NFC West: Chris Ogbonnaya

Aaron Curry's recent signing with the New York Giants invites a look back at the 2009 NFC West draft class, painful as it might be in some cases.

Four of the 29 players NFC West teams selected in that draft remain with their original teams: Michael Crabtree in San Francisco, James Laurinaitis in St. Louis, Max Unger in Seattle and Rashad Johnson in Arizona.

Unger is the only one of the 29 to earn Pro Bowl honors. Unger and Laurinaitis are the only ones to receive long-term contract extensions from their original teams.

NFC West teams have fired the head coaches and general managers associated with those 2009 selections.

Reasons for those firings went far beyond the 2009 draft, of course. Still, the massive turnover since that draft reflects poorly on what was, by most accounts, a weak class across the league. It also shows how frequently personnel turns over in the NFL. The league has 21 new head coaches and 19 new general managers since the 2009 season concluded.

Curry was widely considered the "safest" choice in that 2009 draft as a fearsome linebacker from Wake Forest. Seattle would trade him to Oakland for seventh- and fifth-round picks before Curry had finished his third season.

Jason Smith, chosen second overall by St. Louis in 2009, supposedly had a mean streak and was a natural leader. The Rams would trade him to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter after three disappointing seasons.

Beanie Wells came to the Cardinals in the first round of that 2009 draft pretty much as advertised: highly talented, but not very durable. The Cardinals released him this offseason, and Wells remains unsigned amid questions about his knee.

2009 was also the year Arizona sought to upgrade its pass-rush by selecting Cody Brown in the second round. The 49ers tried to improve their depth at running back by using a third-round choice for Glen Coffee. Brown would never play in an NFL game. Coffee would retire after one season.

The chart shows how many regular-season NFL starts each 2009 NFC West draft choice has made, regardless of team.

So much for coaching up Jason Smith

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
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The St. Louis Rams hoped new coaching could turn around Jason Smith's career.

That didn't last long.

Smith, the tackle St. Louis selected second overall in 2009, is headed to the New York Jets for veteran tackle Wayne Hunter. This amounts to the Rams cutting their losses and getting something in return while they could.

Smith, like Hunter, was recently benched by his team. But with former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer holding the same job in St. Louis, the Rams know what they're getting in return, at least. Hunter, 31, started all 16 games for the Jets last season. He started five games previously since entering the NFL with Seattle in 2003.

Smith, 26, has 26 starts in three seasons. Injuries have slowed him, but Smith hasn't played well consistently even when healthy. According to coaches, Smith can be overly aggressive at the expense of technique, particularly in pass protection. The Rams' new line coach, Paul T. Boudreau, showed clips featuring retired Rams great Orlando Pace in an effort to illustrate the value of patience in sound line play.

The Rams replaced Smith in the lineup with Barry Richardson during camp.

Smith's trade for relatively little in return marks the latest early first-round failure from a weak 2009 class.

That draft has defied convention for NFC West teams in particular.

San Francisco fared better using a first-round pick for Michael Crabtree, a receiver, than the Rams and Seahawks fared selecting players at seemingly safer positions. Arizona fared better than the Rams and Seahawks by using the 31st overall choice for running back Beanie Wells.

Linebacker Aaron Curry, chosen fourth overall by Seattle, was supposedly the "safest" player in the 2009 draft. The Seahawks traded him to Oakland and ate much of his salary to facilitate the deal.

While some had doubts about Smith's worthiness as the second overall choice, offensive linemen drafted early tend to start for years even if they fail to meet expectations. Robert Gallery comes to mind. Smith still might follow a similar path, but there's little evidence to suggest he will.

James Laurinaitis, Bradley Fletcher and Darell Scott remain from the Rams' 2009 class. The team previously parted with fifth-rounder Brooks Foster, sixth-rounder Keith Null and seventh-rounder Chris Ogbonnaya.

