NFC West: Antrel Rolle

A soft market for defensive linemen helped the Seattle Seahawks sign Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to short-term contracts in free agency.

Having a torn rotator cuff was also a factor for Bennett, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Bennett
Bennett's shoulder was a problem for him with Tampa Bay last season. The Buccaneers cited his shoulder while listing him as probable five times over the final eight games. Bennett had three of his nine sacks during that span, two against Philadephia and one against Carolina. He had zero sacks over the final three games, his only three-game streak without a sack during the 2012 season.

Players have been known to play through torn rotator cuffs. Antrel Rolle said he had two of them during the New York Giants' most recent Super Bowl season. He did not miss a game.

It's not clear whether Bennett's shoulder situation will prevent him from practicing or limit him during the 2013 season. The Seahawks would have passed him on a physical exam before signing him, an indication they were comfortable with whatever ailments he might have brought with him from Tampa Bay
NFL general managers put their reputations on the line come draft day.

Some fare better than others.

The chart shows how many Pro Bowl players current NFC West GMs have drafted or helped draft over the past 10 years.

The numbers are not definitive. Current GMs from the division weren't always primary decision makers during the period in question. They do not deserve all the credit (or blame) for the players their teams drafted.

In some cases -- think first-team All-Pro choice NaVorro Bowman in San Francisco, for example -- very good players have not yet achieved Pro Bowl acclaim. In other cases, a single decision -- say, drafting Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay -- improved an organization's trajectory enough to launch other players to the Pro Bowl.

What we have, basically, is a starting point for discussion heading into the 2012 draft. Here's a look at each current NFC West GM and the associated 2002-2011 draft choices with Pro Bowls on their résumés:
Whoa, the NFC West chat is getting under way now. Gotta run.
Like clockwork, another Arizona Cardinals top-10 draft choice has reached a point in his rookie contract when the salary-cap figure became untenable.

Larry Fitzgerald and Antrel Rolle got there first. Levi Brown arrived Tuesday, leading to his release as the Cardinals sought to comply with salary-cap limits.

The manner in which the Cardinals structured contracts before the rookie wage scale took effect forced them into tough spots with all three players. Fitzgerald used the leverage to broker the first of two trend-setting contracts. Rolle and Brown used the leverage to force their release, with Rolle joining the New York Giants and Brown hitting the market Tuesday.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt has said the Cardinals would like to bring back Brown. That could still happen.

The Cardinals shouldn't encounter problems along these lines in the future. For one, they've fared well enough to avoid picking at the very top of the draft. The rookie wage scale also dramatically reduces payouts, sparing teams from structuring contracts the way Arizona has done previously.

The team announced Brown's release Tuesday.

Turning point: Wes Welker drops the ball

February, 5, 2012
2/05/12
11:48
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Wes Welker Elsa/Getty ImagesDejection best describes Wes Welker's reaction following his fourth-quarter dropped ball.
INDIANAPOLIS — Reddened eyes and a hushed voice told the story for Wes Welker in Super Bowl XLVI.

The pass he dropped with four minutes remaining was a turning point against New England in the Patriots' 21-17 defeat to the New York Giants. No amount of consoling from teammates could convince him otherwise.

"That is one I'll have to live with," Welker said.

The Patriots led 17-15 with 4:06 remaining when Tom Brady dropped back to pass on second-and-11 from the New York 44-yard line. New England had driven 48 yards in nine plays after taking over possession at its own 8. Brady had Welker wide open to his left and 23 yards downfield. The pass was a bit behind Welker and high, but the receiver turned his body and got both hands on the ball.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time, he makes that grab," fellow receiver Deion Branch said. "It's football. Nobody's perfect."

Welker dropped five passes during the Patriots' first 18 games of the season, none on throws traveling more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He dropped a league-high 11 passes during the 2010 regular season, with drops defined as passes the receiver should have caught with ordinary effort, and only when the receiver is 100 percent at fault. But he also topped 100 receptions for the third time in five seasons since the Patriots acquired him in 2007.

"I mean, the ball is right there," Welker said. "I just have to make the play. It's a play I've made 1,000 times in practice and everything else."

Welker kept his composure as he spoke. It appeared to be a struggle.

"When it comes to the biggest moment of my life and I don't come up with it, it's discouraging," he said.

Brady might not have thrown the pass if not for a Giants breakdown.

"The man over me was playing a two-high look and the safety went to one-high and that is why it opened up for me like it did," Welker explained.

Giants safety Antrel Rolle said communication problems were at fault. The coverage was supposed to change when the Patriots adjusted their formation. The message didn't make it to everyone on defense.

