NFC West: Brock Berlin
That will change when Kerry Collins replaces an injured Manning in the Colts' lineup for Week 1.
The first preseason game I covered as an NFL beat reporter featured Manning making his first start against the Seattle Seahawks in the Kingdome. His very first pass found Marvin Harrison for a 49-yard touchdown. Preseason games are generally without much meaning, but could there have been a more fitting beginning for Manning?
For a fuller appreciation of Manning's durability and consistency in starting 227 consecutive games, I went through Pro Football Reference counting how many quarterbacks had started for current NFC West teams since Manning made his regular-season debut. There have been 48. That figure includes 14 for the St. Louis Rams, 13 for the 49ers, 11 for the Arizona Cardinals and 10 for the Seahawks.
A few notes on the 48 players to start for current NFC West teams since 1998:
- There have been two Brocks (Berlin, Huard), two Charlies (Frye, Whitehurst), two named Chris (Chandler, Weinke), two Jeffs (Plummer, Martin), three Johns (Friesz, Navarre, Skelton), one Jon (Kitna), two Matts (Hasselbeck, Leinart), two Shauns (Hill, King), three Steves (Young, Bono, Stenstrom) and two Trents (Dilfer, Green).
- Two, Young and Warren Moon, have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame since Manning's streak began.
- Dilfer and Warner started for more than one current NFC West team since Manning's streak began. Warner started 57 games for Arizona and 50 for St. Louis. Dilfer started 12 for Seattle and six for San Francisco.
- Hasselbeck has the most total starts for current NFC West teams with 131, followed by Marc Bulger (95 for St. Louis), Jake Plummer (73 for the Cardinals) and Jeff Garcia (71 for the 49ers).
- Smith -- Alex, not Troy -- owns the most starts among current NFC West players with 50, all for San Francisco.
- Eight of the 48 were one-and-done as starters: Berlin, Scott Covington, Ty Detmer, Glenn Foley, Friesz, Frye, Navarre and Weinke. Nineteen have made at least 10 starts.
The NFC West will have two starters new to the division in Week 1: Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb.
The chart shows start totals by team for the 48. The NFC West changed membership with realignment in 2002. I'm going back to 1998 for the four teams currently in the division.
They were too busy beating themselves.
"I had not seen or felt that this was an undisciplined football team, but how can you not think that way after a game like that?" coach Steve Spagnuolo said.
The Rams' 16-14 road defeat to the Bruce Gradkowski-led Oakland Raiders had to be especially troubling for Spagnuolo and the Rams' leadership. New owner Stan Kroenke is watching closely for signs of real progress. Not progress imagined through the shrinking margin of defeat. Real progress measured through wins and losses.
Performances like the one St. Louis put forward Sunday -- five personal fouls, 210 total yards and only 19 offensive plays in the second half -- will not be good enough in the final evaluation. These are the sorts of self-inflicted defeats against bad teams that get people fired if they persist over the course of a season.
Fortunately for the Rams, the team still has a run of winnable games ahead: home for Washington and Seattle, then road games against Detroit and Tampa Bay sandwiched around a home game against San Diego.
But if the Rams cannot beat a team as flawed as the Raiders after controlling much of the first half, who are they going to beat? If they cannot beat Gradkowski, a player the former Rams regime released in favor of Brock Berlin, are they going to beat Donovan McNabb? Matt Hasselbeck? Shaun Hill?
Not playing the way they did at Oakland.
It's just tougher to take these Rams on faith after the first two weeks of this season. They're 0-2 against Derek Anderson and Gradkowski.
They led Anderson and the Arizona Cardinals 13-10 in the fourth quarter a week ago, but lost. They led the Raiders 7-3 at halftime Sunday, but lost. It's tough going from your own 6-yard-line to the other team's 5 without getting points, but the Rams pulled it off.
"This is just where we don't know yet how to put a game away," running back Steven Jackson said.
Jackson said he's seeing good things in practice during the week, but the Rams aren't carrying it over to the games.
