NFC West: D.D. Lewis

No guarantees for NFL team captains

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
8:56
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September can be an exciting, gratifying time for those NFL players deemed significant enough to earn "captain" status, usually by vote of their peers.

Enjoy it while you can, gentlemen.

Take a look at the St. Louis Rams' captains from 2008: Marc Bulger, Tory Holt, Will Witherspoon, Corey Chavous and Todd Johnson.

Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.

The Arizona Cardinals' captains two seasons ago? Kurt Warner, Reggie Wells, Karlos Dansby, Sean Morey and Aaron Francisco. Gone, all of them.

The Seattle Seahawks (Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu) and San Francisco 49ers (Patrick Willis, Eric Heitmann) each still employ two of their captains from 2008. But Seattle has parted with four others: Walter Jones, Deon Grant, D.D. Lewis and Lance Laury. The 49ers have waved goodbye to 2008 captains Michael Robinson (now a Seahawk) and Walt Harris.

How many of the 2010 team captains, listed below, will remain with their teams in two seasons?

Arizona Cardinals

Offense: Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein

Defense: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett

Special teams: Ben Graham, Jason Wright

St. Louis Rams

Offense: Steven Jackson

Defense: Oshiomogho Atogwe

Week 1 at-large: Chris Massey, James Hall

San Francisco 49ers

Offense: Eric Heitmann, Vernon Davis, Alex Smith

Defense: Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Justin Smith

Note: Coach Mike Singletary names captains for the 49ers. He added Alex Smith to the list this year and said the quarterback had earned the distinction.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have not yet voted on captains.

Update: Matt Hasselbeck (offense), Lofa Tatupu (defense) and Roy Lewis (special teams) are 2010 captains for Seattle.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
2:06
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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, Dre' Bly, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Mike Teel, 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, Nick Reed, 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, Ken Lucas, 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, Mike Hass, 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, Jay Feely, 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, Rob Sims, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Nate Ness, 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, Max Hall, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Max Komar, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Jim Dray, Dominique Curry, Josh Hull, 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

Battling perceptions in the NFC West

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
12:06
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KTAR radio's Doug Franz and Ron Wolfley just finished grilling me medium rare over the far-flung (to them) notion that the San Francisco 49ers should be favored in the NFC West this season.

They think the 49ers face at least as many questions as the Arizona Cardinals, from Alex Smith's abilities as a starting quarterback to the effects of playing two rookies on the offensive line.

Our conversation pointed to something I wrestle with all the time: perception vs. reality.

Sometimes those perceptions get out of hand. It could be happening in the NFC West right now. A few things to consider along those lines heading into the regular season:
  • The Seattle Seahawks are taking flak for dumping T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Josh Wilson and others (Rob Sims and Nate Burleson come to mind) during an ongoing roster overhaul. It's fair to ask whether all the changes were necessary. It's fair to question whether Seattle might fall off some in the immediate term while less experienced players take over. But why pretend as though the Seahawks needed only some fine-tuning? They needed an overhaul and they're getting one. Sometimes a team gets a little worse before it gets better. But if you honestly assess each roster change, you might find more upgrades than downgrades. How much will this really team miss Ken Lucas, Cory Redding, Justin Griffith, D.D. Lewis, Damion McIntosh, Owen Schmitt, Mansfield Wrotto, Lawrence Jackson, John Owens, Darryl Tapp, Deon Grant, Lance Laury and the others? It's tough to argue that those players were part of the solution.
  • The Cardinals are worse off without Kurt Warner. That much is a given. But should recent instability at quarterback significantly lower those already reduced expectations for the upcoming season? It's probably better to rule out Matt Leinart now than to do so four or five games into the regular season. Quarterback was already a concern. It's still a concern. But let's not pretend the 49ers are dramatically better off with Smith under center. I'm favoring the 49ers in the division because they're the safest bet following an offseason without much roster turnover. They appear slightly better than the team that went 8-8 in 2009. But it's no shock if the Cardinals win this division. I'd call it only a mild surprise.
  • The Rams are easy to write off with a rookie quarterback under center and only six wins over the last three seasons. It's not the upset of the century, however, if they find a way to prevail in Week 1. They trailed the Cardinals 21-3 at halftime in the Edward Jones Dome last season. A concussion prevented Warner from returning. Final score: 21-13. If you're the Rams and you know Warner won't be there Sunday, and you know Marc Bulger posted a 57.8 rating as your quarterback in that 21-13 defeat, you're thinking you've got a chance this time around, right? Right.
  • About those 49ers. Let's not get carried away with the 12-4 predictions, OK? One step at a time. The 49ers were 5-1 in the division last season. Are they really going to match that record or improve upon it and then add three more victories outside the NFC West? It's possible with AFC West teams on the schedule, but the 49ers have only seven true home games this season. Two of those are against New Orleans and Philadelphia. They play road games against Atlanta, Green Bay and San Diego. Find a dozen sure victories on that schedule and I'm guessing you're a 49ers fan.