"We were just on a little different page, but it happens," Rolle said. "You know, one mistake all game, we'll take it."

Will they ever.

"We just couldn't connect," Brady said of the pass for Welker. "He's a hell of a player. I'll keep throwing the ball to him for as long as I possibly can. He's a phenomenal player and teammate, and I love that guy."

Welker caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season. He caught seven passes for 60 yards on eight targets Sunday.

Welker now has 18 receptions for 163 yards in two Super Bowl appearances for New England, both against the Giants and both in defeat. His drop wasn't the only turning point Sunday.

The Patriots still had the lead after the ball went through Welker's hands. They had a chance to convert on third down as well, but Brady's pass to Branch fell incomplete.

A defensive stand following Welker's drop also could have saved the game and spared Welker from his fate, but instead the Patriots allowed a 38-yard sideline strike from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham on the Giants' next offensive play.

Manning-to-Manningham worked again for 16 yards, and suddenly New York had first down at the New England 34 with 2:52 to play.

The Giants scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:04 left without even trying. Ahmad Bradshaw hoped to stop at the 1, which would have allowed the Giants to run down most of the clock before kicking the winning field goal. But instead they gave Brady one final possession with 57 seconds to play.

Welker would not get another chance.

Brady targeted Aaron Hernandez four times and Branch three times during a final desperation drive that ended with a 51-yard Hail Mary to the end zone that fell incomplete.

"It's one that will take a while to shake off, that's for sure," Welker said.


INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2005 Seattle Seahawks just missed the cut when Jamison Hensley and I ranked our 10 best Super Bowl losers. Not that making such a list would provide consolation.

Rolle
Bernard
Rocky Bernard collected a career-high 8.5 sacks with that Seattle team, only to suffer through a 21-10 defeat to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL. He's back on the Super Bowl stage with the New York Giants and intent upon at least partially atoning for what went wrong six years ago.

"I don't want to feel that pain again," Bernard said. "It's something you can't get over. You work so hard to get to that point and we were so confident going into the game, felt like we could win."

Bernard, like quite a few Seahawks fans, still feels as though officiating errors played a significant role in the outcome. Bernard brought up that aspect of the game without prompting.

"We kind of felt like it was taken away from us," Bernard said.

Referee Bill Leavy later apologized. The NFL stood by the officiating at the time.

Another NFC West Super Bowl alum, ex-Arizona Cardinal Antrel Rolle, can also offset painful Super Bowl memories if the Giants win. Rolle, whose Cardinals lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, started all 16 games and picked off two passes for the Giants this season.

"Being here one time before and not coming out on top, it's a feeling you never, ever get rid of," Rolle said. "I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure I'm not on that side of that fence again."

Also: New England Patriots special-teams player Niko Koutouvides was also part of that 2005 Seattle team. He pointed to the camaraderie of the 2005 team as one of the reasons for its success. He said the current Patriots have the same feel to them.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Yes, it's cold here in central Indiana. But not NFL scouting combine cold.

The weather for Super Bowl week is exactly freezing at present, with moderate winds adding bite to the winter air, but I've felt a much colder chill while spending roughly two months of my life covering various combines over the years. And the forecast calls for unseasonably warm weather -- no snowstorms.

It's still strange being here for a Super Bowl instead of the NFL's signature predraft event. The combine will return in a few weeks, as usual.

The Monday before the Super Bowl is arrival day, even for teams getting into the host city a bit earlier. It's the day when players and coaches start to feel a gathering media storm unlike anything NFL players experience in any other setting. It's the day when they know they've arrived on sports' biggest stage.

The schedule calls for the AFC champion New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and various players, including NFC West alum Deion Branch, to appear beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.

The NFC champion New York Giants are on the schedule an hour later. Seeing their various names listed on the schedule -- Tom Coughlin, Victor Cruz, Mathias Kiwanuka, Eli Manning, Antrel Rolle, Chris Snee and Justin Tuck are up Monday -- recalled in my mind the Giants' 20-17 victory against the San Francisco 49ers eight days ago.

This could have been the 49ers' stage.

The Super Bowl could have been welcoming Jim Harbaugh instead of Coughlin, Vernon Davis instead of Cruz, Patrick Willis instead of Kiwanuka, Alex Smith in stead of Manning, Carlos Rogers instead of Rolle, Joe Staley instead of Snee, Justin Smith instead of Tuck. The 49ers surely would have found a spot for Frank Gore in there, too.

Watching this week from afar will presumably magnify in the 49ers' minds just how close they came.

Not that the NFL has any reason to complain. A Giants-Patriots rematch of the Super Bowl four years ago carries obvious appeal.

