NFC West: Dominique Zeigler

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt for thoughts on Larry Fitzgerald's new contract. Whisenhunt: "Larry gets it, and that’s one of the reasons it was so important we got the deal done with him. He’s been a tremendous leader, he’s grown a lot in what we want him to do. It wasn’t always easy, because understanding the burden that comes on you as a great player, it’s not something that’s natural, especially someone who shies from the spotlight like Larry. When you recognize what a tremendous player he is and the accomplishments he has had over the last few years, it’s goes a long way that our team and (president) Michael Bidwill recognize that and are willing to do those deals."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals saw good things from O'Brien Schofield against Green Bay. Urban: "Schofield was all but invisible in the preseason opener, but against the Packers in the second game, he had a sack, a forced fumble, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit that forced an incompletion."

More from Urban: Cardinals notes, topped by one on running back Alfonso Smith.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are in no hurry to add a veteran running back following Ryan Williams' season-ending injury. Whisenhunt outlined what the team will be looking for at the position: "One that can do a little bit of everything. Obviously, someone that can help on third down, but be a good first- or second-down back. But it's not something we're just going to do overnight. We're going to do some research and try and get the right fit. There may be a player on another team right now that will become available at some point."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic passes along Kevin Kolb's thoughts on Fitzgerald's new contract. Kolb: "Both of us are locked up for a long time so hopefully we can build this thing for the future. I told my wife this - I don't want to be anywhere else. I want to retire here. This is the place I want to be for a long time, so I want to make sure I can do all I can to make those hopes and dreams come true and make our own hopes and dreams come true."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains how Jake McQuaide found out he'd won the snapping battle against longtime incumbent Chris Massey. Massey shared the news with McQuaide at his locker. Coats: "Age and finances almost certainly were factors in the decision. Massey was due to make $1,375,000 this year. McQuaide, a 23-year-old rookie from Ohio State, will receive the first-year minimum of $375,000. The net salary cap savings will be $500,000."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with unheralded rookies trying to earn roster spots with the Rams.

Also from Thomas: Rams injury notes, plus an item about Ben Leber and Brady Poppinga getting reps with the first-team defense. Sounds like the Rams' shaky showing against the run in the second preseason game provided an opportunity to implement moves the team was expected to make all along.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers thoughts on one of the Rams' receivers fighting for a roster spot. Wagoner: "Receiver Danario Alexander got an MRI on his knee on Monday. Yes, that knee, the one that’s been surgically repaired multiple times. Alexander claimed it 'felt funny' and he and the Rams agreed it was best to get it checked out. Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious. Alexander has all the talent in the world and should be admired for even still playing after all he’s been through. But it’s hard to make a living in this game when you have constant problems. Here’s hoping it all works out."

Also from Wagoner: Expectations for third-year Rams tackle Jason Smith. Wagoner: "When Smith entered the league, he had a reputation for being a nasty run blocker capable of opening big holes. But Smith’s adjustment has taken some time and though he’s proved to be adept as a run blocker at times, he says he’d like to be more consistent. The addition of Harvey Dahl at right guard should help in that area. Dahl is known for his nasty disposition on the field and Smith says he can’t help but feel that attitude is infectious and going to help him be the hard-charging run blocker everyone though he could be."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says there's no reason to get worked up about the Seahawks' quarterback situation following two preseason games. Brewer: "I'm only willing to declare one absolute about the Seahawks after two exhibition games: They have more depth. They'll have some difficult decisions to make at the 53-man cut. Unlike last year, when they only liked about 45 of their players and did the super roster shuffle after the cut date, they're more likely to keep all of their guys this time, barring some impact player becoming available."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at Red Bryant's impact on the Seahawks' run defense.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says this about Aaron Curry's restructured contract: "Because Curry’s salary is not guaranteed in 2012, the Seahawks could release him in February without any financial obligation. The restructured deal also makes it easier to move Curry in a trade."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com looks at the good and bad from the team's most recent preseason game. Farnsworth: "The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 84 wrong-way yards – eight times in the first half for 69 yards. That’s unacceptable, even if this was only the second preseason game. There were three false start penalties, a disconcerting continuation of the problem the linemen have been having in practice. But two of them were on wide receiver Mike Williams and Zach Miller. The worst infraction, however, was linebacker Aaron Curry ripping the helmet off Vikings guard Ryan Cook and then throwing it. Unacceptable? Carroll pulled Curry out of the game."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers made it clear, again, that Taylor Mays wasn't in their plans before finally trading the safety to Cincinnati. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio before the trade: "We feel good with (Donte) Whitner, him (Reggie Smith), (Dashon) Goldson, (Madieu) Williams, and (C.J.) Spillman. We feel like we've got five safeties there that can play in the NFL. Some of them have great special teams value over the others, so if we have to keep four, that will be a hard decision. If we keep five, I think they will all be different pieces that we will use during the season."

