NFC West: Diyral Briggs

10 NFC West thoughts after Super Bowl

February, 7, 2011
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Those responsible for making sure fans had Super Bowl seats weren't responsible for maintaining seats on airplanes leaving Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

I'm home, in other words.

Ten thoughts relating at least tangentially to the NFC West following the Green Bay Packers' 31-25 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl:
  • Packers general manager Ted Thompson was doing a good job whether or not Green Bay beat the Steelers. The victory only bolsters his credibility as a primary architect for Super Bowl teams with multiple franchises. Thompson played a role in the Packers' two Super Bowl appearances of the 1990s. He played a bigger role in putting together the Seattle team that appeared in the Super Bowl following the 2005 season. More recently, he won a championship after replacing a successful head coach (Mike Sherman) and legendary quarterback (Brett Favre).
  • [+] EnlargeBryant McFadden
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesPittsburgh's Bryant McFadden, 20, had a rough day against Jordy Nelson and the Packers.
  • Cornerback Bryant McFadden, traded from Arizona back to Pittsburgh before the 2010 season, had a tough game. After recovering from an abdominal injury to start the Super Bowl, McFadden suffered a hip injury that forced him to leave the Super Bowl. The Packers had already completed a couple passes against him to that point. With McFadden out, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers beat McFadden's replacement, William Gay, for a touchdown. McFadden returned and the Packers continued to have success through the air.
  • Former San Francisco 49ers linebackers Diyral Briggs and Matt Wilhelm won Super Bowl rings with Green Bay. The 49ers released Briggs early in the 2010 season. They parted with Wilhelm on the reduction to 53 players even though the move seemed to leave them a little thin, at least at the time. Wilhelm made one special-teams tackle Sunday, after an 18-yard kickoff return. Briggs made one assisted special-teams tackle, after a 2-yard punt return.
  • Lots of things would have changed had the 49ers drafted Rodgers first overall in 2005. Around here, we generally approach the subject in terms of what Rodgers might have meant to the 49ers. The Packers would obviously be vastly different, too. Perhaps they wouldn't have drafted a quarterback in the first round. Would they have kept Brett Favre?
  • NFC West teams loaded up on pass catchers in the 2008 draft. Donnie Avery, John Carlson, Early Doucet, Keenan Burton and Josh Morgan come to mind. The Packers drafted Jordy Nelson, who caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers. Avery went 33rd overall. Nelson went three spots later.
  • The punt Green Bay muffed early in the game did not cost the Packers because they recovered. A turnover there might have changed the game. At the time, I thought of Steelers special-teams coach Al Everest, who was fired by Mike Singletary following the 2009 season.
  • The Cardinals plan to again pursue one or more members of the Steelers' defensive staff about possibly becoming defensive coordinator in Arizona. That makes sense. Pittsburgh has been very good on defense overall. The Steelers' pass defense has had problems in the team's past two Super Bowls, however. Rodgers and Kurt Warner combined for 681 yards passing and six touchdowns with one interception in those games.
  • On second thought, those passing numbers against the Steelers' defense don't look so bad. Arizona allowed 664 yards passing and seven touchdowns with one interception in its last two playoff games, both after the 2009 season. Rodgers and the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees did the damage.
  • Former 49ers receiver Arnaz Battle played in the game for Pittsburgh, but he did not register a statistic.
  • Former Rams defensive tackle Ryan Pickett -- chosen right before Reggie Wayne, Todd Heap and Drew Brees in the 2001 draft -- started at left defensive end for the Packers. He made tackles following runs of 1 and 3 yards.

By the way, thanks to those who offered ideas for the blog via Facebook. Nicely done.

Update: Another thanks goes to those who pointed out ex-Seahawk Howard Green's role in pressuring Roethlisberger into an interception.

Around the NFC West: No Rams WR trade

September, 22, 2010
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Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are not pursuing San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson. Mark Clayton's emergence gives rookie quarterback Sam Bradford a reliable target. The team could still use more of a downfield threat, but at what price? The Rams would have to part with a valuable draft choice -- and loads of cash -- to make a deal for a suspended player.

Also from Thomas: The Rams try to keep the faith after a rough start to the season. This team is already running out of players at some positions.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Mardy Gilyard should be starting at receiver for the Rams. Miklasz: "Gilyard isn't a burner; he won't win track meets. But Gilyard has the ability to elude defenders and make them miss. He has the potential to take a short pass and juke it for a longer gain. He could be a playmaker if given an opportunity. So why is the kid being given a redshirt season, at least so far? Same with the rookie tight end, Fendi Onobun. He may have to play some now, simply because the Rams are so banged up at the position. And sure, Onobun is raw. But he's also a 6-6, 250-pound target with real athletic ability and above-average speed and agility for a big man." Onobun has to get some playing time, it seems, now that Billy Bajema is injured. I know the Rams expected Onobun to have a role in the offense this season, at least until fellow rookie Mike Hoomanawanui overtook Onobun as the most intriguing young tight end in camp. Hoomanawanui is also out with an injury. The coaching staff could conceivably see playing some rookies as more of a long-term move. They could think playing veterans gives them a better chance to win in the very short term.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says the Rams' options are limited.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers his weekly player-by-player review of the 49ers, noting that the offensive line dominated against New Orleans. On Alex Smith: "Overall, it was probably Smith's best showing. He set a career-high with 12 straight completions. He completed 23 of 32 passes for 275 yards with one TD and two interceptions. He made plays with his arm and legs on the final drive. One of the interceptions was the result of a bad throw. His throw intended for Gore was high and wide, Gore got only a hand on it and deflected it to Roman Harper, who made the pick."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers lost Diyral Briggs to the Broncos' practice squad.

Also from Barrows: The 49ers are emphasizing the positive after their Monday night defeat.