I'll be heading to both teams' media sessions later Monday, with a few NFC West angles in mind.

The media workroom here at the J.W. Marriott hotel was empty when I arrived early Monday. That is beginning to change, but it's still early. Momentum will begin to build late this afternoon.
Good afternoon. NFC West blog headquarters will be relocating from the Northwest to Indianapolis for Super Bowl week.

The plane I'm riding in, a Boeing 757, is traveling 565 mph at 35,637 feet, according to tracking software. I'll be connecting through Atlanta, so this will be a full travel day.

Once situated in Indy, I'll be helping with our Super Bowl coverage, with an eye toward this division. Josh McDaniels, David Baas, Bear Pascoe, David Carr, Rocky Bernard, Jimmy Kennedy, Deon Grant, Antrel Rolle, Isaiah Stanback, Deion Branch, Niko Koutouvides, Tracy White and Andre Carter are among the NFC West alumni currently with the Super Bowl participants.

Quite a few current NFC West players will be filtering through Indianapolis for various events during the week. I'll be catching up with some of them.

The week will conclude with Hall of Fame voting, followed by the Super Bowl itself. I don't have a strong feeling as to which team will win the game. Both should like their chances. I did pick New England to win it all before the season -- one of the few predictions that remains on track -- so I'll likely stick with the Patriots when ESPN solicits staffers' predictions later in the week.

Here's hoping this Sunday treats you well.

Update: Yes, I made it to Indy. Grabbed a sandwich tonight with AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley. Will be heading over to ESPN's Super Bowl headquarters downtown on Monday morning.
Vernon Davis was honest during his nationally televised interview Sunday. He wanted the New York Giants to beat the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, the only scenario producing another home game for his San Francisco 49ers.

I wondered how long it would take for that interview, or others like it, to repackage itself as disrespect for the Giants. Three days was the answer.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com has the details, including this quote from Giants safety and NFC West alum Antrel Rolle: "If he said that, I can only hope that he was saying just because they wanted to get a home game. You know, they better be careful for what they ask for because their wish has been granted and we will see those boys come Sunday." Noted: The 49ers naturally wanted to play at home. The Giants naturally did not want to play in the Superdome, a brutally tough environment for opposing offenses.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says a couple 49ers took the talk to Twitter. Anthony Davis: "Are the Giants doing drunk interviews? Lol." Inman also revisited comments from the Giants heading into Week 10, specifically one by Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, who had called 49ers quarterback Alex Smith a game manager, in a bad way.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers his offensive player review from the divisional round against New Orleans. On Michael Crabtree: "Started at played 56 plays in the game. He caught four passes for 25 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown on a quick slant in the first quarter. He made a crucial block on Alex Smith's TD run. He had one flat-out drop and did not secure catches on two other passes that hit his hands."

Also from Maiocco: his defensive player review. On Patrick Willis: "He played the entire game and had the difficult assignment of trying to keep up with 6-foot-7 tight end Jimmy Graham in coverage. Willis recorded 10 tackles and recovered a fumble in the first quarter after Donte Whitner's big hit on running back Pierre Thomas. Graham twice elevated over Willis for receptions that turned into touchdowns. The first was on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Brees in the second quarter. On the second touchdown, Willis ran with Graham down the field but didn't find the ball on the back-shoulder throw. Willis was then taken out of the play, as Donte Whitner arrived and Graham turned it into a 66-yard touchdown."

Jim Trotter of SI.com takes a closer look at Smith's redemption this season, noting that friends and family had urged the 49ers' quarterback to start fresh elsewhere.

Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group checks in with Vernon Davis, who remains thankful for all he went through under former coach Mike Singletary.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Roger Craig expects the 49ers to win multiple Super Bowls.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com passes along thoughts from Rams players regarding Jeff Fisher's hiring as head coach. Steven Jackson: "I'm very excited. I think what Jeff brings is that he's been a head coach and he has been successful in this league. The other coaches that I've had after Mike Martz were all successful at the time and trendy and hot, but Jeff brings stability, he brings credibility. He's played in the league. He was 1-yard away from winning the Super Bowl."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Fisher brings a strong presence.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams owner Stan Kroenke would not commit to keeping the team in St. Louis for the long term. Kroenke: "I think this is all out there. The chronology of what occurs with the lease is public knowledge. I think for me to comment on that process is particularly (un)timely. The city, or the (stadium) authority, they're dealing with their side of it. And they present a proposal to us by Feb. 1. So there's a team in place that deals with all that. So we'll see how that process sorts itself out. But it's a thing that takes place over time."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says this marks the first time since 2001 that the Seahawks have gone into an offseason without appearing in the postseason or making a significant front-office change. O'Neil: "It's good for the Seahawks in terms of continuity. The franchise has had four different offensive coordinators the past four seasons. There are no indications that Tom Cable, the team's offensive-line coach and associate head coach, is headed elsewhere. Seattle lost assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus, who went to his alma mater at Illinois. Assistant special teams coach Jeff Ulbrich took a spot on Jim Mora's coaching staff at UCLA. Those are minor changes, though."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Seattle or its division rivals have won a playoff game every year since 2004. No other division can make that claim.