2011 Rams Week 10: Five observations

November, 19, 2011
11/19/11
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Five things I noticed while watching the St. Louis Rams' most recent game, a 13-12 road victory over the Cleveland Browns:
  • The Rams' one playmaker at wideout. Brandon Lloyd's addition gives the Rams a receiver good enough to beat man coverage, even in compressed areas. Lloyd beat the Browns' Joe Haden for a 7-yard touchdown on a third-and-3. This was a passing situation, but the Rams tightened their formation and made Lloyd the only viable receiver. He was the only one they needed and the only one on the team able to make such a play regularly.
  • Sacks aren't everything. Chris Long has five sacks in the Rams' last three games, leaving him one sack away from setting a career single-season high with nine. His run defense caught my attention in the second quarter. Long beat right tackle Tony Pashos to the inside and had a clear path to stop running back Chris Ogbonnaya. Pashos grabbed Long around the neck and held him. Long carried the 326-pound Pashos a few steps and made the tackle anyway.
  • Inexcusable coverage lapse. The Rams led 10-6 with 23 second left in the half when they allowed a 52-yard reception to Greg Little down the middle of the field. The Rams rushed four. The Browns kept six players in for protection. A seventh, Ogbonnays, released parallel to the line of scrimmage. The Rams should have had six defenders against three vertical receivers. How can this happen? We might expect more errors such as this one given all the injuries at cornerback for St. Louis.
  • Phil Taylor gave Rams' guards trouble. The Browns' rookie first-round draft choice showed up at key moments in the fourth quarter. He beat Rams right guard Harvey Dahl before delivering a frightening hit on Sam Bradford to force an incomplete pass. Then, with the Rams facing third-and-3 at the Cleveland 9 with 8:17 left, Taylor beat left guard Jacob Bell for a sack. Taylor looked like the type of player the Rams should target in the 2012 draft.
  • Minimizing the fluky nature of defeat. Yes, the Rams needed the Browns to botch a 22-yard field goal in the final minutes. Cleveland was fortunate it came to that, in retrospect. The Browns fumbled two plays before the missed field goal. They muffed a handoff between McCoy and tight end Alex Smith, who had subbed into the game at fullback when an injury sidelined Owen Marecic. Rams fans critical of former coordinator Pat Shurmur would have had fresh material had the Rams messed up a handoff to the tight end under Shurmur's watch. The missed field-goal wound up overshadowing everything, but why handoff to a tight end?

I'm heading to the airport shortly for a late flight to San Francisco for the Cardinals-49ers game Sunday.

Around the NFC West: No Rams apologies

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
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The St. Louis Rams will take victories any way they can get them, and without apology.

If that means needing the Cleveland Browns to botch the snap on a gimme field goal with time winding down, the Rams can plausibly say the football gods owed them a break.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch captured the feeling following the Rams' 13-12 victory Sunday. Linebacker Ben Leber: "That was an ending unlike any I've ever seen. We'll take it. This game comes down to -- sometimes it's just luck and the way the ball bounces. And that's what happened today. We're definitely due a break."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch echoed the thought that there was no shame in getting a key break. Miklasz: "You don't expect to win when Bradford is outplayed by Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. Or when former Rams backup Chris Ogbonnaya rushes for 90 yards and averages as many yards per carry (4.7) as Steven Jackson. It's been established that if the Rams can find a way to lose, they usually do. That said, the Rams needn't apologize for having a little luck on their side. Not when they've been buried under bad luck for much of the season."

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com laced his postgame Rams report card with sarcasm. Gordon on the receivers: "Brandon Lloyd ran a terrific route to catch a Bradford TD pass as the Rams ACTUALLY CONVERTED IN THE RED ZONE. Rookie Austin Pettis flashed some potential. On the other hand, Brandon Gibson did not distinguish himself playing on one good leg. Overall the WRs still aren't getting enough separation."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams overcame a growing list of injuries. Wagoner: "At the top of the list is a pair of devastating knee injuries. CB Al Harris and TE Mike Hoomanawanui were the victims and coach Steve Spagnuolo indicated that both could miss the rest of the season. At various other points during the game, the Rams lost S Darian Stewart (neck), LT Rodger Saffold (head) and RB Cadillac Williams (calf). None of those players returned and they’ll be evaluated further on Monday. Things are so bad on the injury front that Williams injured his calf while checking into the game."

Also from Wagoner: Jackson was having a very good time against the Browns. It showed. Jackson ran with bad intentions and even took out teammates if they were in his way. He has to be the most physical back in the NFL right now.

More from Wagoner: Jackson was happy to see bad luck affect the other team for a change.

