NFC West: Brandon Flowers
So the fact two veteran cornerbacks were released Friday can't go unnoticed. Kansas City cut Brandon Flowers and Detroit jettisoned Chris Houston. Flowers is likely more intriguing because he has been the better player, while Houston is coming off an injury.
Ultimately, I'd expect Flowers to get a better deal elsewhere. But I could see the 49ers considering the idea. They have some salary cap room and as previously mentioned, there are questions at the position.
Still, a pursuit of Flowers wouldn't necessarily be a certainty. Flowers is 5-foot-9 and the 49ers are trying to get bigger and more physical at the position. Plus, even though the 49ers have questions at cornerback, there are pretty full there.
Chris Culliver, coming off a torn ACL, is expected to start opposite Tramaine Brock after Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers departed this offseason. First-round pick Jimmie Ward will play the nickel cornerback. The 49ers also have veteran Chris Cook, Eric Wright and Perrish Cox and drafted three rookie cornerback (one, Keith Reaser, is not play because of an injury).
If the 49ers are nervous about what they've seen so far in the offsason they could make a run at Flowers, but I'm not sure they will think it's worth the financial investment.
Two other starters, tackle Branden Albert (shoulder) and defensive end Mike DeVito (neck), were full practice participants and listed as probable to play against the Eagles.
With a second tight end, Travis Kelce, hobbling on a sore knee, limited in practice and listed as questionable, the Chiefs are down to Sean McGrath and Kevin Brock as healthy players at the position. McGrath joined the Chiefs off waivers from Seattle at the start of the regular season while Brock re-signed only this week. He went to camp with the Chiefs but was released before the regular season started.
McGrath has two receptions for 31 yards.
Three backup linebackers were full practice participants and listed as probable: Nico Johnson (ankle), Dezman Moses (toe) and James-Michael Johnson (neck).
This move makes sense on the surface.
Sherman did not fit the Cardinals' new offense, which does not utilize a traditional fullback. Arenas, a 2010 second-round choice by the Chiefs' previous leadership, projects as a slot cornerback in a division that has added slot receivers Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin.
"Size hurts him, but Arenas is feisty and a big-time asset on special teams," said Matt Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com.
The Chiefs signed veteran corner Dunta Robinson before using a fifth-round choice for cornerback Sanders Commings. They added cornerback Sean Smith in free agency. They already had Brandon Flowers. Arenas was apparently the odd corner out.
The Cardinals plan for 2013 third-round choice Tyrann Mathieu to play weak safety and slot cornerback, but Arenas would come to Arizona with game experience. Mathieu and Arenas are both 5-foot-9. Arenas is listed at 197 pounds. Mathieu is listed at 186. There is overlap between the players. Arenas could also provide some insurance for Mathieu, whose off-field issues have made him a higher-risk player in the Cardinals' eyes.
Arenas started nine games last season and played 693 snaps on defense, the third-highest total among Chiefs defensive backs behind Eric Berry (967) and Flowers (840).
Mike Sando: I don't see a meaningful comparison here. The back story on Rodgers in Green Bay was that he instantly caught teammates' attention in practice. His talent was obvious. Brett Favre was better at that point, but Rodgers made it clear he had the talent to take over the job sooner rather than later. There's also a brashness to Rodgers that served him well in that situation. He wasn't going to disrespect Favre, but he wasn't going to worship him. Rodgers expected to play.
I don't know as much about Kolb. He seems to have an edge about him, too. But in his current situation, Michael Vick became the one with the more prodigious talent. There's no push from anyone to get Kolb onto the field. If the 2007 or 2008 version of Rodgers were in Philadelphia, I suspect he would be the unquestioned starter.
Also, Rodgers played quite well during his first season as a starter. He finished that 2008 season with 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Favre struggled through an ultimately unsatisfying season with the New York Jets that year. His 2009 season with Minnesota was special, but it was also an exception to the norm in recent seasons. While Rodgers has consistently put up good numbers and even won a championship, Favre has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a season just twice since 2005.
Had Kolb been on the bench in Green Bay while Favre's career was winding down, I doubt the Packers would have moved as aggressively to make the change. Rodgers has the "it" factor. It's harder to tell whether Kolb measures up in that area, or as a passer.
Aaron from Redmond, Wash., wanted my thoughts on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's comments to Seattle Seahawks fans regarding 10 a.m. PT kickoffs.
Mike Sando: These are potentially significant comments in that Goodell has previously dismissed West Coast teams' concerns about early kickoffs. This time, the commissioner said the matter is "something we've got to try to find a way to deal with" amid challenges related to broadcast schedules. Let's consider this to be a starting point in a conversation long overdue from West Coast teams' perspectives.