Also from Farnsworth: Seattle rookies K.J. Wright and Ricardo Lockette reflect on the Seahawks' home-field advantage.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have re-signed members of their coaching staff, ending speculation that Russ Grimm, Freddie Kitchens and others might find opportunities elsewhere. Somers: "Meanwhile, the Cardinals are said to still be interested in bringing former offensive coordinator Todd Haley back to the coaching staff. It remains to be seen what position he might be offered and how head coach Ken Whisenhunt might shuffle his staff. The team has only its quarterbacks-coach vacancy to fill following the dismissal of Chris Miller. The team was expected to interview candidates this week at its Tempe training facility. No names have surfaced publicly. It is doubtful Haley, fired this past season as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, would return to coach the quarterbacks."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with former Cardinals tackle Lomas Brown.
One day after Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill gave his assessment of the team, former quarterback Kurt Warner weighed in Thursday with Arizona Sports 620 radio.

Warner's basic take: The Cardinals are lacking in the playmaking department. He's right. Injuries and personnel changes have hurt Arizona in an area where the team was once quite strong, the ability to score touchdowns from just about anywhere on the field.

Warner
Warner
A hand injury and new rules governing kickoffs have largely silenced LaRod Stephens-Howling. Kerry Rhodes, who scored twice on returns last season, wasn't making plays before suffering a foot injury that will sideline him at least a month. Adrian Wilson has let a couple chances at interceptions get past him. Linebacker Daryl Washington, who scored on a return last season, has battled a calf injury.

Two other big-play threats in the past, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Steve Breaston, are gone. Others, such as Anquan Boldin and Antrel Rolle, are long gone. Andre Roberts, who flashed big-play ability last season, hasn't factored at all this season.

When new quarterback Kevin Kolb missed wide-open tight end Rob Housler for what should have been a touchdown at Minnesota in Week 5, the Cardinals had found a signature play for their dearth of playmaking during a 1-4 start.

"I've watched every play of every game and there are plays out there to be made that are not being made," Warner said. "Flat out, there are guys wide open. Last week, I know Kevin would love to have the one back down the middle of the field that he just overthrew. Just a little more touch on the football, that is a touchdown. It can change the complexion of the game."

Warner rode to coach Ken Whisenhunt's defense, blaming players for failing to capitalize on opportunities. His comment regarding the play Kolb missed wasn't part of a broader criticism of the quarterback. Warner did say he thought Kolb wasn't yet comfortable enough in the offense to trust his options and stay in the pocket longer. That will presumably change over time.

"What is going to define this team is, down the road, when they feel comfortable, are they going to make those plays then that they are not making now?" Warner said.

Asked about Kolb's comments regarding players' approach to their jobs, Warner said teams around the league experience the same issues. The winning culture Arizona established in its locker room a few years ago doesn't necessarily carry over given all the personnel changes.

This team must find its own way.

