NFC West: Derrick Alexander
"I do like how his skill set translates to the new offense," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "They'll run a lot of quick-hitting routes where he can be big and physical, fight for the football and run after the catch with power."
Crabtree is coming off a 55-catch second season in which his numbers almost exactly matched established averages for wideouts in Jimmy Raye-coordinated offenses. The 49ers fired Raye after three games, but they ran essentially the same offense. San Francisco, like some of Raye's teams in Kansas City, had a prolific receiving tight end, which affected opportunities for wide receivers.
But there's still an expectation, I would think, for Crabtree's production to improve under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Crabtree has at times looked like a season pro, but I emerged from last season wondering what to expect from him.
"It will be a test for Harbaugh for sure from a coaching standpoint," Williamson said, "but besides developing a quarterback -- Colin Kaepernick will be great, by the way -- getting the most out of Crabtree has to be extremely high on Harbaugh's to-do list. I would like to see them add one more speed guy to the receiving corps."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Questions, answers and observations as the 49ers prepare for their 2009 regular-season opener without first-round draft choice Michael Crabtree:
2. What is the holdup? It's impossible to know without trusting sources with a vested interest in how the arguments are framed. The cliche says the devil is in the details, and that is probably the case here. High-stakes negotiations for drafted rookies are about identifying which incentive terms will allow the player to maximize total value. What if Crabtree fears he could not hit those incentives in the 49ers' conservative offense? More on that in a bit.
3. Does Crabtree want to play for the 49ers? I'm starting to have doubts. The other first-round picks in this division had a hard time missing training camp practices, let alone exhibition games or the regular season. Beanie Wells traveled overnight to reach Cardinals camp without missing any more practices than necessary. Aaron Curry told reporters he had reached a breaking point after missing one week of camp. Crabtree? Not so much.
4. Why wouldn't Crabtree want to play for the 49ers? Perhaps he's been listening to Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye talking about how they want to run the ball 60 percent of the time, more than any NFL offense ran the ball last season. The way quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Alex Smith performed during the exhibition season probably didn't help. And if you look at Raye's history as a coordinator -- see the chart below -- he's clearly serious about running the football.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune looks into Kurt Warner's chances for the Hall of Fame. One voter says Warner won't be in the conversation without a victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Marshall Faulk and Joe Montana as saying Warner should be in the Hall of Fame either way.
Also from Miklasz: Brenda Warner speaks for her husband at the NFL's man of the year news conference.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals general manager Rod Graves, who declines to gloat about the team's success.
Also from Somers: He sizes up Russ Grimm's chances for the Hall of Fame.
More from Somers: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt consults the notes he took while observing other coaches, including Bill Cowher.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com asks Cardinals players about differences between Whisenhunt and former coach Dennis Green. Urban: "Safety Adrian Wilson said too often there were two different messages coming from the coaching staff -- one from Green, and one from the assistants."
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic explains how Cardinals rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made it through the week, which included a short trip home Tuesday.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic follows Rocky Bleier and Mike Ditka on an emotional visit to a veterans hospital. Bleier, the Vietnam veteran and former Steelers fullback, discourages comparisons to former Cardinals safety Pat Tillman, who died in Afghanistan. Bleier: "I got drafted. Pat chose. There's a big difference."
Ginger Rough of the Arizona Republic looks at the Cardinals' revamped conditioning program.
John Faherty of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals fans in Tampa. They feel outnumbered.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune compares the current Cardinals organization to the Steelers of nearly 40 years ago.
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind looks at keys to the game for Arizona.
John Dudley of Cold, Hard Football Facts makes a case for the Cardinals as Super Bowl champs. Ken Whisenhunt has an 8-1 record in postseason as an assistant and head coach.
Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders previews Super Bowl XLIII: "The real mystery of the Arizona playoff surge is the improved pass defense."
Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders profiles the Cardinals' Karlos Dansby and others. Farrar: "Given Pittsburgh's reliance on the pass in situations both conventional and unconventional (hint: a lot of third-and-short), don't be surprised if Dansby has the modus operandi for success."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the hiring of Kevin Demoff puts the Rams in position to start negotiating contracts with key players, including Oshiomogho Atogwe and Ron Bartell. Also, Brendan Daly is joining the Rams' coaching staff, probably to oversee the defensive line. Finally, former Rams assistant Jeff Horton is joining former Rams head coach Scott Linehan in Detroit.
The 49ers' Web site provides a transcript of Jimmy Raye's conference call with reporters.
Also from the 49ers: a transcript of Mike Singletary's conference call with reporters.
More from 49ers: links to recent interviews involving team president Jed York.
Niners scout Quentus Cumby picks the Cardinals to beat the Steelers. Cumby: "The first half of the game, I think both teams will be feeling each other out and Pittsburgh may have the upper hand early on. As soon as Arizona realizes that it's just another football game, I think they're going to explode."
Niners assistant Tom Rathman explains why he's rooting for Arizona in the Super Bowl. He doesn't want the Steelers to pass the 49ers in Super Bowl victories.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the hiring of Raye and quarterbacks coach Michael Johnson rounds out the offensive staff.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers highlights from the conference calls with Raye and Singletary.
Also from Maiocco: Raye's philosophy lined up with that of Singletary.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers would like Johnson to eventually succeed the 62-year-old Raye as coordinator.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers and Raye are the same age. Also: "Raye pointed to his successful 2000 Chiefs team as evidence that he can air it out when called upon. Quarterback Elvis Grbac threw for 4,169 yards and 28 touchdowns that season, while tight end Tony Gonzalez and rece
ivers Andre Rison and Derrick Alexander also had big seasons."
Note: If you see anything from the Seahawks or more stories worth checking out, please share links in the comments. Thanks.