The 49ers' website offers a transcript from Mike Singletary's news conference Tuesday.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at how Singletary is managing his emotions.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat thinks the 49ers should unleash Smith a little bit more. Cohn: "The Niners need to score points. Because they are so conservative, so prissy about the whole thing, they leave a ton of points on the field or unspoken for or never even attempted. Without enough points, you just don't win games -- see the 49ers vs. Seattle and New Orleans. On their second offensive series against the Saints, the 49ers ran Gore up the middle for five, ran Gore off right tackle for three, and did that direct-snap thing to Brian Westbrook and he ran up the middle for zilch. All of which resulted in a punt. In my notebook I wrote, 'Where was the pass?' I was pressing my pen into my notebook hard at that point. My penmanship showed more daring than the play calling." The Wildcat call was indeed puzzling. Westbrook up the gut on third down? Teams with faith in their quarterbacks want the ball in his hands in key situations.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Singletary's news conference felt like a therapy session.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Singletary's vow to lay off officials was short-lived.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider offers a few game-related observations from Monday night.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the progress Seattle made in Week 2 did not show on the scoreboard. O'Neil: "Seattle's offensive and defensive lines did better than hold up at the line of scrimmage in Denver. They controlled it. This wasn't another instance of Seattle getting flattened like roadkill. Maybe that's because Denver started two rookies on the offensive line and its defense features a relatively anonymous front seven. Or maybe -- just maybe -- it was a sign of progress for a team bullied so often the past two seasons." Seattle's defense definitely controlled the line of scrimmage most of the time. The offensive is protecting Matt Hasselbeck far better than I would have expected.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team's run defense remained strong in Week 2 largely because Brandon Mebane played well. Kentwan Balmer also had a decent game on defense for Seattle.

Rod Mar of seahawks.com offers photos from the Week 2 trip to Denver.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks want to make opposing offenses one-dimensional by stopping the run and limiting big plays.

Also from Williams: Golden Tate is the Seahawks' new punt returner.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks' Ben Hamilton will start at guard over Mike Gibson.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are sticking with Derek Anderson even though the offense has struggled and six other teams have made performance-based quarterback changes during games this season. Somers: "The Cardinals are betting heavily on the ability of Whisenhunt and his offensive staff to smooth Anderson's roughest edge: his inaccuracy. A career 53 percent passer, Anderson possesses a strong arm that lacks touch. He can make throws few NFL quarterbacks can make, and misses some that nearly every NFL quarterback can make. Two games into the season, Anderson has displayed that powerful arm, a nagging tendency to miss open receivers and a toughness that has won over coaches and teammates."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says injured rookie O'Brien Schofield thinks he can help the Cardinals this season.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals signed linebacker Alex Hall from their practice squad.

More from Urban: Will Davis misses Cody Brown, whose release came as a "shock" even though Brown hadn't shown much.

Why the 49ers cut a promising pass-rusher

September, 20, 2010
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Outside linebacker Diyral Briggs was one of the San Francisco 49ers' more impressive pass-rushers during portions of the exhibition season.

The team cut him Monday, making room on the roster for Tramaine Brock, a cornerback signed from the practice squad.

Briggs could return to the roster, but why risk losing a once-promising pass-rusher? Briggs faded as the exhibition season concluded, and the 49ers now have depth at the position with Ahmad Brooks returning from a lacerated kidney and Travis LaBoy playing effectively. The 49ers also needed another cornerback while Will James fights through injury.

Seems to me another team could do worse than giving Briggs a look (not that, say, Seattle has shown any interest in 49ers castoffs lately).

San Francisco 49ers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2010
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Biggest surprise: Veteran running back Michael Robinson was one of the best special-teams players in the league, but he wasn't a factor on offense and that hurt him. It's worth noting that the 49ers have a new special-teams coach, and Robinson hurt his chances for a roster spot by fumbling on the first play of the exhibition opener. Keeping third tight end Nate Byham as a potential backup fullback allowed the 49ers to keep only four running backs, at least initially. Robinson was also the emergency quarterback, but with third stringer Nate Davis surviving the mandatory reduction to 53 players, Robinson wasn't as important in that capacity, either. Former 49ers linebacker Jeff Ulbrich is a first-year assistant special-teams coach in Seattle. Former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan also works for the Seahawks. Perhaps Seattle can find a place for Robinson. I was also surprised to see the 49ers release veteran inside linebacker Matt Wilhelm.

No-brainers: Receiver Jason Hill was lost in the shuffle all through training camp, so his release came as little surprise. The team kept rookie Kyle Williams, who showed potential as a return specialist before suffering a toe injury. Dominique Zeigler also stuck after stepping up his game during camp. Zeigler's sure hands and precise route running worked in his favor. Hill could have some value elsewhere, but his future in a 49ers uniform was shaky. At tight end, Byham's development made J.J. Finley and Tony Curtis expendable. The 49ers kept only two tight ends last season. Byham proved worthy as the third tight end and as a potential backup fullback. The 49ers usually load up on defensive backs and this year might be no different; they kept 11, a high number. They also kept 10 offensive linemen, one more than usual -- not a surprise while center Eric Heitmann recovers from a broken leg.

What’s next: This is the initial 53-man roster, not the final one, and some players surviving the first cut cannot celebrate too wildly. Coach Mike Singletary has made clear his unhappiness with Davis, whose talent and potential have outweighed his preparation to this point. Davis might now have an opportunity to prove he's serious about becoming a professional and taking advantage of this second chance. On defense, the 49ers will need to monitor outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks' recovery from a lacerated kidney. Keeping Diyral Briggs and Travis LaBoy gives them pretty good depth at the position.

49ers players cut:
K Shane Andrus
LB Mike Balogun
QB Jarrett Brown
FB Jehuu Caulcrick
TE Tony Curtis
LB Bruce Davis
G Brian de la Puente
TE Joe Jon Finley
WR Bobby Guillory
WR Jason Hill
WR Kevin Jurovich
T Matt Kopa
LB Keaton Kristick
S Chris Maragos
FB Brit Miller
DT Khalif Mitchell
CB Karl Paymah
RB Michael Robinson
DT Will Tukuafu
DT Derek Walker
C Cody Wallace
LB Matt Wilhelm
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along comments from Matt Leinart and Ken Whisenhunt after an eventful Monday at Arizona Cardinals headquarters. Leinart: "I feel like I've outplayed the competition, training camp, preseason. I think my play speaks about that. For me, this goes beyond the football field. The philosophy is you want the best 11 guys to play. I feel like I've proved that with my performance. I don't really know what else I could possibly do, so it probably goes beyond football. For me, I just really want an explanation, and I haven't been given one." I'm thinking Whisenhunt isn't looking for philosophical pointers from his quarterback. Just a thought.

