NFC West: Dionte Dinkins

Can Seahawks exploit Rams' CB issues?

November, 18, 2011
The St. Louis Rams have lost cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Al Harris, Mikail Baker, Dionte Dinkins, Tim Atchison and Brian Jackson to season-ending injuries.

A ninth corner, Chris Smith, was waived/injured earlier in the season, returning as a member of the practice squad. A 10th, Marquis Johnson, opened the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Even opponents realize that's a "ridiculous" injury situation at one position.

"That's crazy," Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson told reporters in St. Louis.

And with cornerback Justin King suffering an ankle injury Thursday, four days after he suffered a concussion, the situation could be getting worse.

As much as the Seahawks have leaned on the ground game recently, the Rams' injury situation at cornerback could, in theory, coax them into a more pass-happy approach. The Seahawks could also try running the ball from personnel groups featuring three-plus wideouts. That is one of the more interesting strategic possibilities in the NFC West this week.

The Seahawks used three or more wide receivers on 35.8 percent of their plays against Baltimore in Week 10, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was a season low. Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin suffered concussions, leaving Seattle with fewer available wideouts. The team also wanted to protect a lead by grinding out yards with Marshawn Lynch, who carried 32 times for 109 yards in the team's victory over Baltimore.

Rice and Baldwin are back practicing and expected to play Sunday.

Before the Baltimore game, Seattle had used three-plus wideouts on 66.3 percent of its snaps this season, including 90.5 percent against the New York Giants in Week 5. The Seahawks averaged between 4.6 and 6.7 yards per carry with three wide receivers on the field in games against Dallas, Cleveland, Arizona, Cincinnati and the Giants.

Around the NFC West: Gallery's surgery

September, 21, 2011
Three NFC West teams signed veteran guards to start for them in 2011.

Harvey Dahl (St. Louis Rams) and Daryn Colledge (Arizona Cardinals) have brought toughness and experience to their new teams. Robert Gallery was supposed to do the same for Seattle. News that Gallery needs groin surgery and will miss at least a month raised a question in my mind: Was the injury affecting him over an extended period, preventing Gallery from playing as well as anticipated?

That was apparently the case. According to coach Pete Carroll, Gallery had a tougher time playing through the groin injury once he suffered a sprained knee in the final exhibition game. He wound up aggravating the groin injury during the first quarter of Seattle's Week 2 game at Pittsburgh, but Gallery didn't tell anyone about the injury until after the game.

Clare Farnsworth of says Gallery's absence means sixth-year veteran Paul McQuistan will start for the first time since the 2007 season. That means Seattle will use its third starting combination in as many games along its offensive line, continuing a trend that has complicated life for the Seahawks' running backs and quarterbacks.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' latest starting quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, hasn't made much of an impact either positively or negatively. Carroll: "He hasn't had that many opportunities where we said, 'He should have done this, he should have done that.' He has pretty much taken what's there. There hasn't been a lot of situations where he's turned down a big throw."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with a medical expert for thoughts on labrum injuries such as the one Sidney Rice is battling through.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals might simplify their defense after allowing 466 yards per game over the first two weeks of the regular season. Safety Kerry Rhodes: "It's a tough system to learn. Coming to a new season with it, it's been a little frustrating. But we've got a lot of time to rectify it, though. Yeah, it's complicated, but we've got to be pros at the same time and figure it out. This is what we get paid to do. We don't have anything else to do but learn it and try to get it down."

Darren Urban of says playing the Seahawks' offense should help Arizona's defense.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates the injury situation in the Rams' secondary. Tim Atchison is headed for injured reserve. Nelson: "An undrafted rookie from Baylor, Atchison was with the Rams in camp, signed to the practice squad, released, then signed to the active roster last week. He will be the fifth cornerback to go on IR since the start of camp. The others are Ron Bartell (neck), Jerome Murphy (ankle), Dionte Dinkins (ankle) and Mikail Baker (hamstring). In addition, Marquis Johnson, a seventh-round pick in 2010, was placed on the physically unable to perform list because of a hamstring injury and won't be available until at least Oct. 23, when the Rams face the Cowboys."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams aren't panicking at 0-2.

Matt Maiocco of offers his player-by-player review of the San Francisco 49ers' defense against Dallas in Week 2. Safety Donte Whitner played every snap. Maiocco: "He was credited with four tackles and three passes defensed. . . Was in the right spot to get an interception in the end zone against Jon Kitna. . . . He bit hard on a run fake on the first play of overtime, allowing Jesse Holley to get behind him for a 77-yard gain that set up the winning field goal."

