NFC West: Bear Pascoe

Aaron Curry's recent signing with the New York Giants invites a look back at the 2009 NFC West draft class, painful as it might be in some cases.

Four of the 29 players NFC West teams selected in that draft remain with their original teams: Michael Crabtree in San Francisco, James Laurinaitis in St. Louis, Max Unger in Seattle and Rashad Johnson in Arizona.

Unger is the only one of the 29 to earn Pro Bowl honors. Unger and Laurinaitis are the only ones to receive long-term contract extensions from their original teams.

NFC West teams have fired the head coaches and general managers associated with those 2009 selections.

Reasons for those firings went far beyond the 2009 draft, of course. Still, the massive turnover since that draft reflects poorly on what was, by most accounts, a weak class across the league. It also shows how frequently personnel turns over in the NFL. The league has 21 new head coaches and 19 new general managers since the 2009 season concluded.

Curry was widely considered the "safest" choice in that 2009 draft as a fearsome linebacker from Wake Forest. Seattle would trade him to Oakland for seventh- and fifth-round picks before Curry had finished his third season.

Jason Smith, chosen second overall by St. Louis in 2009, supposedly had a mean streak and was a natural leader. The Rams would trade him to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter after three disappointing seasons.

Beanie Wells came to the Cardinals in the first round of that 2009 draft pretty much as advertised: highly talented, but not very durable. The Cardinals released him this offseason, and Wells remains unsigned amid questions about his knee.

2009 was also the year Arizona sought to upgrade its pass-rush by selecting Cody Brown in the second round. The 49ers tried to improve their depth at running back by using a third-round choice for Glen Coffee. Brown would never play in an NFL game. Coffee would retire after one season.

The chart shows how many regular-season NFL starts each 2009 NFC West draft choice has made, regardless of team.
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.

2011 49ers Week 10: Five observations

November, 20, 2011
11/20/11
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Five things I noticed while watching the San Francisco 49ers' most recent game, a 27-20 home victory over the New York Giants:
  • Akers' impressive form. Kicker David Akers' onside kick fooled the Giants for a couple reasons. Situation played a role. Teams generally do not opt for onside kicks with five minutes remaining in the first half. Akers' execution was also flawless. His run-up to the ball sold a regular kickoff. Two of the Giants' five up men had their backs to the ball as Akers followed through with the kick. Akers also struck the ball perfectly, producing a high kick.
  • A changeup on offense might help. The Giants stacked nine defenders near the line of scrimmage for one first-and-10 running play. It was hard to fault them. The 49ers had only one wide receiver on the field as part of their "22" personnel group with two backs and two tight ends. Frank Gore never had a chance. The Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul ran down the line unblocked and tackled Gore violently, injuring him. This play made me wonder whether the 49ers have become predictable from this run-oriented grouping. They have run the ball on 18 of their past 22 first-down plays using 22 personnel, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Previous 49ers coaches sometimes used 22 personnel to free Vernon Davis for long receptions in short-yardage situations. So far this season, the 49ers have run the ball on all six third-and-1 plays featuring 22 personnel.
  • Bear Pascoe's over-the-top celebration. The Giants' tight end and one-time 49ers draft choice celebrated wildly after running over Carlos Rogers and through Patrick Willis during a reception up the right sideline. Microphones picked up his primal howls. He was far less demonstrative when the 49ers' Parys Haralson flat-backed him during a pass-rush matchup in the backfield a few minutes earlier. Pascoe lined up at fullback on the play. Haralson ran over him violently. Eli Manning tossed a near-interception on the play (free safety Dashon Goldson could not get a second foot down inbounds).
  • Smith's mobility. Analysts sometimes praise a quarterback for his ability to "throw open" a covered receiver. The 49ers' Alex Smith doesn't seem to do this. His throws seem deliberate and reflective of the team's emphasis on avoiding turnovers. Smith does put his mobility to good use. This could have been a five-sack game for him. Instead, he took only two. Smith repeatedly bought time, sometimes changing direction abruptly within the pocket to avoid defenders. And his well-timed scrambles contributed to the 49ers' day-long advantage in field position.
  • About those controversial shifts. The Giants became the latest team frustrated by the 49ers' presnap tactics. Tight end Delanie Walker drew them offside by rising from his stance at the end of the line and backing up after receiver Ted Ginn Jr. went in motion to his side of the field. Ginn slapped Walker on the butt as he ran past. It's pretty clear the 49ers are trying to draw opponents across the line even though coach Jim Harbaugh says they're merely shifting to affect the strength of the formation. Walker's movement away from the line timed up with a hard count from Smith. I doubt that was a coincidence. It'll be fun to watch how the Arizona Cardinals react Sunday. Their defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, used the word "cute" to describe the shifting.