To be continued in the comments section, and beyond.
The earlier item quantifying NFL roster turnover since last season ranks the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals among the three teams with the most changes.

Some of the research used for that project shows up in the latest version of the anabolically enhanced rosters found here periodically. Specifically, the 26th and final column shows which players were starters, backups or on injured reserve for NFC West teams in Week 17 last season.

Download the rosters here.

The column showing player ages makes it easy to see how roster attrition affects older players. I'll list below the players currently 30 or older who have been released, traded, announced their retirements or were not re-signed as unrestricted free agents since last season:

Seattle Seahawks (9)

Patrick Kerney, Walter Jones, John Owens, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson, D.D. Lewis, Damion McIntosh

Note: The team added 30-plus vets Sean Morey, Ben Hamilton and Chris Baker.

Arizona Cardinals (9)

Kurt Warner, Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy, Bertrand Berry, Neil Rackers, Morey, Brian St. Pierre, Ralph Brown, Dan Kreider,

Note: The team added 30-plus vets Jay Feely, Paris Lenon, Joey Porter and Alan Faneca.

San Francisco 49ers (6)

Shaun Hill, Arnaz Battle, Mark Roman, Walt Harris, Dre' Bly, Jeff Ulbrich

Note: The team added 30-plus vets David Carr and William James. In looking at the chart, note that receiver Isaac Bruce, 37, is still on the 49ers' roster for the time being.

St. Louis Rams (5)

Leonard Little, Marc Bulger, Lenon, Clinton Hart, Randy McMichael

Note: The team added 30-plus vets A.J. Feeley, Na'il Diggs, Hank Fraley and Fred Robbins.
Unrestricted free agency has come and gone for the NFL in 2010 after no teams made qualifying offers to the more than 100 unsigned UFAs by June 1.

The following former UFAs from NFC West teams remain free agents able to sign with any team that will have them, but none will factor into the formula used for awarding compensatory draft choices:
Arizona: left tackle Mike Gandy, outside linebacker Chike Okeafor, outside linebacker Bertrand Berry (retiring), cornerback Ralph Brown, fullback Dan Kreider, quarterback Brian St. Pierre

Seattle: fullback Justin Griffith, linebacker D.D. Lewis, cornerback Ken Lucas, tackle Damion McIntosh, snapper Jeff Robinson, snapper Kevin Houser

San Francisco: safety Mark Roman, cornerback Dre Bly, cornerback Walt Harris, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich (retiring)

St. Louis : defensive end Leonard Little, tight end Randy McMichael, safety Clinton Hart

The chart breaks down the players by team and 2009 starts.

Bad teams aren't the only ones churning their rosters during the offseason.

The defending NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals have parted with 15 of the 53 players on their Week 17 roster from last season. Only the rebuilding Seahawks have parted with more -- 16 -- among division teams this offseason. The Rams have parted with 11. The 49ers, seeking continuity as they try to build on an 8-8 season, have parted with only three.

The first chart shows how many Week 17 starters and backups have returned to each NFC West team.

The second chart shows how many Week 17 starters and backups have left each NFC West team.

I'll first list the players by team.

Seattle (16): receiver Nate Burleson, quarterback Seneca Wallace, linebacker Lance Laury, defensive end Cory Redding, guard Trevor Canfield, quarterback Mike Teel, tackle Damion McIntosh, linebacker D.D. Lewis, snapper Jeff Robinson, fullback Justin Griffith, cornerback Ken Lucas, safety Deon Grant, defensive end Darryl Tapp, guard Rob Sims, tight end John Owens and defensive end Patrick Kerney.

Arizona (15): linebacker Pago Togafau, safety Antrel Rolle, receiver Jerheme Urban, receiver Sean Morey, kicker Neil Rackers, linebacker Bertrand Berry, fullback Dan Kreider, cornerback Ralph Brown, quarterback Brian St. Pierre, defensive end Jason Banks, receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Karlos Dansby, quarterback Kurt Warner, cornerback Bryant McFadden and linebacker Chike Okeafor. Note that Rolle did not start in Week 17.

St. Louis (11): defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, cornerback Jonathan Wade, receiver Ruvell Martin, quarterback Mike Reilly, defensive end Leonard Little, safety Clinton Hart, snapper Ryan Neill, running back Samkon Gado, linebacker Paris Lenon, tackle Alex Barron and tight end Randy McMichael.

