NFC West: Dave Brown
The trades St. Louis made also left the Rams with different options when they did select -- potentially lesser options in some cases.
Those are the trade-offs.
Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis liked the Rams' approach overall, with one possible exception. Softli: "There was only decision during the draft that I really questioned. I have been on that side of the fence and recognize that the flow of the draft has some traps that you cannot avoid or sidestep. Having said that, the trade back from No. 45 to No. 50 smacked of perhaps overanalyzing things a bit too much. As a result, the Rams missed out on an opportunity to beef up their linebacking corps." Noted: Linebacker Mychal Kendricks went to Philadelphia at No. 46. Seattle took linebacker Bobby Wagner with the next pick. The Rams took running back Isaiah Pead at No. 50, two spots before Tennessee selected linebacker Zach Brown. The Rams need help at outside linebacker. Kendricks and Wagner are expected to play the middle with their new teams. I found it interesting that the Rams preferred Pead to LaMichael James, the running back San Francisco selected 61st overall.
Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates the Rams' stadium situation, but neither party is making public key aspects of the process.
Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks the 49ers' draft moves show the team plans for Alex Smith. Lynch: "Any inkling of flagging confidence was completely obliterated over draft weekend. Not only did head coach Jim Harbaugh once again reiterate that Smith was the team’s unquestioned starter, Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke surrounded Smith with foot-speed freaks in Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and Oregon running back LaMichael James. Combine these dynamos with free agent signings Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and the message is clear -- Harbaugh is breaking the offense open and he obviously believes Smith can run this new wide-open attack." Noted: The 49ers are setting themselves up for life with or without Smith. Their confidence in him will reflect his performance and their alternatives.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' selection of 5-foot-9, 193-pound safety Trenton Robinson reflects an emphasis on pass coverage and a complete departure from the thinking that went into Taylor Mays' selection.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with cornerback Brandon Browner, who joined Dave Brown, Shawn Springs and Marcus Trufant as the only Pro Bowl corners in team history. Farnsworth: "Five of his team-high six interceptions coming in the final six games, making him only the fifth player in franchise history to lead the team in his first season -- along with Brown (1976), Autry Beamon (1977), Darryl Williams (1996) and Earl Thomas (2010)."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks sought speed and gave second chances when drafting this year.
Art Thiel of Sports Press Northwest reflects on the Seahawks' surprise selection of Bruce Irvin in the first round, offering this: "Pete Carroll, who knows more about Irvin’s past than anyone speculating on the draft, is betting a considerable portion of the Seahawks house that he can design a defensive role that maximizes Irvin’s biggest asset, speed, and minimizes his biggest liability, size. As to whether Irvin’s off-field actions turn him into the next Koren Robinson/Jerramy Stevens or the next Cortez Kennedy/Dave Brown, your guess is as good as anyone's. And no one's."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb is eager to atone for last season. Also, Michael Floyd's arrival as the likely starting flanker could give Andre Roberts extended playing time from the slot. Kolb says he thinks Roberts is a "special" player and should thrive from the slot.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com passes along thoughts from Roberts and Early Doucet regarding Floyd's addition. Doucet: "This isn’t new to me. I’ve seen it all, been through it all. Again, I think it’s a good pick for us. It gives us another big body on the outside like Fitz, and we will have more opportunities if they pay attention to those big bodies. It’s the business. I don’t have any bad blood toward the guy. I’m excited."
That will change when Kerry Collins replaces an injured Manning in the Colts' lineup for Week 1.
The first preseason game I covered as an NFL beat reporter featured Manning making his first start against the Seattle Seahawks in the Kingdome. His very first pass found Marvin Harrison for a 49-yard touchdown. Preseason games are generally without much meaning, but could there have been a more fitting beginning for Manning?
For a fuller appreciation of Manning's durability and consistency in starting 227 consecutive games, I went through Pro Football Reference counting how many quarterbacks had started for current NFC West teams since Manning made his regular-season debut. There have been 48. That figure includes 14 for the St. Louis Rams, 13 for the 49ers, 11 for the Arizona Cardinals and 10 for the Seahawks.
A few notes on the 48 players to start for current NFC West teams since 1998:
- There have been two Brocks (Berlin, Huard), two Charlies (Frye, Whitehurst), two named Chris (Chandler, Weinke), two Jeffs (Plummer, Martin), three Johns (Friesz, Navarre, Skelton), one Jon (Kitna), two Matts (Hasselbeck, Leinart), two Shauns (Hill, King), three Steves (Young, Bono, Stenstrom) and two Trents (Dilfer, Green).