All for now. I'll be heading over to Candlestick Park in the not-too-distant future.

Aaron Curry and that 2009 draft class

October, 12, 2011
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Aaron Curry, apparently headed for Oakland, has plenty of company among 2009 NFL draft choices failing to meet expectations with their original teams.

The player Seattle's previous leadership drafted fourth overall was part of a draft featuring quite a few underwhelming players near the top.

Thirteen NFC West choices from the 2009 draft remain with their teams: Max Unger, Deon Butler and Cameron Morrah in Seattle; Beanie Wells, Rashad Johnson, Greg Toler and LaRod Stephens-Howling in Arizona; Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis, Bradley Fletcher and Darell Scott in St. Louis; and two players in San Francisco, Michael Crabtree and Ricky-Jean Francois.

Let's sift through the rubble ...

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2009 NFL draft revisited: 49ers

December, 4, 2010
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A quick look at the San Francisco 49ers' 2009 draft class ...

Best pick so far: Receiver Michael Crabtree has three touchdown receptions in his last four games. He played and produced like a veteran immediately upon reporting to the team last season. The production hasn't been as consistent this season. Crabtree occasionally has lapses, as when a slightly off-target pass bounced off his hands for an interception Monday night. I sense Crabtree mostly needs improved quarterback play to take the next step and become a top receiver.

Second-guessing: Coach Mike Singletary has placed high value on adding players with a passion for the game. That makes Glen Coffee's retirement after one season all the more puzzling. What did the 49ers see in him? Coffee showed little during his time with the 49ers. The blocking wasn't always great, of course, but the team could certainly use a third-round talent at the position now that Frank Gore is out for the season.

Key variable: Quarterback Nate Davis has shown a strong arm and some play-making ability during the exhibition season. Singletary questioned the quarterback's preparation, however. Davis went from the 53-man roster to the practice squad and nearly out of the picture at quarterback altogether. The 49ers aren't really counting on him, but if Davis gets serious about his craft and emerges as a viable candidate in the future, he could salvage a draft class that isn't looking very promising overall. On a side note, Ricky Jean-Francois filled in nicely for Aubrayo Franklin during camp. Might he develop?

49ers' 2009 draft class minus Coffee

August, 13, 2010
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Glen Coffee's surprise retirement announcement after only one NFL season sent me back for a look at the San Francisco 49ers' 2009 draft class.

The class has taken a couple hits lately with Coffee saying he'll retire and key special-teamer Scott McKillop suffering a serious knee injury.

The chart breaks 'em down.

Are the 49ers really any better?

July, 29, 2010
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Jesper from Denmark continues to see his NFC West blog legacy grow.

What began as his critical look at the St. Louis Rams has turned into a four-part series. We're back with a look at the San Francisco 49ers after covering the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday.

Thanks to all who reached out and volunteered to engage me in conversation. Facebook friend Aaron was the first to come through with his thoughts, so here we go ...

Quarterback

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Kyle Terada/US PresswireAlex Smith threw for 2,350 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Aaron: Alex Smith is coming off of his best statistical season and for the first time in his career is going to have a true No. 1 receiver in Michael Crabtree, a Pro Bowl target in Vernon Davis and the same offensive coordinator. There are still questions about whether he can put the team on his back and win, but if he can show some of what he did against Seattle back in 2007, then there is a chance he could start climbing the QB ranks. David Carr has more arm strength than Shaun Hill and might finally be over his shell-shocking in Houston. Nate Davis has the tools as a No. 3 quarterback who can develop. Verdict: improved just because Alex will be more comfortable and farther ahead in the playbook than a year before.