San Francisco (5): receiver Arnaz Battle, cornerback Marcus Hudson, quarterback Shaun Hill, safety Mark Roman and cornerback Dre Bly.

The third chart shows what happened to players who were on injured reserve in Week 17.

I'll first list by team the players who were on IR but are no longer with their teams.

San Francisco (5): tackle Tony Pashos, punter Ricky Schmitt, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, cornerback Walt Harris and running back Thomas Clayton.

Seattle (4): running back Tyler Roehl, tackle Walter Jones, snapper Kevin Houser and tackle Brandon Frye.

St. Louis (3): quarterback Marc Bulger, defensive tackle Adam Carriker and safety Eric Bassey.

Arizona (2): tackle Mike Gandy and fullback Justin Green.

Updated: NFC West UFA list

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
9:14
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The Cardinals remain the only NFC West team to re-sign any of their unrestricted free agents this offseason.

That is mostly by design.

Twenty-seven of 31 remaining unrestricted free agents from NFC West teams are at least 30 years old. Two are retiring. Two of the four still in their 20s are 29.

The chart shows remaining UFAs from the NFC West, arranged by team and by age.

NFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
5:14
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Arizona Cardinals

Unrestricted free agents: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, LB Bertrand Berry (retired), LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, WR Sean Morey, LB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware.

Restricted free agents: SS Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, G Ben Claxton, FB Justin Green, LG Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, C Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban, NT Gabe Watson.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Cardinals generally do not pursue marquee free agents from other teams. That trend figures to continue. The Cardinals have too many of their own free agents to re-sign for them to worry about chasing other teams' castoffs. We might see Arizona plug the roster with a few lower-tier free agents. They had success doing that last offseason, particularly with Becht at tight end. Dansby leads the list of 2009 starters expected to depart. Arizona is reportedly interested in quarterback David Carr.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: QB Kyle Boller, DE James Hall, SS Clinton Hart, LB Paris Lenon, DE Leonard Little, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Restricted free agents: S Eric Bassey, S Craig Dahl, TE Daniel Fells, LS Ryan Neill, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Jonathan Wade, DE Victory Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin, G Mark Setterstrom.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Rams could be in the market for a veteran quarterback such as Chad Pennington. Beyond quarterback, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams could use a little more seasoning in the form of veteran role players. The Rams will remain a young team, but they could add some experience. The team parted with players fitting that profile last offseason, but most had inflated salaries. The ones St. Louis adds this year figure to carry lower price tags in most cases. The Rams have said they want Little and Hall back. McMichael figures to be gone.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LB D.D. Lewis, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, S Lawyer Milloy, DE Cory Redding, LS Jeff Robinson.

Restricted free agents: T Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu, LB Lance Laury, G Rob Sims, G Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp.

Franchise player: K Olindo Mare

What to expect: The Seahawks are a little difficult to figure. Their owner has the money to bankroll aggressive spending if Seattle chooses to go that route. Coach Pete Carroll surely realizes the team could use talent upgrades. The new general manager, John Schneider, comes from the Ted Thompson school of personnel. Thompson's aversion for free agency is well established, although Schneider has characterized himself as slightly more aggressive. The problem, of course, is finding good players on the market. Burleson will hit the market. He could return if the price is right. Carroll has said nice things about Redding, who should be affordable.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre Bly, CB Walt Harris, T Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, T Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired), LB Matt Wilhelm.

Restricted free agents: LG David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Marcus Hudson.

Franchise player: NT Aubrayo Franklin

What to expect: The 49ers have largely turned their back on free agency now that they feel better about their roster. I would expect the team to lay low again when the signing period begins late Thursday night on the West Coast.

Free agency: NFC West

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
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AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC West.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Arizona Cardinals

[+] EnlargeKarlos Dansby
Tony Medina/Icon SMIKarlos Dansby has led the Cardinals in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
Unrestricted free agents: LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, OLB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, WR Sean Morey, TE Anthony Becht, DE Bertrand Berry, LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, LB Monty Beisel.

Key figures: The more than $17.7 million Arizona has paid to Dansby over the past two seasons should suffice as a parting gift if, as expected, the linebacker leaves in free agency. Dansby could be leading an exodus. Okeafor turns 34 in March and could be on his way out. Berry announced his retirement. Morey has had concussion problems. Gandy's return probably depends on whether he's willing to stay for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Safety Antrel Rolle does not appear on the list, but he would hit the market when free agency begins if the Cardinals decline to pay a $4 million roster bonus.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre' Bly, NT Aubrayo Franklin, CB Walt Harris, RT Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, LT Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich, LB Matt Wilhelm, CB Keith Smith.