2011 49ers Week 8: Five observations

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
7:52
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Five things I noticed while watching the San Francisco 49ers' 20-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 8:
  • The 49ers had plans against pressure. Alex Smith is the only quarterback in the NFL with no interceptions and more than four touchdown passes against five or more pass-rushers. He is the only quarterback with no interceptions and more than two touchdown passes when opponents pressure with at least one defensive back. I can see why. The 49ers protected beautifully when Smith found Vernon Davis for a 19-yard gain and Michael Crabtree for a 41-yarder, both on third-and-9 plays against five-man pressure. Smith had a quick outlet against five-man pressure on a third-and-6 play (he found Braylon Edwards for a first down). And when the Browns rushed safety Usama Young near the goal line, Smith reacted quickly, finding Crabtree for a 2-yard touchdown with Young bearing down and leaping in the quarterback's face.
  • Joe Thomas met expectations. The Browns' Pro Bowl left tackle encountered very little trouble against the 49ers' talented defensive linemen and outside linebackers. Justin Smith nearly got around Thomas in a two-minute situation before halftime. Aldon Smith redirected the running back after slipping past Thomas to the inside. That was about it. On one play, Colt McCoy found Benjamin Watson for a 29-yard gain after Thomas shoved Parys Haralson backward hard enough for Haralson to knock down Justin Smith, removing both men from the play. Aldon Smith got his sack on an inside rush, not working against Thomas.
  • Free safety Dashon Goldson got caught letting up. Josh Cribbs beat 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown for a touchdown catch up the left sideline. It's tough to know whether Goldson should have arrived earlier to help, but it's clear Goldson should have run through the whistle on this one. He let up when it appeared either Brown was going to make the tackle or Cribbs was on his way out of bounds. Goldson accelerated when he realized Cribbs had broken free, but by then it was too late. Cribbs ran the remaining 15 yards to the end zone.
  • Alex Smith's running is OK, to a point. The 49ers called multiple designed runs for their quarterback. A shotgun run to the perimeter behind tackle Joe Staley worked near the goal line. Smith took a big hit on another outside run when the 49ers led 17-3 early in the fourth quarter. There's a fine line between outsmarting opponents and risking quarterback injury without good reason. Jim Harbaugh might think he can win with Colin Kaepernick, but there's no need to find out. Seattle lost Tarvaris Jackson to a pectoral injury on a designed run.
  • Patrick Willis the pass-rusher found the QB. Willis finished last season with six sacks, a career high. Expectations surged when new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he thought pass-rushing was the one area Willis could improve to become an even more dynamic player. The 49ers haven't needed to blitz much this season. Willis went into Week 8 without a sack. He finally got one Sunday. Willis lined up wide to the right and easily overpowered running back Chris Ogbonnaya before taking down McCoy. As I recall, Willis has usually rushed up the middle when pressuring. Perhaps he'll get more pass-rushing chances after making this outside rush work.

This wasn't a perfect performance, but the 49ers were in control all the way. They did more than enough to win the game, rarely taking risks beyond the quarterback rushes.

Aaron Curry and that 2009 draft class

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
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Aaron Curry, apparently headed for Oakland, has plenty of company among 2009 NFL draft choices failing to meet expectations with their original teams.

The player Seattle's previous leadership drafted fourth overall was part of a draft featuring quite a few underwhelming players near the top.

Thirteen NFC West choices from the 2009 draft remain with their teams: Max Unger, Deon Butler and Cameron Morrah in Seattle; Beanie Wells, Rashad Johnson, Greg Toler and LaRod Stephens-Howling in Arizona; Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis, Bradley Fletcher and Darell Scott in St. Louis; and two players in San Francisco, Michael Crabtree and Ricky-Jean Francois.

Let's sift through the rubble ...

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The St. Louis Rams needed more offensive firepower last season, particularly at wide receiver.

That was obvious at critical moments.

Left unsaid: The Rams have addressed the position. Since 2008, the team has used three draft choices in the first four rounds to select wideouts, tied with six other teams for second-most in the league. But Donnie Avery (2008 second round), Keenan Burton (2008 fourth round) and Mardy Gilyard (2010 fourth round) combined for six receptions last season.

Avery is doing much better following reconstructive knee surgery. Burton is off the roster and has not played in a regular-season NFL game since suffering a torn patella against New Orleans in 2009. Gilyard is recovering from wrist surgery after playing little and failing to catch a pass in the Rams' final 10 games.

The chart shows how many skill-position players NFL teams have drafted in the first four rounds since 2008. I excluded tight ends because some project more as blockers.

I'll break them out by NFC West team:
    [+] EnlargeSam Bradford
    Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesSam Bradford is coming off a record-breaking rookie season in which he threw for over 3,500 yards.
  • St. Louis Rams (4): Quarterback Sam Bradford (2010 first round) is coming off a record-setting rookie season. He could use some help from Avery and Gilyard.
  • Arizona Cardinals (3): Receiver Andre Roberts (2010 third round), running back Beanie Wells (2009 first round) and receiver Early Doucet (2008 third round) remain prominent in the Cardinals' plans. The 2011 season will be a big one for Wells, who looked better as a rookie than he did last season. The knee injury Wells suffered during the exhibition season required surgery. That presumably affected his play.
  • San Francisco 49ers (2): Receiver Michael Crabtree (2009 first) had 55 catches last season, including six for touchdowns. His season was a bit underwhelming, however, as the 49ers' quarterback and coordinator instability continued. Running back Glen Coffee (2009 third round) became a bust when he retired after only one season, citing a lack of love for the game.
  • Seattle Seahawks (2): Receiver Golden Tate (2010 second round) made an immediate impact during minicamps last offseason, only to justify the usual disclaimers about rookie receivers often struggling when the games start counting. Tate's game needs refinement, by his own admission. He has the athletic ability to make plays on the ball and gain big chunks after the catch. Meanwhile, Deon Butler (2009 third round) is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a career-threatening leg injury, coach Pete Carroll said. Butler's on-field future remains in question, however.

I singled out the first four rounds because those choices are more valuable.

NFC West teams have found some bargains at the skill positions in the later rounds since 2008, including: Tim Hightower, LaRod Stephens-Howling and possibly John Skelton in Arizona; Josh Morgan and Anthony Dixon in San Francisco and Justin Forsett in Seattle.