Sando: I'd rather have Hill than Carr as a backup if I were the 49ers. He won games as the 49ers' starter, knew the offense and had the respect of teammates. I also understood the thinking in going with a more physically talented player. The 49ers wanted someone with more long-term starting potential. The 49ers should be better at quarterback as Smith becomes more experienced in the system.

Running back

Aaron: Frank Gore is Frank Gore; I love him he does everything you want a back to do. He has the power you don’t expect out of someone his size. His ankles are what worry me, though. Two years in a row, he has had to miss games because of them. Glen Coffee and Anthony Dixon have not earned any of my trust. It almost feels like they are slower less powerful versions of Gore, with worse vision. Verdict: same or slightly better because the offensive line should improve.

Sando: Coffee should be improved in his second season. As a rookie, he was thrown into the lineup before he was ready and struggled behind a floundering line. As with quarterback, I think the situation has improved more than the talent has improved. The 49ers have had an offseason to set up their offense in a way that suits Gore and Smith together. They essentially had two offenses last season, one for Gore and one for Smith. There's still reason to wonder whether a back best suited for running out of the I-formation can produce consistently playing with a quarterback most comfortable with spread-type formations. But the 49ers have had plenty of time to remedy the situation. Gore should be in better position as a result.

Wide receiver

Aaron: Crabtree gets a full offseason to get the playbook and develop chemistry with Smith. He looked like a pro when he came in and now he truly gets to show his stuff. I see a possible Pro Bowler. Josh Morgan is a solid No. 2 who can show flashes of breaking away. Ted Ginn Jr. -- if he catches the ball -- can be a game-changer from the slot or out wide. Even if he's just a decoy, Ginn will help with what I feel is the one weakness on offense -- speed. Jason Hill, I love, and I wish he could stay healthy and get a good chance. I feel he'd be a better No. 2. In the games he's played in, he's produced. The rest of the guys are playing for the No. 5 spot on the team. I'm not so sure Brandon Jones will make it or is worth what we spent on him. Verdict: better.

Mike Sando: The 49ers haven't had the personnel at this position recently to justify putting three wide receivers on the field during early downs at the expense of Delanie Walker or Moran Norris. Their three-receiver stuff was reserved mostly for third downs last season. This is one area where the 49ers need to diversify. Ginn is the key variable. The threat of what he can do could matter as much as what he actually does. The speed factor could upgrade this largely inexperienced group. The 49ers' wide receivers have 26 career touchdowns. Only the Rams' wideouts have fewer (13) among division teams. That isn't necessarily bad, but it's a reminder that this group must prove itself. Isaac Bruce's retirement opens a roster spot for a player who might develop. Crabtree should improve with a full offseason of practice.

(Read full post)

Ten NFC West draft choices combined for 76 starts as rookies last season. Five of the 10 played for the rebuilding St. Louis Rams. An eleventh, Beanie Wells, made significant contributions despite never cracking the lineup.

The 2010 draft class will command more immediate attention when teams open training camps, but the 2009 class figures to contribute more after a year of seasoning.

Here's my look at the NFC West's 2009 choices heading into their second season:

Crabtree
Best choice

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers. The Cardinals' Wells and the Rams' James Laurinaitis made more immediate impacts. They reported to camp on time. But Crabtree commanded a starting job right away once he finally signed, and he immediately justified his starting status. Crabtree was surprisingly consistent and polished. Given a chance to select any other 2009 NFC West draft choices, I think the 49ers would stick with Crabtree.

Best immediate contributor

Laurinaitis, MLB, Rams. Laurinaitis became an immediate starter and didn't seem to fall off the way No. 4 overall choice Aaron Curry did in Seattle. Laurinaitis wasn't a star, but he stepped into a position requiring knowledge of the defense. Laurinaitis finished the season with 2.0 sacks, five passes defensed, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He and Seahawks second-rounder Max Unger were the only 2009 NFC West draft choices to start 16 games last season.

Stephens-Howling
Best value

LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Cardinals. The Cardinals found one of the best special-teams players in the division with the 240th overall choice. Stephens-Howling was outstanding on coverage teams. He provided a threat in the return game, too, scoring a critical touchdown at Tennessee. The Cardinals also found ways to work Stephens-Howling into the offense. He caught 10 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, though he didn't provide much as a rushing threat.