Also from Somers: It's looking as though the Cardinals will be without inside linebacker Gerald Hayes for the regular-season opener.

More from Somers: Leinart and Whisenhunt have spoken, but it's looking like Derek Anderson will start the regular-season opener.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has this to say about the Leinart-Whisenhunt dispute: "Does anyone really think Whisenhunt would move away from Leinart if he believes Leinart gives him a better chance to win than Anderson? I just can’t see it. Maybe Anderson starts. Maybe Leinart does. Either way, I am guessing Whiz wouldn’t jeopardize his chances at victory by making a QB choice based on anything else. The man has an engineering degree. He thinks through everything and he makes decisions very deliberately. This isn’t Denny Green, making spur-of-the-moment emotional choices -- like John Navarre starting in Detroit."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams running back Steven Jackson feels no need to play in the final exhibition game. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said he's undecided on whether Jackson might play. One consideration could be getting Jackson and rookie Sam Bradford more work together before the regular-season opener. Jackson on whether he wants to play Thursday: "No. But if Coach wants me to go out there, I'm fully prepared to play however long the 'ones' are going to be out there. But me personally, no, I don't want to play."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says winning five games would equal a successful season for the Rams.

Also from Thomas: Players on the fringes of the Rams' roster fight for jobs. Ernest Reid: "I was working as a youth counselor, and in security, just bouncing around jobs," Reid said. "Finally, I decided I just wanted to finish my football and see where it takes me."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis explains how he used to make roster decisions when he was with the Rams. Softli: "I rank the team from 1-60, from the best players to the worst, Blue to Green. Blue players are difference makers with blue production, Red players are starters and heavy contributors, Orange Players are back-up special teamers with limited production and Green players are high percentage of free agents that won’t make the team. I pick the starting eleven on offense and defense. That’s 22 players. Add the second string players and you get 44. I then add a Kicker, Punter and snapper to bring the total to 47. Once I get to 47, I then choose six players I just could not go without to bring the total to 53."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Joe Montana watched part of practice at 49ers headquarters Monday. Maiocco: "Montana's last known visit to the 49ers' practice facility with the entire team present was June 2002 when he took part in a video for NFL Films on quarterback mechanics with Bill Walsh and several former teammates."

Also from Maiocco: Kurt Schottenheimer's role in formulating the 49ers' roster.

More from Maiocco: a look at how the 49ers' defensive players fared against Oakland in the third exhibition game. On Reggie Smith: "He entered as part of the 49ers' first sub defense. He admittedly made a mental mistake when he allowed Louis Murphy to run past him in the slot for a 74-yard touchdown just before the half. But he was also in coverage on the final fourth-down play when Gradkowski tried to get the ball deep to Watkins."

More yet from Maiocco: a look at how the 49ers' offensive players fared. On Brian Westbrook: "He played six snaps in his 49ers debut before leaving the game with a cramp in his hamstring. He carried twice for 17 yards. He was stuffed for no gain on his first attempt, then took a handoff out of the shotgun formation on third and 6 for a 17-yard burst up the middle. He is considered 'day to day'."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates 49ers injuries. Sounds like tight end Vernon Davis is doing well.

Also from Barrows: Where do Alex Boone and Diyral Briggs stand with the 49ers? Keeping Briggs on the roster seems like a priority to me. He's shown enough during preseason for another team to pick him up, I would think.

More from Barrows: a 53-man roster projection that Nate Davis would like. I don't think keeping three quarterbacks is necessarily a given.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sizes up the 49ers' options at punt returner.

Also from Barber: a look at 49ers roster battles.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says veteran Travis LaBoy isn't sweating out looming roster cuts.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers coach Mike Singletary took a low-keyed approach when given a chance to praise David Carr.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Chester Pitts will get limited practice work this week for the first time since joining the Seahawks. Pitts was a good player before suffering a knee injury that required microfracture surgery. It's a significant development for Seattle if Pitts recovers well enough to start this season.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times checks in with Deion Branch, who feels good physically and also about his situation in Seattle. General manager John Schneider told Branch not to worry about rumors questioning whether Branch would return for a fifth season with the team.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks rookie Golden Tate has to work on being patient.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says an elbow injury sidelined Aaron Curry in practice Monday.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune hasn't seen much from the Seahawks' running game to this point of the exhibition season. Boling: "Of the three leading candidates for carries at tailback, Leon Washington has picked up 3.5 yards a try, while incumbents Justin Forsett and Julius Jones are both at 2.8. Give them a break … it’s not like there’s exactly been room to romp. There haven’t even been much in the way of flashes as the banged up offensive line apparently is still learning the blocking scheme with a shuffling cast of performers."

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Marcus Trufant is looking to regain his Pro Bowl form. So far, so good.

Around the NFC West: Blitzing Leinart

August, 24, 2010
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Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Matt Leinart pointed to the Titans' frequent blitzes when analyzing what went wrong for Arizona's first-team offense Monday night. Somers: "With Matt Leinart at quarterback, the starting unit did not gain a first down in three possessions. It was only marginally better with backup Derek Anderson. But just when Anderson threatened to start a quarterback controversy, he badly missed receiver Steve Breaston on what should have been an easy 6-yard touchdown pass. Leinart knows his performance will be critiqued and criticized, but he said it was hard to deal with the Titans' blitzes without game planning."

Also from Somers: Nose tackle Gabe Watson and receiver Andre Roberts suffered sprained right shoulders. Just what the Cardinals need: another banged-up receiver.