Also from Maiocco: player-by-player review of the 49ers' offense. On Frank Gore: "Started at running back and played 53 of the team's 54 offensive snaps. There wasn't much room for him to operate. He gained 47 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. But do you want to know why the 49ers like him so much? His pass-protection was outstanding. He leveled blitzing safety Barry Church off the right side to allow Smith to complete a 21-yard pass to Braylon Edwards. On 49ers' second drive, cut-blocked DeMarcus Ware to the ground to allow Smith to hit Ted Ginn 14-yard gain."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee runs through each of the six sacks the 49ers allowed Sunday.

Quick look at Rams' 80-man roster

August, 30, 2011

All four NFC West teams reached the required 80-man roster limit by the NFL deadline Tuesday.

The St. Louis Rams did so by waiving cornerback Mikail Baker, defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo and cornerback Dionte Dinkins, per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Teams must reduce rosters to 53 players by Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.

I'm most interested in seeing how the Rams proceed at receiver and on the offensive line.

The Rams kept only eight offensive linemen on their Week 1 roster last season, one fewer than teams generally keep. I have a hard time finding eight definite keepers from the current group of 13. Keeping a lower total on the line could buy time in the short term to keep a player at another position.
The St. Louis Rams added considerable seasoning to their roster this offseason.

They'll be subtracting some veteran flavor as well.

Veteran linebacker Na'il Diggs' release, confirmed by the team Monday, seemed likely from the day St. Louis added another veteran linebacker, Ben Leber, early in training camp. Diggs is 33 and coming off a season-ending pectoral injury. Leber is 32 and has not missed a game since 2006, when he missed one. He has played 16 games in a season seven times in nine years.

With Diggs gone, the Rams have 14 players aged 30 or older. Most project as likely to stick around on the eventual reduction to 53 players.

I would not expect the Rams to get significantly younger through their two-deep depth chart. They could use depth at cornerback and possibly up front on offense. The interior offensive line is easily overlooked after the team signed Harvey Dahl in free agency and worked out a new deal with Jacob Bell. I could see the Rams monitoring the waiver wire for veteran backup help. New coordinator Josh McDaniels values size and power on the interior.

The Rams are also releasing defensive end Kenneth Charles and safety John Dempsey. That brings their roster to 83 players heading toward the Tuesday deadline for compliance with the 80-man limit. The team could get to 80 without cutting anyone. Jermelle Cudjo (back), Jerome Murphy (ankle) and Dionte Dinkins (knee) are candidates for injured reserve.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the intersection of faith and football has helped the Seahawks' Aaron Curry show improvement on the field. Brewer: "Because Curry's problems aren't physical, he still has a chance to be a rare, late-blooming linebacker if he can relax, study harder and develop a better feel for the game. Many don't see it and breathlessly declare him a bust. But Curry, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft, is only 25. There's still time. There's little question about his athletic ability. And there's no doubt his newfound faith is changing his mental approach."

Clare Farnsworth of says coach Pete Carroll is concerned about the team's issues in pass protection. Carroll: "It’s a race against time, and we’re not staying with the race right now."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers thoughts on the Seahawks' third preseason game. O'Neil: "Starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson can cut up a second-string defense just as efficiently as Charlie Whitehurst the first two exhibition games. The question is whether this offensive line can give anyone enough time in the pocket to have a reasonable chance of success this season. Seattle has allowed eight sacks in three games, and while that's tied for eighth-most of all NFL teams in August, it doesn't give a true indication of the pass pressure that has been constant and unrelenting."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune confirms a Pro Football Talk report noting that Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant has accepted a pay reduction from $5.9 million to $3 million for the 2011 season. I had thought the Seahawks would take this step earlier in the process; Lofa Tatupu's situation seemed to foreshadow something for Trufant as well. Both had signed Pro Bowl-caliber deals when they were Pro Bowl-caliber players.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals cornerback Greg Toler has suffered a sprained knee of unknown severity. Somers: "There was no immediate word on the seriousness of Toler's injury. The Cardinals could receive a boost soon if cornerback Mike Adams returns from knee surgery as expected. Adams underwent arthroscopic surgery early in training camp and was expected back in a few weeks. While Adams won't compete for a starting job, he has plenty of experience in nickel and dime schemes. And he's one of the club's better special-teams players."

Also from Somers: Kevin Kolb prefers sustained drives to big plays. Somers: "They strung more good plays together in the loss to the Chargers than they did in either of their previous two games. But mistakes, especially penalties, continue to hurt. Right tackle Brandon Keith was called for three penalties. Andre Roberts and Levi Brown each had a false start. There were big-play opportunities that were missed. Kolb overthrew Larry Fitzgerald early. And Beanie Wells was a stumble or two from breaking long runs."

