NFC West: Bob Sanders

Reports linking former Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins to Seattle and San Francisco invite a closer look at where the nine-year NFL veteran stands at age 32. Thanks for asking, @bmarleylives.

Jenkins has played about two-thirds of the available defensive snaps over the past five seasons. He has started at defensive tackle in the Eagles' 4-3 scheme and at defensive end in the Packers' 3-4.

Jenkins
The Eagles parted with Jenkins last month after deciding against paying a $5 million roster bonus for the 2013 season. Philadelphia has a new coaching staff. Jenkins is an older player. Five million dollars was too much for the Eagles even though Jenkins' base salary ($825,000) contributed to a seemingly palatable 2013 cap figure ($5.8 million). The team had renegotiated Jenkins' contract last offseason after signing him away from the Packers with a five-year deal in 2011.

Jenkins played for the Packers when Seahawks general manager John Schneider was with Green Bay. Seattle has decisions to make along its defensive line. Tackle Alan Branch can become a free agent. "Leo" end Chris Clemons is coming off ACL surgery. Base end Red Bryant is coming off a foot injury. Jenkins could provide insurance or a starting option at tackle. He could also provide insurance for Bryant's spot.

The 49ers also have decisions to make along their defensive line. End Justin Smith is coming off elbow/triceps surgery. Starting nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and versatile backup Ricky Jean Francois can become a free agent.

Foot and ankle injuries slowed Jenkins at times last season. He still started all 16 games.

ESPN's Adam Schefter expects Jenkins to visit the 49ers and Seahawks. Jenkins has already met with the New York Giants.

Bob Sanders has played in 48 regular-season games and missed 64 of them since entering the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts in 2004.

That explains why the Colts released him Friday.

The natural fan reaction -- how would the injury-prone 2007 NFL defensive player of the year fit on team such-and-such? -- should take into account injury and financial considerations.

Sanders played six games in 2008, two games in 2009 and one last season. From a health standpoint, he is 29 years old going on 40. That means Sanders will take a massive reduction from the $6 million in salary and bonus money he would have received from the Colts.

If Sanders is going to take a pay cut, and he is, why not do so in Indianapolis? We'll need to find out to what extent hurt feelings and pride could complicate a potential return.

In the NFC West, Arizona is set at strong safety with Adrian Wilson. The other teams in the division could benefit from at least inquiring about Sanders.

The San Francisco 49ers used a 2010 second-round choice for Taylor Mays. How does he project under a new staff? The Seattle Seahawks drafted Kam Chancellor and they could conceivably bring back Lawyer Milloy, who has missed only six games in 15 NFL seasons. The St. Louis Rams have Craig Dahl at strong safety, with James Butler and Michael Lewis scheduled for free agency.

What Raye and the 49ers were thinking

November, 4, 2009
11/04/09
7:52
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

What in the world was 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye thinking Sunday and what does it mean for the team's immediate future on offense?

I have a much better idea after watching the 49ers-Colts game a couple times and charting offensive personnel. Ten observations:
  • The 49ers were cruising along early in the game, spreading the field with two wide receivers and two tight ends with good receiving skills (Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker). They used this group 11 times in their first 13 plays before suddenly getting conservative.
  • That 13th play wasn't so lucky. Alex Smith's pass bounced off Michael Crabtree's hand. Bob Sanders intercepted for the Colts. Two plays earlier, Crabtree dropped a pass. The 49ers were affirming Raye's fears about the passing game not being ready for prime time. Raye suddenly changed his thinking, replacing Walker with fullback Moran Norris for five of the next eight plays.
  • Raye and coach Mike Singletary knew what they were up against. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning maximizes possessions like no quarterback in the league. Giving extra possessions to Manning is a great way to lose a game. Going conservative minimizes turnovers.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Thanks to those who kept the latest NFC West chat moving even though we encountered quite a few eight-man fronts. Transcript here. Highlights below:

Ruben (Highland, Ca): Mike, Thanks for taking my question. If the Rams win or lose in Detriot on Sunday, isn't it time for all the young players to play after the bye? Smith at LT, Gibson at WR, Butler at CB, Greco at G/T, Null for a few series, ect.? This teams needs to look toward the future, but I know the losing mentality has to stop. How can they balance this the last half of the season?

Mike Sando: The Rams do not have very many older players. They are one of the youngest teams in the league. By definition, then, the young guys are playing in most cases. Jason Smith does need to play every snap, in my view. Perhaps his health isn't where it needs to be. I do not know. But if he can play, play him. What is there to lose? Brandon Gibson also needs to play right away. The QB situation is a harder one to manage that way. I would not just throw Keith Null out there at this stage. If he is your third guy and he plays in a game, the other two quarterbacks cannot return to the game, by rule. I suppose they could make him the No. 2 quarterback at some point.

Shane (Los Angeles, CA): Sand-O: As expected, the sports talk following the Cards win over the Giants was more about "What's Wrong with the Giants?" rather than "What's Right with the Cardinals?" With their next 5 games against the Panthers, Bears, Seahawks, Rams and Titans, the Cards could feasibly enter the game against the Vikes at 9-2 or 8-3. What do you think the Cards need to do to merit discussion among the leagues' SB contenders?

Mike Sando: Keep doing what they are doing. Look, the Cardinals have earned our skepticism by going from 7-3 to 9-7 last season, then losing at home to the 49ers in the opener. Let's see this team sustain a high level of play for more than a month or two. I see signs the Cardinals are starting to do that. The Giants have been consistently good for a while. The Cardinals are never going to get the same national play the Giants or Redskins would get because Phoenix is not New York. But the Cardinals can command respect by playing well consistently.