Key figures: The 49ers have been proactive in re-signing their own players. That explains why relatively few big names appear on this list. The franchise tag appears well suited for Franklin, the only marquee UFA on the 49ers' list this offseason. Tagging Franklin at the $7 million franchise rate makes sense heading into labor uncertainty. Why spend lavishly on a long-term deal? Franklin has played at a high level consistently for only one season, and a lockout could keep him off the field in 2011. Re-signing Sims for depth would make sense. Ulbrich, meanwhile, has retired and joined the Seahawks' coaching staff.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, DE Cory Redding, CB Ken Lucas, K Olindo Mare, LB D.D. Lewis, FB Justin Griffith, LT Damion McIntosh, SS Lawyer Milloy, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson.

Key figures: New coach Pete Carroll is on the record saying he likes what he's seen from Redding. Mare is coming off an outstanding season. Lucas has the size Seattle's new leadership wants in its cornerbacks. Milloy played for Carroll in New England. There isn't much more to say about this relatively nondescript group, and it's unclear how much the new regime will value these UFAs. Unrestricted free agency isn't the only road out of Seattle this offseason. The team will probably part with a few established players who haven't lived up to their salaries because of injuries and other factors. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch come to mind. Update: I've added Nate Burleson to the list of free agents. He has a contract for 2010, but it voids. Thanks to CowboyP893 for the assist.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: DE Leonard Little, DE James Hall, LB Paris Lenon, QB Kyle Boller, S Clinton Hart, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Key figures: Boller, 28, is the only player on the Rams' list younger than 30. Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe and starting tackle Alex Barron become only restricted free agents under rules governing the uncapped year, explaining their absence from the Rams' UFA list. It's unclear how seriously Little and Hall figure into the team's plans for 2010. Chris Long's emergence late last season should make it easier for the team to move on without them, but the aging defensive ends did combine for 27 starts and 11 sacks last season.

Around the NFC West: Winds of change

January, 5, 2010
1/05/10
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Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with injured Seahawks tackle Walter Jones, who hopes to return in 2010. Jones' salary is $7.3 million, providing strong incentive for him to make a comeback effort. Even if his comeback failed and he wound up on injured reserve again, he could still pocket most or all of that money, in theory.

Also from Farnsworth: Apprehension and ambiguity reigned in the Seahawks' locker room as players cleaned out their lockers Monday. Matt Hasselbeck: "Really what I’m looking forward to right now is kind of getting away and getting healthy and getting strong,” said Hasselbeck, who played this season with broken ribs on the left side of his body and a bruised right shoulder. I really feel like getting back in the weight room and having a good offseason of strength, getting some explosiveness and some power back will be one of the keys to success for me next season. Those are the kind of things I’m focused on."

More from Farnsworth: Seahawks safety Deon Grant played one of his best games Sunday despite having one wrist in a cast. Farnsworth: "Grant intercepted a Vince Young pass in the first quarter. He recovered a Chris Johnson fumble in the third quarter, setting up a field goal that gave the Seahawks a 13-10 lead. In between, Grant made nine tackles -- one shy of his season-high. He even added a 10th on special teams. His reward? Surgery to repair the wrist."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times lists potential Seattle free agents. He lists Nate Burleson, Cory Redding, D.D. Lewis, Olindo Mare, Lawyer Milloy, Ken Lucas, Damion McIntosh and Justin Griffith.

Also from O'Neil: "The Seahawks are an older team with an offense that scored fewer points as the season progressed. Hasselbeck is 34 with one year left on his contract. While most expect him back, Seattle's new president will have to decide how Hasselbeck fits with the team's timeline for rebuilding. The scrutiny will go well past Seattle's pocket. Receiver Deion Branch is 30 and is scheduled to make more than $5 million, a lot for a player who began this season as the No. 3 receiver. Safety Deon Grant is also 30. Defensive end Patrick Kerney is 32. He led the team in sacks, but had just five. He is scheduled to make more than $5 million next season, and Seattle desperately needs to upgrade a pass rush that had one sack in its final four games."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com wonders whether Greg Knapp will return as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator after a rough year. Seattle averaged an additional 55 yards passing per game this season, but scoring was down.

Also from Johns: Burleson expects to return.

Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along thoughts from Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who does nothing to change perceptions that he wasn't happy with Knapp's offense. Divish: "He talked for at least 15 minutes and was critical of his himself. He also wondered how an offense can actually regress, instead of improve. And when asked about the future, possible changes and whether the offensive system could ever work, he simply said, 'I have thoughts.' "

Also from Divish: Hasselbeck isn't sure what happens next.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune previews the Seahawks' offseason.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seattle players weren't sure what a new general manager might do.