2011 Seahawks Week 5: Five observations

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
1:45
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Five things I noticed while watching the Seattle Seahawks' 36-25 road victory over the New York Giants in Week 5:
  • Golden Tate showed up early, but you had to look closely. Doug Baldwin and Ben Obomanu caught the touchdown passes for Seattle, but Tate did his part as well. The scoring play Obomanu made on a receiver screen in the first quarter came together when Sidney Rice ran his defender out of the play, with Tate chopping down Giants safety Antrel Rolle on the perimeter. Without Tate's block, Rolle had a good shot at stopping Obomanu short of the end zone. Tate also got open for a key third-quarter reception to help the Seahawks improve field position in a close game. I'm not sure where or whether Tate fits in this offense for the long term, but he did make a couple contributions in this victory.
  • Steven Hauschka played an important role. The kicker? Really? Yes. Hauschka had only one touchback on his nine kickoffs through the first three weeks of the season. He has eight touchbacks in 12 kickoffs over the past two weeks. Those touchbacks have helped Seattle ease lingering concerns over a kickoff coverage unit that had struggled amid injuries for a stretch. The Giants returned three kickoffs in this game, all from inside the end zone. Two of those produced drive starts inside the 20. Hauschka also made a 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
  • Okung was struggling early. The first pressure Seattle allowed appeared to stem from a system-wide breakdown. Left tackle Russell Okung blocked no one, turning to the inside while Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora rushed unopposed. Marshawn Lynch tripped while reversing course to pick up Umenyiora. Tarvaris Jackson held the ball instead of dumping off to Michael Robinson. Strange. Later in the first quarter, Umenyiora beat Okung for a drive-killing sack. He also made Okung whiff on a running play, freeing Umenyiora to force a Lynch fumble. Okung did drive Giants defensive lineman Dave Tollefson across the formation to clear the way for Lynch's short scoring run.
  • Chris Clemons was a big problem for the Giants. Seattle's best pass-rusher gave Giants linemen Will Beatty and David Diehl problems, and not just when he was sacking Eli Manning and forcing a fumble. One highlight: Diehl tackled Clemons on one play, drawing a penalty for holding. Clemons got up, realized Manning still had the ball and hit the quarterback from behind just after the throw. It's pretty clear Clemons has put behind him the ankle troubles that have bothered him at times. The bye week should only help him along those lines.
  • Coaches need to protect their quarterbacks. Unless a Cam Newton or Tim Tebow type is on your team, it's tough to forgive a coach for getting his quarterback hurt on a designed run. The play that left Jackson with an injured pectoral was the type of play that leaves a quarterback with an injured pectoral (or something else). Backup Charlie Whitehurst also took some hits in this game, whether scrambling or absorbing the punishment that comes with playing quarterback from the pocket. I'd expect the coaching staff to minimize such risks to a greater extent.

The Seahawks are off this week. I'm heading out to their facility to catch their final practice of the week Wednesday. It's off to Detroit this weekend for the San Francisco 49ers' game at Detroit.
Five things I noticed while watching the Arizona Cardinals during their 31-27 home defeat to the New York Giants:
  • Ray Horton wasn't lying. The Cardinals' defensive coordinator promised to blitz. He sent seven pass-rushers after Eli Manning when the Cardinals were protecting a 27-24 lead with 2:46 remaining. The Giants had seven blockers in protection. That meant Arizona had four defensive backs against three receivers. Manning threw the ball within two seconds of taking the snap. Hakeem Nicks caught it at the 7-yard line. Cornerback Patrick Peterson was in coverage, but had no safety help against one of the elite receivers in the game. That was problematic. Strong safety Adrian Wilson was scrambling over but was still about 10 yards away when Nicks made the winning touchdown reception.
  • Andre Roberts was invisible. The Cardinals' No. 2 receiver finished the game with more tackles (one) than receiving targets (none). A penalty negated the only play featuring Roberts as a target. Kevin Kolb targeted three tight ends, two running backs and a fullback. He targeted receivers Larry Fitzgerald (11) and Early Doucet (six) a combined 17 times. Roberts has been targeted 15 times this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Seventy-three wideouts have been targeted more times through four games. The trend appears likely to continue as long as Fitzgerald is healthy, Doucet gets ample third-down work from the slot and multiple tight ends factor as well.
  • Campbell doesn't know his own strength. After dominating at Seattle in Week 3, defensive end Calais Campbell rocked the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw and forced him to fumble on the Cardinals' first defensive series. That play was tough to miss. Another less visible one impressed me at least as much. Campbell was rushing from the inside on second-and-7 late in the second quarter when the Giants' left guard, David Diehl, came over to help center David Baas on the play. Campbell, while still locked up with Baas, extended his right arm and decked the 6-foot-5, 304-pound Diehl with a shove to the chest area. I watched the play several times to see if someone had stepped on Diehl's foot, but that did not appear to be the case.
  • Wells' power changes the the Cardinals. Giants defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy had his arms around Beanie Wells' legs near the Arizona 12-yard line. Jason Pierre-Paul and Greg Jones were there too. Wells somehow emerged from the pile and advanced the ball to the 20, where Michael Boley finally dragged him down. Wells is averaging 2.7 yards per carry after contact, which ranks tied for fifth in the NFL. He has gained 152 yards after contact; each of the five players with higher totals also have at least nine additional carries. Wells ran over the Giants' Corey Webster with such force at the goal line that Webster, who had gotten too low and dipped his head, flew onto his back and lost his helmet.
  • Fitzgerald showed up as a blocker. The Cardinals' receiving leader drove Giants safety Kenny Phillips to the ground to help Wells find the end zone with 10:28 left in the third quarter. The Cardinals were running from a tight formation against an 11-man box. Phillips might have made the tackle had Fitzgerald not cleared him out of the way. Fitzgerald also made a key block on Wells' 39-yard run in the fourth quarter. He threw his body into former teammate Antrel Rolle, getting the worst of the collision but getting the job done. Wells' running behind rookie fullback Anthony Sherman also caught my attention. Sherman appeared more consistent in this game than he appeared earlier in the season. He also gained 19 yards on a reception. The Wells-Sherman combination could be a very good one for Arizona if they get enough time on the field together.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Wells fares against Minnesota in Week 5. More than two years ago, Kevin Seifert and I considered whether Wells or the Vikings' Percy Harvin would be more productive as rookies. Harvin ran away with that one thanks to his special-teams production and the Vikings subsequently adding Brett Favre at quarterback. Wells has come on strong this season.