Also from Barrows: Frank Gore does not appear inclined to ask for a trade.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers-Raiders exhibition games had to die following recent postgame violence.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News speaks with an NFL security official regarding the league's response to fan violence.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle offers 49ers notes, including one about Dominique Zeigler practicing for the first time since suffering a knee injury Nov. 30.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle has this to say regarding the violence: "The authorities saw the local rivalry as Saturday's main storm cloud, compounded by the 5 p.m. start and the nature of exhibition tickets, which frequently end up in the hands of people who paid little or nothing for admission. Without much of an investment in the product, and minimal meaningful action on the field, these patrons tend to arrive with other forms of entertainment on their itinerary."
NFC West wide receivers are casting longer shadows these days.

Division teams have added three wideouts standing at least 6-foot-3 this offseason, led by Sidney Rice in Seattle and Braylon Edwards in San Francisco.

The NFC West now has more receivers listed at 6-5 than it has listed at 5-10.

Seattle is likely to field the tallest starting tandem, with the 6-5 Mike Williams opposite the 6-3 Rice.

The 49ers are the only team in the division with fewer than four receivers standing taller than 6-1. The St. Louis Rams have five. Arizona and Seattle have four apiece.

I've gone through rosters and broken out NFC West receivers by listed heights:
The chart breaks down NFC West teams by receiver height.

The Rams have eight receivers standing at least 6-1, no surprise given offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' history at the position.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Kevin Kolb will probably play a little longer than a starting quarterback usually would when the Arizona Cardinals open their exhibition season. Kolb wants to play, of course, but also realizes mistakes will be made after only six days of on-field preparation. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "It’s not like he’ll be wide-eyed. He’s been through this before." Protecting Kolb stands out as the biggest concern. Offensive lines have had little time to jell. The Cardinals have new starters in both guard spots.

Also from Urban: Whisenhunt details what held back the Cardinals' running backs in 2010, and what he wants from them this season. Whisenhunt: "On runs, it was not being able to make a single defender miss. In the NFL, that’s what you have to do. Make guys miss, because you can’t block everybody. There were a couple times we were in the open field and we had an opportunity to make a big play and we got brought down and that was unacceptable."

More from Urban: Rookie receiver DeMarco Sampson has impressed.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic updates Rashad Johnson's efforts to gain an expanded role within the Cardinals' defense. Adrian Wilson's injury cleared the way. Somers: "A third-round pick from Alabama in 2009, Johnson's inconsistency has kept him from more playing time, although he showed improvement from the first year to the next. Johnson set about to change his career course this offseason by first changing his body. He worked out for three months with Wilson and several other Cardinals defensive backs. He still weighs about the same, 204 pounds, but Johnson's body fat percentage decreased from 17 percent to 7.8 percent."

Also from Somers: Cardinals safety Hamza Abdullah is headed to the White House for a dinner celebrating the end of Ramadan. Somers: "Getting through the first preseason game in Oakland on Thursday will be a big relief for coaches, who are working with 51 new players on a 90-man roster. Of that 90, 24 just started practicing last week."