The Rams' late-round selections -- Keith Null, Chris Obgonnaya and Brooks Foster -- no longer play for the team.

2009 NFL draft revisited: Rams

December, 4, 2010
12/04/10
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A quick look at the St. Louis Rams' 2009 draft class ...

Best pick so far: James Laurinaitis, MLB, Ohio State. The Rams took him in the second round when some thought USC's Rey Maualuga was the better prospect. The Rams were right. Laurinaitis became a starter right away and he continues to improve.

Second-guessing: The Rams wound up using the second overall choice for a right tackle. Conventional wisdom says that's not great value even though Jason Smith looks like he'll be a solid starter for years to come. Smith looks better than some of the players taken immediately after him, including fellow tackle Andre Smith.

Key variable: Third-round choice Bradley Fletcher. The Rams paid a steep price for moving him into a backup role against the San Francisco 49ers.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
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Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)


Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)


Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)


San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)


The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.
Tags:

San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Justin Green, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Brian St.Pierre, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, Steve Vallos, David Carr, Randy McMIchael, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Shaun HIll, Leroy HIll, Chris Patrick, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Ricky Schmitt, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Jerome Johnson, Derek Walker, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Seneca Wallace, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Anquan Boldin, Trevor Canfield, Marc Bulger, Nate Davis, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Jason HIll, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Thomas Clayton, Deon Grant, LaJuan Ramsey, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Louis Rankin, Brandon Frye, Ruvell Martin, Paris Lenon, Leger Douzable, Ryan Neill, Danny Gorrer, Russell Okung, Anthony McCoy, Clinton Hart, Earl Thomas, Leon Washington, Andre Roberts, Chester Pitts, Dan Williams, Mike Iupati, Ben Hamilton, Ryan McKee, Kennard Cox, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, Chris Baker, William James, Rex Hadnot, Hank Fraley, Mark Clayton, Quinton Ganther, Na'il Diggs, Chris Clemons, John Skelton, Mardy Gilyard, Rodger Saffold, Daryl Washington, Golden Tate, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, Nate Byham, Fendi Onobun, George Selvie, Thaddeus Lewis, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Dominique Curry, Phillip Adams, Trumaine McBride, Kevin Dockery, Shane Andrus, Tyler Polumbus, Clint Gresham, Roger III Allen, Cyril Obiozor, Brandon McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Junior Siavii, Troy Smith, Ted Jr. Ginn, Raheem Brock

ESPN's John Clayton says the Seattle Seahawks are trying to trade right tackle Sean Locklear, whose status appears affected by various moves. Locklear's salary is $5.45 million and his performance during preseason, though not atypical, apparently didn't impress the Seahawks' new leadership. Acquiring Tyler Polumbus and Stacy Andrews gives the Seahawks options. The team has largely remade the tackle position this offseason, drafting Russell Okung sixth overall and making the moves for Polumbus and Andrews. Placing Ray Willis on injured reserve almost completes the transformation. Locklear's departure would overhaul it completely.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates Seahawks-related moves from Sunday. He confirms reports that Owen Schmitt, Kevin Vickerson and Jordan Babineaux will be released.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen says former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart has accepted a one-year deal to play for the Houston Texans. Leinart will be reunited with former Cardinals teammates Antonio Smith and Neil Rackers. He'll work with another NFC West alumnus; Greg Knapp, dismissed as Seahawks offensive coordinator with Jim Mora's firing, coaches quarterbacks in Houston. Mortensen: "Leinart will become the Texans' third quarterback behind starter Matt Schaub and backup Dan Orlovsky, who will remain the No. 2 at least until Leinart has some command of Houston's offensive scheme, sources said."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says Leinart wasn't able to win over teammates in Arizona. Boivin: "A change of scenery will serve Leinart well. He forever will be remembered for his beer-bong photo, but he should be remembered, too, for all the money he raised for charity. And maybe at the next stop, he can win over his teammates." Leinart can do that by playing at a high level.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers thoughts on Leinart's departure from Arizona. Urban: "If Leinart was better on the field, he’d be here. That sounds so general, but it’s true. The basic, fundamental reason Deuce Lutui is going to be starting at guard -- after missing all the offseason and showing up well overweight -- when Reggie Wells was traded after doing everything asked of him this summer? They think, in the end, Deuce is a better player. They didn’t think Leinart was a better player than Derek Anderson. It was close -- close enough that the other stuff comes into play, the stuff (Ken) Whisenhunt declined to get into publicly Saturday and probably never will."

ESPN's Adam Schefter provides clarification on his earlier report that the Seahawks had cut running back Julius Jones. Schefter: "No official cut yet on Seahawks RB Julius Jones, but am told it is 'imminent'." The Seahawks made no announcement regarding Jones, but the running back's departure would be consistent with other sweeping changes in Seattle. Stay tuned.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are giving fans reason for hope. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "While I was in church Sunday morning, a couple of people there told me, 'Hey, Steve, you have no idea how excited the town is.' And that's when I picked up on it. I hope our players feel it. And I hope we give the fans a reason to feel good about what we're doing." Having Sam Bradford onboard makes a difference heading into the season. Rams fans were tired of the status quo. Nothing represents change more than a complete overhaul at quarterback (none of the Rams' quarterbacks from 2009 is on the 53-man roster now).