Most to prove

Jason Smith, LT, Rams. Curry finished a close second in this category. Smith started only five games and did not stand out when he was on the field (not that offensive linemen always have to stand out). A serious concussion and subsequent toe injury have raised questions about Smith's durability. The Rams will be investing heavily in No. 1 overall choice Sam Bradford and they'll need Smith to protect him. Smith works hard and the Rams have surrounded him with veteran mentors.

A team-by-team look at the 2009 class:

Arizona Cardinals
2009 picks: 8

Total 2009 starts: 2

Projected 2010 starters (2): first-rounder Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State; fourth-rounder Greg Toler, CB, St. Paul's.

Other potential starters (1): Wells could have wound up here, but I'll stick with my projection that he'll start this season.

On the hot seat: Cody Brown, OLB, Connecticut. The Cardinals could use one of their young pass-rushers to emerge. A serious wrist injury prevented Brown from contributing last season. He was a second-round choice, though, so expectations are relatively high. Arizona needs him.

No longer with team (1): seventh-rounder Trevor Canfield, Cincinnati (Detroit Lions)

Keep an eye out for: sixth-rounder Will Davis. He showed promise last season and was improving until a knee injury sidelined him.

Forgotten man: We've seen little evidence suggesting third-round choice Rashad Johnson will become a factor anytime soon, if at all.
San Francisco 49ers
2009 picks: 7

Total 2009 starts: 13

Projected 2010 starters (1): Crabtree

Other potential starters (0): None.

On the hot seat: Scott McKillop, LB, Pitt. The 49ers hoped McKillop might develop into a successor to inside linebacker Takeo Spikes. It could still happen, but coaches quickly replaced McKillop with veteran Matt Wilhelm when Spikes was out.

No longer with team (1): sixth-rounder Bear Pascoe, TE, Fresno State (New York Giants)

Keep an eye out for: seventh-rounder Ricky Jean-Francois, NT, LSU. Jean-Francois worked at nose tackle during minicamps and organized team activities while franchise player Aubrayo Franklin remained unsigned. Franklin will likely sign and he'll become the starter again when he does.

Forgotten man: Glen Coffee, RB, Alabama. Frank Gore's return to health means Coffee will not be needed much, if at all. The 49ers used a sixth-round choice for Anthony Dixon, a running back from Mississippi State. The buzz on Coffee went away when he struggled to gain yardage running behind a struggling line early last season.
Seattle Seahawks
2009 picks: 7

Total 2009 starts: 28

Projected 2010 starters (2): first-rounder Curry, LB, Wake Forest; second-rounder Unger, G, Oregon.

Other potential starters (0): None.

On the hot seat: Curry. His rookie season went from promising to disappointing after the Seahawks lost their defensive quarterback, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, to season-ending injury. Curry said he tried to do too much from that point forward. The Seahawks hope Curry can become an effective pass-rusher in nickel situations. To fulfill his potential, though, Curry must become a good strongside linebacker, too.

No longer with team (2): sixth-rounder Mike Teel, QB, Rutgers (Chicago Bears); seventh-rounder Courtney Greene, S, Rutgers (Jacksonville Jaguars).

Keep an eye out for: third-rounder Deon Butler, WR, Penn St. Butler has good straight-line speed, but he lacks the size Seattle wants in its receivers. Coach Pete Carroll called Butler one of the team's most improved players this offseason, but it's unclear whether the team will find a role for him.
St. Louis Rams
2009 picks: 7

Total 2009 starts: 33

Projected 2010 starters (2): first-rounder Smith, LT, Baylor; second-rounder Laurinaitis, MLB, Ohio St.

Other potential starters (2): third-rounder Bradley Fletcher, CB, Iowa; fourth-rounder Darell Scott, DT, Clemson.

On the hot seat: fifth-rounder Brooks Foster, WR, North Carolina. The Rams like other young receivers, including rookie free agents Dominique Curry and Brandon McRae. They also used a fourth-round choice for Mardy Gilyard. Brandon Gibson should play a role. There's pressure on Foster to make a strong comeback from the ankle injury that ended his rookie season.

No longer with team (0): All seven choices remain on the roster.