More from Somers: Larry Fitzgerald hurdles a spectator at camp, and former Vikings coach Brad Childress visits the Circle K where he worked after getting fired from a job at Northern Arizona University.

More yet from Somers: a look at Cardinals position battles. On nose tackle: "Dan Williams is listed as the starter, but coaches believe he's out of shape. Rookie David Carter has had a nice camp, and veteran Nick Eason can swing from end to tackle, too." Is reporting to work in good physical condition too much to ask from a young professional athlete?

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says a chest injury is limiting Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have signed rookie cornerback Jared McGee.

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring his thoughts on whether the Rams' moves in free agency reflect short-term goals. Thomas: "Remember, 8 of the 11 free agents signed so far are one-year deals. So there's no guarantee how many of them will be back in 2012. Of the 11 outside veteran free agents, Zac Diles is 26, Mike Sims-Walker is 26, Quinn Ojinnaka is 27, Jerious Norwood just turned 28, Dan Muir is 28, Cadillac Williams is 29, Craig Dahl just turned 30, Quintin Mikell is 30, Brady Poppinga is 31, Justin Bannan is 32, and Al Harris is 36. So they're spread out kind of all over the spectrum. But I think your overall point is valid. But the sheer number of free agents signed shows the Rams are trying to get over the hump in terms of at least making the playoffs."

Also from Thomas: the Rams' situation at receiver remains muddled.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers 49ers practice notes, including one about rookie tight end Konrad Reuland making a push for a roster spot. Reuland appears to have strong hands. He made plays on the ball Tuesday. On one play, Reuland impressed even when unable to finish the catch. He dove for the ball and got both hands on it despite hard contact from a defender.

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' depth chart. Ted Ginn Jr. dropped a couple passes Tuesday, but otherwise has been one of the more impressive receivers in camp, Maiocco notes. Maiocco: "Ginn has put together the most-impressive camp of the widouts. Josh Morgan has been inconsistent, though he did have a nice leaping catch of 30 yards in a two-minute drill Monday. Braylon Edwards is not listed as a starter because he just arrived in town after signing a one-year, $1 million contract. Based on his practice Monday, Edwards looks ready to leap into a starting role. Michael Crabtree and Dominique Zeigler are not listed on the depth chart because they are ineligible to practice or play until being removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Patrick Willis is embracing a chance to rush the passer more frequently.

Also from Inman: Frank Gore offers thoughts on the 49ers' offense. Gore on Alex Smith: "You can tell the (offense's) energy is different. You can see it in Alex. He looks really confident. He's able to go. ... Alex is going to be really good in this offense."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers rookie Aldon Smith, despite showing flashes of athletic prowess, remains a work in progress while learning the team's system.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says rookie Byron Maxwell continues to impress. Coach Pete Carroll: "He’s been really special the last two or three days. He looks very competitive. He’s tough. He’s tackled well. He’s got a nose for the football. He’s really bright. He’s really picked things up. He’s right in the mix of this with the young cornerbacks."

Also from Farnsworth: a look at quarterback Josh Portis' winding path to the NFL.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates the Seahawks' cornerback situation. O'Neil: "Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond project as the team's starting cornerbacks currently. Thurmond has been out the past week, which has left Kelly Jennings playing with the first-unit defense. Then there are the rookies Maxwell and Richard Sherman, a fifth-round draft choice out of Stanford. At 6 feet 4, Brandon Browner is the tallest defensive back Seattle has in camp and someone Carroll has praised for the length he brings to his press coverage."

Also from O'Neil: a look at the positions where Seattle has had the most players start since 2006. Yes, Steve Hutchinson's name comes up.

More from O'Neil: Can Golden Tate bounce back from a disappointing rookie season? Carroll: "He's caught more balls than anyone on the practice field since camp started. He's highly competitive, and we're going to find a way to really have him help us. I think it's a different setting for him entirely."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks rookie cornerback Richard Sherman, who has so far fared well using the bump-and-run tactics Seattle prefers.