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are filling out their practice squad. Former Rams running back Chris Ogbonnaya, released on the reduction to 53 players, signed with the Texans' practice squad.

Also from Thomas: There was no doubt Spagnuolo would name Bradford the Rams' starting quarterback.

More from Thomas: checking in with former Rams safety Nolan Cromwell, now the Rams' receivers coach.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee profiles new members of the 49ers' practice squad. On safety Chris Maragos: "This is a surprise only in that the 49ers already have five safeties on the active roster and three of those -- Reggie Smith, Curtis Taylor and Taylor Mays -- are youngsters with precious little playing experience. Otherwise, Maragos has been very solid throughout the offseason and was particularly conspicuous on special teams. He's undersized for a safety -- he was mentored at Wisconsin by Jim Leonhard -- but was on the first-team coverage unit for kick returns the last two games. Again, the 49ers could lose both Michael Lewis and Dashon Goldson after the season. It can't hurt to have some quality safeties on the back burner."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Tramaine Brock proved doubters wrong by earning a spot on the 49ers' initial 53-man roster.

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' practice squad. On Will Tukuafu: "When the 49ers received a roster exemption after Kentwan Balmer quit the team, Tukuafu was signed. An undrafted rookie from Oregon, he received a brief look from the Seattle Seahawks before getting released. At 6-foot-4, 272 pounds, Tukuafu recorded a sack in his first snap against the Indianapolis Colts. He was added to the practice squad ahead of Khalif Mitchell."

More from Maiocco: The 49ers' new deal for Michael Lewis is among several moves foreshadowing the longer-term future for San Francisco.

NFC West practice squad eligibility

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
10:56
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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).

St. Louis Rams cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
9/04/10
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Biggest surprise: The Rams aren't good enough yet to produce a big surprise on cutdown day. I'll address a few mild ones. Rookies Jermelle Cudjo and George Selvie stuck on the defensive line, where Victor Adeyanju was the odd man out. The Rams parted with third-string quarterback Keith Null, who started four games last season. They dumped linebacker Bobby Carpenter, acquired from Dallas in the Alex Barron trade, after trying him at defensive end. In the secondary, I thought Quincy Butler might stick at cornerback after serving as a spot starter amid injury problems last season. At running back, Chris Ogbonnaya looked good in relief against Arizona last season and the Rams had some hopes for him early in the offseason, but he simply didn't run the ball well enough to earn a roster spot (even though the Rams' poor depth behind Steven Jackson has been a primary storyline all offseason).

No-brainers: The Rams kept only eight offensive linemen initially because the depth beyond their starters simply wasn't very good. On defense, safety Kevin Payne's injury situation cost him a chance at providing depth while James Butler recovers from a knee injury. Coach Steve Spagnuolo talked up rookie running back Keith Toston a few times, and he has long appreciated Kenneth Darby's toughness. But if the Rams can find upgrades, they should consider their options.

What’s next: The Rams hold the NFL's No. 1 waiver priority following their 1-15 record last season. Expect them to make a few claims in an effort to upgrade their roster. Most teams keep nine offensive linemen. The Rams could be active at that position. They could use a backup for Jackson. And with receiver Donnie Avery on injured reserve, the Rams could explore the trade market.

Rams players cut:
QB Keith Null
RB Chris Ogbonnaya
FB Dennis Morris
WR Danario Alexander
WR Jordan Kent
WR Brandon McRae
TE Darcy Johnson
OL Roger Allen
OL Tim Mattran
OL Ryan McKee
OL Drew Miller
OL Eric Young (IR).
DL Victor Adeyanju
DL Ernest Reid
LB Devin Bishop
LB Bobby Carpenter
LB Cardia Jackson
CB Quincy Butler
CB Marquis Johnson
CB Antoine Thompson
SS Brett Johnson
SS Kevin Payne (IR)

Post-camp roster analysis: Rams

September, 1, 2010
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The St. Louis Rams hold the No. 1 priority for waiver claims and they'll probably put that status to work following the mandatory reduction to 53 players Saturday.

With that in mind, let's take a position-by-position look at the Rams' roster heading into their second season under coach Steve Spagnuolo (current roster counts listed in parentheses):

Quarterbacks (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Keepers: Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley

Looking safe: Keith Null

On the bubble: Thaddeus Lewis

Comment: Lewis has played well enough to intrigue the Rams, but probably not well enough for another team to claim him off waivers. That makes Lewis a natural choice for the practice squad.