Darren Urban of says Kolb clearly understands the importance of getting the ball to Fitzgerald.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams rookie Robert Quinn was pleased, but not overly so, to collect his first sack of the preseason. Quinn: "It definitely felt good. It's been a while since I had one of those. I feel like I'm getting my legs back up under me. And with the good group of core veterans on the D-line -- and really on the defense -- they just support me, trying to help me, I guess, mature faster as a young player. I really try to take their advice, learn from them, and help make a play."

Also from Thomas: The Rams feel like they are making progress on offense. Quarterback Sam Bradford: "I think everyone looked and felt more comfortable out there this week than they had in the past two weeks, including myself. I just felt much better with our operation. I felt we were quicker in and out of the huddle. I felt like our communication was better at the line of scrimmage. I just felt like everything [Friday] was almost normal in the sense that everyone's kinda starting to jell."

More from Thomas: Steven Jackson's preseason playing time has spiked this summer. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "We talked extensively during the week about the two issues we thought we had in the Tennessee game, which was we didn't run the ball effectively and we didn't stop the run very well. So we wanted to have a mindset of being able to do that. Steven was all for it."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says cornerback Dionte Dinkins' high-ankle sprain was the Rams' most serious injury of the third preseason game.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams appear on the rise. Burwell: "Don't start organizing a parade, but this is actually starting to look promising. In three preseason games, we have noticed enough of the right stuff happening; draft picks that honestly look like they can contribute to something more substantial than a CFL roster; veteran free agents who don't look like horrid flops; coaches whose X's and O's come alive on game days; a growing radio and preseason television network that suggests the organization's venture into turning the Rams into a regional marketing phenomenon just might work, too."

Matt Maiocco of looks at 49ers players whose stock is rising -- and falling. Maiocco on safety Madieu Williams: "The veteran has been a sure tackler on defense and a willing special-teams performer. ... He provided one of the 49ers' best defensive plays with a forced fumble that led to a takeaway."

Also from Maiocco: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh says it is "possible" Michael Crabtree could return from a foot injury this week. I heard Harbaugh's comments and thought he sounded noncommittal. Crabtree is, by definition, closer than ever to returning. That will always be true until he returns.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee outlines problems the 49ers faced against Houston. Barrows: "The Texans mostly rushed the same four linemen on every play and those linemen simply beat the 49ers on one-on-one matchups. The 49ers made Antonio Smith, a guy who has never had more than 5.5 sacks in seven seasons, look like the second coming of Michael Strahan."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are heading in the wrong direction.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Frank Gore wants a new contract to help get his mind "right" for the season.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic examines the Texas roots of the Cardinals' quarterbacks. On Kevin Kolb: "Once, he was walking with his future wife when they encountered an angry western diamondback. Kolb took off his boot, put it at the end of stick and dangled it in front the snake. According to a published report, the snake struck the boot 10 times before giving up the battle. Kolb then picked up the snake, took out his gun with the other hand and shot the snake in the head. He removed its rattles with a pocket knife, keeping them as a good-luck charm. He was 17 at the time." Kolb struck me at training camp as the sort of person teammates could rally around. These sorts of stories reinforce that feeling.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along thoughts from Cardinals receivers coach John McNulty regarding wideouts not named Larry Fitzgerald. McNulty on Stephen Williams: "He's one guy who would have benefited from being around all (off-season). The main thing was to get power in his legs, so he could change direction a little bit better. He's already a fast guy. And he definitely strengthened his legs, his lower body from the hip down. He's a more powerful guy. He was raw to start and he's always a guy who wants reinforcement, like, 'Is this O.K.?' Rather than just letting it go. Lately, he's let it go a little bit, particularly in the game."

Also from Somers: New rules will affect returners such as LaRod Stephens-Howling.

Darren Urban of says rookie Sam Acho, not second-year pro O'Brien Schofield, worked with the starters at outside linebacker when Joey Porter received a veteran's day off. Urban: "Maybe coaches just wanted to get a look at Acho with the first team. But I don't think it would be off-base to assume they want more out of Schofield. I'm not saying he's had a poor camp, but he hasn't stood out, either. But it's early and pass-rushers have a hard time making a statement in camp, where hitting quarterbacks is prohibited and tackling is permitted only occasionally. That right outside linebacker spot will be an intriguing one to watch Friday night against the Packers."

Also from Urban: DeMarco Sampson keeps pushing for a roster spot at receiver.

More from Urban: another take on what awaits returners.