Also from Williams: Tarvaris Jackson will start the exhibition opener Thursday night, but a toe injury will prevent receiver Mike Williams from playing.

More from Williams: The Seahawks plan to keep Portis around in some capacity.

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says Red Bryant and Kris Durham will miss the Seahawks' exhibition opener. The team expects Bryant to return next week.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the San Francisco 49ers could be without Michael Crabtree for four to six weeks while the receiver recovers from a foot injury suffered during player-organized workouts. Crabtree missed his rookie training camp during a contract dispute. An injury sidelined him quite a bit last summer. The lockout and this latest injury threaten to keep Crabtree off the field for yet another training camp, just as the 49ers are scrambling to install a new offense. So much for developing a rapport with the 49ers' quarterbacks. Barrows: "The exact nature of the injury is not known. The 49ers will place Crabtree on the physically-unable-to-perform list to begin training camp. Also to be placed on the PUP list are rookie fullback Bruce Miller and wideout Dominique Zeigler, who is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last year. Miller's injury is not known at this point."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says this has been a rough week for the 49ers. Maiocco: "I spoke with a source close to Nnamdi Asomugha early Friday and he said that Asomugha was still going through his options. There are some reports that the Cowboys are getting involved, too. If the 49ers do not sign Asomugha, they will be forced to turn to Plan B, which could include Richard Marshall (Carolina), Chris Carr (Baltimore), Carlos Rogers (Washington) and Antonio Cromartie (Jets). Also, if Clements remains on the market, the 49ers could bring him back. And, remember, the 49ers weren't completely satisfied with the play last season of the other starting cornerback, Shawntae Spencer, either."

Also from Maiocco: Joe Nedney plans to retire.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Crabtree's injury explains why the 49ers considered adding Chad Ochocinco.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News sees the 49ers as a fallback for Asomugha, with the Jets as front-runners.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says Colin Kaepernick is eager for camp.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle has advice for Charlie Whitehurst heading into Seahawks camp. Huard: "Whitehurst has a longer delivery which can be harder to repeat and cause inaccuracy when a pocket collapses on top of him. He can spin it and throw a beautiful deep ball, but to gain the trust of his coaches and his huddle he will have to refine his ball placement, critical in the timing/West Coast system Darrell Bevell is installing."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers highlights from Seahawks practice, including one about Red Bryant being back on the field following knee surgery.

Also from Farnsworth: Marcus Trufant is the longest-tenured current Seahawk. Farnsworth: "In fact, 33 of the players on the practice field Thursday were going through their initial workouts with the team."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times provides a Whitehurst interview transcript. On the offense: "Well, it's definitely new. We're just diving in the playbook now, but I like some of the things we do. We're going to try and run the football here, there's no doubt about it. We will be able to do that, play-action some drop-back, all that stuff. I think we're going to throw it short, throw it long, do a bunch of stuff. I'm confident that I can fit anything he asks me to do."

Also from O'Neil: a camp preview.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with receiver Mike Williams for thoughts on Whitehurst. Williams: "Just from last night when Coach [Tom] Cable got up and talked about the attitude he wanted from the offense, and I’m sure the same thing was said over in the other room. It was good to get out here today. Guys were running around, and you could tell guys been working. You could tell Charlie’s been working."

Also from Williams: Seattle receiver Ben Obomanu grew up with Tarvaris Jackson in Alabama. Obomanu: "We shared some of the same friends when he transferred to Alabama State. A lot of my good friends played on his team and were classmates of his. So he’s a good friend of mine, so I’m looking forward to him coming in and seeing what he can do in this offense."

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says new Seahawks coordinator Darrell Bevell could be a better fit for the team's younger players. Williams: "We’re going to win new guys over. Different personalities, a lot different than coach [Jeremy] Bates -- with all respect to coach Bates -- it's just a different approach with coach [Darrell] Bevell and his staff. With the young group we have, they like this group better I can already tell. We’ll all learn it. We’ll make mistakes together and then minimize those mistakes as much as we can. But everyone is learning and that’s the exciting part."

