NFC West: Bruce Davis

Joey Porter played his final game for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2006 season. Clark Haggans was gone from the team a year later.

The veteran outside linebackers, now 34 years old, are scheduled to start for Arizona against their former team Sunday, a reflection of how the teams have drafted for defense recently.

In 2007, the year coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm left Pittsburgh's staff for the Cardinals, the Steelers drafted mainstay linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. Much of the Steelers' defense is aging, but Timmons and Woodley are ascending young players approaching their primes. Woodley represents the type of outside linebacker the Cardinals have coveted, but have yet to land.

Arizona takes criticism for drafting tackle Levi Brown over running back Adrian Peterson in 2007, but decisions made in addressing the defense stand out with Timmons and Woodley coming to town. That was the year Arizona used a second-round choice for defensive lineman Alan Branch, now reborn in Seattle after falling short of expectations in Arizona. The Cardinals used their third-round pick in 2007 on linebacker Buster Davis, who was cut as a rookie.

The Cardinals bounced back in 2008 by drafting defensive end Calais Campbell in the second round. Two other early defensive choices that year -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Arizona and Bruce Davis for Pittsburgh -- have changed teams. Rodgers-Cromartie went to a Pro Bowl with the Cardinals before the team traded him to Philadelphia. Davis, a third-round choice, was released after one season.

In 2009, the Steelers landed defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, who has played more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps this season. Arizona drafted Cody Brown, a second-round choice who never contributed, before selecting defensive backs Rashad Johnson (starting for the injured Kerry Rhodes) and Greg Toler (incumbent starter now on injured reserve).

The Cardinals have initially fared better than the Steelers in drafting for defense in 2010. They got nose tackle Dan Williams, ascending inside linebacker Daryl Washington and pass-rushing project O'Brien Schofield. The Steelers drafted linebacker Jason Worilds, who has made a positive contribution on special teams without factoring into the defense yet.

The chart shows defensive players the teams drafted in the first three rounds from 2007-09.

.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals need to resolve their quarterback situation in a positive way if they expect to re-sign Larry Fitzgerald. Somers: "In 2008, Fitzgerald signed a five-year contract that voided to four provided Fitzgerald met minimal performance standards. He's done that, meaning his contract, which averages $10 million a year, will expire after the 2011 season. To avoid reaching that point, the Cardinals are expected to discuss a new contract with Fitzgerald no later than this spring, although a lockout could change the timeline." Fitzgerald had the Cardinals in a tough spot when he signed his current deal. That will be the case again.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with former Cardinals coach Joe Bugel, who lives in the Phoenix area and recently participated in Russ Grimm's Hall of Fame induction.

Also from McManaman: a conversation with Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein, who has this to say about what he enjoys during the offseason: "If my body's feeling all right, I like to play some golf. But a lot of times, my hands, my back and my head hurts. The wife and I sometimes go out to see a movie. But I don't do a whole lot; I guess that's the point. I'm kind of mindless at times."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says playing well is the best kind of "leadership" during the NFL season.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Russell Okung made his first NFL start without many practice reps. Okung's second NFL start will be tougher, most likely, because Julius Peppers will be lining up against him.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' latest trade, for Marshawn Lynch, shows the front office never rests and isn't content waiting until next season. Kelley: "They've turned the locker room at VMAC into a pigskin version of Ellis Island, with new players coming in almost daily from all over the NFL. The turnover has been unprecedented. To that point, on Tuesday, they pulled the deal of the season. They got something the Seahawks have been seeking since forever."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seattle is one of four teams without a 1,000-yard rusher in any of the last four seasons. Buffalo has had three during that time (Lynch twice, Fred Jackson once).

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams see no reason they cannot contend within the NFC West. Guard Adam Goldberg, speaking immediately following the team's 20-3 victory Sunday: "I am ready for next Sunday. This winning's addictive and you want to get to the next one."