Bradford knew he should have gotten rid of the football to avoid the sack. The Rams had scored a touchdown in a similar situation during preseason, tempting Bradford to wait for a receiver to break open across the back of the end zone. Live and learn.
"That's on me," Bradford said.
There's no sense of panic in the Rams' locker room. The players I spoke with sounded accountable. Years ago, Jackson probably would have made headlines with his mouth following a defeat as maddening as this one. He has matured and embraced more of a leadership role.
The Raiders began loading the box to stop the run after the Rams enjoyed early success, Jackson explained. OK, a reporter acknowledged, but isn't that where a team simply needs to find another way? The question tempted Jackson.
"I think -- how do I answer this?" he began. "I think if they take one thing away, that you have to find another way to make what was working work again. I don't know if that makes any sense."
It does. I'm not sure what else the Rams could have done to get the run game going. I charted their offensive personnel use during the game and noticed that Bradford completed all four pass attempts from the Rams' base offense -- all in the first half. The Rams also ran effectively from this personnel, especially early, but they ran only two snaps of it after halftime, in part because they fell behind. Injuries to tight ends Daniel Fells and Billy Bajema could have affected the Rams' options as well.
"If I knew exactly what happened, then hopefully it would not have happened," center Jason Brown offered.
Bradford showed remarkable poise despite taking some hard shots, including once when the Raiders high-lowed him on a third-and-8 play in the third quarter. Bradford did lead the offense on a three-play, 59-yard scoring drive after rookie cornerback Jerome Murphy picked off Gradkowski with 4:15 remaining in the game.
"We went into our 2-minute mode, hurry-up," Bradford said. "To go down there and score like that and give ourselves a chance to win the football game was nice, but it was just too little, too late."
Bradford began the drive with a 16-yard strike to Danny Amendola. Jackson then dropped a pass that would have gone for a loss, most likely. It was second-and-10 when Bradford threw accurately for Clayton near the right pylon. Officials ruled Clayton out of bounds initially, but guard Adam Goldberg protested vehemently, even touching the dirt where Clayton's feet had come down. Spagnuolo challenged the play and prevailed. The score was 16-14 with more than 3 minutes remaining.
If only the Rams had made that 36-yard field-goal try. If only officials hadn't flagged Ron Bartell and Oshiomogho Atogwe for personal fouls earlier in the second half (both penalties sustained Oakland scoring drives). If only veteran defensive tackle Fred Robbins hadn't unnecessarily shoved Gradkowski after a second-and-9 incomplete pass with 3:03 remaining, preventing the Rams from getting the ball back one last time.
If only, if only, if only.
"It's very frustrating and very upsetting," Jason Brown said of the 0-2 start. "We know we are right on the cusp. We know we are a good football team. There are just a couple more things that need to come together."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams' depth on the offensive line might be better than anticipated for a team with a 5-27 record over the past two seasons.
The team is carrying 10 offensive linemen, one more than typical, while John Greco recovers from wrist surgery.
An 11th, Phil Trautwein, landed on the Browns' active roster when Cleveland claimed him off waivers. A 12th, Roy Schuening, signed with the Raiders' practice squad. Another, tackle Renardo Foster, would seem to be a candidate for catching on somewhere eventually.
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 St. Louis.
Quarterback Brock Berlin signed to the Lions' practice squad after the Rams released him. Defensive lineman Ian Campbell briefly spent time on the Rams' practice squad before the team released him.
A few veterans -- running back Antonio Pittman, receiver Tim Carter, receiver Ronald Curry and special-teamer Todd Johnson -- remain available.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFL teams can begin forming eight-man practice squads once released players clear waivers this afternoon.
I've put together a list of recently released Rams players with eligibility for the practice squad. Each was released on the reduction to 53 players.
The decision to keep rookie quarterback Keith Null on the 53-man roster meant releasing Brock Berlin. Does that mean Berlin is finished with the Rams? It could, but the quarterback does remain eligible for the practice squad.
