watch. He's been playing at a high level. Heap appeared close to playing last week. Safety Adrian Wilson (groin) was among those limited in practice after sitting out last week.

St. Louis: Defensive tackle Michael Brockers returned to practice after missing the first three games with a high-ankle sprain. That's a good sign for the Rams as they prepare for Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. Brockers was limited in practice. Steven Jackson (groin) did not practice. The team remains without center Scott Wells and left tackle Rodger Saffold. A knee injury continues to limit Wayne Hunter, Saffold's replacement. Saffold could miss a few more weeks. Overall, though, the Rams are healthier than they were last season. One question is whether Jackson's groin injury will linger. He faces a Seattle run defense that has allowed 2.9 yards per carry on rushes excluding quarterback scrambles.

San Francisco: Linebacker Patrick Willis practiced despite the ankle injury he suffered against Minnesota. That's a welcome indication for Willis and the 49ers. Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga (knee) missed practice. His status affects the 49ers' base defense heading into a Week 4 game against the New York Jets. The Jets have faced base or short-yardage defenses more than 60 percent of the time this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The 49ers continue to ease running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) and returner Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle) without any pressure to rush them. Both were limited participants. That marked progress for Jacobs, who was injured Aug. 18.

Seattle: Left tackle Russell Okung appeared to make it through the Green Bay game without suffering an injury setback to his knee. Former starting right tackle James Carpenter could be available for the first time this season. He projects at left guard, but it's not clear how much he'll play, or how soon. Seattle has not been afraid to rotate players at the other guard spot. Carpenter, a first-round pick in 2011, has been rehabbing from the knee surgery he underwent last season. Receiver Doug Baldwin (shoulder) was a last-minute scratch from the lineup against the Packers. He could return this week. Baldwin and cornerback Byron Maxwell (hamstring) practiced fully. Right tackle Breno Giacomini (pectoral), guard John Moffitt (knee) and defensive lineman Greg Scruggs (wrist) did not practice.

Around the NFC West: Cards persevere

September, 10, 2012
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals' fire burned brightly Sunday.

There was no shortage of fuel, of course.

No team in the NFC West and perhaps none in the NFL attracted as much skepticism in recent months. There was almost no way the Cardinals could be as bad as advertised. Coach Ken Whisenhunt thought it was overkill and said so during training camp. He was right based on what happened Sunday. The Cardinals did not win pretty, but they won their season opener against Seattle and have now won eight of 10 dating to last season.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic runs through the ups and downs for Arizona. Somers: "There were plenty of positives on Sunday. Kevin Kolb stayed engaged in the season even after losing the starting job. The no-huddle offense seems to jump start him. And it does the same for receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals can't run it all the time because there are a limited number of plays that can be used and if they don't gain first downs, then the defense is on the field for too long. But it's worth using two or three times a game. Coordinator Mike Miller and the offensive staff helped out the offensive line by often keeping fullback Anthony Sherman in to block."

Also from Somers: Fitzgerald's thoughts on why the no-huddle offense worked. Fitzgerald: ""You see the defense, the guys get tired. They're trying to make personnel adjustments, and it really messes up the defense's flow. Kevin does a really good job of the up-tempo offense. He has a good understanding of coverages and where his 'hots' and 'sights' are. The slant I caught today was a 'go' we were trying to run, but Earl Thomas hit us on a blitz. Kevin saw it, he didn't throw it in the first window because the linebacker was there, and he actually hit me in the second window. He had a really good feel for what was going on and he made some really nice throws in that drive."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says thing went well for Kolb against the odds. Arizona was actually trying to call timeout on the play resulting in Kolb's go-ahead touchdown pass. Teammates seemed to rally around Kolb after the game. Bickley: "Adrian Wilson brushed off a question about the late defensive stand, preferring to highlight Kolb's performance. Darnell Dockett did the same thing. And while John Skelton's injury status is uncertain, Fitzgerald sounded pretty convinced that the Cardinals have a new starting quarterback." Noted: Fitzgerald did says "Kevin's our guy" but that might have been before the team realized Skelton might miss only a short time. X-rays were negative. Skelton might have a high-ankle sprain, however.

Darren Urban of offers postgame thoughts, including one regarding a play that might have been overlooked. Urban: "Calais Campbell with yet another blocked field goal, after three last year. Huge Sunday, since without the block, the Seahawks are down just one late and easily kick a field goal to win (unless, of course, Campbell would have blocked that one -– which is always possible.)" Noted: Campbell's height (6-8) makes him a natural to block field-goal tries. Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka has also been vulnerable to blocks.

Josh Weinfuss of says Kolb completed five consecutive passes from the no-huddle attack.