- Two, Young and Warren Moon, have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame since Manning's streak began.
- Dilfer and Warner started for more than one current NFC West team since Manning's streak began. Warner started 57 games for Arizona and 50 for St. Louis. Dilfer started 12 for Seattle and six for San Francisco.
- Hasselbeck has the most total starts for current NFC West teams with 131, followed by Marc Bulger (95 for St. Louis), Jake Plummer (73 for the Cardinals) and Jeff Garcia (71 for the 49ers).
- Smith -- Alex, not Troy -- owns the most starts among current NFC West players with 50, all for San Francisco.
- Eight of the 48 were one-and-done as starters: Berlin, Scott Covington, Ty Detmer, Glenn Foley, Friesz, Frye, Navarre and Weinke. Nineteen have made at least 10 starts.
The NFC West will have two starters new to the division in Week 1: Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb.
The chart shows start totals by team for the 48. The NFC West changed membership with realignment in 2002. I'm going back to 1998 for the four teams currently in the division.
The charts show some initial findings.
- First-round draft choice;
- Has thrown between 40 and 60 touchdown passes;
- Career passer rating was no higher than 85.0;
- Has played in no more than six seasons.
Smith's new coach, Jim Harbaugh, is one of the players on the list. Some of the players enjoyed moderately successful careers. Vince Young, Greg Landry, Harbaugh, Dan Pastorini and Archie Manning were named to at least one Pro Bowl.
The second chart eliminates Smith's statistically horrible rookie season, when he had one touchdown and 11 interceptions for a very bad team.
It shows statistics for quarterbacks drafted in first rounds since 1970 based on the following criteria, also according to Pro Football Reference:
- Second through sixth seasons only;
- Had thrown between 40 and 55 touchdown passes;
- Had thrown no more than 45 interceptions;
- Had started at least 40 games during this period.
Harbaugh again makes the list, but I was most struck by similarities between the numbers for Smith and Harbaugh's old teammate, Jim McMahon.
Smith and McMahon could not be less similar in terms of personality, overall approach, supporting cast and on-field results. McMahon went 22-1 as a starter from 1985-87.
The Harbaugh comparison is much more relevant. Both players failed to meet expectations early in their careers despite their diligence. Harbaugh's personality was much more aggressive, however, and that raises a very fair but harsh question: Does Smith have the right makeup to salvage his career in a manner the way Harbaugh did after leaving Chicago?
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers have a predraft visit set up with LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Also from Barrows: University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker generally had a tough time against Jim Harbaugh's Stanford team.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com recalls the late Dave Brown for his latest piece on the 35th anniversary team. Eugene Robinson: "I had some really good role models and mentors in front of him to teach me how to play. ... No one knows, but I was at Dave Brown’s house every Wednesday watching film. And that was before it was cut up like it is now into third downs, first downs, mixed downs and all the different ways they prepare film for the players. Guess what? I had to do that by myself, with Dave Brown. Every Wednesday. Without exception. Talk about an education."
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says draft analyst Rob Rang is now projecting Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi as the Seahawks' first-round draft choice for 2011. Rang: "Carimi, a four-year starter at left tackle, lacks the elite athleticism to remain there in the NFL, which could push him into the second portion of the round. The 2010 Outland Trophy winner has the bulk, strength and physicality in the running game to star on the right side." Coach Pete Carroll recently said Stacy Andrews would compete for the starting job on the right side. Drafting Carimi would make Andrews' salary pretty much prohibitive. It's on the high side, anyway.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic does not expect Cardinals players to gather for informal practice sessions this offseason. Somers: "The Cardinals seem among the least likely teams to organize such off-season workouts. Many of their key players -- receiver Steve Breaston, center Lyle Sendlein, guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui -- have no contract for 2011. Why would Breaston, Lutui and Sendlein, for instance, risk injury for a team that has not seriously tried yet to sign them to long-term deals? Many Cardinals players are working out under the supervision of personal trainers, or on their own. Some, such as Larry Fitzgerald, have [spent] the off-season traveling."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com sent LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson to the Cardinals at No. 5 in a mock draft after Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus, Von Miller and A.J. Green came off the board in the top four spots.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sends defensive end Robert Quinn to the Rams with the 14th overall choice in his mock draft. He has Miller going to Arizona at No. 5, Peterson going to San Francisco at No. 7 and quarterback Christian Ponder heading to Seattle at No. 25. Will Quinn be available? He was not on the five other mock drafts listed along with the one Thomas submitted. Not that anyone knows for sure.
Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com thinks the NFL's new rules for kickoff returns will help the Rams. His reasoning: The Rams do not have a great returner, their kicker hasn't produced many touchbacks and the team should have an easier time avoiding injuries now.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team's quest to find a quarterback will impact Larry Fitzgerald's decision on whether to remain with the team past 2011. Urban: "Money will not be an issue. The Cardinals are expected to meet Fitzgerald’s desires in that area. As last season progressed, however, Fitzgerald talked more and more about wanting to make sure he played for a winner. He was always careful not to talk about having a better quarterback -- Fitzgerald is too smart for that -- but it was not difficult to read between the lines."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams went without a compensatory draft choice for only the second time in 10 years. Thomas: "Over the years, the Rams have had good success with compensatory picks, including two members of the current roster -- linebacker Josh Hull from the 2010 draft and linebacker David Vobora from the '08 draft. Vobora was Mr. Irrelevant in '08 as the last player taken in the draft. Three other former Rams compensatory picks are still playing in the NFL: quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo) and fullback Madison Hedgecock (Giants) were Rams comp picks in 2005; and linebacker Scott Shanle (New Orleans) was a comp pick in 2003."
Also from Thomas: The Rams expected improvement from quarterback Sam Bradford to help raise the level of play at receiver as well. Better luck with injuries would certainly help. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "Donnie Avery looks great. You know, when Donnie and I talked a year ago at the end of the (2009) season I said, 'You've got to be a durable guy, and that takes the offseason.' Because he would catch a pass and it seemed like every time he got up -- I told him this -- something was sore. So he worked on it last year, and of course he had the (knee) injury, and with this time with rehab that still rings in his ear. He has really taken a step to get his body ready to play an NFL season."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team is still formulating its draft opinions. General manager Billy Devaney: "We are not close to being there. I have a general idea. Being realistic, there are certain guys you know are going to be gone from pick one to five, six, seven. Then after that there is a cluster of names and they are darn good names. It’s exciting. It’s really exciting the possibilities that will be there at 14. We have a vague idea but we haven’t narrowed it down yet."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains why the 49ers received a second compensatory draft choice. Maiocco: "There were 21 compensatory picks awarded Friday based on the compensatory pick formula. By rule, 11 additional choices were awarded at the end of the seventh round to bring the total number of compensatory selections to 32, equaling the number of NFL clubs. The 49ers were among the teams given an extra draft choice based on the 2011 draft selection order."
Also from Maiocco: He makes the case against San Francisco using an early draft choice for a wide receiver. Maiocco: "Teams with good passing attacks can plug in receiver after receiver, and there is rarely a statistical drop-off. The 49ers have 10 picks in the draft, and they will almost assuredly use one of those selections on a wideout. But the team should be just fine with Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan as the starters -- as long as Jim Harbaugh can come up with somebody to throw the ball to them. The 49ers will look to upgrade the production from their No. 3 wideout. Veteran Ted Ginn had only 10 catches for 122 yards, and his spot on the roster is certainly not guaranteed. Kyle Williams did not get on the field much as a rookie, but he's a Trent Baalke draft pick. Baalke raved about Williams' combination of quickness and speed, attributes that serve him well as a slot receiver and in the return game."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates pre-draft workouts and visits for the 49ers. Barrows on Andy Dalton: "Dalton said on NFL Network that he has private visits set up with the 49ers among other teams. Jim Harbaugh attended Dalton's pro day workout earlier this month, and he is among a group of second-round prospects the 49ers are sorting out. Dalton's best attribute may be his accuracy, although like many passers in this year's class, he operated out of a spread system in college."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers, who already hold a league-high 12 draft choices, should trade back to acquire more in the hopes that quantity gives them a better shot at quality. Lynch: "In the last decade, the 49ers proved adept at drafting a Pro Bowl punter, long-snapper, middle linebacker and running back. But now they have to take chances on pass rusher, cornerback and quarterback. It would be best to go after those spots with two or three possibilities instead one potentially expensive miss."