Running back Chris Ogbonnaya seems like a natural candidate. With a new coaching staff and relatively new front office, the Rams could be more likely to consider players from other rosters. Coach Steve Spagnuolo was with the Giants last season. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was with the Eagles. Defensive coordinator Ken Flajole was with the Panthers. Those ties could influence the Rams' thinking.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Biggest surprise: The Rams cut former special-teams captain Todd Johnson, a safety, and they also flushed out two veteran receivers they hoped would contribute, Ronald Curry and Tim Carter. Keeping rookie quarterback Keith Null over the more experienced Brock Berlin made sense because the Rams' top two quarterbacks, Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, have lots of seasoning. The biggest roster surprise came when the team traded 2006 first-round cornerback Tye Hill to the Falcons. Free-agent addition Quincy Butler stuck on the 53-man roster after a strong training camp and preseason. He looked better than Hill, frankly, and the Rams' new leadership wasn't afraid to part with symbols of past failures. Placing defensive tackle Adam Carriker on injured reserve cleared another spot.
No-brainers: The Rams also released linebacker K.C. Asiodu, defensive tackle Antwon Burton, tight end Eric Butler, defensive end Ian Campbell, linebacker Dominic Douglas, tackle Renardo Foster, fullback Jerome Johnson, center Tim Mattran, running back Chris Ogbonnaya, cornerback Cord Parks, running back Antonio Pittman, safety Mark Rubin, guard Roy Schuening, tackle Phil Trautwein and receiver Sean Walker.
What's next: The Rams still need to make one move by the 6 p.m. ET deadline for complying with the 53-man limit. With only four running backs on the roster, counting fullback Mike Karney, the team probably needs to seek help at the position. Backup Samkon Gado suffered injured ribs in the final exhibition game. The Rams lack quality depth and they are starting over. As a result, the team could pursue players released from other teams.
Update: The Rams placed defensive lineman Eric Moore on injured reserve to comply with the 53-man limit.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
While receiver Ronald Curry's brief run with the Rams could be in jeopardy, the Seahawks plan to keep their entire 2009 draft class and veteran receiver Deion Branch, whose status was not in serious jeopardy.
A few of the Rams' cuts are also trickling out. Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides this list: quarterback Brock Berlin, guard Roy Schuening, center Tim Mattran, offensive tackle Renardo Foster and fullback Jerome Johnson.
No surprises there. Keeping Berlin on the 53-man roster and signing Keith Null to the practice squad could have made sense, but with two experienced quarterbacks already on the roster, Null can become the developmental No. 3 passer without the team exposing him to waivers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Thoughts and observations from the Rams' exhibition game Thursday night against the Chiefs:
- Two tight. The Rams used two tight ends on eight of their first 10 offensive plays, pairing Randy McMichael and Daniel Fells. The personnel packages should even out if fullback Mike Karney and No. 1 receiver Donnie Avery return to full health. But without a deep stable of receivers, the Rams could use two tight ends quite a bit. McMichael, Fells and Billy Bajema played extensively.
- Protection issues. The Rams had problems protecting Kyle Boller early in the game. Left guard Jacob Bell, returning from a concussion, blocked no one when the Chiefs blitzed successfully early in the game. Tamba Hali beat right tackle Jason Smith around the corner on the next play. Protection issues will be critical when the Rams open the season with three of their first four games on the road and Marc Bulger returning from a broken finger.
- Carter fades. Veteran receiver Tim Carter didn't affirm the Rams' earlier optimism over his prospects. Carter failed to secure two passes when the Chiefs hit him hard. The Rams took a long look at him in the first half, when my unofficial count had Carter playing 24 snaps, tied with Bajema for most among the Rams' non-quarterbacks (Brock Berlin played 26).
- Avery should be ready. The Rams' No. 1 receiver played nine of the first 11 snaps, his first game action since suffering a broken bone in his left foot. That seems like a strong indication Avery will be ready to contribute in Week 1.
- Secondary pretty good. With Leonard Little sitting out, the Rams generated little pass rush early in the game. Their cornerbacks seemed to hold up well anyway. The Chiefs have significant problems on offense, so it might have been telling if the Rams' corners struggled.