More from Somers: Anderson's touch might be improving, but not all at once. Somers: "Anderson showed the inconsistency that's kept him from seriously challenging Leinart, at least so far. He threw a beautiful 37-yard strike to (Stephen) Williams, putting the Cardinals at the Titans 6. The Cardinals had a perfect call on the play after. Anderson faked to Beanie Wells, the Titans bit, and receiver Steve Breaston was open in the end zone. But Anderson put too much on the ball and Breaston had no chance. Coaches have been working with Anderson on showing some touch in those situations and believe he is improving. If the Cardinals score there, then we would all be talking an awful lot today about a possible QB competition." Instead, we're talking about ... a possible QB controversy.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com thinks little will come of the Cardinals' offensive struggles Monday night. Urban: "My guess is the Cards will break down the tape, see the Titans bringing the house (and Leinart under heavy pressure nearly every play), see the running game providing no support, and figure with a better game plan, Leinart would have been OK."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals will remain in Nashville before heading to Chicago for their game Saturday.

More from Urban: Larry Fitzgerald appears close to receiving medical clearance to return from a sprained knee.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says it's unclear where Brandon Jones fits in the Seahawks' receiving rotation. Jones obviously felt the situation was unsettled enough for him to compete for a spot.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times questions whether the Seahawks will keep a true fullback on their initial 53-man roster. Quinton Ganther worked ahead of Owen Schmitt in the second exhibition game.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says cornerback Roy Lewis has been "one of the pleasant surprises" during Seahawks camp. Also at corner: "(Walter) Thurmond’s play has tailed off a bit, but he still has enormous potential and would not make it through waivers if Seattle tried to put him on the practice squad. Cord Parks and Marcus Brown are likely competing for a practice squad spot."

John Morgan of Field Gulls liked what he saw from Marcus Trufant when the Seattle cornerback challenged a pass for Greg Jennings in the most recent exhibition game.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams aren't handing the starting job to Sam Bradford yet, even though Bradford will start Thursday night at New England while A.J. Feeley recovers from a thumb injury. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "A.J.'s the starter right now (if healthy); Sam's the backup. A.J. has a little better command of the offense. If you based it on two games, A.J.'s been able to move the football team when he's been in there. That's really what we want. Sam has a little bit of a ways to go in that. But at some point, if we feel the guy that is behind the starter can do a better job, to me, that's when you make the move. I don't know if that'll be next week. If it'll be three weeks. If it'll be four weeks. Sam still has a lot of things (to learn)."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says at least one Rams player was already familiar with newly signed receiver Danario Alexander.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea offers a player-by-player review of the 49ers' offense against Minnesota. On first-round rookie tackle Anthony Davis: "Started at right tackle and played the first three quarters, taking part in 38 snaps. He was called for a false start on the second drive. He could not hold his block on Jayme Mitchell, causing Dixon to be thrown for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter. Starting defensive end Ray Edwards was difficult for him to handle, but Davis did a good job of riding him out of the picture on a third-and-11 pass to Walker for a first down to set up the 49ers' only touchdown."

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' defense, with these thoughts on Manny Lawson: "Started at sam linebacker. He came in off the edge to throw Peterson for a 3-yard loss on the first run play of the game. He also tackled Peterson for a 1-yard loss. Credited with four tackles, a very good showing, in his one quarter of work."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee singles out 10 players for their work in the 49ers' effort against the Vikings. On cornerback Phillip Adams: " The rookie broke up three passes, including a very nice play along the sideline on a throw to receiver Marko Mitchell. He also led the 49ers with four tackles. Adams is trying to be the fifth cornerback on the active roster. The fact that he is a strong, big-bodied corner helps his cause because he can contribute on special teams."

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' competition between LaBoy and Diyral Briggs at outside linebacker.

Also from Barber: What's up with the 49ers' return game? Barber: "(Bobby) Guillory, signed Aug. 11, got all five punt returns against the Vikings, and both kickoff returns. There are two ways to interpret this: (1) The 49ers really want to give Guillory a good look before making a decision. Or (2) they know just what they have in (Ted) Ginn and (Dominique) Zeigler, and can rest them for the regular season." The latter option makes more sense. The team does seem high on Kyle Williams on punt returns.

Four NFC West pass-rushers to watch

August, 21, 2010
8/21/10
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Ask any general manager what he'd like to improve, and pass-rush ability will rank high on the list, even for teams proficient in pressuring quarterbacks.

With that in mind, here's a quick look at four NFC West players key to their teams' improvement in that critical area:
  • Chris Clemons, Seattle Seahawks. Clemons has exceeded expectations. Coach Pete Carroll loves what Clemons has shown so far. It's still early, though. Darryl Tapp, shipped to Philadelphia as part of the deal for Clemons, also enjoyed strong training camps -- only to fall off during the regular season. Carroll: "Chris has really been sharp every day, day in and day out. It's such a needed position, to beef up the pass rush. He's been a big factor for us."
  • Diyral Briggs, San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers went into training camp hoping outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks could build on a promising finish to the 2009 season. Brooks had 5.0 sacks in the 49ers' final five games, with three of those against Arizona. A lacerated kidney has sidelined Brooks this summer, and Briggs has seized upon the opportunity for more playing time. This could work out well for the 49ers if Brooks returns and Briggs continues developing.
  • Chris Long, St. Louis Rams. Long had 5.0 sacks over the final nine games last season, even though the Rams were rarely in prime position to rush the passer. He appeared more assertive during camp practices I watched. Long played at a high level during the exhibition opener against Minnesota. The Rams need him to take another step this season. They lack established pass-rushers.
  • Cody Brown, Arizona Cardinals. The 2009 second-round choice missed his rookie season after suffering a serious wrist injury. He is basically a rookie all over again, and it has shown. The only time I noticed Brown during camp practices was when tight end Steven Spach roughed him up and linebacker Joey Porter implored him to fight back. Brown will need some time to get comfortable in game situations. It's a bonus for Arizona if he emerges over the next few exhibitions.

Those are four players I'll want to watch during Week 2 of the exhibition season.