Keep an eye out for: Fletcher, the third-round corner from Iowa. Torn knee ligaments ended Fletcher's rookie season in October after the promising rookie started three games. The Rams hope Fletcher can come back to win the starting job.
Earlier: Winners, losers from 2008 class.
A year ago, 49ers draft choice Bear Pascoe was generating buzz after catching several passes during the team's postdraft minicamp.

Some thought Pascoe might become a good second tight end, mostly as a blocker. Despite early reviews, Pascoe did not earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

The lesson: Let's not get too excited about what happens or what is perceived to have happened when players are running around in shorts during late April and early May.

We do know this: A few players earned spots on NFC West 80-man rosters after participating in postdraft camps on a tryout basis. Teams still have most of the next three months to evaluate their rosters and decide which players to bring to training camp. Teams will also release players to make room for draft choices to sign or for other reasons.

The Cardinals, perhaps seeking depth in the secondary and for the return game, signed cornerback Justin Miller after he participated in minicamp on a tryout basis. The move makes sense because Henderson was the Jets' defensive coordinator when they selected Miller in the second round of the 2005 draft. The Cardinals previously acquired safety Kerry Rhodes from the Jets.

Miller has made his greatest impact on special teams, returning five kickoffs for touchdowns (two with the Raiders in 2008, two with the Jets in 2006 and another with the Jets in 2005). The most recent Scouts Inc. report on Miller called him a player with the talent to succeed as a cornerback. "But he is undisciplined in his effort and technique, which has led to marginal performances," the report concluded.

The Rams, who went into their postdraft camp with seven players from the NCAA Division II level, added two more among the four tryout players they signed Monday. The rest of the division has eight Division II players (five in Arizona, two in Seattle and one in San Francisco).

Newly signed Rams receiver Dominique Curry played at California University of Pennsylvania. Defensive tackle Ernest Reid -- featured here -- played at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. The Rams also signed Fresno State cornerback Moses Harris and Nevada cornerback Antoine Thompson.

The 49ers announced they have signed California-Davis receiver Bakari Grant after Grant participated on a tryout basis. I'll add the Seahawks' signings when I get them (no promises, however, as high winds just knocked out power and I'm working on battery for the time being).

Update: Seahawks cut Patrick MacDonald and Reggie Carter. They signed Joe Toledo, formerly of the 49ers, and Chris Richards.

Draft Watch: NFC West

March, 26, 2010
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NFC Under-The-Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Under the radar needs.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals haven't had to address the receiver position in years and they're still strong at the top with Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston. But with Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban elsewhere, the depth isn't what it used to be. Early Doucet should continue to develop. Sean Morey has yet to re-sign and he doesn't factor into the mix at receiver much anyway.

The special teams could be in transition as well. Morey has been a mainstay, but he has had concussion problems and could be nearing the end, even if he returns. Kicker Neil Rackers and safety Matt Ware also have yet to re-sign. Both could return, but there are no guarantees. Drafting LaRod Stephens-Howling last year gave the Cardinals an elite young special-teamer. Another one wouldn't hurt.

The Cardinals also could use a third-string quarterback in case Brian St. Pierre doesn't return or factor into their plans.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers never did find a backup blocking tight end last season. They released 2009 sixth-round pick Bear Pascoe, then went with only two tight ends on the active roster. Vernon Davis always has been an excellent blocker. He has become a dynamic downfield threat in the passing game. Delanie Walker fits the H-back mold. Adding another blocking tight end to pair with Davis situationally might help.

The situation at running back should be settled with Frank Gore and 2009 third-round choice Glen Coffee on the roster, but the 49ers could be in the market for a change-of-pace back with value as a return specialist. This one isn't necessarily under the radar -- the C.J. Spiller talk has been in high gear for weeks -- but running back is not a primary need.

Seattle Seahawks

Coach Pete Carroll pointed to Charlie Whitehurst's combination of size and athleticism as drawing points after Seattle acquired the quarterback from San Diego.

That could affect third-string quarterback Mike Teel, a sixth-round choice of the Seahawks' previous leadership. One scouting report on Teel read, "Lacks the mobility to consistently make plays outside the pocket." It's something to keep in mind as the Seahawks fill out their roster at quarterback behind Matt Hasselbeck and Whitehurst.