More yet from Urban: Larry Fitzgerald makes the spectacular appear routine.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea says Alex Smith's strong day of practice didn't mean backup Colin Kaepernick struggled. Maiocco: "Kaepernick took over for the two-minute drill and led the first-team into field-goal range for the end-of-half situation. Kaepernick completed 5 of 8 for 40 yards, including a spike to stop the clock. On a third-down play from the 15, outside linebacker Aldon Smith got a 'sack' against the attempted pass protection of running back Anthony Dixon."

Also from Maiocco: Smith's thoughts on playing before the home crowd at Candlestick Park during Week 2 of the preseason.

More from Maiocco: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on "separation" at quarterback.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers thoughts on the 49ers' interest in Matt Hasselbeck as a free-agent passer they could have signed to compete for the starting job. Hasselbeck indicated his choice came down to the 49ers and Titans, but I'd be surprised if the 49ers were offering anything close to what Hasselbeck got from the Titans, who had a bigger need for a veteran.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News explains why it was so unlikely for the 49ers to make a competitive offer to Hasselbeck. Kawakami: "He went for three years, $21M to Tennessee, and I reported at the time of the negotiations that the 49ers were not likely to get into a bidding war for Hasselbeck. I think the 49ers viewed Hasselbeck as a 1/1A deal with Smith -- not as a clear starter -- which meant they had to fit him into a smaller salary scale. There’s no way they would’ve given Hasselbeck $7M per for three years when they were already, by that time, committed to paying Smith $5M."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers running back Frank Gore claims to feel six years younger than his actual age. Spoken like a 28-year-old running back seeking a long-term contract extension. Gore: "Hopefully, it will get done before the season. If it doesn't, I've just got to go play and if I have to be a free agent, I'll be a free agent."

Clare Farnsworth of profiles 6-foot-4 cornerback Brandon Browner, who played previously in the CFL. Said secondary coach Kris Richard: "Yes, he can cover. He has attributes that are uncommon. Typically a guy that size, you would think he’d have trouble getting in and out of breaks. But Brandon has shown the ability to get in and out of breaks. So the attributes that you look for in a corner, you’re finding. He’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times has Seahawks tackle Russell Okung in mind when he checks in with two doctors for thoughts on high-ankle sprains. "No one's prone to this," one of them says.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune takes a closer look at Seahawks cornerback Jesse Hoffman, a former running back seeking to become an NFL rarity: a white cornerback. Marcus Trufant: "It’s all about ability, and that’s all the way around the field at every position. No matter what complexion you are, as long as you can go out there and ball, I think you’ll be all right. He’s good. He actually had some good plays in the preseason game last week. So he’s just trying to build on that and get better."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has this to say regarding the transition from head coach back to coordinator: "This has been great for me. We're blessed to have the opportunity to work in this profession every day. The group of guys and the coaching staff has made this transition for me unbelievable. ... Focusing on the offense, trying to get better on that side of the ball, coaching the quarterbacks is really something I love to do."

Also from Coats: a Rams injury update noting that Steven Jackson rested a sore hip.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on the Rams' situation at cornerback during a recent chat: "The Rams need to find one or two corners because they'll probably take five or six into the regular season. They had veteran Rod Hood in for a visit last week, but it's my understanding they told him they wanted to look at some of their younger corners for now. (Dionte Dinkins, Tim Atchison, Jeremy McGee, etc.) But trust me, the Rams are keeping their eyes open for corners."

Nick Wagoner of takes a closer look at the Rams' depth behind Jackson. Jerious Norwood played for Rams running backs coach Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State.
It's been a tough week for St. Louis Rams fans hoping their team would use free agency to aggressively target needs.

The Rams did reach an agreement with Philadelphia Eagles safety Quintin Mikell, but needs at guard, defensive tackle, linebacker and running back remain unaddressed in the veteran market. Those clamoring for a big-play receiver remain in clamoring mode.

It's early. Lots of bad money gets spent early in free agency. I realize that doesn't matter to fans seeking action. But it's true.

The veteran signing period does not even open officially until 6 p.m. ET. In the meantime, the Rams have released a list of 24 undrafted rookie free agents signed to contracts. They picked up six offensive linemen, five defensive linemen and five defensive backs. The one halfback on the list, Eddie Wide, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds coming out of Utah. NFL Draft Scout projected him as a late-round pick with rising stock.

The new labor agreement calls for all undrafted rookies to sign three-year contracts, a perk for NFL teams. Most undrafted rookies will not earn roster spots. Teams will release them. A few will hang around and some will flourish unexpectedly. Those outperforming expectations will find themselves under contract for an extended period, forcing them to renegotiate on teams' terms, if they are able to renegotiate at all.