Around the NFC West: Kolb's mistakes

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
9:26
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One thing about Kevin Kolb: He's honest.

The Arizona quarterback wasn't biting in the locker room following his team's defeat Sunday when a reporter suggested the Cardinals were this close to being 3-0 instead of 1-2.

"Guess what, we're one play away from being 0-3, too, because Carolina had the ball there at the end [in Week 1]," Kolb said.

Perhaps Kolb's background with the Eagles in Philadelphia, a tough media market, explains his aversion to sugar-coating. Whatever the case, Kolb has no trouble owning up to mistakes.

As Darren Urban of azcardinals.com writes, Kolb admitted he probably took a step backward during the Cardinals' 13-10 defeat at Seattle. Earlier in the week, coach Ken Whisenhunt could have glossed over Kolb's performance, offering excuses for a player making only his 10th regular-season start and third in a new offense. Instead, Whisenhunt used the word "uneven" to describe Kolb's play against Seattle. Noted: I'll be heading to Arizona for the Cardinals' game against the New York Giants in Week 4. Kolb's development is a continuing storyline in the division and one I want to follow early in the season.

Also from Urban: Kolb has been targeting tight ends to a greater degree than the Cardinals have in the recent past.

More from Urban: Larry Fitzgerald owes Antrel Rolle a broken nose (inside joke), while Darnell Dockett agrees to help Rolle get tickets to the Giants-Cardinals game even though Rolle has been talking trash to him.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic runs through the Cardinals' injury situation.

Also from Somers: Dockett's two-gapping role.

Brock Huard of 101ESPN Seattle breaks down the interception Kolb threw to Kam Chancellor late in the game Sunday. Huard says he was surprised a fifth-year player would make the error Kolb made on that play. According to Huard, Kolb easily could have thrown for 7-10 yards on the play if he had correctly identified the proper matchup (against Marcus Trufant, in this case) on what amounts to a very basic play, and one the Colts ran extensively when Huard was a backup quarterback for the team. Heap also might not have run a very good route on this play, according to Huard.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune doesn't hold Aaron Curry responsible for failing to meet others' potentially unrealistic expectations. Boling: "Several plays in the loss to Pittsburgh showed why it was time for a change. This was one of those potentially lopsided contests in which your best players needed to make big plays for there to be any chance of an upset. Curry had his hands on what might have been a game-changing interception. He dropped it. But it wasn’t just that. On one Steelers touchdown run, he was slow to get off the ball and appeared to fill the wrong gap. Another time, when he was brought on a blitz up the middle, he made it through the gap only to be somewhat easily handled by the blocking back." Noted: The fact that Curry says he's at peace with his demotion and overall situation in Seattle seems inconsistent with how an elite, hard-charging linebacker would react.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks line coach Tom Cable, recuperating from back surgery, joined the team via Skype on Wednesday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Oshiomogho Atogwe's affinity for comic books shines through in the action figures he purchased for several former Rams teammates. Thomas: "Atogwe, now a Washington Redskin, has been an avid collector of comic books since he was a child. Along with that, he collects action figures of super heroes and claims to have more than 2,000 of his favorite -- the Incredible Hulk. So he didn't just randomly leave some of his toys behind. Much thought went into the process."