The situation at receiver also bears watching. Adding Brandon Marshall by trade would solve the problem. But with Nate Burleson leaving for the Lions, Seattle doesn't have much to offer at the position beyond 32-year-old T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Overpriced Deion Branch and unproven Deon Butler are next on the depth chart.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams have needs everywhere and I'm not sure how many are truly under the radar. But here goes.

Safety shouldn't be a serious need with Oshiomogho Atogwe around, but the draft could come and go without resolution to Atogwe's status. The Rams must bump their offer to Atogwe from $1.226 million into the $7 million range by June 1 to keep his rights.

Backup running back is another lower-profile area the Rams could stand to address. Steven Jackson wore down late last season.

Becht could be good fit for 49ers

March, 9, 2010
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Former Rams and Cardinals tight end Anthony Becht is visiting the 49ers, the team said, and I think he could fit.

The 49ers drafted and then released blocking tight end Bear Pascoe in 2009. Unable to find a suitable replacement, the 49ers carried only two tight ends on their roster all season, one fewer than expected. Vernon Davis excels at blocking and receiving, with backup Delanie Walker more in the H-back mold.

Adding a tight end with Becht's blocking credentials could provide the 49ers with more options from a power running standpoint. Becht played about 40 percent of the Cardinals' offensive snaps last season, more than I would have expected. He is an unrestricted free agent.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have been dysfunctional in recent years and that hiring Pete Carroll is a step toward unification, according to CEO Tod Leiweke. Haven't we heard this before? Yes, we have. The team hired Tim Ruskell to work with Mike Holmgren in 2005, putting more distance between the organization and the dysfunction that marked the relationship between Holmgren and former president Bob Whitsitt. The big difference this time is that Seattle is hiring its coach and GM at the same time. That should help them function better together. Leiweke: "To be quite honest, there was not a harmonious relationship between Tim and Mike Holmgren. It's probably neither guy's fault, but we learned a lot there."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Carroll, contract negotiator John Idzik and the as-yet-unhired general manager will report to Leiweke.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Leiweke wasn't surprised to hear negative reaction following Carroll's hiring. Leiweke: "No, because when you lead with your chin, when you've had two years like we've had, when people see some dysfunction, when you have a legend like Mike Holmgren leave and you let a coach go after one year, it doesn't really set the table for a ticker tape parade for the next guy coming in. But what gets that right is winning. And Mr. Allen gave us the authority to go out and find the best coach we could and we think we have. And now we're going to find the best GM. And I'm confident it's going to result in what our fans most want, which is winning."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' game against the Packers was exciting for a lot of people, but not necessarily coach Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt: "That's funny to say it's entertaining, because it's not entertaining when I'm seeing 88 [Jermichael Finley] and 85 [Greg Jennings] on the other side of the field catching the football and running around with it. It's rewarding when you win a game like that; it's devastating when you lose a game like that. Both teams made enough plays to win the football game. Fortunately, we made one more than them."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the NFL stands by the non-call of a potential face mask penalty against Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams on the final play of the game Sunday. Somers: "In a statement, an NFL spokesman pointed out that an 'incidental grasp' of the face mask is allowed. The rule reads that 'no player shall twist, turn, or pull the face mask of an opponent in any direction.'" More here.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Phoenix area is still buzzing over the Cardinals' victory. Bickley: "With an obscene overnight television rating (21.8) that trumped the Eagles-Cowboys on Saturday night, the game will do wonders for the Big Red brand. The relentless pace of the game felt like the historic Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, when a single break of serve spelled disaster for both sides. And it made one realize just how blessed we've been since joining the big leagues in 1998, when Arizona first fielded four major professional sports teams."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Kurt Warner values being part of two organizational turnarounds.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams have signed cornerback Marcus Brown, who had spent time of the practice squad. Balzer: "Brown joins defensive end Sean Conover, guard Mark Lewis and center/guard Drew Miller, who were previously signed after ending the season on the practice squad. Players whose practice-squad contracts expired and haven’t been signed are defensive tackle Chris Bradwell, tight end Eric Butler, linebacker Jay Moore and wide receiver Sean Walker."

