NFC West: Blake Gideon

2012 NFC West practice squad eligibility

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
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NFL teams can begin forming practice squads once eligible players clear waivers Saturday.

A look at which players released by NFC West teams have eligibility:

Arizona Cardinals

Eligible: Crezdon Butler, Antonio Coleman, Blake Gideon, Ricky Lumpkin, Colin Parker, Larry Parker, Steve Skelton, Quan Sturdivant, Everrette Thompson, Martell Webb, Scott Wedige, Brandon Williams, Isaiah Williams, D.J. Williams.

Not eligible: DeMarco Sampson, Alfonso Smith, Ronald Talley, Stephen Williams, Clark Haggans, Russ Hochstein

St. Louis Rams

Eligible: Cornell Banks, Tim Barnes, Tom Brandstater, Mason Brodine, Aaron Brown, Sammy Brown, Kendric Burney, Ben Guidugli, Cory Harkey, T-Bob Hebert, Jamaar Jarrett, Nick Johnson, Joe Long, Deangelo Peterson, Chase Reynolds, Scott Smith

Not eligible: Vernon Gholston, Bryan Mattison, Jose Valdez, Kellen Clemens, Ovie Mughelli

San Francisco 49ers

Eligible: Derek Hall, Joe Holland, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Cam Johnson, Matthew Masifilo, Anthony Mosley, Kyle Nelson, Al Netter, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Mike Person, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Michael Thomas, Kenny Wiggins, Michael Wilhoite

Not eligible: Eric Bakhtiari, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson, Brett Swain

Seattle Seahawks

Eligible: Pierre Allen, Allen Bradford, Kris Durham, Cooper Helfet, Rishaw Johnson, Jermaine Kearse, Kyle Knox, Cordarro Law, Pep Levingston, Ricardo Lockette, Sean McGrath, Kris O'Dowd, Josh Portis, DeShawn Shead, Vai Taua, Korey Toomer, Lavasier Tuinei

Not eligible: Phillip Adams, Deon Butler, Paul Fanaika

Note on eligibility

Straight from the collective bargaining agreement:
"The Practice Squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad:
  • "players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience;
  • "free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s).

"An otherwise eligible player may be a Practice Squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.

"A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season.

"(For purposes of this Section, a bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)"

Arizona Cardinals cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
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Most significant move: Clark Haggans failed to make the cut after five-plus seasons with the Cardinals. He could always re-sign at some point if the Cardinals need depth at outside linebacker. He'll be cheaper at that time, given that veteran contracts become guaranteed once a player is on the roster for Week 1.

For now, though, the Cardinals are moving forward with Quentin Groves as a primary backup behind starters Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield at outside linebacker. Brandon Williams was thought to be part of that mix as well, but the Cardinals waived him with an injury designation, citing a shoulder problem. Williams will revert to injured reserve unless the Cardinals reach an injury settlement with him. A settlement would allow Williams to sign with Arizona or another team once he's healthy.

It's a good sign, ultimately, that Arizona feels good enough about its outside linebackers to proceed without the 35-year-old Haggans. After a certain point, every team should develop enough young depth to threaten older, declining players. In this case, however, I'm not sure Arizona has a viable replacement for him. Groves showed promise, but he has zero sacks over the past three seasons.

Onward and upward: None of the players released by Arizona jumps out to me as someone sure to catch on elsewhere. That is because the Cardinals found a way to keep 11 defensive backs, including all their best corners. Had A.J. Jefferson or Michael Adams hit the market, both would have attracted interest. The same would have been true for Greg Toler, most likely.

Crezdon Butler, Antonio Coleman, Blake Gideon, Russ Hochstein, Ricky Lumpkin, Colin Parker, Larry Parker, DeMarco Sampson, Alfonso Smith, Quan Sturdivant, Ronald Talley, Everrette Thompson, Martell Webb, Scott Wedige, Isaiah Williams and D.J. Young were released. No big surprises there. Haggans could catch on somewhere.

Quarterback Rich Bartel landed on injured reserve, as did running back Javarris James. Stephen Williams was waived/injured with an Achilles' injury.

What's next: The Cardinals could use help at offensive tackle and outside linebacker. They decided against designating Levi Brown as a player eligible to return from injured reserve later in the season. That means Brown will not return from his torn triceps until next season. D'Anthony Batiste heads toward the season as the projected starter at left tackle. Another candidate, Young, struggled during preseason and received his release Friday.

The Cardinals are paying for missing on 2009 second-round choice Cody Brown, an outside linebacker. They're counting on Acho and Schofield to carry the full load, but there's little depth behind them. Schofield must prove he's durable in a full-time role after recovering from a career-threatening knee injury.
San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was good during a 35-3 preseason victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

Very, very good.