Also from Thomas: thoughts on Sam Bradford's play thus far. Thomas: "Bradford is fighting it a little bit right now. Yes, the pass blocking overall has been bad. (The Rams aren’t getting nearly the kind of tackle play, for example, that they got a year ago in terms of pass blocking.) And although not as glaring as last year, there are times when the receiver corps could get more separation. But Bradford hasn’t always handled the pressure well, and missed some check-down opportunities against Baltimore. There are times when he needs to get the ball out quicker. Then again, I thought there might be a learning curve in this new offense early in the season, especially since the Rams have gone to a more down-the-field passing game. But it’ll come with time. Bradford works as hard as any Rams QB I’ve seen, so it’ll happen."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh seems to be enjoying the change of pace as the team remains in Ohio between games in the Eastern time zone. Harbaugh on holding a walk-through in a parking lot behind the Holiday Inn where the team is staying: "When you've been doing this as long as I've been coaching and playing, you get excited when you get a good walk-through spot. Sometimes it's in a hotel ballroom. Sometimes it's outside with people looking and watching. That big slab of cement in the parking lot even had lines and tall trees around it. It was very private. That's one of the finer walk-through spots I've ever been associated with." Noted: Sounds like Harbaugh is loosening up with his public comments during this trip. Such an extended road trip would seem to be good for team building, replicating a training camp situation to a degree.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Harbaugh joked that the Eagles should rest Michael Vick out of concern for the quarterback's health.
Kevin KolbChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesSigning Kevin Kolb signals that the Cardinals are ready to bounce back after a transition season.

Kevin Kolb's arrival from Philadelphia gives the Arizona Cardinals renewed hope at quarterback and clear direction following Kurt Warner's retirement.

It provides a fresh start after a forgettable 2010 transition season for Arizona.

So much has changed for the Cardinals since their Super Bowl appearance following the 2008 season. Other rosters around the league have turned over since then, of course, but not every team was coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

Quite a few teams have sought change. For the Cardinals, it just happened.

Warner's departure, while easily the biggest change, was far from the only one. Between five and eight starters from that Super Bowl game project as starters in 2011, depending upon how many of the team's unrestricted free agents re-sign.

When Steve Breaston left the Cardinals for Kansas City this week, drawing attention to the cumulative effect of Arizona's roster upheaval, a Seahawks fan drew parallels between Seattle's post-Super Bowl decline and the Cardinals' plight last season.

"Don't misunderstand," Ricky Frey wrote on my Facebook wall, "I'm a Hawks fan, but it seems eerily familiar to watch this happen and know what happened to Holmgren/Mora. Writing on the wall?"

Not if Kolb has anything to say about it. Acquiring a relatively young, potentially ascending quarterback puts Arizona in position to avoid the decline Seattle experienced as a Matt Hasselbeck struggled with injuries while the roster around him withered away. The NFC West remains in transition overall, and the Cardinals know it.

"It’s obviously winnable, but it’s funny to think that everybody thinks you can just step in and win it," Kolb told reporters Friday. "You’re talking about NFL football teams here. I know last year 7-9 is what won it, but it doesn’t matter. ... The door is open, we know, and we’ll be ready to kick it in when it’s time, but it’s not going to be an easy task."

Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson and the recently re-signed Lyle Sendlein started for Arizona in the Super Bowl and remain starters in 2011. Another starter from that Super Bowl game, Gerald Hayes, was released this week. Three more are becoming unrestricted free agents: Deuce Lutui, Bryan Robinson and Gabe Watson.

Six Arizona starters from that game are retired or did not play last season: Mike Gandy, Warner, Edgerrin James, Terrelle Smith, Chike Okeafor and Monty Beisel. Seven more play for other teams: Reggie Wells, Leonard Pope, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Smith, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle and the recently traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Some were role players. Others were tougher to replace.

Breaston was a backup on that team, but he played extensively as the third receiver and finished the season with more than 1,000 yards.

Kolb's addition headlined a flurry of transactions the Cardinals announced Thursday and Friday.

Sendlein, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Michael Adams, tackle D'Anthony Batiste, center Ben Claxton, punter Ben Graham, fullback Reagan Maui'a and tight end Stephen Spach re-signed.

Five draft choices have signed. Guard Daryn Colledge, defensive end Nick Eason, tight end Jeff King, receiver Chansi Stuckey and linebacker Stewart Bradley have signed as free agents from other teams.

Re-signing Sendlein while adding Kolb, Colledge and Bradley suggests the 2011 team is still coming together, not necessarily falling apart.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt has already pulled off the impossible in Arizona, helping the Cardinals go from perennial losers to the Super Bowl.

Recent history says his next challenge will be even tougher: coaxing sustained success from a quarterback who entered the NFL as a second-round draft choice. The chart below tells you what you need to know.

[+] EnlargeKevin Kolb
Howard Smith/US PresswireKevin Kolb pased for 2,082 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 19 games with the Eagles.
The Cardinals' long-awaited play for Kevin Kolb is finally becoming a reality, with ESPN's John Clayton saying Arizona will send one-time Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft choice to Philadelphia.

The price Arizona pays is high and also highly overrated. If the Cardinals are right on Kolb, the price won't matter. If they're wrong, the damage done will far outweigh a 185-pound cornerback and the draft pick Arizona included with the deal.