Neil from Jackson, Miss., says St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' reputation as a pass-oriented coach stems from the success McDaniels' quarterbacks have enjoyed, not from any aversion to the ground game. Neil says he's a Saints fan and he has seen how effectively a balanced offense can benefit the passing game. He expects the Rams to use running back Steven Jackson to the extent necessary to make quarterback Sam Bradford look good.
Mike Sando: That's a good way to put it, Neil. I raised the subject with AFC West blogger Bill Williamson on Friday afternoon while we were sharing a ride to the airport in Hartford from our annual meetings in Bristol. Williamson noted that selecting running back Knowshon Moreno was McDaniels' first draft-related decision as Denver Broncos coach. McDaniels' personnel decisions did not work out so well, and Moreno hasn't met expectations. But that isn't as relevant as the fact that McDaniels valued the ground game enough to take a running back in the first round.
Kualla83 from Phoenix wonders why ESPN's Rick Reilly rated Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie so low in his recent redrafts. Kualla83 acknowledges that Rodgers-Cromartie suffered through a rough 2010 season, but he has also seen Rodgers-Cromartie's speed facilitate spectacular plays in coverage. He'd still take Rodgers-Cromartie first among the cornerbacks selected in that 2008 draft class.
Mike Sando: Reilly made Rodgers-Cromartie the seventh cornerback drafted in 2008. That is too low, in my view. He put Tracy Porter, Aqib Talib, Brandon Flowers, Terrell Thomas, Brandon Carr and Antoine Cason ahead of "DRC" in this redraft.
This is feeling like a pivotal season for Rodgers-Cromartie. The Cardinals used the fifth overall choice in the draft for a cornerback. Rodgers-Cromartie has taken quite a bit of criticism. Getting slapped around by Reilly on a redraft should not go unnoticed, either.
I think the Cardinals will find out a great deal about Rodgers-Cromartie this season.
None appeared on the 10-man ballot I submitted for ESPN.com's positional power rankings. The chart shows my ballot. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky has the overall results.
Rodgers-Cromartie would have made my list a year ago. He tied for the NFL lead with 15 penalties in 2010, up from two the previous season. Consistency was a problem.
Trufant started last season strong, but his play mirrored his team's play. Injuries struck the defensive front seven, sidelining Red Bryant, Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane. The ankle injury Trufant suffered against San Diego early in the season played a role. He is 30 years old and coming off a season in which he suffered two concussions during a 56-day period.
The 31-year-old Clements, like Trufant, started all 16 games last season. The 49ers' pass defense struggled, however, and Clements will not return to the 49ers under terms of his current contract. The team is expected to draft a cornerback this year.
Sizing up my ballot: I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to look at my ballot. His take: "The top two are far and away the best. And overall this list looks quite good. I would move up Flowers four or five spots. I think I would put Tramon Williams over his teammate, Charles Woodson. Antoine Winfield might be a little low as well. Joe Haden and Devin McCourty were equally good as rookies. Actually, I might even like Haden better. I am also pretty high on Vontae Davis. Asante Samuel just doesn't tackle or play the run. I would move him down some."
Name to keep in mind: Ron Bartell. The St. Louis Rams' corner earned one vote from our eight panelists, with Kuharsky ranking him 10th. Bartell defends the ball well. He tackles well. He supports the run. He has tremendous size for the position at 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds. Bartell can take the next step by making impact plays. He has no interceptions over the last two seasons. Top corners Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha also have few picks recently, but the playmaking ability they showed earlier in their careers made opponents wary. Bartell has not made that happen.
It's increasingly clear they made the right choice in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie even though the one-time Pro Bowl choice is coming off a disappointing 2010 season.
The problems Rodgers-Cromartie experienced in coverage and in tying for the NFL lead with 15 penalties last season appear trivial compared to the off-field issues affecting the corner Tampa Bay selected four spots later in the first round.
Aqib Talib's future in the NFL appears shaky now that Talib is facing a likely charge for a second-degree felony. The incident stands as a troubling setback for a player who appeared to have made strides off the field.
Talib's situation sent me back through the 2008 draft for a look at the first 10 cornerbacks selected. The Cardinals fared relatively well in making Rodgers-Cromartie the 16th overall choice, but they'll expect a more focused effort from him this season. Adding defensive coordinator Ray Horton, a former NFL cornerback, has the potential to help.
Seattle receiver Mike Williams and Kansas City receiver Dexter McCluster worked out at Qwest Field, but their teams named them inactive. Williams has been Matt Hasselbeck's go-to target for most of the season. Seattle's offense changes quite a bit without him.
Ben Obomanu, Brandon Stokley, Deon Butler, Golden Tate and Ruvell Martin are active at receiver for Seattle. Obomanu and Stokley played particularly well against New Orleans last week. Tate played well against Oakland before suffering an ankle injury. This is his first game back.