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript noting that Larry Grant has played OK for the Rams lately.

More from Thomas: The Rams brought in cornerback Quincy Butler for a tryout. Kevin Dockery is injured.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers an appreciation for Steven Jackson. Miklasz: "He's become a tremendous leader under head coach Steve Spagnuolo. Jax has been a positive influence in his vocal leadership, and in his actions. Though last year's 1-15 record -- and a back injury -- probably had Jackson screaming inside, he never wavered from his commitment to be a forward-thinking Ram who could see daylight ahead. Jackson trained very hard. He's taken care of himself. He's put in extra time. Tuesday morning, on a day off, Jackson was at Rams Park, studying video of Sunday's opponent, Detroit."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers president Jed York has incentive to give Mike Singletary every chance for success given that York's first major move in the role was to hire the former linebacker as head coach. The 49ers aren't really in position to hand the job to anyone else during the season. Greg Manusky could take over, but giving him the top job would weaken the 49ers at defensive coordinator.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee details a few moves the 49ers made around the fringes of their roster. The Raiders signed Bruce Davis off the 49ers' practice squad.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle passes along this quote from Singletary: "It's not like we're puzzled over here, throwing our hands up, saying, 'What the heck do we need to do win?' It's on the wall, it's on the film. We can see it."

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Nate Clements answered reporters' questions about his fateful interception return for the first time. Clements: "It was instinct; it was happening fast. I caught the ball, and I didn't see anybody but the quarterback, and I had three blockers."

NFC West practice squad eligibility

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
10:56
AM ET
NFL teams can begin signing eight or fewer players to their practice squads once the players clear waivers Sunday.

Players on practice squads earn $5,200 per week for the 2010 season. The collective bargaining agreement sets the following parameters for eligibility:
  • Players without an accrued season of NFL experience;
  • Free-agent players who were on the 45-man active list for fewer than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season;
  • Players who have not served more than two previous seasons on a practice squad.

According to the CBA, "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."

What about bye weeks? More CBA: "A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular-season or postseason weekend in question."

The first chart shows eligible players released by the Arizona Cardinals. Chris Johnson, Alfonso Smith and Mark Washington were waived/injured. Dean Muhtadi was released from injured reserve.


The second chart shows eligible players released by the Rams.


The third chart shows eligible players released by the 49ers (Brandon Long was released with an injury settlement).


The fourth chart shows eligible players released by the Seahawks (Jonathan Lewis was released with an injury settlement).

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says former 49ers quarterback Steve Young has harsh words for current starter Alex Smith. Young on KNBR radio: "I think Alex is a competent quarterback. I think Alex understands the game, and I'm telling you there's a reaction -- similar to Matt Leinart. He can't get out of third gear. He throws the nice ball, he can drop back. But when things get fast -- fast, fast -- you can tell, he just can't quite keep up. You really can't win jobs when you can't keep up." The question for the 49ers is whether they can win games -- enough games to qualify for postseason -- with a competent quarterback. The next question becomes to what degree the 49ers will want to upgrade once Smith's contract runs out following the 2010 season.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com checks in with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, who says he loves Michael Crabtree "like a brother" and their Wednesday dustup was a case of Davis merely keeping the second-year pro in check after some of Crabtree's unspecified antics got under his skin over time. Also, Nate Davis' job security is far from assured.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers gave their first-team defense one final test run before the regular season.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Bruce Davis and Tramaine Brock made positive impressions in the 49ers' final exhibition game.

Also from Barrows: a look at which 49ers players are eligible for the practice squad.