Whisenhunt, whose contract runs through 2013, could be betting his job on Kolb, whose new deal will run through 2016 and pay him as much as $63 million.

That is OK.

Not landing a quarterback wasn't an option. The Cardinals needed to make a move for one, and if they valued Kolb the way this trade says they valued him, they needed to act.

Restoring clarity and hope to the position gives the Cardinals a shot at re-signing Larry Fitzgerald, whose contract voids after this season. Arizona has already lost too many key players in recent seasons: Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle and Anquan Boldin are but a few. Losing Fitzgerald following another quarterback train wreck would threaten to set back the organization to its pre-Whisenhunt days. Phoenix is not Green Bay or Pittsburgh or even Seattle and San Francisco on the fan loyalty front.

Landing a quarterback with promise puts Arizona back into the NFC West race. Go ahead and laugh, but if the Seattle Seahawks could beat the defending Super Bowl champs as 7-9 division winners last season, the Cardinals can keep a straight face liking their chances with Kolb behind center and Whisenhunt's 4-2 postseason record on their side.

We'll find out more about whether Whisenhunt can identify and develop talent at the position. Was he a driving force behind Ben Roethlisberger's historic rookie season in Pittsburgh, or mostly a beneficiary of it? Was he pivotal in restoring Kurt Warner's career by persuading Warner to reform his Mike Martz-coached penchant for the daring? Or did Whisenhunt luck into a Hall of Famer, with former coordinator Todd Haley taking the lead internally?

These questions may not have clear yes-or-no answers. But the narrative gets written in Whisenhunt's favor if Kolb, a second-round choice of the Eagles in 2007, becomes the next Drew Brees. As the chart shows, Brees is one of three second-round quarterbacks since 1995 to earn Pro Bowl acclaim. The other two, Jake Plummer and Kordell Stewart, had their moments during ultimately unsatisfying careers.

Kolb is just 26 years old. If he were a surefire franchise quarterback, the Eagles never would have traded him. They would have signed Kolb to a long-term deal even before Michael Vick emerged as the best option for them. Instead, they parlayed the 36th player drafted in 2007 into the 16th player chosen in 2008, plus a second-rounder.

The Eagles got the better of this deal based on what we know right now. The Cardinals could come out well ahead based on what they think.

They need to be right on this one.



As a bonus, and because a Charlie Whitehurst mention is always good for a few extra comments, let's also take a quick look at third-round quarterbacks drafted since 1995, arranged by team:
Schaub and Whitehurst, like Kolb, were among those who wound up commanding value in the trade market.


Brian from Scottsdale, Ariz., hit the NFC West mailbag with concerns over the Arizona Cardinals' approach to free-agent negotiations so far. "For all of the talk and speculation over the past few months, things seem way too quiet," he wrote.

Mike Sando: Former Cardinals tight end Anthony Becht raised similar concerns earlier Wednesday. The team will still make a move for a quarterback at some point. That move will largely define this offseason for Arizona. It's too early to say Arizona hasn't moved quickly enough there. Kevin Kolb remains available. All signs point to the Cardinals making a trade for him. If and when that happens, I'm sure we'll hear complaints about the Cardinals giving up too much for an unproven player. The team cannot win either way in that situation.

Your broader concerns are valid. Arizona has bled talent over the past couple seasons. The roster would be stronger with Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, Antrel Rolle and others. Losing Kurt Warner was huge. The Cardinals have made significant strides in recent seasons, but not enough to earn the benefit of the doubt across the board. The team's payroll plummeted last season. Steve Breaston, Deuce Lutui, Lyle Sendlein and others do not have contracts for the 2011 season.

"Arizona has the money [cap space], so you have to go out and spend to turn it around," Becht said when I followed up with him by phone. "You got rid of the guys you didn’t want, lost all those defenders. You have to commit yourself to something else. You are either proactive or reactive."

Becht thinks the Cardinals will wind up overpaying for Kolb by waiting. I think leverage can work both ways. If the Cardinals are the only team in the market for Kolb, why should they rush. Then again, if Kolb becomes the only realistic option for Arizona, the leverage swings back in Philadelphia's favor.

"I talked to [Eagles receiver] Jeremy Maclin and I asked him about Kolb," Becht said. "I’m all about experience and Kolb hasn't played much. [Maclin] told me as far as from a player standpoint, Kolb is legitimate -- a starting quarterback in the NFL, a real good player and wherever he goes, he is going to do well. He's been around coaches who know what they are doing, who helped transform Michael Vick. Kolb has the pedigree. Make a deal."

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