Four Downs: NFC West preseason Week 2

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
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A couple thoughts per NFC West team heading into the second week of the 2010 NFL exhibition season:

Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)

Seattle wants to see a sharper, more engaged effort from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck after backup Charlie Whitehurst earned the headlines a week ago. Hasselbeck has enjoyed a strong training camp. A crisp effort during the preseason could provide some affirmation as the Seahawks deploy a new offensive system. Hasselbeck does have something to prove after a rough 2009 season, so writing off the preseason as meaningless for him might be going a little far. Beyond improved play from Hasselbeck, it's a bonus if Leon Washington looks good during his first game of any kind since suffering a broken leg with the New York Jets last season. The Packers have enjoyed beating up on the NFC West during the preseason, though, and sometimes Green Bay appeared to be game-planning. The Packers hammered the Seahawks, 48-13, in a 2007 game that ticked off the Seahawks' coach at the time, Mike Holmgren. Green Bay led the Arizona Cardinals 38-10 at halftime during an exhibition game last year. Again, game-planning was suspected.

St. Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford will draw most of the attention and the Rams need to protect him -- and all their quarterbacks -- better than they did against Minnesota in the exhibition opener. That is the top priority for St. Louis against Cleveland. The Rams need to see progress from right tackle Jason Smith now that the 2009 first-round choice has had a full week of practice following a toe injury. More broadly, the Rams want to see their projected starting offensive line together in a game for the first time since Week 2 last season. Rodger Saffold, Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, Adam Goldberg and Jason Smith worked together during recent practices. Can they hold up physically? Can they show improvement? Can they protect Bradford?

San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings (NBC, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET)


Brett Favre is expected to start and play one or two series for the Vikings. At least the 49ers won't have to worry about him throwing a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds, as he did against them last season. Favre will be out of the game by then and the outcome doesn't matter, anyway. The 49ers' focus will instead be on their own quarterback, Alex Smith, who will try to make a generally strong week of practices carry over into a game. It's early to panic if Smith and the first-team offense struggle again, but an efficient performance would give both a boost. On defense, let's see how linebacker Diyral Briggs fares against a team with more quality depth than Week 1 preseason opponent Indianapolis. Briggs dominated against the Colts.

Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans (ESPN, Monday, 8 p.m. ET)

The national spotlight gives quarterback Matt Leinart a chance to start changing perceptions after a rough week. Yes, he completed 6 of 7 passes against Houston in the Cardinals' exhibition opener, but the aftermath brought questions about why he missed a postgame news conference and whether his completed pass to Larry Fitzgerald unnecessarily exposed the receiver to injury. These are the sorts of sideshows that have marked Leinart's tenure in Arizona, whether or not they were his fault. Basically, Leinart can't get a break. This would be a good time for him to start making his own. One problem: Fitzgerald will not play and other Cardinals receivers are banged up.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was the Seahawks' best player during training camp. Hasselbeck will be looking to improve upon his performance in the exhibition opener. Coach Pete Carroll: "Matt's looking terrific. He’s played great throughout and he’s as physically well as he’s been in some time. He had a great offseason of hard conditioning. He’s leaner, stronger, faster than he’s been in the last few years. And he feels that way about it, too. Now, let’s take care of him and let’s see how far he can take it."

Also from Farnsworth: How far can the Seahawks' offensive line take them?

More from Farnsworth: How Charlie Whitehurst impressed Seahawks general manager John Schneider.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Carroll as saying Marcus Trufant is more physically fit than he was last season. That appears true on first glance. Trufant appears trimmer and younger. He's probably been able to work out harder now that his back trouble has subsided.

Also from O'Neil: Deon Butler's big opportunity.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Lawrence Jackson's departure from Seattle opens more opportunities for Nick Reed. Lofa Tatupu said earlier in camp that he thought Chris Clemons and Reed were the two best pass-rushers on the team. That's good for Reed but it also validates questions about the overall strength of the team's pass-rush. Jackson didn't seem to fit the 'Leo' role at all.

Also from Johns: Leroy Hill will miss several more weeks.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune provides video to his interview with draft analyst Rob Rang, who calls Whitehurst's performance in the exhibition opener a surprise.

Also from Williams: Whitehurst's Packers pedigree.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald updates Mike Williams' situation as the former first-round pick from USC tries to revive his career. Williams: "I never doubted my talent, but I needed some time away to really clear my mind," said Williams, who played for first-year Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC. I went through a lot in a short period of time, some things that I could control, some that I couldn't, and I just used that time to really get my mind right. And once my mind was right, it was easy for my body to follow, for me to be disciplined and do the things that I needed to do."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals rookie free agent Marshay Green. Also, Somers looks at the depth situation at receiver in Arizona.

Also from Somers: another look at the weight issues Deuce Lutui and Herman Johnson are facing. Somers: "A starter in 53 of the Cardinals' past 54 games, Lutui lost that job when he stayed away from off-season practices, unhappy with the team's contract offer. Reggie Wells is playing in front of him, but considering the way he's playing, Lutui will be hard to keep on the bench."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers a few Cardinals notes as the team breaks camp. Urban: "(Ken) Whisenhunt talked about a couple of young defenders today. Linebacker Cody Brown, last year’s second-round pick, hasn’t shown enough yet to make the Cards know he is ready to be a heir apparent for (Joey) Porter or Clark Haggans. That’s what the rest of the preseason is for."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals have three games in 11 days.

More from Urban: Rookie receiver Max Komar fits the slot role, but he likes to play on the outside, too.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams rookie Sam Bradford resists the notion that he's the face of the franchise. Of course, Bradford is clearly the face of the franchise, no matter what he says. Bradford: "I think that's ridiculous. I don't think one person is any face of the franchise. It takes 11 guys on offense, 11 guys on defense and however many guys you have playing special teams to win a football game. That's how I look at it. And I wish more people would look at it like that."