- Jackson needed badly. Steven Jackson watched from the sideline as the Rams smartly protected him from suffering an injury in a game with little meaning for a Pro Bowl player. The Rams without Jackson aren't a pretty sight offensively, particularly with Bulger out and Avery limited. Backup running back Samkon Gado appears adequate in short relief. He's willing in pass protection, but potentially unreliable as a receiver. He also suffered injured ribs and did not return.
- One in the box. Defensive coordinator Ken Flajole moved from the sideline to the coaches' booth midway through the exhibition season. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur remains on the sideline. Coaches change vantage points for a variety of reasons. The chaotic sideline atmosphere isn't for everyone. Having Flajole upstairs and defensive-minded head coach Steve Spagnuolo on the sideline could create a balance.
We're down to one remaining NFC West exhibition game, with the 49ers closing out their preseason schedule against San Diego.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch liked what he saw from Rams rookie tackle Jason Smith. Burwell: "What I liked the most about what Smith did against the Chiefs was how quickly he learned from his mistakes. When he was over on the right side in the first quarter, the Chiefs stacked the linebacker and defensive end together and ran a looping stunt, with the end swooping around the blitzing linebacker to the inside. A few games ago, Smith had issues with these types of games that the defensive rushers played against the inexperienced rookie. Thursday night, it wasn't Smith who got fooled on the stunt. He stuffed his man at the line of scrimmage, but his tag-team partner, Adam Goldberg, reacted a hair late to the delayed inside rush."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says both teams were "offensively challenged" when the Rams and Chiefs played Thursday night. Thomas: "Bubble defensive ends Eric Moore and C.J. Ah You both had their moments rushing the passer. At running back, none of the backups made a definitive statement. In the battle for the No. 3 quarterback job, Brock Berlin got the better of it over Keith Null, although Berlin did throw a costly second-quarter interception and their final numbers Thursday ended up being very similar."
Also from Thomas: Donnie Avery got some work for the Rams, suggesting he'll be ready for the regular-season opener after recovering from a broken foot.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the race between quarterbacks Berlin and Null for the No. 3 job in St. Louis is too close to call.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat points to turnovers as a key for the Rams during the exhibition season. They forced 12 of them.
Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams' cornerbacks stood out against the Rams. Stull: "Jonathan Wade had sack, Justin King had an interception and Bradley Fletcher was in on several plays."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says some Cardinals players are concerned after the team failed to impress -- again -- in finishing the exhibition season with an 0-4 record. Also: "The Cardinals could well make most of their cuts on Friday, a day ahead of the deadline for teams to get to the 53-man maximum. After Thursday's game, I'd say cornerback Michael Adams is going to stick. He's competitive and plays well on special teams. I don't like the chances of tight end Leonard Pope or receiver Lance Long. Pope was the last tight end used on Thursday, I believe. I think the Cardinals will take their chances at releasing Long and re-signing him to the practice squad."
Also from Somers: The Cardinals' first-team offense scored one touchdown during the exhibition season.
More from Somers: Coach Ken Whisenhunt says the Cardinals' rookie defensive backs have a ways to go before they're ready. I thought Greg Toler showed promise.
Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com liked what he saw from the Rams' Victor Adeyanju. Klutsarits: "Adeyanju was all over the field against the Chiefs and while his production is going to be mostly against the run it looks like he might be a contributor rushing the quarterback this year as well."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers rookie Michael Crabtree wouldn't be able to contribute much in Week 1 even if he signed in the near future. Maiocco: "The 49ers have just three more significant practices before the start of the regular season. That's not a lot of time for a rookie wide receiver to get up to speed on what he missed while absent from training camp."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee makes the tough calls in projecting the 49ers' initial 53-man roster. He keeps Micheal Spurlock over Jason Hill and Bear Pascoe over J.J. Finley.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says cornerback Eric Green and others are fighting for roster spots with the 49ers.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com recaps the Seahawks' performance against Oakland.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Seahawks coach Jim Mora as saying Ben Obomanu "showed up" on special teams against the Raiders. Obomanu also caught two passes for 58 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown grab.