Mike Salk of 710ESPN Seattle offers thoughts on the Seahawks, including this one: "Yes, the team filled major holes along their offensive line (Robert Gallery and maybe James Carpenter etc.), wide receiver (Sidney Rice) and defensive line (Alan Branch provides depth). But they still have holes in their defensive backfield and at linebacker. And oh yeah, they need a quarterback!"

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at how the Cardinals are addressing their offensive line.

Also from Somers: a quick look at the Cardinals' activity to this point in the week.

More from Somers: questions and answers on Kevin Kolb's acquisition. Somers: "They clearly are going all in on Kolb. As former Packers' executive Andrew Brandt, now with ESPN, pointed out via twitter, it's a similar deal to the one Aaron Rodgers' signed in 2008. Like Kolb, Rodgers had seven starts when he signed it. The Packers, however, had watched Rodgers in practice and he knew their system. The Cardinals don't have that advantage."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are betting big on Kolb. Boivin: "Management will take heat for spending this much, when in reality, it should be applauded. An organization that for decades was dinged for being cheap was anything but on Thursday. Team president Michael Bidwill supported the quest to fill the team's biggest hole and pulled out his checkbook to do so. If you want to find fault, it is with the team for putting itself in this situation. It shouldn't have been so desperate for a quarterback."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com has this to say about trading Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: "Losing Rodgers-Cromartie does weaken what looked like a very strong cornerback corps. First-round pick Patrick Peterson seems a lock to start now with Greg Toler; asked if the Cardinals would be acquiring a cornerback Whisenhunt just referenced the young corners already on the roster."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have been mostly quiet in free agency so far. Thomas: "The Rams have expressed some interest in Brandon Mebane of Seattle, but aren't considered a frontrunner for his services. Barry Cofield of the New York Giants seemed like a no-brainer at one time because of his past association with coach Steve Spagnuolo, but Cofield agreed to a contract in Washington worth a reported $36 million over six years."

Also from Thomas: Four Rams draft choices agree to terms.

More from Thomas: He counts Seattle among the teams with interest in Rams tight end Daniel Fells.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Josh McDaniels and Sam Bradford are working hard to prepare for camp.

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis looks at the curious case of Rams rookie Robert Quinn, who might not have an agent.
The knee injury receiver Terrell Owens suffered this offseason got me thinking.

Surely the NFL can do more to protect defenseless receivers who are taping shows for VH1 or conducting personal workouts.

At least no one can blame Owens' fate on the helmet-to-helmet collisions that made headlines last season. That discussion led to concerns suggesting receivers could face more damaging hits to their lower bodies as defenders sought to avoid incurring fines with hits to the helmet.

A quick look at higher-profile NFC West injuries suffered at the position does not validate those concerns:
  • Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: Houston Texans safety Eugene Wilson hit Fitzgerald low during the exhibition season, leaving the Pro Bowl wideout with an injured knee. This hit, more than any other that left an NFC West wideout injured, fit the profile. Fitzgerald was leaping when he made the reception on the play in question, however. The pass from quarterback Matt Leinart was a little high. Those factors contributed as much or more than Wilson's approach to the play, I thought.
  • Steve Breaston, Cardinals: He underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in September. Breaston has had knee problems in recent seasons. He played at least one game with the injury before undergoing surgery. I do not recall a specific play leading to the injury.
  • Ted Ginn Jr., San Francisco 49ers: The knee injury Ginn suffered against Seattle in the opener looked like a fluke play. Cornerback Kelly Jennings tackled Ginn low because there wasn't another alternative. Jennings was trailing Ginn and had to dive to make the tackle.
  • Dominique Zeigler, 49ers: Zeigler was injured on a special-teams play.
  • Kyle Williams, 49ers: The rookie suffered a turf-toe injury, not the type of injury in question here.
  • Mike Williams, Seahawks: Williams suffered a foot injury against New Orleans, not the type of injury in question here.
  • Deon Butler, Seahawks: No one sought to hit Butler low on this play. Butler got caught in traffic and suffered a freak injury.
  • Mark Clayton, St. Louis Rams: Clayton suffered a torn patellar tendon going after a ball along the sideline. No one hit him low.
  • Donnie Avery, Rams: Avery suffered a torn ACL during the exhibition season after landing awkwardly while trying to make a reception.
  • Mardy Gilyard, Rams: Gilyard underwent surgery for a wrist injury this offseason. The injury had lingered for some time. It wasn't related to getting hit low.
  • Dominique Curry, Rams: Curry suffered a torn ACL while covering a punt in Week 3.