More from Barrows: an unidentified 49ers player says the team has no beefs with Crabtree.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News offers a transcript from his interview with former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan. McCloughan on the 49ers team he largely assembled: "It’s a talented squad. I know in Seattle, we’re going to have our hands full playing them twice a year. It’ll be interesting with Alex, last year of his deal, I think he’s primed to have a breakout year. With the talent he has around him, it should happen. On the defense, as you’re well aware, the last two years they’ve been really solid. It hasn’t changed at all, the personality of the defense … they’re going to be a tough foe, there’s no doubt."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com singles out Deon Butler as the Seahawks' most impressive player Thursday night. For at least the second time, coach Pete Carroll calls Butler the most improved player on the team this offseason.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times noticed that Quinton Ganther started at fullback ahead of Owen Schmitt. I've questioned whether the Seahawks would have a spot for a true fullback without high value as a special-teams player or as a runner (or even as a true fullback, in this case).

Also from O'Neil: T.J. Houshmandzadeh indirectly confirms that the Seahawks have put him on the trading block. Houshmandzadeh: "It doesn't bother me. I knew before y'all knew. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't." Good luck unloading that $7 million guaranteed salary.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Houshmandzadeh appeared unhappy about the trade rumors. Houshmandzadeh: "If I leave here, that means I’m not wanted. Everybody wants to feel wanted. It’s doesn’t matter, but it’s like, 'Wow.' But that’s just how it goes. I’ve never been in a situation like this. I’ve never been a guy that wasn’t wanted. I was always wanted. So we’ll see."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have big decisions to make at quarterback. Somers: "(Matt) Leinart played two series, then was replaced by rookie Max Hall, who continued to show why he might be the team's quarterback of the not-so-distant future. (Ken) Whisenhunt acknowledged he has a tough decision to make at quarterback. Do the Cardinals keep Leinart if they can't trade him? Or do they release Leinart and go with Hall and fellow rookie John Skelton as the backups?"

Also from Somers: a 53-man roster projection that includes Herman Johnson and Cody Brown, but not Leinart or Reggie Wells.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Kurt Warner can relate to what Leinart is going through. Warner: "The one thing I hope Matt takes from my situation, if we talk through this, is that, 'Hey, it happened to me, and it happened more than once.' The only thing I knew how to do was to fight, prepare and work. And every time, I came out on top."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com passes along comments from Whisenhunt that painted a contrast between Hall and Leinart. Whisenhunt on Hall: "You have to understand this was preseason, and they weren’t doing a lot defensively. Sometimes you get a little too excited about those situations. But I like the way he handled himself and I like the way he handled our team."

Also from Urban: a closer look at Hall's performance.

More from Urban: LaRod Stephens-Howling is battling another concussion.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Sam Bradford is making this NFL stuff look easy, at least in preseason. Said Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome: "It looks like you guys have found yourselves a quarterback." Burwell: "I know it's early. I know he did this Thursday night against a Ravens defense that was loaded with second-teamers. I know that there is no way this kid will continue to look this darned good once the games start to count. Once the games start counting, a lot of things change. The intensity of the game will rise and the opposing defenses will be throwing things at him he's never seen before. I know, I know, I know, I know. But geez, every time I see him play, I can't help but think that he sure is making it look awfully easy."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Rams players on the roster bubble.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger did not always play well, but he did care.

Also from Thomas: Bradford looked very good, albeit against the Ravens' second-team defense in a game that meant nothing in the standings.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says it seems like "a foregone conclusion" that Bradford will be named the Rams' starting quarterback for Week 1.
Thirty of 32 first-round choices from the 2008 NFL draft remain with their current teams.

The exceptions: Lawrence Jackson, selected 28th overall by the Seattle Seahawks, and Kentwan Balmer, chosen one pick later by the San Francisco 49ers.

And with Glen Coffee retiring from the 49ers, San Francisco joined the New England Patriots as the only NFL teams to have parted with more than one player drafted among the first three rounds over the past two seasons.

That makes it easier to waive the usual disclaimers about waiting three or four years before assessing draft classes. We already know the 49ers and Seahawks will never realize a return on their 2008 first-round investments.