Sean L. (Tacoma): With Walter Jones finally on IR and possibly done for good, do you see the hawks making any roster moves to add depth to the o-line?

Mike Sando: Teams generally carry nine offensive linemen. The Seahawks had nine plus Walter Jones. Putting him on injured reserve doesn't affect their depth on the line because Jones wasn't part of that depth. He was sort of off to the side while the team waited for him to get better. From a personnel standpoint, the Seahawks are pretty much stuck. They have no good options for upgrading depth during the season.

Tre (Florida): Where is Indy weak defensively that you expect SF to try and exploit?

Mike Sando: The Rams got Bob Sanders to bite on a play fake, freeing Donnie Avery to catch a 50-yard pass on a flea flicker. That was early in the game, when the Colts were focused on stopping the run (Steven Jackson did quite a bit of his damage later in the game, once the Colts pulled away). If I'm the 49ers, I would be looking for ways to continue finding Vernon Davis down the middle of the field. Davis is bigger and faster than the people he'll be matching up against. I just wonder how much time Smith will have to let those plays develop. The Colts' defensive line is going to cause problems rushing the passer inside and out.



The 49ers' game at Indianapolis marks the final time an NFC West team will face the Colts during the regular season. That is good for the division.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat explains why Michael Crabtree is having an easy time learning the 49ers' plays. The system requires Crabtree to know only his own responsibilities for this one game, not the full playbook or broader concepts.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News answers 49ers-related questions in a chat. Brown: "This whole team is built around the offense's ability to run the ball, move the chains and eke out just enough points. But the 49ers rank 29th in total offense and 16th in the running game. The 49ers made a subtle shift in the O-line this week, moving Snyder to guard. They also help that the presence of Crabtree will stretch the defenses at least a little bit. Otherwise, it's another week of 8-men in the box."

Deon Butler of the Seahawks reflects on his rookie season during his latest diary entry with Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times. Butler says the deep pass thrown to him against the Cardinals was overthrown. Sometimes a receiver gets thrown off his route and I thought Matt Hasselbeck suggested that was the case in this instance. I cannot recall for certain. Butler: "On a deep pass, once the ball starts to come down, you definitely know whether you're going to get to it or whether it's going to be real close or whether it's just overthrown. And that one was, 'Man, this one is overthrown. I've really got to get to this.' As soon as I started to see it come down, I was like, 'Man, if I get to this, I probably won't stay on my feet. I'll probably dive.' And I ended up diving. It was just a frustrating feeling when I landed, and I didn't have the ball. It was a third-down opportunity. It was a chance for a big gain early in the game, and Arizona had gotten out to a fast start. So it was a chance for us to change momentum. With so few opportunities that I'm presented right now, when I have a chance to make a play, I definitely want to be able to make it."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team isn't leaving for the East Coast until Saturday because the Sunday kickoff is at night. Urban also says he thinks Early Doucet will be active as insurance for Anquan Boldin. Urban: "I still think Anquan Boldin will play, but, already knowing Boldin has a sore ankle, the Cards can’t risk not having an extra receiver available not only if Boldin gets further dinged but also if Boldin will be limited in the packages he might play. That’s what happened in the season opener against the 49ers (when Doucet was still hurt and Lance Long was forced to be active). Many fans have asked me why Doucet hasn’t played more. The big problem? He’s never proven himself on special teams, something the receivers in front of him — Urban, Morey, Breaston — all do and do well."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams receiver Donnie Avery felt good in practice Friday. Coats: "Avery reported 'no problem at all' after fully participating in practice Friday. Avery, injured last Sunday at Jacksonville after grabbing a 17-yard touchdown pass earlier, sat out Wednesday and took only limited reps Thursday."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Colts' offense isn't the only concern for the Rams. Indy's defense also presents problems, particularly with Bob Sanders back in the lineup. Steven Jackson: "He's the life of that defense. Not taking anything away from (Robert) Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney, but he's a guy that fills the run pretty hard. He's a tough tackler. He applies the big hits. He gets the crowd into it. ... I really respect what he brings to that defense."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


The Seahawks-Colts game will not be the same without Bob Sanders, Walter Jones and Matt Hasselbeck.

All three were among the players named inactive in Week 4.

Two other injury-related absences stand out as significant in this game. Josh Wilson's inability to play despite making significant progress following a high-ankle sprain leaves Seattle without two of its top three cornerbacks, a seemingly impossible predicament against Peyton Manning.

The Seahawks did not designate a third quarterback for this game. If injuries knocked out Seneca Wallace and rookie Mike Teel, I think Deion Branch might get a look at quarterback.

Not having Jones at left tackle would be a big deal for Seattle even if the Colts had named Dwight Freeney inactive. Freeney is active for this game, a surprise. The question might be whether he's close to 100 percent. If he is, the Seahawks will have problems at left tackle.

Inactive for Seattle: Jones, Hasselbeck, tackle Sean Locklear, linebacker Leroy Hill, defensive tackle Red Bryant, defensive lineman Michael Bennett and tight end Cameron Morrah.

Inactive for the Colts: Sanders, linebacker Gary Brackett, cornerback Kelvin Hayden, tackle Tony Ugoh, linebacker Clint Session, offensive lineman Jamey Richard and defensive tackle Fili Moala. Curtis Painter is the third quarterback.

The Seahawks have five receivers active. That is generally the maximum. They have eight offensive lineman active, one more than usual. They have two tight ends active, one fewer than usual. They have four running backs active, one fewer than usual.

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