Running backs (5)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: Steven Jackson, Mike Karney

Looking safe: Kenneth Darby

Not sure what to think: Keith Toston, Chris Ogbonnaya

Comment: The Rams are carrying as many running backs as teams typically keep, but multiple spots could be up for grabs depending on which running backs become available via waivers. I'd rather list Toston, Ogbonnaya and Darby in one group until it becomes clear which backs -- and which types of backs -- hit the waiver wire. Ogbonnaya showed potential last season and looked good early in camp, but his performance hasn't carried over to exhibition games and that could cost him. Perhaps expectations were too high. Darby's toughness and special-teams contributions could help him. Toston runs hard and could land on the practice squad.

Wide receivers (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: Laurent Robinson, Mardy Gilyard, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Keenan Burton

On the bubble: Dominique Curry

Also: Brandon McRae, Jordan Kent, Danario Alexander

Comment: Curry stood out as an undrafted steal during camp. He has excellent size and has showed good ability on special teams. Burton's durability should remain a concern, but that's the case with Robinson and even Gibson at this point. Gibson's value rises with Donnie Avery on injured reserve.

Tight ends (6)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.0

Keepers: Billy Bajema, Mike Hoomanawanui

Looking safe: Fendi Onobun

Not sure what to think: Daniel Fells, Darcy Johnson

Also: Dennis Morris

Comment: But wait, Fells is the incumbent starter, right? Yes, but he hasn't been durable and there's so much to like about the rookies Onobun and Hoomanawanui. Bajema is an obvious keeper for his blocking and all-around game (he has caught the ball well on limited chances). Johnson has shown toughness and blocking ability, so he could be an option if the team wants to move on from Fells. Perhaps I'm over thinking things here, but the emergence of Onobun and Hoomanawanui during camp creates dilemmas.

Offensive linemen (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.3

Keepers: Jason Brown, Jacob Bell, Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith, Adam Goldberg, Hank Fraley

Looking safe: John Greco, Roger Allen III

Also: Eric Young, Drew Miller, Ryan McKee, Renardo Foster, Tim Mattran

Comment: It's tough finding nine keepers here, so the Rams could be active in the waiver-claim game. Greco's versatility works in his favor. Are the Rams still high on Allen's prospects? I know they liked him last season, but that was before reconstructive knee surgery. Trading Alex Barron made sense in the big picture, but the Rams would have better depth here if Barron were still around.

Defensive line (12)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.6

Keepers: Chris Long, Fred Robbins, Clifton Ryan, James Hall, Gary Gibson, Darell Scott

Looking safe: George Selvie

On the bubble: Victor Adeyanju, C.J. Ah You, Jermelle Cudjo

Also: Ernest Reid, Eugene Sims

Comment: Durability concerns could cost Ah You. Adeyanju also could be on the bubble depending on what options the Rams have beyond their own roster. Cudjo has made a positive impression during camp and preseason. Same goes for Selvie, although an injury sidelined him part of the time.

Linebackers (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.3

Keepers: James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant, Na'il Diggs, Chris Chamberlain

Looking safe: Bobby Carpenter

On the bubble: David Vobora, Josh Hull

Also: Devin Bishop, Cardia Jackson

Comment: Carpenter has gotten some work at defensive end. Perhaps his presence in an emergency capacity at that position could allow the Rams to keep one fewer defensive lineman, at least early. Chamberlain is probably the best special-teams position player on the Rams, enhancing his value. Hull could provide depth behind Laurinaitis because he's a true middle linebacker, whereas Vobora can back up every position. That could be a close call.

Defensive backs (14)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.7

Keepers: Oshiomogho Atogwe, Ron Bartell, Justin King, Bradley Fletcher, James Butler, Kevin Payne, Craig Dahl, Jerome Murphy, Kevin Dockery

Looking safe: Quincy Butler

On the bubble: Darian Stewart

Also: Brett Johnson, Marquis Johnson, Antoine Thompson

Comment: James Butler's knee injury probably makes keeping Payne a higher priority. Stewart could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.7

Keepers: Josh Brown, Donnie Jones, Chris Massey

Comment: Strong group here.

Camp Confidential: St. Louis Rams

August, 20, 2010
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 32

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The quivering hand pressed against Jason Brown's backside belonged to the first player chosen in the 2010 NFL draft.

Alas, the week before St. Louis Rams training camp was tough on quarterback Sam Bradford's nerves.

The No. 1 overall draft choice could not be sure when his agent and the team would reach a contract agreement, and by the time Bradford finally arrived, the other quarterbacks had a couple days' head start on him. All eyes were on the franchise savior from Oklahoma when Bradford lowered himself under center for the first time during camp.

Bradford might have appeared cool and in command from afar, but one veteran teammate had a better, uh, feel for the situation.

"You couldn't see it on his face, but I knew he was nervous because when he got under center and put his hand underneath my rear end, his hand was shaking -- it was quivering," Brown said. "And of course, I didn't say anything, but it's a very awkward feeling for me as well when someone has their hand shaking underneath your rear end."