Matt Pitman of 710 ESPN Seattle passes along audio links to interviews with Seattle players, including Hasselbeck and Branch.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt had limited options Monday in responding to repeated questions about his strategy for Week 17. McManaman: "Just like Sunday's game, Whisenhunt must have felt as if his hands were tied when he met with the media for his weekly news conference. From the sideline, he watched the Packers dominate his team and its vanilla game plan. From his press table, he listened to a ton of smarmy second-guessing. He couldn't really fight back on either day."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com cites local reports saying Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell wore a cast and sling after undergoing surgery on his thumb. Urban: "Campbell told Ch. 3's Brad Cesmat he still had a chance to play this week but nothing is certain."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals held back blitzes against Green Bay in Week 17.

More from Urban: thoughts from Whisenhunt during the coach's day-after-game news conference. Also: "The Cardinals know their second-round playoff schedule should they advance. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles, the Cardinals will play in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 16, at 2:30 p.m. Arizona time. If the Eagles beat the Cowboys, the Cards will play in Minnesota Sunday, Jan. 17, at 11 a.m. Arizona time."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo does not anticipate changes to his coaching staff. Spagnuolo: "You just don't jump ship on process, schemes, people. I have to sit down and evaluate everything now. You've got to give me time. We just got done with a game (against San Francisco), and it was 16 long games and a grind. But I don't anticipate (staff changes) right now."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams gathered one final time to end the season. Tight end Randy McMichael: "It's hard, man ... real emotional. You've been through wars with these guys, been with them since March. They're family. And that's basically what you're doing, you're leaving your family. ... You don't want it to end, but you know it has to."

Also from Coats: Steven Jackson, Leonard Little, James Laurinaitis and Oshiomogho Atogwe won team awards.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says the Rams can learn from the Jets, who earned a playoff berth while protecting a young quarterback with a strong ground game and defense. Gordon: "Rex Ryan is 1,000 times more colorful than Spagnuolo, but these coaches share the same beliefs. Both are defensive coaches. Both believe they can build championship teams with dominant defenses and powerful running attacks."

Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams held a brief team meeting before dispersing Monday. Spagnuolo: "I spoke with them real quick about moving forward. I told them, and I asked them, to focus on the team we have. Focus on what we’ve built and what came out of it."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Spagnuolo used the phrase "wonderful and taxing at the same time" to describe his first season as Rams coach.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers coach Mike Singletary would not commit to Alex Smith as his starting quarterback for 2010, saying only that Smith is the starter right now. Singletary: "Alex Smith is the starting quarterback right now. If we sign a quarterback this offseason, we'll see where it goes. I don't want to get into 'what kind of veteran quarterback.' I don't understand all that. Alex Smith is the starting quarterback right now and hopefully this offseason if one happens to show up or however that works out, there's always the possibility of signing another quarterback depending on what the situation is and depending on where that puts us in terms of the cap and all that other stuff. But I just think it's very important that right now just knowing that Alex Smith is the starting quarterback." The 49ers see Smith as their best option based on the current personnel, but Smith did not show them enough for the team to turn its back on potential contingencies.

Also from Barrows: He expects most of the 49ers' free agents to return. Linebacker Patrick Willis on Aubrayo Franklin: "Oh man, I pray to God they keep Aubrayo. The coaches already know where my heart is. I say he's the best nose (tackles) in the game. You turn on the film and nobody plays with better technique, nobody knows the game better than he knows it. He keeps my head from getting busted on every play and I'm thankful for that."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says quarterback and offensive coordinator remain hot topics for the 49ers. Smith expects to have the same coordinator in back-to-back years for the first time in his NFL career. Smith: "It will be new for me. A lot of it will be self-reflection and self-analysis, looking back at this last year and analyzing the things we did and where we can go from there to get to the next step. How do we get better? How do we take it to the next level? This offseason will be big because we won't be installing from square one. It is really, how do we push ourselves to take that step and not just go through the motions of an offseason? We really need to have a sense of urgency and take advantage of the time." More here.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News passes along quotes from Singletary's news conference.

Also from Kawakami: Singletary spoke less in absolutes than he normally might, using the qualifier "right now" when discussing the team.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Singletary expressed support for Smith and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. Singletary: "I don't think it's a matter of another coordinator. I think it's a matter of putting the pieces together, identifying exactly the offense that you're going to run, identifying the kind of offensive line that you need in order to run that. I think we have a lot of pieces in place. I just think it's a matter of getting all the pieces in the right places."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes Singletary as saying consistency is difficult to establish in the NFL.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says re-signing Franklin should be a top priority, according to players.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers players think the team could fare well in the playoffs if part of the six-team NFC field.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 2, 2009
12/02/09
5:59
PM ET
Arizona: Kurt Warner's condition will remain an issue right up until kickoff unless the Cardinals rule him out unexpectedly before then. Whether or not Warner starts, protecting the quarterback will be a challenge for the Cardinals. Left tackle Mike Gandy (pelvis) missed practice Wednesday and will not be full strength even if he starts, complicating an already difficult matchup against Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. The Cardinals' depth at linebacker is another concern. A shoulder injury limited Karlos Dansby in practice Wednesday. Rookie Cody Brown is on injured reserve. Fellow rookie Will Davis will miss several weeks after undergoing surgery. Chike Okeafor and Gerald Hayes have also had injury issues in recent weeks. That is a position to monitor.