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says kicker Josh Brown was back participating in practice after missing time with a hip injury. Various non-kickers had been handling kicking duties in practice, with comical results in some cases. Jordan Kent wasn't bad, however. Brown: "I think everybody enjoyed it with the humor that's behind it. But the real situation is that if something were to happen, somebody's got to go in. Jordan toward the end got to be more consistent and was trying to figure things out. I think a lot of the guys would never put themselves in that situation if they had the choice."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers used Brian Westbrook and Frank Gore in the same backfield Thursday. That sounds good in theory, but teams design their offenses around basic personnel groups, and those groups do not include two halfbacks. Could putting both on the field work? Sure, but I think it's unlikely the 49ers will use that type of grouping frequently.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers' 2-minute offense fared better in practice.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at 49ers receiver Dominique Zeigler, who has impressed coaches with his route running and all-around game. White says there is "no way" the 49ers will waive him again this summer (assuming Zeigler is healthy this time). White: "Zeigler's willingness to run the most dangerous routes is proving to be his safest bet to make the 53-man roster at last."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates Diyral Briggs' conversion from defensive end to outside linebacker. Briggs stood out to me during 49ers practices and again during the exhibition opener.

Also from Barrows: a detailed look at Mike Singletary's oversight of linebacker drills. Think he knows a little something about the position?

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat provides a long list of 49ers players who sat out practice Thursday.

Also from Barber: a look at Singletary's work with the linebackers, and a note about Chilo Rachal's physical play.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with 49ers third-string quarterback Nate Davis, who has gone without gloves in practice recently for a very practical reason. Davis: "Centers they sweat a lot, so sometimes the gloves would get wet and it’s hard to hold onto the ball." Nice.

Also from Brown: Football Outsiders expects a fourth-place finish for the 49ers in the NFC West this season, downplaying the importance of a team having carryover at offensive coordinator. The question in this case is whether the continuity at coordinator benefits Alex Smith more than it would benefit another quarterback, as suggested by Smith's former college coach, Urban Meyer.

First impressions from 49ers' opener

August, 15, 2010
8/15/10
3:16
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thoughts and observations after watching the San Francisco 49ers' backups help them grab a 20-10 halftime lead against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2010 exhibition opener for both teams:
  • Linebacker Diyral Briggs enjoyed a monster first half even without the pass he picked off. Briggs forced another interception with pressure. Briggs has enjoyed a strong training camp and it transferred to this game. That's what coaches want to see.
  • Rookie Kyle Williams shined on returns, posting a 36-yard punt return and a 28-yard kickoff return. Ted Ginn Jr. gained 11 yards on his lone punt return. Both players have had strong camps to this point (in the relative sense, with expectations being higher for Ginn, a veteran).
  • Alex Smith's accuracy appeared poor, including when he threw a couple yards behind a wide-open Vernon Davis over the middle. Smith had plenty of room in the pocket to make this throw. It can be risky to assume the quarterback is wrong because receivers sometimes run routes incorrectly. The pass to Davis wasn't the only one that seemed off, however. Update: Accuracy wasn't the primary issue here. More to come.
  • Rookie left guard Mike Iupati appeared to fare well when I focused on him. He looked like a veteran in pass protection on one play, first helping the center with a double team, then peeling off to block another defender. Smith again enjoyed an expansive pocket on this play, although the Colts picked off his pass for tight end Delanie Walker. I initially thought Walker might have dropped this pass, but the defender was right there. Not sure if Smith should have led Walker a little more here.
  • Officials flagged rookie right tackle Anthony Davis for a false start early in the game. The defender he was blocking also pressured Smith on a third-and-1 incompletion. Smith held the ball while trying to find an open receiver, however, and that might have put additional pressure on Davis.
  • Strong safety Michael Lewis absorbed a hit to the head/neck area on the final play before the 49ers subbed out their starters on defense. Lewis seemed to be OK.
  • Peyton Manning was still the Colts' quarterback when Taylor Mays and the No. 2 defense took over for the 49ers. Manning completed a 16-yard pass into Mays' area. Mays' speed and hitting potential were apparent at times, as when he made an open-field tackle on Colts running back Donald Brown for a 3-yard loss on a third-and-13 pass play late in the first quarter.
  • Reggie Smith's 91-yard interception return for a touchdown against Colts backup quarterback Curtis Painter wasn't the safety's only impressive play. Smith also broke up Manning's pass to Anthony Gonzalez in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 3.
  • Nose tackle Ricky Jean-Francois caught my attention by blowing up a Colts running play in the backfield. Jean-Francois has become more important to the 49ers with franchise player Aubrayo Franklin still unsigned.
  • The 49ers' starting defense played only about half a quarter. Cornerback Nate Clements said he was happy to be back on the field after an injury kept him from playing late in 2009. Clements might have been rusty. He missed a tackle after a Manning pass to Joseph Addai.
  • Frank Gore did not play for the 49ers and backup Glen Coffee announced his retirement Friday, putting more pressure on rookie running back Anthony Dixon. I didn't see enough of Dixon in pass protection to know how he fared in that area -- David Carr was under pressure frequently -- but he made impressive runs. Dixon had a 17-yard run in the first half and a 23-yarder in the third quarter. Dixon also caught the ball out of the backfield.

We're midway through the third quarter of this game. I'll post again after heading down to the locker room after the game. Then it's back on the road to Rams camp just up the street (OK, about 240 miles up the street).
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers call it taking ownership.

Coach Mike Singletary sets aside a portion of practice for players to step forward and coaches to step back. Quarterback Alex Smith gets to call whichever offensive play he thinks will work for the situation. Inside linebacker Patrick Willis makes the call on defense.

"Good ownership, Alex," Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis hollered as he ran back upfield after snatching Smith's 40-yard pass in the back of the end zone Friday. "I like that ownership. You're part of the team now, baby!"

Smith isn't nearly as outspoken, but in his own way, he made sure Willis, the 49ers' Pro Bowl linebacker, knew which side's play call prevailed. And if anyone remained unsure, all he had to do was consult Davis, one of the brashest and most freakishly athletic players anywhere. Davis, and his mouth, always seem to be open.

"Vernon brings an attitude now that we're going to out there and we're going to make plays and we're going to shove it down your throat," Smith said. "And when we make plays, you're going to hear about it. We're going to be hooting and hollering. I'm not going to do that, but those perimeter guys are. You love that attitude."

Even the 49ers' defensive players love it. They know how hard Davis works and, besides, this team is tight. For all the offensive coaching changes the 49ers have endured -- five coordinators since Smith entered the NFL in 2005 -- the team's core players have been together for at least three seasons in most cases.

