NFC West: Darrell Green
Freddie Solomon sparked the comeback with a 57-yard touchdown on a punt return. Solomon's 14-yard scoring reception in the fourth quarter was also critical.
That video was fresh in my mind when a friend coincidentally passed along a link I'd missed for Gary Shelton's column profiling Solomon in the Tampa Tribune recently.
Solomon is 58 and making strides in a rough fight against cancer. He asks for no sympathy. He earns admiration for his good humor and spirit, now and throughout his playing career.
Shelton's piece leads with a story from Joe Montana about the time "Fast Freddie" outran Darrell Green, the NFL's fastest man.
Also from Thomas: The Rams added H-back Demarco Cosby.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch rates Hall of Fame chances for various key performers from the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf teams. He gives Aenaes Williams a 70 percent change. Miklasz: "He was named to eight Pro Bowls. He was a 3-time first-team All Pro. His 55 interceptions rank 18th in NFL history. Williams has more INTs than Hall of Fame DBs such as Deion Sanders, Darrell Green, Willie Brown, Mel Renfro, Herb Adderley, Larry Wilson, Willie Wood, Jimmy Johnson and Roger Wehrli."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com also looks at Rams Hall of Fame candidates.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com provides an update from 49ers camp. Maiocco: "Rookie QB Colin Kaepernick showed his speed with a boot leg from midfield that fooled everybody on defense. He hit TE Delanie Walker on back-to-back touchdown throws of 9 and 4 yards. QB Alex Smith came back to find Braylon Edwards on a 4-yard fade route over tight coverage from Tramaine Brock."
Also from Maiocco: 49ers safety Reggie Smith hints at a setback.
More from Maiocco: The 49ers' offense could be gaining momentum.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Smith has suffered a torn meniscus in his knee.
Also from Barrows: Coach Jim Harbaugh liked how the 49ers practiced Monday.
Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat passes along an Alex Smith interview transcript.
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Smith is embracing Harbaugh's offense. Smith: "To get a chance to have him hands on, to have him demonstrate, to have him jump out there and be competitive, it's fun. For all (quarterbacks), it's great to have a visual explanation sometimes, instead of getting it told to you. To get to see it happen, even from an old guy, it's good."
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says Smith has been more colorful than Harbaugh recently, an upset.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Dashon Goldson's return came as a surprise. Branch: "The Raiders were interested in Goldson, but re-signed Michael Huff. The Cowboys were in the discussion, but signed free-agent safety Abram Elam. Goldson visited the Patriots on Sunday, but ended up right back where he has spent the first four seasons of his career."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers highlights from practice Monday. Farnsworth's offensive highlight: "Rookie wide receiver Ricardo Lockette taking a pass from Portis along the left sideline and then making like the sprint champion he used to be to race back to his right and score a TD." Lockette appears to be one of the more athletically gifted players in camp.
Also from Farnsworth: The Seahawks can go bigger on offense now that they've got tight end Zach Miller from Oakland. Farnsworth: "That’s the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Miller working with the 6-5, 251-pound John Carlson, as well as 6-5, 235-pound split end Mike Williams and just-signed 6-4, 204-pound flanker Sidney Rice. Connect the dots between those impressive dimensions and it creates the perfect picture of a mismatch for some overmatched defensive back."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates Jamison Konz's position change for Seattle.
Also from O'Neil: a closer look at Seahawks guard Robert Gallery, who will be the 11th player to start at left guard for Seattle since Steve Hutchinson signed with Minnesota following the 2005 season.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune sees good things from Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill. Boling on younger linebackers in camp: "K.J. Wright, at 6-4, 246 looks too lanky in the middle, and in the first days of camp was spinning around at times in pass coverage. He's getting more and more comfortable, and a couple times Monday showed good instinct and technique scraping and filling against the run. Malcolm Smith is another, on the outside, who will be interesting to watch. He's 6-0, 226, but has jets and really closes ground. ... Mike Morgan is another who looks lanky as a SAM linebacker, but also has come up with athletic plays."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Golden Tate's niche with Seattle could be as a slot receiver.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic updates Adrian Wilson's arm injury. McManaman: "Although it remained unclear as to how badly Wilson's biceps tendon is torn, most athletes who suffer the injury opt for surgery." Much depends upon which of the three biceps tendons is torn, and to what degree.