San Francisco: The 49ers are relatively healthy. Barry Sims continues to give them an unexpectedly high level of play while left tackle Joe Staley prepares for a Dec. 14 return against the Cardinals. Fullback Brit Miller could help on special teams now that Curtis Taylor is on injured reserve. The 49ers continue to miss cornerback Nate Clements in run support. He is a strong tackler.

Seattle: The Seahawks are relatively healthy. Running back Julius Jones could return, but there's no rush as long as Justin Forsett is playing well. Defensive ends Cory Redding (concussion) and Lawrence Jackson (groin) did not practice Wednesday. Both could be available Sunday, as could backup linebacker D.D. Lewis (knee). Jones remains the starter if available, coach Jim Mora said, but Forsett has earned significant reps.

St. Louis: The Rams are hurting at running back, quarterback and on the offensive line. Getting right guard Richie Incognito back restores needed depth to the line, but center Jason Brown (knee) missed practice Wednesday for the first time in his career. His status for Sunday is uncertain. The team is also proceeding cautiously with rookie right tackle Jason Smith (concussion). The injuries up front are magnified now that running back Steven Jackson is playing through back trouble and fullback Mike Karney has neck problems.
The Seahawks, seeking to salvage their season at Arizona in Week 10, last won a road game against the Cardinals on Nov. 6, 2005.

Shaun Alexander carried 23 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns during a 33-19 Seattle victory at Sun Devil Stadium. The Seahawks, headed to Super Bowl XL after that season, picked off Kurt Warner three times and sacked him four times.

A couple things about these teams have changed since that game. I had some fun sifting through those 2005 rosters.



Players no longer with Seattle

Offense (20): Bobby Engram, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, Joe Jurevicius, Jerheme Urban, Mack Strong, Shaun Alexander, D.J. Hackett, Maurice Morris, Leonard Weaver, Floyd Womack, Ryan Hannam, Jerramy Stevens, Peter Warrick, David Greene, Wayne Hunter, Darrell Jackson, Itula Mili, Josh Scobey.

Defense (18): Bryce Fisher, Chuck Darby, Marcus Tubbs, Grant Wistrom, Jamie Sharper, Kelly Herndon, Michael Boulware, Marquand Manual, Jimmy Williams, John Howell, Niko Koutouvides, Kevin Bentley, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Joe Tafoya, Rocky Bernard, Etric Pruitt, Rodney Bailey, Andre Dyson.

Specialists (3): Josh Brown, Tom Rouen, J.P. Darche.

Players still with Seattle

Offense (6): Walter Jones (injured reserve), Sean Locklear, Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, Chris Spencer, Ray Willis.

Defense (6): Jordan Babineaux, Craig Terrill, D.D. Lewis, Lofa Tatupu (IR), Leroy Hill, Marcus Trufant.




Players no longer with Arizona

Offense (23): Bryant Johnson, Leonard Davis, Nick Leckey, Alex Stepanovich, Oliver Ross, Eric Edwards, Marcel Shipp, Adam Bergen, J.J. Arrington, Josh McCown, John Navarre, Reggie Newhouse, LeRon McCoy, Fred Wakefield, James Jackson, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Harold Morrow, Jarrod Baxter, Adam Haayer, J.J. Moses, Elton Brown, Teyo Johnson, Reggie Swinton.

Defense (16): Langston Moore, Ross Kolodziej, James Darling, Robert Tate, Robert Griffith, David Macklin, Antonio Cochran, Darryl Blackstock, Orlando Huff, Eric Green, Antonio Smith, Lamont Reid, Quentin Harris, Isaac Keys, Lance Mitchell, Aaron Francisco.

Specialists (2): Scott Player, Nathan Hodel.

Players still with Arizona

Offense (5): Reggie Wells, Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner, Jeremy Bridges, Anquan Boldin.

Defense (6): Chike Okeafor, Darnell Dockett, Bernard Berry, Karlos Dansby, Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle.

Specialists (1): Neil Rackers.