Also from O'Neil: Olindo Mare might have won the kicking battle against Brandon Coutu. Also, Max Unger will open the regular season at right guard.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says Seahawks rookie Aaron Curry was on his game Thursday night.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune lists Seahawks injuries this way: "Receivers Jordan Kent (ankle) and Courtney Taylor (eye), safety Courtney Greene (knee), tackle Andre Ramsey (leg) and defensive end Derek Walker (hamstring) suffered injuries during the game."
John Morgan of Field Gulls credits Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn for developing and using young talent.
Thoughts and observations from the Rams' exhibition game against the Bengals on Thursday night:
- Defense capitalizes. The Rams appeared much more active and alert defensively than they did last week. Rookie James Laurinaitis pounced on an unforced fumble early in the game. Chris Long or Jonathan Wade probably would have recovered if Laurinaitis had not. Later, Laurinaitis made Bengals guard Nate Livings whiff badly as the rookie swarmed toward running back Cedric Benson. Ball-hawking safety Oshiomogho Atogwe forced a fumble, setting up James Butler's touchdown return. Butler later missed badly in run support, letting Benson get into the secondary. James Hall pressured effectively up the middle. Victor Adeyanju and C.J. Ah You seemed to play well.
- Asterisk duly noted. Former 49ers starter J.T. O'Sullivan was in the lineup at quarterback for the Bengals. Carson Palmer did not play.
- Mixed reviews at receiver. Laurent Robinson continued to show he can be effective on quick slants, a staple of the West Coast offense. Robinson also had a rough start. He dropped the ball on third down to kill the Rams' first drive. His illegal block also negated a first-down conversion on a running play. Keenan Burton worked underneath to catch a short pass. The Rams used a dink-and-dunk approach to the passing game. There weren't many chances to make plays downfield.
- Horrible special teams. The Bengals' return specialists found far too much room to run, gaining 104 yards on four punt returns. The Rams even had trouble executing an extra point, with Richie Incognito committing a false-start penalty on one of them. That was one of four special-teams penalties against the Rams. Josh Brown, a very good long-range kicker, missed from 50 and 51 yards. Quincy Butler fumbled after fielding a punt.
- Butler steps up on 'D'. The cornerback continues to make a push for a roster spot. He made a tackle for loss in the flat, then picked off a Jordan Palmer pass on the next play. Butler turned his head early in the route while covering Chris Henry, allowing him to play the ball. Butler was one of the lesser-known players who stood out when I visited Rams training camp. He did fumble after fielding a punt, but that was the least of the Rams' worries on special teams.
- Jason Brown sighting. Watching free-agent addition Jason Brown isn't particularly exciting. He's not a nimble, active center making plays in the run game 10 or 15 yards downfield. What Brown does seem to do is prevent immediate trouble up the middle. That is my initial impression of him and that is an improvement for the Rams.
- Jason Smith update. The rookie tackle played both sides for the Rams. I didn't notice him as much this week and that's probably a good thing. Smith did not seem to miss badly on blocks. He plays to the whistle, seeks out defenders late in plays and helps up teammates. He remains a work in progress, but he clearly wants it.
I've watched the first three-plus quarters of this game. The Rams finally did throw deep, with Brock Berlin looking unsuccessfully for Tim Carter along the left sideline. Smith tied up his man and didn't let him get to the quarterback.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch outlines five things to watch when the Rams face the Bengals. Thomas: "A disturbing trend from the Scott Linehan era has carried over so far into the Steve Spagnuolo regime -- namely, a lack of preseason TDs by the first-team offense. Granted, four starters were missing last week against Atlanta, and three will be out tonight, but it's time for QB Kyle Boller and the starters to find the end zone."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with backup Rams quarterback Brock Berlin, who is battling rookie Keith Null for a roster spot. The conclusion: "Null might have an edge because he was brought in by the current regime. Berlin, whose only other regular-season passes [three] came off the bench last season against Chicago, is a holdover from the Scott Linehan era. But Berlin, 28, isn't making it easy on Null. He completed 5 of 8 passes for 71 yards and a 130.7 passer rating last Friday against Atlanta. He accounted for the Rams' only touchdown on a 20-yard pass to Derek Stanley in the third quarter."
Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com singles out five things to watch when the Rams face the Bengals in their next exhibition game. Better run defense tops the list.
49ers linebacker Manny Lawson singles out strong safety Michael Lewis as the crankiest player in training camp.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill as downplaying his back injury. Crumpacker: "Hill said his back problem is not related to the fractured transverse process he had in his spine at the end of the 2007 season." Also, Michael Crabtree has missed 37 practices.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers should learn plenty more about rookie quarterback Nate Davis in the coming week.
Also from Maiocco: a few more thoughts on Crabtree. Maiocco: "The deal the 49ers are offering is in the neighborhood of five years, $20 million base, $26.5 million maximum, with $16 million guaranteed. Crabtree and his agent, Eugene Parker, know the 49ers offer, and the 49ers are not willing to move from a deal commensurate with the No. 10 slot."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers struggled on offense without Hill or Alex Smith. Coach Mike Singletary even stopped the session to challenge the offense.
Also from Barrows: more details on just how poorly 49ers practice began. Barrows: "As you might have assumed from the earlier post day, this morning's wasn't the greatest. practice. ever for the 49ers. When the 49ers assembled for their first team drill session, Shaun Hill dropped back, fired a pass to Isaac Bruce that was nearly picked off by Manny Lawson and was done for the day. Damon Huard stepped in on the next play and his pass to J.J. Finely was intercepted by Patrick Willis."
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News senses trouble ahead for the 49ers at quarterback. Kawakami: "The 49ers QB situation was sketchy all through camp, now it's injury-affected and sketchy, and in a few weeks it could be sketchy and headed to an emergency search for a long-term replacement."
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Davis finished 49ers practice on a high note. Brown: "On his first snap, the rookie out of Ball State hit tight end Delanie Walker in stride for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Walker got past safety Reggie Smith on a deep route over the middle."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Jerheme Urban could start opposite Larry Fitzgerald in the Cardinals' next exhibition game after Anquan Boldin suffered a hamstring injury. Steve Breaston is already resting a knee injury, though he participated in individual drills Wednesday.
Also from Somers: The Cardinals plan to place Elliot Vallejo on injured reserve once he clears waivers. They think the offensive lineman has potential.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic examines the competitive and adversarial nature of practices pitting offense against defense. Linebacker Karlos Dansby: "Oh, it's true. I am hating them right now. ... They give us a ton of different looks and they try to learn all our techniques, which is making it tough on us. We get along, but damn!"
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says the battle between Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells is easily the most intriguing in Cardinals camp. Hightower: "Growing up as a kid, I studied Walter Payton so much. The way he ran back kicks, the way he was fighting for extra yards. Whatever they needed him to do, he did. That's the kind of guy I want to be. A playmaker who they don't want to take off the field."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com wonders if the Seahawks signed Edgerrin James over, say, Warrick Dunn in part because James knows so much about the Cardinals. I do not think Dunn would be more than a situational player at this stage. James has the ability to carry more of the load if needed. I think that was the deciding factor in getting a deal done.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals are stressing accountability on defense, with an emphasis on the little things that have led to big problems.
More from Urban: Injuries at receiver open opportunities for others. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "We'll get a chance to see Jerheme Urban in a starting role, we get to see Lance Long against some [starters], Early Doucet, Sean Morey. It will be a good chance to get work against a good defense and their No. 1 unit."
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 lists five things to watch from the Cardinals in their next exhibition game. Will Wells play?
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks dismissed suggestions Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones might be headed for retirement. Jones likely had some doubts when his knee wasn't responding well early in camp. His outlook is positive following arthroscopic surgery to correct the problem.