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have a shot at continuing their recent successes in the latter rounds of drafts. The team holds five choices in the final two rounds. Josh Morgan, Ricky Jean-Francois and Anthony Dixon were recent finds in those rounds.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare would take a "hometown discount" to remain with the team. Mare: "Oh, absolutely. For sure. I would be stupid not to. The Seahawks gave me an opportunity. I always take that into consideration also. But we'll see. I have to get a offer first. What would be great would be is if there was a bunch and it would show that people appreciate what you do, and that's always flattering. Just to get all your options available. If you signed (for) three, four, five years, that would be your last contract. You want to make sure that everything was done right. But yeah, Seattle will definitely get a home discount. Besides, I like to go to the Sounders games, and I've got a lot going on there." Looks like the Seahawks don't have to worry about losing Mare in free agency.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com continues his series on the 35th anniversary team with a look at retired safety Eugene Robinson. Farnsworth: "For a guy who showed up in 1985 as an undrafted rookie out of Colgate, as a cornerback no less, Robinson left an indelible mark on the franchise. He is the Seahawks’ all-time leading tackler (984) and ranks second in career interceptions (42) to Dave Brown (50) and fumble recoveries (14) to Jacob Green (17) -- one of the ends on the reader-selected 35th Anniversary team."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says a small group of Seahawks fans protested the NFL lockout at Qwest Field. Said one fan: "It frustrates me because we paid for our tickets. We spend a lot of money during the season to watch these guys, and our say doesn't even get taken into any consideration."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
|Recognize him? Quarterback Tom Tupa started 13 games for the Cardinals, same as Gary Hogeboom and Jeff Blake -- and nearly as many as Matt Leinart.|
At the other end, we can safely declare Kurt Warner the best starting quarterback for two of the four NFC West teams -- the Cardinals and Rams -- since those franchises last relocated.
With an assist from information available at Pro Football Reference, I counted 22 starting quarterbacks for the Cardinals in the 21 seasons since the team moved to Arizona for the 1988 season. Only one has started more games for the Cardinals than Warner during that time. A quick recap, in order of most starts:
1. Jake Plummer (82 starts)
2. Warner (42)
3. Josh McCown (22)
4. Steve Beuerlein (21)
5. Timm Rosenbach (20)
6. Chris Chandler (17)
7. Dave Krieg (16)
7. Matt Leinart (16)
9. Neil Lomax (14)
9. Kent Graham (14)
11. Gary Hogeboom (13)
11. Tom Tupa (13)
11. Jeff Blake (13)
14. Jay Schroeder (8)
14. Boomer Esiason (8)
16. Dave Brown (7)
17. Stan Gelbaugh (3)
18. Cliff Stoudt (2)
18. Shaun King (2)
20. Jim McMahon (1)
20. Stoney Case (1)
20. John Navarre (1)
The list affirms, in my view, that Leinart hasn't started enough games for the Cardinals to make an informed decision about his future with the team. The way Warner is going, Leinart might never start enough games to sufficiently inform that decision.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
|Manny Rubio/NFL/Getty Images|
|Hall of Famer WR receiver Steve Largent was voted the Seattle Seahawks' greatest player in franchise history.|
Readers' choice: Steve Largent, WR
Largent remains the only Pro Football Hall of Fame member known primarily as a Seahawks player. He was an easy and rightful choice for ESPN.com voters as the greatest player in franchise history. Largent retired after the 1989 season as the NFL's all-time leader in receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089) and receiving touchdowns (100).
Packers General Manager Ted Thompson described Largent this way when contacted for a story about all-time great receivers:
"He was as crafty as anybody I could recall. He wasn't a big guy, but he knew exactly how to lean on people and his hands were unbelievable. I would put his hands up against those of anyone on this list."
Dave Krieg finished second in balloting, followed by Shaun Alexander, Walter Jones, Matt Hasselbeck, Cortez Kennedy, Curt Warner, Kenny Easley, Jacob Green and the late Dave Brown. I would rank Largent first, Jones second, Kennedy third and Easley fourth. Each was the best in the league at his position for a stretch. And if you remain unconvinced on Easley, listen to what Ronnie Lott told me a few years ago:
Kenny could do what Jack Tatum could do, but he also could do what Mike Haynes could do. He was not only a great hitter and great intimidator on the field, but he was a great athlete. Kenny, Lawrence Taylor and those guys changed the game of football on the defensive side because they were not just big hitters. Now, all of sudden, you were seeing guys who were big hitters, but also as athletic as anyone of offense.Kennedy was the NFL's defensive player of the year and unblockable for a three- or four-year stretch. Jones will probably go down as one of the five or 10 greatest tackles in NFL history.