The first chart lists the nine draft choices from 2008 or 2009 who are no longer with their original teams (Brad Cottam, a third-round choice of the Kansas City Chiefs, landed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list after clearing waivers).


The second chart shows how many 2008 and 2009 draft choices selected in the first three rounds are no longer with their original teams.

ESPN.com's Training Camp Chatter provides a forum for all-out discussion on all things NFL. I've been dropping by daily, as have the other divisional bloggers and various others, and that will continue through camps.

Here a transcript of our NFC West-related exchanges from Monday, as moderated by editor Emily Schaible:
Mike Sando: Greeting from NFC West land.

Emily Schaible: Welcome, Sando!

Brad: Who is getting the most first-team reps at running back for the Seahawks?

Mike Sando: Justin Forsett.

Jack: So, now that San Francisco is on the rise and Denver is all injured or traded away, which division is worse, the AFC West or the NFC West?

Emily Schaible: There were claims earlier that the Redskins could win the NFC West.

Mike Sando: The NFC West had by far the fewest non-division victories last season. Take away Kurt Warner, give Jason Campbell to Oakland and the burden of proof lies with the NFC West.

Tre: The 49ers just completed an injury-riddled practice this morning, so let's not put the cart before the horse.

Eric: Hi Mike, so which camp so far looks the most focused for the season?

Mike Sando: I have not yet been to see the Rams, but the Cardinals have an edge about them, no doubt. They relish proving doubters wrong.

Tre: Sando, what are (Anthony) Davis and (Mike) Iupati's margin of error now that they are the starters "for now" according to Singletary? How much growing pains is the team willing to endure?

Mike Sando: There's no looking back because the 49ers do not have great alternatives.

Brad: Who is expected to be the No. 2 receiver in Arizona now that Anquan Boldin is gone?

Mike Sando: Steve Breaston is 2, Early Doucet 3.

Tre: Sando, which OLB's might be available cheap for the 49ers considering three of their OLB's are currently not practicing?

Mike Sando: Bad options such as Adalius Thomas. It is still early.

Ryan: Sando, who can cover Vernon Davis? Seems like he will be the focus of opposing defensive coordinators. Raider fan here seeing if Michael Huff can get the job done.

Mike Sando: No one can consistently match up against Vernon Davis' combination of size and speed. It would take a great effort from a physical safety.

Will: How is the Cardinals offense looking in training camp? Do you think Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower will be as productive this year as last year with Warner and Boldin in the offense?

Mike Sando: Beanie Wells should be more productive. He is a new man physically. Remember, he could not practice last offseason til mid-June and he got hurt the first day if camp. He has been in their program all offseason this year.

Jack: How did Charlie Whitehurst look in the scrimmage yesterday?

Mike Sando: Whitehurst looked OK. He is not really pushing Matt Hasselbeck, though. And I think he appears a little slender. Would not want to see him scramble into, say, Darnell Dockett or Patrick Willis.

Steve: Is Mike Singletary going to to implement a "Marty Ball" offense like Rex Ryan did last year?

Mike Sando: The 49ers are going to run it a lot with Frank Gore. It depends some on how much their run blocking improves. They do have weapons in the passing game.

Emily Schaible: How many more questions can you take, Sando?

Mike Sando: Let's do two more.

Wil: How did the Cardinals' offensive line look?

Mike Sando: Good depth. I wonder what Alan Faneca has left, but they have good options at guard. Brandon Keith looks good at RT.

Jonathon: Will the Seahawks be better than they are given credit for? They have a good enough team to surprise some people?

Mike Sando: I think Seattle will improve by a couple games. The LT situation was horrible in 2009. The depth behind Hasselbeck could be better too.

Mike Sando: Thanks!

Emily Schaible: Thanks Sando!

Sorry, Rams fans, but there apparently were not Rams-related questions or comments during my session.

Note: The 49ers subsequently agreed to terms with outside linebacker Bruce Davis, formerly of the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.

SPONSORED HEADLINES