Note: Thanks to spaumi10 for noticing that Aaron Francisco and Lance Mitchell were initially listed on offense. There was a little cutting and pasting involved with this entry. Missed those two. Thanks!
Tags:

Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Floyd Womack, Jerheme Urban, Leonard Davis, Itula Mili, Joe Tafoya, Wayne Hunter, Josh Scobey, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Francisco, Mack Strong, Bryant Johnson, Jerramy Stevens, Larry Fitzgerald, Leroy HIll, Chike Okeafor, Darryl Blackstock, J.P. Darche, John Navarre, D.D. Lewis, Joe Jurevicius, Chris Gray, Lofa Tatupu, Ray Willis, Darrell Jackson, John Howell, Robbie Tobeck, Elton Brown, David Macklin, Marcus Trufant, Leonard Weaver, Seneca Wallace, Kevin Bentley, Karlos Dansby, Oliver Ross, Eric Green, Marcus Tubbs, Nick Leckey, Kurt Warner, Antonio Smith, Josh McCown, Jordan Babineaux, Neil Rackers, Sean Locklear, David Greene, J.J. Arrington, Maurice Morris, Bryce Fisher, Scott Player, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Marcel Shipp, Etric Pruitt, Chuck Darby, Antrel Rolle, Niko Koutouvides, Michael Boulware, Andre Dyson, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Bobby Engram, LeRon McCoy, Grant Wistrom, Shaun Alexander, Craig Terrill, Darnell Dockett, D.J. Hackett, Reggie Wells, Chris Spencer, Alex Stepanovich, Jimmy Williams, Tom Rouen, Lance Mitchell, Nathan Hodel, Josh Brown, Rocky Bernard, Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Jeremy Bridges, Ryan Hannam, Peter Warrick, Jamie Sharper, Kelly Herndon, Marquand Manual, Rodney Bailey, Eric Edwards, Adam Bergen, Reggie Newhouse, Fred Wakefield, James Jackson, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Harold Morrow, Jarrod Baxter, Adam Haayer, J.J. Moses, Teyo Johnson, Reggie Swinton, Langston Moore, Ross Kolodziej, James Darling, Robert Tate, Robert Griffith, Antonio Cochran, Orlando Huff, Lamont Reid, Quentin Harris, Isaac Keys, Bernard Berry


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Art Thiel of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks' 41-0 victory over the Jaguars made everything right in their world. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: "When I slid [near the goal line], I believe I heard the crowd laughing. I felt like that was a good decision."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Owen Schmitt's pregame bloodletting fired up the Seahawks. Linebacker Lofa Tatupu: "That was, man, gruesome but beautiful at the same time. I don't know if that's possible. But that got us going. Myself, D.D. Lewis, we were sitting there saying, 'That's a madman right there. That's a guy you want on your side.' A man willing to bloody his own face, you know how much he's willing to put on the line." That assumes Schmitt intended to cut himself.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Hasselbeck's performance exceeded all reasonable expectations. Boling: "Hasselbeck, who had missed two games with a fractured rib, didn’t wait for the game to start imposing his will. Normally one of those throwback guys who are businesslike and reserved when he runs on the field during introductions, Hasselbeck went all-out-Tatupu when he burst from the tunnel. He played to the crowd, waving his hands, pumping his fists, calling on the fans to get into this game, a must-win to stop a three-game losing streak that was threatening to doom the season."

Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune says first-round choice Aaron Curry and seventh-rounder Nick Reed made big plays for Seattle during the Seahawks' blowout victory. Reed on his long touchdown return: "I kept checking back. I should’ve looked up at the Jumbotron -- rookie mistake. But I had plenty of room because of the blocking behind me."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times paints a dramatic picture of Hasselbeck's return from not one but two broken ribs. Hasselbeck: "I wouldn't wish this on anybody."

Also from O'Neil: Going back to basics paid off for the Seattle defense.

More from O'Neil: in-game notes and observations.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says the Seattle defense rediscovered itself against the Jaguars. Kelley: "All day Sunday, Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard was assaulted. In the first quarter, Lofa Tatupu pressured him into an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Aaron Curry hurried him on one pass and hit him hard on the next down. (Darryl) Tapp treated him like a punching bag on a pass that Kelly Jennings almost intercepted. Then Tapp ran over Garrard for a third-quarter sack."

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times details the latest carnage on the Seahawks' offensive line.

Around the NFC West: Crabtree and more

September, 15, 2009
9/15/09
10:33
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


The 49ers' Web site provides a transcript to Mike Singletary's day-after-game news conference. Singletary: "Obviously, we’re going to have to play much better on our offensive line, and we will. We’re going to do whatever we have to do to make sure that our identity is intact. We want to run the football when we need to run the football, and there were a couple of times in the football game that we didn’t need to let our defense get back on the field, and we did. Good football teams can’t do that."