Butler will start in Williams' place, the Seahawks said.
McCluster has missed the Chiefs' last four games.
Also inactive for Seattle: fullback Michael Robinson, guard Chester Pitts, defensive end Clifton Geathers, tackle Will Robinson, nose tackle Colin Cole and defensive tackle Amon Gordon. J.P. Losman is the third quarterback.
Also inactive for Kansas City: cornerback Brandon Flowers, safety Donald Washington, running back Tim Castille, safety Jon McGraw, linebacker Charlie Anderson, linebacker Justin Cole and defensive tackle Anthony Toribio.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers were bad in too many areas to single out any one of them as decisive. Branch: "Singletary also said he would have to 'look at the film' on six occasions in the course of a seven-minute meeting with the media. In the locker room, (Alex) Smith, tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore also said they would have to 'look at the film' to see what went wrong. The steady drumbeat gave the impression that the 49ers, from the head coach on down, were so baffled by their collapse that figuring it out would require them to watch this nightmare on an endless loop." The 49ers appear to lack maturity and that makes things difficult on the road. This is where the schedule isn't doing San Francisco any favors. They would have been much better off this season playing a schedule like the one Arizona has ridden to a 2-1 record despite its obvious problems. The question now is how well the 49ers can weather what could quickly become an 0-4 start.
Also from Branch: The 49ers' play selection on offense invited criticism.
More from Branch: a 49ers report card with "F" grades for the offensive line and coaching/overall.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks the 49ers are running into the limitations of their head coach. Kawakami: "You can only go so far in the NFL if your coach doesn’t really believe in gameplans or match-ups or schemes, and doesn’t know how to gameplan or scheme. You can only go so far if your coach fervently believes that willpower and muscle alone are the sole ingredients you need to win football games."
Also from Kawakami: a subdued Singletary addressed reporters after the game.
More from Kawakami: Was this defeat the beginning of the end for Singletary?
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News offers this quote from linebacker Takeo Spikes: "I live by faith, and I truly believe this is a team of destiny. But we are what we are right now. Am I OK with that? No, but that's what I have to deal with. That's what we have to deal with. Do I feel like we can come out of this? Absolutely."
Also from Brown: an "F" grade in the coaching department for San Francisco.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers offensive tackle Anthony Davis accused the Chiefs' Shaun Smith of touching him inappropriately during the game. Davis: "He tried to feel me. That's weird, right?" Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack made similar allegations about Smith a week earlier.
Also from Maiocco: Singletary says he won't change offensive coordinators this season. Maiocco: "The 49ers have managed just one touchdown in two embarrassing road defeats. Their touchdown Sunday came on the final play of the game when quarterback Alex Smith hit Josh Morgan on a 12-yard scoring pass. Morgan sustained a knee injury on the play, and Smith's frustrations boiled to the surface after the window-dressing score. Smith said he was not reacting to anything in particular."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers postgame notes, including this observation: "Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree have a dangerous streak going -- botched pass attempts that lead to costly interceptions. It happened again Sunday when a third-and-four pass intended for Crabtree was instead picked off by Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers. Hearing them explain the play afterward, it's clear that quarterback and receiver still aren't on the same wavelength." Smith and Crabtree appeared to be on the same page without working together last season. How can they be less effective after spending an offseason together? I realize Crabtree missed much of training camp and the exhibition season, but he and Smith spent all offseason at team headquarters.
Also from Barrows: The 49ers tried to run their way out of a 21-point hole. Barrows: "Even after falling behind by three touchdowns, the 49ers sent in fullback Moran Norris and tried to pound their way back in the game. Smith settled for short dump-offs and five-yard outs throughout the afternoon. His longest pass play was 41 yards. But even that was a short pass to Frank Gore in the waning moments, and Gore picked up the bulk of the yardage after the catch."
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' problem could simply be that the team is not very good.
Also from White: Crabtree says he was merely doing his job and did not run the wrong route on a pass that was intercepted. Crabtree: "All I can do is my job. I can't really worry about what Alex is doing. Even though that's my quarterback, and I'll always have his back, whoever the quarterback is, I'm just doing my job." That does not appear to be a quote born of maturity. It looks like more evidence Crabtree and Smith aren't in sync.
More from White: postgame notes, including one about how rookie returner Kyle Williams recovered his own fumble.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike SandoThe Rams hold the second, 35th, 66th, 103rd, 138th, 176th and 211th choices in the 2009 draft. For perspective, I've singled out the last four players chosen in those spots.
Two of those players play for the Rams now: defensive end Chris Long, chosen second overall by the Rams last year, and free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, chosen 66th overall by the Rams in 2005.
Going back one additional year would have shown Rams guard Jacob Bell as the 138th player chosen in 2004, by Tennessee.