Kaepernick's performance came against backups (and, in some cases, against backups to the backups). That should prevent anyone from campaigning for Kaepernick to supplant Alex Smith as the starter in Week 1. But the broader context -- strong training camp, generally strong preseason -- has to be encouraging.

A month ago, the 49ers had to wonder whether Kaepernick would nail down the No. 2 job. He did so rather quickly.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat makes the case that Kaepernick is more gifted (but not yet better than) Smith. Cohn: "One pass by Kaepernick stood out. He rolled left -- sprinted actually -- and as he ran, he threw across his body to fullback Bruce Miller for nine yards. It was a beautiful throw and it’s Kaepernick’s signature throw -- toss that sucker while his body goes one way and his arm goes the other, an impossible maneuver. No one does it better than him in the entire league. Certainly not Alex Smith. Not even close."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com notes that both Kaepernick scoring passes came on "well-thrown balls on rollouts to either side."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee was similarly impressed: "Throughout the first half, Kaepernick showed why the 49ers used a high, second-round draft pick on him: He's excellent at evading defenses with his quick feet and then making them pay with his big arm. Kaepernick went into the half 12-18 for 158 yards and a 131.3 passer rating."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' quarterbacks fared well, except for Scott Tolzien. Branch: "On his first series, he sailed a third-down throw to a wide-open Nathan Palmer on a slant route. On his second series, he badly underthrew Chris Owusu, who was open down the left sideline. Two plays later, his third-down pass was picked off by linebacker Bront Bird near the line of scrimmage."

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers postgame notes following the Seahawks' victory over Oakland. Golden Tate suffered a twisted knee. Red Bryant chipped a tooth while celebrating Jaye Howard's safety.

Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest framed the performances of Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn this way: "Wilson played the first two series and one quarter, and didn’t have his previous wow factor. Nor did he feel compelled once to take off running. There simply was no need to risk anything in the final exhibition when the defense was in charge the entire game. For those inclined to offer a pity party for Matt Flynn, the heir apparent to the starting QB job who was usurped by the upstart, there is no need to bother. Taking over in the second quarter, he evinced no depression, moving the club on touchdown drives of 78 and 90 yards."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals couldn't have expected much more from rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley on Thursday night. Somers: "He showed poise in the pocket and patience in making his reads. It helped that the Cardinals were successful running the ball, which has been the lone positive on offense this preseason. Running back Beanie Wells started and gained 35 yards on seven carries in the opening quarter."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals' final exhibition game changed perceptions about which players might earn spots on the initial 53-man roster. Urban: "Now I'm finding it hard to believe outside linebacker Quentin Groves doesn’t stick around. The other backup outside linebacker choice then would come down to Clark Haggans or Brandon Williams. In the secondary, undrafted rookie Blake Gideon got a ton of playing time, and while Rashad Johnson and Adrian Wilson sat out, I start to wonder if Gideon could have a chance to slip on the roster, in place of Johnson, maybe? And there is little question there is a decision coming between A.J. Jefferson, Greg Toler and Michael Adams."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams aren't sure how much time first-round draft choice Michael Brockers might miss. Thomas: "Brockers took an X-ray on site at the Edward Jones Dome, and Fisher said the ankle will undergo an MRI exam today. Brockers left the locker room Thursday night wearing a walking boot on his right foot, so his status is very much up in the air for the Sept. 9 season opener in Detroit. The defensive tackle from Louisiana State was cut block below the knees by a Raven while in pursuit of Baltimore running back Bernard Pierce down the line of scrimmage. Brockers did not return."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers postgame notes, including this one: "DT Matt Conrath left the game with an undisclosed injury and his status moving forward is unknown. The Rams are already a bit thin depth wise at DT and any serious injuries would not be good moving forward."

Around the NFC West: T.O. makes move?

August, 16, 2012
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The Seattle Seahawks' defensive backs were gunning for Terrell Owens when the veteran receiver reported to training camp last week.

Cornerback Brandon Browner memorably planted Owens on his backside during drills. Owens, 38, remained philosophical at the time. He figured there would be an acclimation period after sitting out the 2011 NFL season.

Perhaps Owens figured right.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune thought Owens made noticeable strides in practice Wednesday. Boling: "Asked to pick a story of the day, I’d say that Terrell Owens looked as if he’s getting his legs under him and feeling more comfortable. He pulled in a nice completion against Richard Sherman on a little in-and-out route during one-on-one drills, and later grabbed two touchdown passes in team (2s v. 2s) from Russell Wilson. The first score reflected well on both of them; the play appeared on the verge of breaking down, but Wilson stepped up and Owens found a spot open near the back of the end zone. He also caught a long touchdown from Wilson. On the same veteran receiver front, Braylon Edwards had an eye-catching one-handed grab of a poorly thrown pass during skeleton drills."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Bobby Wagner is on track to start at middle linebacker for Seattle.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Pete Carroll recruited Sherman to USC as a cornerback. Sherman went to Stanford as a receiver instead, but Carroll is getting the last laugh.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects Ryan Williams to play for the Cardinals on Friday night, six days short of the one-year anniversary of the torn patella Williams suffered in the 2011 exhibition season.