The NFL's emphasis on protecting defenseless receivers from head injuries could still promote other types of injuries, as some have feared. I did not see evidence of that happening in the NFC West last season.
Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson breaks down the wide receivers of each NFC West team. Today: San Francisco 49ers.

Michael Crabtree was an early topic for my Pressure Point series. There have certainly been extenuating circumstances that can be blamed for his stunted development, but in the end, Crabtree just needs to play better if he is ever going to reach his vast potential.

[+] EnlargeMichael Crabtree
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireMichael Crabtree found the end zone six times in 2010.
The addition of Jim Harbaugh as head coach could be exactly what Crabtree needs. I expect Harbaugh’s version of the West Coast offense to play to Crabtree’s strengths. Expect the Niners to employ Crabtree on a lot of quick-hitting routes where he can use his big body to shield defenders and his exceptional run-after-the-catch abilities once he secures the football.

Drops were a problem last season. He obviously has been inconsistent to this point of his young career, but I think a breakout season could be on the horizon. Maybe that is wishful thinking on my part, because Crabtree really only had two good games in 2010. But getting the most out of Crabtree is what the Niners are paying Harbaugh to do.

Josh Morgan flashes at times, but San Francisco needs more from its No. 2 wide receiver. Morgan disappears for stretches, which is inexcusable, considering that he is rarely given extra attention by opposing coverage schemes. Of course, quarterback play has had something to do with this problem. Morgan is also known as a good blocker, which fits this offense well.

Looking for a home-run hitter, San Francisco traded for Ted Ginn before the 2010 season. Ginn, as he was in Miami, was a colossal disappointment. He caught just a dozen passes all season, which amazingly was good for the third-most receptions among 49ers’ wide receivers. He is a better return man than he is a wide receiver.

In the sixth round, San Francisco selected Ronald Johnson. He has a definite chance to make an impact -- probably out of the slot -- considering the weak state of affairs at this position.

Kyle Williams and Dominique Zeigler both were severely hindered by injuries last season. Williams isn’t especially big, but he has some suddenness in his movements. He has only one career catch, though. With Zeigler’s tall and lanky build, durability could be a continued problem at this level. Lance Long also is on the roster and was a contributor with the Chiefs in 2009.

The 49ers might be wise to add another capable body at this position through free agency, preferably a guy with deep speed to help open things up underneath for Crabtree. Considering just how weak this position is right now from top to bottom, the Niners probably regret losing Jason Hill.