Michael Silver of Yahoo! suggests the 49ers' offers to Michael Crabtree will naturally diminish as the receiver misses games. He also frames the 49ers' offer this way: "A team source says the 49ers are willing to give Crabtree incentives that push the deal “up to a dollar less” than the package the Packers gave ninth overall pick B.J. Raji (a reported five-year, $28.5 million pact with just under $18 million in guaranteed money), “but we won’t go over that. Otherwise, we’re going to have the same problem next year, and the year after that."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers could get receiver Brandon Jones back from injury this week.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 2010 first-round draft choice the 49ers received from Carolina could be a relatively high choice based on what the Panthers showed in Week 1.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals were not brushing off their poor performance against the 49ers. Linebacker Karlos Dansby: "I'm definitely concerned about the penalties. We're a veteran group and we can't make those kinds of mistakes. We've got to grow up and move past this and get better. We're definitely going to challenge each other this week."

Also from McManaman: The Cardinals hope Adrian Wilson avoids a suspension following his big hit on 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.

More from McManaman: Cardinals receiver Sean Morey and Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu are among those who have agreed to donate their brains to concussion research.

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says it's reasonable to be concerned about Kurt Warner.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along information from Jim Mora's day-after-game news conference. Will Herring will start at linebacker for the injured Leroy Hill. The team released defensive lineman Derek Walker to make room for newly re-signed linebacker D.D. Lewis.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Mora let defensive coordinator Gus Bradley call most of the plays in the opener.

John Morgan of Field Gulls says the Seattle defense was very effective for a unit that did not force a turnover.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Richie Incognito following the Rams guard's latest on-field meltdown. Incognito: "It’s great knowing that the coaches are behind me 100 percent. That hasn’t always been the case. In this game, there’s zero tolerance for things like that. It’s something I have to overcome. It’s squarely set on my shoulders as something that I have to overcome to help this team get better."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Steve Spagnuolo's first game as Rams coach was a "major disappointment" despite modest expectations. Miklasz: "After so many meetings and practices, how can you have 12 men on the field? On offense, how can you be late in sending in plays, or getting the right personnel into the game? There was too much confusion on the Rams' sideline."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch details the Rams' mistakes. Thomas: "Every Monday during the regular season, the Rams have an on-the-field corrections period when they go over mistakes from the previous day's game. They must have been out there awhile this Monday."

Randy Karraker of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams need more from their offensive line, among other things, during this video analysis.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat quotes Spagnuolo this way on the penalty that wiped out a touchdown return: "The bottom line is that we probably don't block the kick if we don't have 12 guys. That's inexcusable, that shouldn't happen. There was a miscount. There was an error all the way across the board. There will be a lot of people who take responsibility, and I'm one of them.''

Observations from Rams-Seahawks game

September, 14, 2009
9/14/09
5:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Initial impressions of the Seahawks and Rams after watching their game late Sunday night:
  • Seattle remains in the embryonic stages offensively. I would expect improvement. Tight end John Carlson is the guy Matt Hasselbeck trusts the most, along with Nate Burleson. Hasselbeck holds the ball too long sometimes when he isn't quite sure where a receiver will be. Seattle could be dangerous if the team can get to midseason with a good record.
  • Aaron Curry transforms the Seattle defense. He brings an enforcer mentality and backs it up with size and athletic ability. He gets under other players' skin. Seattle hasn't had that type of mentality on defense for quite a while. Can the Seahawks sustain it against better teams?
  • One more note on Curry: The game was out of reach when the Rams' Steven Jackson finally broke a long run. Curry caught him from behind.
  • The Rams are smarter defensively from a scheme standpoint. Coach Steve Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole kept Hasselbeck guessing early in the game by mixing up double-team coverages on receivers. Hasselbeck eventually figured out where to find Carlson.
  • Seattle was a difficult first destination for the Rams because of the noise. The Rams lack firepower at receiver and that will hurt them all season, but opening the season at home would have given St. Louis a better chance to function.
  • Backup Seattle linebackers Will Herring and David Hawthorne seemed to fare well once starters Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu left the game. Herring played well during preseason. Hawthorne has improved and become more than just a hitter. But with only six linebackers on the roster heading into Week 1, the team needed to sign D.D. Lewis as insurance once injuries affected Hill and Tatupu. Hill's injury appeared more serious.
  • The Rams cannot trust right guard Richie Incognito to keep his composure. There's a difference between playing with an edge and falling over the edge. I seriously question whether Incognito can ever show the necessary self-control.

Those are a few first impressions after watching the game on replay. I'll take a closer look upon returning home late Monday night.

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