NFC West: Brian Jackson

The St. Louis Rams' scheduled visit with Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, noted by ESPN's Adam Schefter, lines up with expectations heading into free agency.

Finnegan played for new Rams coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. His reputation for hard-nosed play would lend an edge to the Rams' secondary.

Since 2007, when Finnegan became a starter, he leads the NFL with 16 combined penalties for disqualification, face mask, horse-collar tackle, personal foul, roughing the kicker, roughing the passer, taunting, unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct. The chart identifies league leaders in these "swagger" penalties since 2007, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Finnegan earned Pro Bowl honors for his play during the 2008 season. The Titans decided against naming him their franchise player at a cost of nearly $10.3 million for one season.

Injuries wiped out the Rams at cornerback last season. The team released starter Ron Bartell, who finished the 2011 season on injured reserve with a neck injury. The other starter, Bradley Fletcher, is returning from a season-ending knee injury.

Finnegan and the San Francisco 49ers' Carlos Rogers could make sense for the Rams as free-agent additions. The team could also consider LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall choice in the 2012 draft.

Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Marquis Johnson, Brian Jackson, Nate Ness, Chris Smith, Josh Gordy and Kendric Burney are the corners on St. Louis' roster at present.

New Orleans' Tracy Porter is another option. Like Rogers, he played for Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams elsewhere.
The San Francisco 49ers have become the hunted in the NFC West.

Having already take aim at their 2011 turnover differential, let us consider another reason for a potential 2012 regression from 13-3.

"Repeating the 2011 relative lack of injuries on the 49ers may be as hard as replicating the turnover ratio," Michael Rally contended via Twitter.

Injuries did slow and/or sideline some of the 49ers' most important players, including running back Frank Gore and linebacker Patrick Willis. Starting receiver Josh Morgan missed most of the season. A freak jaw injury sidelined tight end Delanie Walker late in the season. A hamstring injury slowed defensive end Ray McDonald.

But in looking at injured-reserve lists, the 49ers definitely fared better than their division rivals. They finished the regular season with five players on IR. The other three NFC West teams had a combined 39.

I've broken out the IR lists by team and position, based on where teams stood after Week 17. In some cases, teams released and/or reached injury settlements with players placed on IR previously. Teams usually keep on IR the players they value the most, however. The players listed below are the most relevant ones.

St. Louis Rams (16)

Fullback: Brit Miller

Receiver: Danny Amendola, Mark Clayton, Greg Salas

Tight end: Mike Hoomanawanui

Offensive line: guard Jacob Bell, Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith

Defensive line: Jermelle Cudjo

Linebacker: Josh Hull

Cornerback: Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Al Harris, Brian Jackson, Marquis Johnson, Jerome Murphy

Comment: Quarterback Sam Bradford was injured much of the year without landing on IR. The Rams ran through several unlisted cornerbacks as well. That position was hit hard. Losing both starting offensive tackles is never good, but Smith wasn't a huge positive factor on the right side. The team was arguably better off without him in the lineup.

Seattle Seahawks (15)

Receiver: Kris Durham, Mike Williams, Sidney Rice

Tight end: John Carlson

Offensive line: John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Russell Okung

Defensive line: Jimmy Wilkerson

Linebacker: Jameson Konz, Matt McCoy, David Vobora, Dexter Davis

Cornerback: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Ron Parker

Comment: The Seahawks remained strong against the run largely because their line was healthier this season. Losing three-fifths of the starting offensive line could not stop Marshawn Lynch from producing at a high level. Rookie Richard Sherman capitalized on injuries at cornerback. Good, young depth helped Seattle weather injuries well.

Arizona Cardinals (8)

Quarterback: Max Hall

Running back: Ryan Williams

Offensive line: Brandon Keith, Floyd Womack

Defensive line: Dan Williams

Linebacker: Joey Porter

Cornerback: Crezdon Butler, Greg Toler

Comment: Ryan Williams' knee injury affected the team significantly. The injury situation was worse overall than the list would indicate. Quarterback Kevin Kolb missed seven starts with foot and concussion problems. Running back Beanie Wells played hurt much of the year and had a hard time producing late in the season. Adrian Wilson played through a torn biceps and got better as the season progressed.