Also from McManaman: Early Doucet is faring well in Cardinals camp so far. Whisenhunt: "I've been very impressed. He's in good shape, he's made some plays. We'd just like to see Early continue with that track. There's no question that when Early has been healthy and played, he's made some big plays for us."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Wilson wasn't giving much ground when asked how the biceps tendon injury would affect him.
Also from Urban: Longtime Cardinals scout Bo Bolinger has passed away. Urban: "An All-America selection as a guard at the University of Oklahoma, Bolinger finished ninth in Heisman voting following his senior season and was a starter on the Sooners' national championship team of 1955. He was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1956 NFL Draft. He went on to coach at the collegiate level for 11 seasons, including stints at the University of Denver, Tulsa, New Mexico and Utah State, and spent two seasons as the offensive line coach for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League before joining the Cardinals organization in 1971."
- Horton has paid his dues. He's been a secondary coach or assistant secondary coach for each of his 16 seasons on NFL coaching staffs. A natural question: Why didn't he advance more quickly? One potential reason: Horton's bosses kept leaving the game. He has worked for Bruce Coslet, Steve Mariucci and Bill Cowher over the years. Those guys haven't been in position to help him get better jobs elsewhere.
- The Steelers allowed Horton to reach the final year of his contract. They made sure linebackers coach Keith Butler remained on staff, presumably as their future coordinator. The Cardinals also wanted Butler first. That may or may not reflect negatively on Horton. It might just mean these teams prefer Butler.
- Horton gives the Cardinals the Pittsburgh flavor they've sought for their defense. That could give the team a more focused vision regarding the players Arizona seeks through the draft. Coach Ken Whisenhunt should be more comfortable with this defensive coordinator.
- Horton spent seven seasons under Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh and four seasons under him in Cincinnati. Ron Lynn was the defensive coordinator when Horton broke into the NFL as an assistant with the Washington Redskins in 1994. Norv Turner was head coach. Kurt Schottenheimer was defensive coordinator when Horton was coaching the secondary for the Detroit Lions under head coaches Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci.
- The Cardinals have invested substantial sums in their secondary. Adrian Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are coming off disappointing seasons. Horton must get more from them. Horton coached Hall of Famer Darrell Green, who has worked with Rodgers-Cromartie during offseasons.
- Arizona was among eight NFL teams that went into the 2010 season with an offensive-minded head coach and a defensive coordinator running a 3-4 scheme. Six of the eight defensive coordinators had backgrounds coaching linebackers. One traced his coaching roots to the defensive line. The Packers' Dom Capers was the only one with a background in the secondary. He had been a head coach twice before joining Green Bay.
The Cardinals have a news conference set to begin momentarily. Back with more in a bit.
|Kevin Terrell/Getty Images|
|Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie held up against Steve Smith last week and could face another test Sunday in Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
As endorsements go, this one trumps anything the Cardinals or anyone else might offer for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the player Arizona coaches and players call "DRC."
"I think he's going to be one of the great ones for a long time," Green said by phone Wednesday.
Green would know. A seven-time Pro Bowl choice in 20 seasons with the Washington Redskins, he first worked with Rodgers-Cromartie before the lithe young cornerback's senior season at Tennessee State. Green's close friend and former Redskins teammate, Tim Johnson, grew up with Rodgers-Cromartie's father, Stanley Cromartie. The connection helped lead Rodgers-Cromartie to the training sessions Green holds for aspiring corners.
"My philosophy in training these kids is to help them understand the man-to-man concepts and develop the skills, the feet and the mentality to be able to take on a receiver one-on-one with no help," Green said.
The concept is increasingly foreign in the NFL, where zone schemes such as Cover 2 have become the prescribed remedy for rules changes that have opened up passing games. Few corners have the skills to hold up consistently well in the current environment.
But when the Cardinals drew up their game plan for containing the Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith, arguably the most dynamic receiver in the league, they placed much of the burden on their rookie corner. The luxury helped them contain other aspects of the Panthers' offense, including their third-ranked rushing attack. Smith wasn't a factor until late in the game, after the Cardinals had built a comfortable lead.
Next up for Rodgers-Cromartie: A likely date with the Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson in the NFC Championship Game. The experience against Smith should help ease any misgivings.
"I'm going to be honest, when I first heard I had Steve Smith, you talk about butterflies -- I had them," Rodgers-Cromartie told reporters Wednesday. "As I watch film on this man, I see him turn a screen into a touchdown, or fighting for deep balls and jumping over guys that are 6-2 or 6-3, I didn't know if I was ready."