All the key components are back from a team that finished 8-8 last season. An improving offense and questions elsewhere in the division give the 49ers their clearest shot at a playoff berth since the days of Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens. Just ask Davis.

"You have Ted Ginn outside with a lot of speed and you have to keep an eye on him," Davis said. "Then you have [Michael] Crabtree, who is just like a cat in the night. I mean, he just runs his routes so well. Then you have to worry about Josh Morgan. When all of us are on the field and Frank Gore, I mean, they can't stop us."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeAnthony Davis
Ned Dishman/Getty ImagesThe 49ers need rookie tackle Anthony Davis to make a quick transition to the NFL.
1. How will Frank Gore's role evolve? Gore rushed for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, so it's not like he wasn't a big part of the offense. Still, perceptions linger that Gore and Smith weren't particularly compatible. Smith seemed most comfortable operating from looser formations. Gore has always preferred running behind a fullback out of a more traditional offense. To answer the question, though, check out Gore's stats over the final four games of the 2009 season. He averaged 23 carries for 113 yards in those games. Expect the 49ers to continue feeding Gore as long as the running back holds up physically. That was where the offense was headed in December.

2. What impact will Ted Ginn Jr. have on the offense? Forget about what Ginn accomplished -- or failed to accomplish -- with the Miami Dolphins. In Miami, Ginn was measured against expectations for a first-round draft choice. The expectations aren't the same in San Francisco, where the 49ers already have established offensive stars (Davis and Gore) and one of the better up-and-coming wideouts in second-year pro Crabtree. All Ginn has to do for the 49ers is use his speed to attract safety help against the deep ball. Ginn has been able to do that in practice. His speed is obvious, and it should lead to more favorable coverages for the other receiving targets, notably Davis and Crabtree.

Frank Gore
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireExpect Frank Gore to remain the centerpiece of San Francisco's offense.
3. Will the offensive line improve? The three hottest questions in 49ers camp concern the offense. That is fitting for a team whose defense has held up its end in recent seasons. While the 49ers are excited about adding first-round linemen Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis, both players face learning curves as they transition to the NFL. The 49ers play three of their first four games on the road, where communication can be difficult and experience helps a great deal. Iupati and Davis will upgrade this line over the course of the season, but the line could face some issues early on.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Nate Clements. The veteran cornerback seems like his old self: confident, outspoken, having fun. He's been bantering with Davis and seems to have moved past a difficult 2009 season. Clements spent his offseason training in Arizona, with an emphasis on fundamentals. He looks good so far.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Aubrayo Franklin. The 49ers' franchise player remains unsigned. It's a given that Franklin will report before the regular season. Singletary has confidence Franklin will report in good condition, so there won't be any Albert Haynesworth-style conditioning issues. But with the team setting aside $7 million for Franklin this season, it would be nice to have him in camp.

OBSERVATION DECK
  • Shawntae Spencer could be the best cornerback on the team even if Clements regains past form. He played well last season and should gain momentum in his second season back from knee surgery.
  • [+] EnlargeTaylor Mays
    Kevin Terrell/Getty ImagesThe 49ers are in no rush to make rookie Taylor Mays a starter this season.
    Cornerback-turned-safety Reggie Smith is getting significant reps as an extra defensive back in camp. I'm not sure what that means for rookie second-round choice Taylor Mays, but it would be foolish to think the 49ers will not find playing time for Mays this season. It's just a matter of how quickly they feel comfortable working him into the defense. There's no rush to make Mays a starter as long as veteran Michael Lewis is healthy.
  • Brandon Jones has a chance to make the situation at receiver more interesting. Crabtree and Morgan are the starters. Ginn appears likely to earn a spot among the top three or four. Jones, a disappointment last season after an injury set him back, has the talent to become more of a factor. He seems to be having a good camp so far.
  • The 49ers' low-stakes gamble on Travis LaBoy suffered a setback when the veteran pass-rusher suffered a concussion early in camp. Concussion problems factored into the Tennessee Titans' decision against re-signing LaBoy years ago. The 49ers might not have an elite pass-rusher, but they ranked third in the NFL for sacks last season, and their outside linebackers have very good quickness. Diyral Briggs has stood out recently and could provide depth for a group featuring Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson and Ahmad Brooks.
  • Brit Miller has made a positive impression early in camp, but it's an upset if veteran Moran Norris isn't the starting fullback.
  • One upside to Franklin's absence: Ricky Jean-Francois is getting significant reps at nose tackle. As Franklin proved, the 49ers can develop players at that position.
  • Singletary drew national attention for physical practices last summer when he unveiled nutcracker drills in which players rammed into one another. That storyline has run its course. Singletary has modified the drills and limited reps for linemen, who are already doing plenty of hitting. Technique is the primary point of emphasis in the drills.
  • Spread passing games in college have made it tougher to evaluate inside linebackers for 3-4 schemes, but the 49ers think they've found a potential good one in third-round choice Navorro Bowman. They're working him at the "Ted" linebacker position as a possible successor to dependable veteran Takeo Spikes.
  • Backup running back Glen Coffee added weight this offseason in an effort to improve upon what he considered a subpar rookie season. He hasn't stood out in camp to this point, however.
  • New special-teams coach Kurt Schottenheimer has slid under the radar to this point. That will change if the team suffers continued problems in the return game. Ginn should upgrade kickoff returns. Preseason games should tell us whether rookie receiver Kyle Williams can salvage the punt-return game. Williams could stick as the fifth or sixth receiver if he can make a positive impact on punt returns this summer.
  • Iupati stands out for his run blocking, but he's getting lots of reps and could wear down in the short term. Incumbent starter David Baas continues to miss time with a concussion.
  • Veteran Barry Sims and slimmed-down second-year tackle Alex Boone could be competing for the ninth and likely final spot among offensive linemen. Once Iupati and Davis become starters, the top three backups would likely become Baas, Adam Snyder and Tony Wragge.
The 49ers report agreeing to terms with the following 10 undrafted free agents:
All four NFC West teams have now announced their projected undrafted signees. Alex Boone, Khalif Mitchell and Diyral Briggs were among the 2009 undrafted free agents to sign. Each is with the team currently.