Also from Johns: Seahawks coach Jim Mora says the team will be fine in short-yardage situations even after releasing T.J. Duckett. Mora: "Edge and Julius [Jones] and [Justin] Forsett and our passing game, we'll get it done. It's not always about having a big hammer. It's also about having a guy that kind find the crease."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says James is moving past a difficult offseason. Boling: "Andia Denise Wilson, the mother of his four children – ages 11, 7, 4 and 2 – was fighting leukemia, and James needed the time with his family. James and Wilson had known each other since junior high school, and were called 'high-school sweethearts.' Shortly after her death in April, James was waived by the Arizona
Cardinals." Said James: "Football wasn’t something I was concerned with. With what went on this offseason, I just didn’t want to blow it as a parent; I wanted to make sure I had all that under control.”
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers highlights from Seahawks practice Wednesday, including information on James' addition, Jones' status and more.
John Morgan of Field Gulls thinks the Seahawks would be mistaken if they tried to replicate the Tampa 2 defense without having the personnel to run it the way the Bucs did when they were most successful. Here is what defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said when I asked him what we'll see from this defense during the regular season: "I think people will think right away when they watch us and they know about me and some of the coaches I was with, 'Oh, you know what, they are doing Tampa system.' And there is probably a lot of similarities as well as some other NFL teams have some similarities. But we have added some things, too. Maybe some things they have done in the past here and tried to break away a little bit from it. I think what differentiates it is the details of the package. The accountability, details and the coaching is what separates it." We'll see what that means.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo updated injuries Saturday, less than 24 hours after the team's exhibition game against the Falcons:
- Receiver Donnie Avery remains sidelined by his foot injury, as expected.
- Guard Jacob Bell (concussion) will do some running early in the week. Bell's symptoms have not cleared. The team will test him against neurological baselines once remaining symptoms clear.
- Quarterback Marc Bulger remains sidelined by his broken pinky finger, as expected.
- Receiver Tim Carter (groin) will do some running this coming week. His status for the next game is questionable.
- Rookie receiver Brooks Foster underwent knee surgery Friday and will miss 6-8 weeks.
- Tackle Phil Trautwein is day-to-day after suffering a back injury against the Falcons.
- Tackle Alex Barron is day-to-day while dealing with knee swelling.
- Defensive tackle Adam Carriker (ankle) probably will miss the next game.
- Running back Kenneth Darby should not miss much time, if any, after injuring his knee against the Falcons.
- Defensive end James Hall did not suffer significant damage to his sternum, an X-ray showed, but he'll be in pain.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
More Rams players are eligible for the practice squad this summer after the team parted with a long list of aging veterans this offseason.
The chart shows all 33 current Rams players with eligibility, arranged by position. The team had 24 players eligible when I produced a similar list nearly one year ago.
The lists come in handy when analyzing battles for the final few roster spots. I've added loose status descriptions for eligible players based on my general expectations.
To review: NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.
The league explains the process this way:
"After 12 noon, New York time, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons."
The Rams have only one running back, seventh-round choice Chris Ogbonnaya, with practice-squad eligibility. Eight other NFC West running backs have eligibility.
I'll break out corresponding lists for the rest of the division, answering a frequently posed question that follows a familiar format: "Is so-and-so eligible for the practice squad?"
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams' roster requires additional study after a thorough house-cleaning this offseason. With so many new faces, I feel less familiar with the Rams than with the other teams in the division. This initial look at the roster will hopefully help bring some focus.
Donnie Avery's injury and overall health concerns at receiver could influence how many players the Rams carry into the season at the position.
Marc Bulger's broken pinky shouldn't affect the roster as long as he recovers on schedule. Teams must reduce to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 players by Sept. 5. Those initial 53-man rosters sometimes change by Week 1 kickoffs. For that reason, I've been focusing on Week 1 rosters when setting baseline expectations for each position.
he chart provides a framework for how many players the Rams might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Seahawks.
Here's a quick look at which Rams players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune saw good things from Seahawks offensive lineman Max Unger against the Chargers. Boling: "First-round pick Aaron Curry, who missed eight days of training camp while holding out, showed that he's not entirely up to speed with his responsibilities when he got lost in coverage on a crossing route in the first period. Second-round pick Max Unger had a much more impressive outing. At right guard in the first half, Unger looked solid enough for a first appearance in both run and pass situations. He seemed to know where to go and was able to get the job done once he got there."