San Francisco 49ers (5)

Receiver: Dontavia Bogan, Josh Morgan

Tight end: Nate Byham

Defensive line: Will Tukuafu

Cornerback: Curtis Holcomb

Comment: Byham was a solid blocking tight end. The team missed Morgan, especially late in the year. Gore's production diminished after he suffered an apparent knee injury in Week 10. Overall, though, the 49ers were healthy. They inflicted more injuries than they suffered, knocking out several opposing runners, including Felix Jones, LeGarrette Blount, Jahvid Best, Steven Jackson and Pierre Thomas.
News that Sam Bradford remained limited, Chris Long did not practice and Darian Stewart still had not passed concussion testing hung over the St. Louis Rams on Friday.

Bradford, as the starting quarterback, ranks high on the team's list of most important players. Long has 10 sacks and ranks as one of the team's best players on defense. Stewart, though inconsistent, has provided a physical presence with his hitting at safety.

Bradford's ankle injury is threatening to prevent him from getting sufficient work in the offense and with receiver Brandon Lloyd. But with so many problems throughout the roster, including along the offensive line, perhaps there's little to gain by putting Bradford on the field against the San Francisco 49ers' defense in Week 13.

To review, the Rams' injured reserve list already features:
Just about every NFL team has a chance against every opponent. The Rams should not concede the game. But if that ankle is preventing Bradford from practicing much, why play him?

Can Seahawks exploit Rams' CB issues?

November, 18, 2011
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The St. Louis Rams have lost cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Al Harris, Mikail Baker, Dionte Dinkins, Tim Atchison and Brian Jackson to season-ending injuries.

A ninth corner, Chris Smith, was waived/injured earlier in the season, returning as a member of the practice squad. A 10th, Marquis Johnson, opened the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Even opponents realize that's a "ridiculous" injury situation at one position.


"That's crazy," Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson told reporters in St. Louis.

And with cornerback Justin King suffering an ankle injury Thursday, four days after he suffered a concussion, the situation could be getting worse.

As much as the Seahawks have leaned on the ground game recently, the Rams' injury situation at cornerback could, in theory, coax them into a more pass-happy approach. The Seahawks could also try running the ball from personnel groups featuring three-plus wideouts. That is one of the more interesting strategic possibilities in the NFC West this week.

The Seahawks used three or more wide receivers on 35.8 percent of their plays against Baltimore in Week 10, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was a season low. Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin suffered concussions, leaving Seattle with fewer available wideouts. The team also wanted to protect a lead by grinding out yards with Marshawn Lynch, who carried 32 times for 109 yards in the team's victory over Baltimore.

Rice and Baldwin are back practicing and expected to play Sunday.

Before the Baltimore game, Seattle had used three-plus wideouts on 66.3 percent of its snaps this season, including 90.5 percent against the New York Giants in Week 5. The Seahawks averaged between 4.6 and 6.7 yards per carry with three wide receivers on the field in games against Dallas, Cleveland, Arizona, Cincinnati and the Giants.

Rams bench Sims-Walker, Leber vs. Pack

October, 16, 2011
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Mike Sims-Walker never appeared on the St. Louis Rams' injury report this week.

The team named him inactive Sunday purely on the merits after the veteran receiver dropped three passes, including one for a potential touchdown, during a 17-10 defeat to the Washington Redskins' in the Rams' most recent game.

Rookie receivers Austin Pettis and Greg Salas are both active for the Rams. Danario Alexander is starting in Sims-Walker's place opposite Brandon Gibson.

The Rams' inactive list against Green Bay was also significant as it applied to the team's situation at linebacker and in the secondary. Starting linebacker Ben Leber is inactive, meaning Chris Chamberlain will start. Veteran cornerback Rod Hood, signed during the bye week after the team lost Bradley Fletcher to a knee injury, is not active for this game. Justin King, Al Harris, Josh Gordy and Brian Jackson are the active corners.

Leber, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, would presumably have a good feel for the Packers.

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