Also from Balzer: a case for former St. Louis Cardinals coach Don Coryell as a Hall of Fame inductee. Former tackle Dan Dierdorf: "He simply changed the game. The NFL was a running league when he came to the Cardinals [in 1973]. Teams seemingly ran the ball out of obligation. Don wanted to throw the football, especially on first down."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers plan to interview Bobby April as a potential special-teams coach. Also: "The 49ers signed another practice squadder, tight end Joe Jon Finley, to a future contract. Finley essentially beat out Bear Pascoe, a sixth-round pick, to land a spot on the practice squad in the offseason. Coaches felt more confident in Finley should something have happened to either Vernon Davis or Delanie Walker. Given the importance of the tight end in the 49ers' offense, look for them to acquire a tight end who can block in the offseason."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says April reportedly interviewed with the Steelers recently.

Catching up with the 49ers' cut list

September, 10, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


49ers Player Released on Cutdown Pos. Current Team Capacity
Brit Miller
RB 49ers Practice Squad
Kory Sheets
RB 49ers Practice Squad
Alex Boone
OL 49ers Practice Squad
J.J. Finley
TE 49ers Practice Squad
Dobson Collins
WR 49ers Practice Squad
Dominique Zeigler
WR 49ers Practice Squad
Terrail Lambert
DB -- --
Matt Spanos
OL -- --
Pannel Egboh
DL -- --
Khalif Mitchell
DL -- --
Bill Rentmeester
RB -- --
Jacob Bender
OL -- --
Kyle Howard
OL -- --
Jay Moore
LB -- --
Justin Roland
LB -- --
Mark Washington
LB -- --
Joe Toledo
OL -- --
Bear Pascoe
TE -- --
Maurice Price
WR -- --
Eric Green
DB -- --
The tough decisions teams face in reducing their rosters to 53 players sometimes aren't so tough.

"The 49ers released Kory Sheets!" loses some of its drama when Sheets quietly re-signs to the 49ers' practice squad after none of the other 31 NFL teams submit a waiver claim for him.

I've gone through the initial NFC West cut lists -- those players released at the 53-man deadline -- to see which ones have returned to their teams or caught on elsewhere.

The chart shows results for San Francisco.

The 49ers' initial cut list featured only one vested veteran, cornerback Eric Green. The other 19 players had practice-squad eligibility and the 49ers brought back six of them in that capacity.

The remaining 14 players are unsigned.

Offensive lineman Jacob Bender had a tryout with the Seahawks. The Jets showed interest in tight end Bear Pascoe, only to receive another tight end via waivers.

Sheets impressed during the preseason, but the 49ers were stacked at running back with Frank Gore and Glen Coffee. They valued the versatile Michael Robinson far too much to carry a rookie runner on their 53-man roster in his place.

Updating NFC West roster moves

September, 6, 2009
9/06/09
6:36
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Waiver claims tend to fly left and right after the 53-man roster reductions. Among the implications for NFC West teams now that the initial 24-hour waiver period has ended:
  • The Seahawks released Kyle Williams after claiming another tackle, Brandon Frye, off waivers from the Dolphins. Frye, 26, was active for seven games last season. This is probably just a case of Seattle attempting to upgrade depth on the fringes of the roster.
  • Former Seahawks cornerback Kevin Hobbs landed in Detroit after the Lions claimed him. The Browns claimed another Seahawks castoff, cornerback Marquis Floyd.
  • The Browns also claimed former Rams offensive lineman Phil Trautwein.
  • The Jets filed claims for two tight ends, including 49ers draft choice Bear Pascoe. They had a higher priority claim for former Titans tight end Matthew Mulligan, however. Pascoe became a free agent once the claim for Mulligan succeeded.
Earlier: Roster moves for the Rams and 49ers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


The 49ers announced seven signings to their practice squad Sunday. Sixth-round choice Bear Pascoe, a player the team once envisioned as a smashmouth blocking tight end, was not one of the seven players. J.J. Finley was the only tight end signed to the practice squad.

The other six initial members of the squad: tackle Alex Boone, receiver Dobson Collins, fullback Brit Miller, defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell, receiver Dominique Zeigler and running back Kory Sheets.

It probably wasn't a good sign for Pascoe when coach Mike Singletary told reporters Saturday that the NFL game appeared too fast for the former Fresno State player.

Five of the 49ers' seven 2009 draft choices earned spots on the initial 53-man roster. A sixth, Michael Crabtree, remains unsigned.

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