John Morgan of Field Gulls singles out winners and losers from the Seahawks' exhibition opener. That would be Nick Reed among the winners.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers notes and observations from the Seahawks' first exhibition game. Williams: "The pass defense is still in a work in progress. The Seahawks finished last in the league in pass defense last season, and gave up a league-leading 59 plays of 20-yards or more. That disturbing trend continued on Saturday, with the Seahawks giving up four plays of 20-yards or more through the air. Cornerback Kevin Hobbs was twice victimized, and Kelly Jennings also was beat deep, although he did manage an interception."
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com says Matt Hasselbeck's scramble against the Chargers suggests the quarterback has moved past a back injury.
Doug Farrar of Scout.com sees significant changes to the Seahawks' offensive and defensive schemes under new coach Jim Mora.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times profiles Curry, exploring the linebacker's sensitive side.
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts offers first-half notes from the Seahawks' opener. Cole: "The defensive line, especially the first unit, has looked quite good. I was most impressed by Colin Cole, who I did not expect a whole lot from him."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers coach Mike Singletary singled out right tackle Adam Snyder for playing well against the Broncos. Singletary also liked what he saw from rookie running back Glen Coffee. Singletary: "I'm really excited about what I saw of him. He's really a tough guy. I thought he did a decent job in pass protection. Glen is going to be a good addition to our team."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary lauded Shaun Hill's game management. Singletary: "He's great at managing the game. You know he can manage a game, but he can also throw the ball downfield. ... How consistent, and on what basis? That's something we still have to look at, but we pretty much know what's there."Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers running back Thomas Clayton suffered "major" ligament damage in his knee against the Broncos. Singletary withheld a formal announcement pending MRI results.
Also from Maiocco: The following players "showed nothing" against the Broncos: "Manny Lawson, Marques Harris, Kentwan Balmer, Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin, Demetric Evans, Pannel Egboh, Ricky Jean-Francois."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says results from Steve Breaston's MRI remained a mystery. Also from Somers: "QB Brian St. Pierre didn't play well, obviously, but he didn't have much help, as coach Ken Whisenhunt noted. Oliver Ross moved from right tackle to left because of the injury to Elliot Vallejo. Ross was beaten a time or two. There appeared to be some miscommunication in protection on other occasions."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers notes from the Cardinals-Steelers game. Urban: "You've got to love the potential as a return guy of Michael Ray Garvin, but it just seems like he's a long shot given his limited abilities beyond the return game (unless he can become a gunner on punt coverage). He seems like more of a practice-squad candidate, although if he sparkles the rest of the preseason, maybe he'll sneak in. We'll see if Antrel Rolle keeps getting a try as a punt returner; he just doesn't look as comfortable as I would have thought."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Samkon Gado's stock with the Rams is rising after his 77-yard touchdown run against the Jets. Thomas: "[Steven] Jackson took note of the fact Gado's big run came after spending most of the first half playing fullback in place of Mike Karney, who dressed but didn't play because of an ankle injury."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates Rams injuries. Coats: "Quarterback Brock Berlin and guard Jacob Bell will be day-to-day this week after being knocked out of the game with injuries. Spagnuolo reported that Berlin suffered a sprained knee and Bell a mild concussion. Also, MRI exams were scheduled for wide receivers Tim Carter (groin) and Brooks Foster (ankle). Defensive end Adam Carriker (ankle) will be out again this week."
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo pointed to pass protection as one of the areas needing improvement.
Turf Show Times' CoachConnors sees room for improvement from Rams cornerback Justin King.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Keith Null was ready when the Rams needed him. The rookie quarterback completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sean Walker shortly after the Jets knocked Brock Berlin from the exhibition opener at Giants Stadium.
Rookie Chris Ogbonnaya ran well on the drive. Ogbonnaya also picked up the blitz to help give Null the time he needed to find Walker in the end zone.
No word yet on Berlin's injury status. This was a great opportunity for Null and better for him that he was ready.