49ers left tackle Staley inactive

December, 14, 2009
12/14/09
7:25
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers will be without starting left tackle Joe Staley against the Cardinals.

This comes as little surprise.

While Staley hoped to return from a knee injury for this game, he hadn't done enough in practice to make it likely.

Barry Sims remains the starter while Staley recovers. Sims has played better than anticipated this season.

Also inactive for the 49ers: Nate Clements, Marcus Hudson, Diyral Briggs, Cody Wallace, Baraka Atkins and Isaac Bruce.

Around the NFC West: 49ers prediction

September, 9, 2009
9/09/09
9:14
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider examines reasons why the 49ers might be better -- or worse -- than in the recent past. He predicts an 8-8 record. Lynch: "The 49ers should be better because they'll have a consistent message from their coaches and the team should be motivated under [Mike] Singletary. Their defense, passing and running games should be better. Also, their philosophy of fundamental, mistake-free play should win them games in the division. But such a strategy won't win in the long term, and overall, the 49ers don't have the talent to pull it off."

Former 49ers cornerback Eric Davis points to Glen Coffee, Chilo Rachal, Aubrayo Franklin and Andy Lee as the 49ers' most valuable players during the exhibition season. Davis: "Rachal has had strong drive blocking and an attitude for physical play throughout the preseason. It’s easy to tell that he is starting to hunt for people when he pulls around. He comes around the corner not looking to run the play but looking for people to maul. That’s what you want in a guard."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' stated intent to run the ball 60 percent of the time.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee provides short summaries for the 49ers' practice-squad players. He calls linebacker Diyral Briggs the "most intriguing" player on the practice squad. Barrows: "Now all he has to do is hit the weight room with the same passion with which he played Friday's game in San Diego."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News offers 49ers-related notes heading into the regular season. Brown: "Any sign of high-scoring games means the 49ers are in trouble. This team is designed to grind away and play tough defense, not match play for play in a shootout."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals went with backup center Ben Claxton over Melvin Fowler in an upset because Claxton had superior size to hold up against interior defensive linemen. The decision surprised me based on Fowler's experience and some of Claxton's performances in one-on-one pass-rush drills early in camp. One thing about offensive linemen in Arizona: They tend to improve under line coach Russ Grimm.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Michael Adams and LaRod Stephens-Howling overcame size concerns to stick on the Cardinals' initial 53-man roster. Adams: "I feel I worked hard enough to be in a position to make it. But I don’t feel a sense of accomplishment because I have been here long enough to see people come and go, and today or tomorrow could be my last day."

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind wonders if the Cardinals' backup linebackers have enough experience, among other concerns.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks' 4-0 record during the exhibition season might mean nothing.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says it's important for the Seahawks to reestablish dominance at Qwest Field, beginning with their game against the Rams. O'Neil: "Seattle established itself as a place where the fans loved to scream and opponents hated to play. Coach Mike Holmgren even awarded Seahawks fans a game ball in November 2005 after the crowd induced a flurry of false-start penalties by the Giants."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says rookie Nick Reed is focusing more on special teams now that he's earned a spot on the initial 53-man roster.

Also from Farnsworth: a quick look at the Seahawks' first opponent of the regular season. He puts left tackle Alex Barron "on the spot" after Orlando Pace's departure.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sizes up the Rams' new offense, which hopes to establish an identity outside the West Coast label.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams could wait until after the first regular-season game before signing a receiver. Signing a veteran backup for the opener could force the Rams to guarantee the player's salary for 2009. Also, defensive tackle Adam Carriker is frustrated by his latest injury.

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring little faith in the Rams' defensive tackles. Thomas: "I hate to say it, but Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis might be better than anything the Rams currently have at DT."

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com looks at the Rams' aggressive approach to overhauling the roster. Gordon: '[General manager Billy] Devaney and [coach Steve] Spagnuolo wanted to wedge as many developing players as was feasible on the 53-man roster. They passed on a long line of bigger name players -- on their roster and on the waiver wire -- to make this happen."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat calls the Rams' receivers the "Teen Squad" because their jersey numbers are in the teens, and the receivers have youth on their side.

Turf Show Times' ram_rod is anxious to see how prepared and motivated the Rams appear in their season opener.

Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com gives the Rams a 5 percent chance of winning the NFC West this season. The way St. Louis forced turnovers during the exhibition season means what, exactly? Glad you asked.
NFC West roster counts, including practice squads
Pos. ARI SF STL SEA Avg.
QB 3 3 3 3 3.0
RB 5 6 5 6 5.5
WR 8 8 5 7 7.0
TE 3 3 4 3 3.3
OL 10 10 10 11 10.0
DL 8 8 12 11 9.8
LB 8 9 8 7 8.0
DB 9 11 11 10 10.3
ST 3 3 3 3 3.0
Totals 57 61 61 61 60.0

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


The seven players Seattle signed to its practice squad tell coaches, in general, how many players they'll have for practice at a given position.

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo pointed to this often overlooked figure when asked about the Rams' lack of depth at receiver. The team has only four receivers on its 53-man roster. What mattered to Spagnuolo in the short term was how many receivers the Rams had available to practice. The number stands at five. The Rams would like six.

The chart shows positional roster counts for NFC West teams, including players signed to practice squads. The Cardinals have only four players on their practice squad. Their numbers in the secondary are relatively low.

None of the NFC West teams has signed a quarterback to its practice squad.

Also: Seattle's initial 53-man practice squad features receiver Mike Hass, receiver Logan Payne, safety Jamar Adams, running back Devin Moore and tackle Kyle Williams, all released during the reduction to 53 players. The team also signed center Blake Schlueter, formerly of the Broncos, and cornerback Roy Lewis, formerly of the Steelers.

Following up: Chart has been updated to relfect the 49ers' signing of Tony Pashos and placement of Diyral Briggs on the practice squad. Also, the Seahawks have signed linebacker Thomas Williams, formerly of the Jaguars, to fill out their practice squad.

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