Also from Somers: Tarvaris Jackson probably will not wind up in Arizona. Somers: "I've been asked several times if the Cardinals will show interest. I don't see it. I think it's questionable if Jackson is better than what the Cardinals have already. Do you give up assets for Seattle's 3rd QB? Plus, I don't see teams in the same division trading. I've been surprised before but I don't see this happening."

More from Somers: Blake Gideon is among the little-known players standing out in Cardinals camp.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Michael Floyd is keeping a low profile in Arizona.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman understands the difficult transition A.J. Jenkins is making as a rookie wide receiver. Maiocco: "Jenkins, of course, is a lock to make the 49ers' 53-man roster. But it's unlikely he'll get much of an opportunity to contribute as a rookie with Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham clearly ahead of him on the depth chart."

Also from Maiocco: Michael Crabtree is healthy, and it shows in the receiver's speed.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Crabtree and cornerback Carlos Rogers know the score in their rivalry. Crabtree: "I've got a little tablet on my locker, of how many days I won, how many he lost. So, I'm keeping tabs. I'm winning right now. I'll try to keep it like that."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News quotes Roman on Crabtree: "He was playing last year on a bad wheel and battled his way through it. He's much healthier this year. He certainly appears a lot quicker and faster."

Also from Inman: practice notes.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noticed rookie receiver Chris Givens repeatedly running deep routes in the Rams' preseason opener, an indication St. Louis plans to showcase Givens as a deep threat. Thomas: "On three occasions, the Rams threw deep his way. The first resulted in a pass interference flag against safety Jermale Hines (a Rams fifth-round pick in 2011). The 54-yard penalty advanced the ball to the Indy 26 and set up the Rams' only points of the day, on a Greg Zuerlein field goal. The second heave -- like the first, thrown by backup quarterback Kellen Clemens -- barely was beyond Givens' reach and probably would've resulted in a touchdown late in the second quarter. And with rookie QB Austin Davis in the ballgame in the third quarter, a third long-range attempt was underthrown. Givens came back for the ball, and should've caught it, but was distracted by a defender flashing in front of him."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers notes from Rams camp. Wagoner: "LB Aaron Brown might be the most overlooked player in this draft class but he continues to impress. He jumped in front of a receiver in a one on one drills for an interception. He’s also made a strong impression on special teams coach John Fassel. They say that for young defensive players to make an impression and make the squad, special teams is the way to do it. It would seem he’s doing just that so far."

Also from Wagoner: Torry Holt is in town with the Rams.

More from Wagoner: Danny Amendola as a leader.
Our two-day look at NFC West rosters concludes with projections for the Arizona Cardinals' defense and special teams.

Defensive linemen (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 7.2

Safest bets: Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams, David Carter, Nick Eason, Vonnie Holliday

Leading contenders: Ronald Talley

Longer odds: Ricky Lumpkin, Landon Cohen

Comment: The position should be a strength for the Cardinals. Campbell and Dockett have earned most of the attention. Carter stood out immediately as a rookie in training camp last year. He came out swinging and quickly moved up the depth chart at nose tackle. Carter impressed enough as a rookie for Pro Football Focus to feature him in its "Secret Superstar" series. Williams has gotten his weight down. This is a big year for him coming off a season-ending arm injury.

Linebackers (15)

Average number kept since 2003: 7.2

Safest bets: Daryl Washington, Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield, Paris Lenon, Clark Haggans, Stewart Bradley

Leading contenders: Reggie Walker, Quentin Groves

Longer odds: Quan Sturdivant, Marcus McGraw, Paul Vassallo, Colin Parker, Brandon Williams, Antonio Coleman, Zack Nash

Comment: Washington is an emerging star and should command more widespread respect if the Cardinals' defense continues to improve. Lenon remains an integral part of the defense. He's the link between coordinator Ray Horton and the rest of the defense. Bradley hasn't come close to unseating him. A full offseason should give Bradley a better chance to earn playing time, at least. The Cardinals are counting on Acho and Schofield to provide their outside rush. The coaching staff also wants to get pressure with its inside linebackers. Washington has shown he can make that happen.