Brown didn't say anything to Bradford because he figured the quarterback would settle down quickly. Bradford did, and he appears well on his way to earning the starting job heading into the regular season.

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Scott Rovak/US PresswireSam Bradford's teammates appear to be confident the quarterback can hold his own as a rookie.
In fact, if anyone has reason to quiver at this point in camp, it's the defensive backs trying to defend passes they sometimes do not see coming -- as when Bradford laced one between Oshiomogho Atogwe and Craig Dahl before the safeties even turned around. It's not Bradford's accuracy or timing that have caught defensive backs' attention so much as the combination of those all-important quarterback traits. Early indications suggest the Rams could have the best quarterback in the division sooner rather than later.

"You see a lot of greatness in him -- what he brings, his skill set, very talented, very intelligent," Atogwe said.

Several of Bradford's teammates have experience breaking in first-round quarterbacks elsewhere. Brown (Joe Flacco), tight end Billy Bajema (Alex Smith), center Hank Fraley (Brady Quinn), defensive end James Hall (Joey Harrington), defensive tackle Fred Robbins (Eli Manning) and guard Jacob Bell (Vince Young) pointed to Bradford's maturity, intelligence, competitiveness, demeanor and accuracy.

The way they freely praised Bradford suggested genuine excitement, not the obligatory kind.

"I played with Steve McNair [in Tennessee] and with Ben Roethlisberger [at Miami (Ohio)]," Bell said, "and I thought, 'This guy, the way he throws the ball, man, I haven't seen anybody in person like that on the practice field, ever.' "

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. When will Bradford become the starter? It's an upset if Bradford isn't the No. 1 quarterback from the beginning of the regular season even though veteran A.J. Feeley remains the starter for now. Feeley and Bradford are sharing first- and second-team reps in practice. The team doesn't want to rush Bradford, but all signs point to the rookie grasping the offense quickly. The Rams think he's mature enough to handle what figures to be a rough rookie season. Why delay the inevitable if Bradford is looking good?

2. Can this team defend the pass? The Rams appeared to beef up the middle of their defense by adding Robbins, but the NFL is a passing league and the Rams could struggle to get pressure consistently. They have two pass-rushers -- Chris Long and Hall -- and their secondary has battled injuries throughout camp. Long should continue his improvement. Hall's sacks fell off to 4.5 last season as he transitioned from backup to starter. He is 33 years old. Kevin Dockery has exceeded expectations at cornerback, where rookie Jerome Murphy has also shown promise. But with Atogwe still rounding into form following injury, the secondary is a bit of a question mark.

[+] EnlargeSteven Jackson
Jerry Lai/US PresswireSteven Jackson's health remains instrumental in the Rams' success this season.
3. What happens if Steven Jackson gets hurt again? The Rams do not have a proven running threat behind Jackson, even though 2009 seventh-round draft pick Chris Ogbonnaya performed well against the Arizona Cardinals late last season. Ogbonnaya might be a good third-down back because he protects the passer well and can catch the ball, but the Rams could be in trouble if they needed a starter to replace Jackson for a few games. Jackson appears fully healthy so far, but he's coming off back surgery. Brian Westbrook's decision to sign with the 49ers hurt, but the Rams saw him mostly as a third-down back at this stage of his career, anyway. Expect the Rams to monitor the waiver wire for running backs as teams reduce to 53 players on Sept. 4.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Danny Amendola. There's enough uncertainty at receiver for this position to qualify under the "Hottest Questions" heading, but Amendola appears to have found a home as the slot receiver in the Rams' personnel groupings with more than two wideouts. Injuries forced Amendola to play multiple positions last season. Camp practices have convinced me -- and the Rams -- that Amendola's quickness can make him a threat. Said Feeley: "He has polished his game. Some of these guys discover themselves after a year of playing and realizing what they can do. The guy is a special player. The guy is going to make plays and have a lot of catches this year ... a poor man's Wes Welker trying to establish himself. He fits that mold right now. The guy is cat quick."

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Offensive line continuity. The way the Rams' line struggled during the exhibition opener against Minnesota was deceiving. Rookie Rodger Saffold was making his first start at left tackle (against Jared Allen, no less). Right tackle Jason Smith had only recently returned from injury and the team knew he might wear down as the game progressed. Brown was filling in at right guard. These mitigating factors point to a broader problem: continuity. Only this week have the Rams gotten their projected starting five linemen on the field together. That must change as the Bradford era gets under way.

OBSERVATION DECK
[+] EnlargeFendi Onobun
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonTight end Fendi Onobun has made a positive impression in camp.