Defensive backs (17)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.2

Safest bets: Patrick Peterson, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Jamell Fleming, Greg Toler, William Gay, Rashad Johnson

Leading contenders: A.J. Jefferson, Michael Adams, James Sanders

Longer odds: Justin Bethel, Marshay Green, Blake Gideon, Eddie Elder, Crezdon Butler, Larry Parker, James Nixon

Comment: Fleming, the Cardinals' third-round choice, stood out among rookies at organized team activities and minicamps. Coach Ken Whisenhunt commended his quickness and ability to change direction fluidly. The team plans to try him in the nickel role during training camp. The other nine defensive backs listed among "safest bets" and "leading contenders" have started regular-season games in the NFL. Barring injuries, one or two players released from this group figures to play elsewhere this season.

Special teams (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Safest bets: Jay Feely, Mike Leach, Dave Zastudil

Leading contenders: none

Longer odds: Ricky Schmitt

Comment: Feely's field-goal percentage last season (79.2) was his lowest since 2004. Four of his five misses were outdoors. Arizona plays six games outdoors in 2012 (Arizona counts as indoors even though the roof can open).
Four safeties from the NFC earned Pro Bowl honors last season.

All four played in the NFC West: Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor from Seattle, Dashon Goldson from San Francisco, and Adrian Wilson from Arizona.

On the surface, few positions appear stronger within the division. Beneath the surface, there isn't much depth -- at all.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sized up the situation in San Francisco recently, noting that C.J. Spillman is the team's only backup safety with even one regular-season defensive snap on his resume.

The 49ers can expect Goldson, an unsigned franchise player, to report at some point before the season. But San Francisco, like Seattle in particular among NFC West teams, lacks proven alternatives if injuries strike at safety. The drop from Pro Bowl talent to unknown backup can be a hard one.

It's a position to watch in the NFC West, for sure.

Arizona Cardinals

Starters: Wilson, Kerry Rhodes

Backups: Rashad Johnson (498 defensive snaps in 2011), James Sanders (462), Blake Gideon (0), Eddie Elder (0).

Comment: Rhodes missed nine games to injury last season. Johnson started in his place and played extensively during the Cardinals' late-season defensive revival. The experience Johnson gained should leave the Cardinals feeling better about the position. Sanders started six games for Atlanta last season. Arizona did not re-sign backups Hamza Abdullah or Sean Considine, who were special-teams contributors. Overall, the Cardinals feel very good about their depth in the secondary. Wilson's ability to play at a high level last season despite a torn biceps tendon improved the position's outlook. Wilson turns 33 in October, but appears to have quite a bit left.

Seattle Seahawks

Starters: Thomas, Chancellor

Backups: Chris Maragos (11 defensive snaps in 2011), Jeron Johnson (9), Winston Guy (0), DeShawn Shead (0).

Comment: Atari Bigby provided veteran depth last season. San Diego signed him as a potential starter in free agency. Maragos projects as a core special-teams player. The Seahawks were high enough on Jeron Johnson, an undrafted rookie in 2011, to keep him on the 53-man roster over a draft choice, Mark LeGree. Maragos projects as a core special-teams player. Guy and Shead have made positive impressions in practice recently. This is one position where Seattle could stand to develop or acquire quality depth in case Thomas or Chancellor suffers an injury. But with two of the NFL's best young safeties in the lineup, the team should be set at the position for years to come.

San Francisco 49ers

Starters: Goldson, Donte Whitner

Backups: C.J. Spillman (16 defensive snaps in 2011), Colin Jones (0), Ben Hannula (0), Trenton Robinson (0), Mark LeGree (0), Michael Thomas (0).

Comment: The 49ers did not re-sign veteran backups Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams. They did not use an early draft choice for a safety or target a veteran in free agency. Spillman, undrafted from Marshall in 2009, is getting plenty of reps this offseason while Goldson remains unsigned as the 49ers' franchise player. Spillman is already among the very best special-teams players in the division (he joined Seattle's Heath Farwell among non-positional specialists on our all-NFC West team for 2011). It's a bit early to know whether the 49ers could count on Spillman at safety if an injury forced their hand. But with eight safeties on the roster, the 49ers do have developmental options at the position.

St. Louis Rams

Starters: Quintin Mikell, Darian Stewart

Backups: Craig Dahl (486 defensive snaps in 2011), Matt Daniels (0).

Comment: Dahl started three games last season and 24 over the past three. He gives the Rams decent veteran depth behind Mikell and the emerging Stewart. Daniels is an undrafted free agent from Duke. He was eager to sign with the Rams when he learned they had only three other safeties under contract. Rookie third-round choice Trumaine Johnson has the size to play safety, but coach Jeff Fisher said the plan will be for Johnson to remain at cornerback. "(Moving to safety) may be something that happens later in his career, but right now he helps us as a corner," Fisher told reporters during the draft.

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