  • Multiple fights broke out during a recent Rams practice and that has to be a welcome sign for a team without enforcer types. The Rams have spent the past couple of years putting into place building-block players with apparently solid character. Long, Smith and James Laurinaitis qualify as "safe" draft choices along those lines. The team has now added some veteran seasoning -- think Robbins, Feeley, Na'il Diggs and Fraley -- but there's still something missing. The next step for St. Louis could be to add some players with a few rough edges. The best teams tend to have a few good players teammates fear. The Rams need more of them.
  • Jackson rehabbed from back surgery with a vengeance and he's looking strong as ever. Jackson also sounds happy. He clearly appreciates coach Steve Spagnuolo's evolving approach to training camp. Spagnuolo polled coaches and players anonymously for ideas after last season. Some complained that a tough 2009 training camp featuring live tackling left the team with weary legs heading into Week 1. Spagnuolo listened, putting limits on some of the contact and giving players more time between practices. Longer term, Spagnuolo wants to reach a point where young players know how to practice without the staff having to manufacture intensity.
  • Looks like the Rams might find a role in their offense for rookie tight end Fendi Onobun. Considered a project coming out of college, Onobun has shown he's further along than the Rams anticipated. The leaping end-zone grab he made in practice this week wasn't out of the ordinary for Onobun. Rookies often must contribute on special teams to earn spots on the 45-man game-day roster. Onobun made a positive impression as a gunner in the exhibition opener.
  • Rookie receiver Mardy Gilyard will bring needed swagger if his body holds up. Gilyard has his own style and doesn't seem to worry about what others think. He practices wearing abbreviated gym shorts over bicycle shorts for a distinctive 1980s look. Gilyard has stepped up his production in practice this week. An arm injury remains a potential concern.
  • Long appears more comfortable with himself and his status on the team. As a rookie and even last season, I sensed Long felt the pressure of being a No. 2 overall draft choice, to the point that he sometimes sounded apologetic about it while finding his way as a pro. Long showed obvious improvement late last season, however, and he appears to be asserting himself more readily. He played a prominent role in recent camp fights and called out Bajema for chipping him unexpectedly.
  • After last season, the Rams were thinking receiver Brandon Gibson might develop into an important part of their offense. They can't be so sure at this point because Gibson has missed an extended period with a hamstring injury. The Rams need Gibson to get on the field and produce during preseason. The team is cautiously optimistic about some of its prospects at receiver, but injuries were a concern last season. Donnie Avery, who bulked up this offseason to become more durable, took a hard shot in practice and came back strong the next play. Rookie free agent Dominique Curry has great size (6-foot-2, 224 pounds) and stood out at times. But I sense the Rams' fingers are crossed at this position. "If they play to their ability, we'll be OK," general manager Billy Devaney said.
  • Atogwe dropped multiple interception chances in practice, which is unusual for him. He's among the team's more conscientious players, though. Atogwe stayed after every practice I watched to work on catching passes. He was the last guy out there.
  • The Rams hoped to get something from linebacker Bobby Carpenter after acquiring him from Dallas in the Alex Barron trade. That's a tough sell at this point. Carpenter isn't working with the starters. The first time I noticed Carpenter in practice was when someone knocked him on his back.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams hoped to add veteran running back Brian Westbrook. They'll have to settle for seeing him twice a year, provided Westbrook can avoid the injury problems that have limited him in recent seasons.

Westbrook
Westbrook
The San Francisco 49ers' signing of Westbrook, announced by the team Monday, came three days after 2009 third-round choice Glen Coffee shocked the team by announcing plans to retire. The 49ers' sudden need for help at the position ultimately gave Westbrook an option more attractive than finishing his career with a rebuilding team coming off a 1-15 record, although it wasn't clear the 49ers were going to add a veteran.

Westbrook would have fit better in St. Louis because his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, ran the same offense the Rams have installed with former Eagles assistant Pat Shurmur as their offensive coordinator. The dynamics changed, however, once the 49ers decided they would pursue a veteran replacement for Coffee (coach Mike Singletary was initially noncommittal when asked about adding a veteran, but he told reporters Sunday that the team had promising options on that front).

Singletary was clearly talking about adding Westbrook. It's a good move for the 49ers because Westbrook, if healthy, might provide a change-of-pace runner behind Frank Gore, something the team lacked even with Coffee. Rookie Anthony Dixon carried 21 times for 100 yards in the exhibition opener Sunday, but his inexperience would have been a hindrance if Gore suddenly became unavailable.

The Rams' inability to land Westbrook means they still have not addressed a perceived need for an experienced alternative to Steven Jackson, who appears full strength in training camp after undergoing back surgery earlier this offseason. The Rams aren't going to find a player with Westbrook's credentials and feel for their system, but sometimes the best moves are the ones teams do not make. Westbrook turns 31 next month and he missed eight games last season, and Rams backup Chris Ogbonnaya showed promise late last season when thrust into a more prominent role against Arizona in particular.

As much as the Rams might benefit from Westbrook's experience in the short term, they also need to develop their own young players. Ogbonnaya, like Justin Forsett in Seattle, entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft choice. The Rams will not need him much as long as Jackson remains healthy enough to produce. If Jackson falters and Ogbonnaya or any veteran they sign isn't the answer, the Rams will be an easy target for criticism on this issue.

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