Vernon Davis’ impact from the tight end position is tremendous, and San Francisco should feature him and Delanie Walker quite a bit with double-tight end sets. This present group of wide receivers needs a boost. Although I think Crabtree could really elevate his game, the more I studied the 49ers wide receivers, the less I liked them.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle passes along John Clayton's thoughts regarding Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Clayton thinks Whitehurst should be leading teammates in player-organized workouts. Clayton: "Part of the knock on him is that you know he's got talent, but does he have that desire to take over things? Does he have that leadership ability? To be a leader you have to lead. And the (time to lead is now) when you've got everybody scattered around trying to do it." It would reflect well on Whitehurst if he were leading well-organized workouts featuring large numbers of Seattle players. On the other hand, it's not like anyone else on the roster has been able to pull together the team this offseason. The Seahawks are not gathering in large numbers this offseason for a couple reasons. One, relatively few players live in the Northwest. Two, this is a roster in transition. Quite a few players are without contracts for 2011 and unsure whether they'll be back.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits 1996, the year then-owner Ken Behring tried to relocate the team. Farnsworth: "One of the oddest twists to this whole deal involved David Behring and the team’s best player -- Cortez Kennedy, who balked at going to Anaheim because he had signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Kennedy’s action was viewed as beyond defiant by Behring, who fumed that the team leader was not displaying the kind of leadership ownership deemed appropriate. ... Late that season, Behring and Kennedy found themselves at midfield at the Kingdome, as the club president presented Kennedy with the Steve Largent Award trophy that has been voted annually since 1989 to the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says nothing has changed on the quarterback front for the Cardinals. Somers: "Whenever they are able, the Cardinals will pursue a trade for Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb had highs and lows last season, but if you are looking for reasons to be excited about him, check out this highlight video of his game against the Falcons. He completed 23 of 29 for 326 yards and three touchdowns against good defense."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com thinks an increasingly complex NFL game requires more offseason prep time for players. Urban: "Today’s playbook is more complicated. The premium placed on not turning the ball over is so much higher than it used to be (watch those 702s QBs huck the ball downfield in search of a big play; interceptions weren’t good but they weren’t as frowned upon as now). Running, running, running was much more commonplace. Precision in the passing game -- which takes reps -- wasn’t as important."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the San Francisco 49ers could use more wide receivers at their player-organized workouts. Barrows: "The only wide receivers on the 49ers roster who have not spent some time with Alex Smith in the Bay Area are Lance Long, Dominique Zeigler and ... wait for it ... Michael Crabtree. The 49ers signed Long to their practice squad in November. Zeigler is recovering from an ACL tear suffered in Week 12 this past season. Crabtree, meanwhile, recently has been working out on his own in the Bay Area, but he has yet to join the group of 49ers that works out together in the South Bay. David Carr said that the group intended to contact Crabtree and ask him to join their training session." It's tough to say Crabtree should be attending these sessions if he hasn't been invited.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says second-year 49ers nose tackle Ricky Jean-Francois continues to put in the necessary offseason work. Jean-Francois has moved closer to earning a college degree. Maiocco: "He spent the past three weeks in Baton Rouge, La., where he continues to get high offseason marks. In fact, Jean Francois scored an 'A' on Tuesday in his Caribbean Studies course at LSU. Completion of the course brings him 12 hours from earning his degree in general studies. Now, Jean Francois plans to head back to Miami, where he regularly works out with teammate Frank Gore and other NFL players at Bommarito Performance Systems."

3k of Turf Show Times takes a hard look at possibilities for the St. Louis Rams' offense with rookie tight end Lance Kendricks as a focal point. VanRam: "The use of the H-back allows for a TE to set up at multiple spots: TE, WR, FB or RB. By pushing the player around the formation, it forces some kind of response from the defense to adjust to the switch. Complicating things even further is the possibility of motion. The H-back can play off the line next to the traditional TE and motion into another position. Conversely, he can come out of the FB spot up into a receiving spot to begin the play." Using a second-round choice for Kendricks does signal the Rams' intentions offensively.
ESPN's Adam Schefter says Rams general manager Billy Devaney took offense to James Carville's comments to NFL owners comparing the Republican presidential field to the NFC West. An executive from another NFL team did tell me the Rams weren't all that amused by Carville's wisecrack. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to Schefter's tweet by noting that both laughed and it was all in fun. If you know Devaney, however, it's easy to imagine him not letting such remarks slide. He's pugnacious and unafraid to speak his mind. Remember back in September 2009 when ESPN's Mark Schlereth, a player Devaney scouted years ago, said the Rams were in shambles? Devaney went on the radio and fired back with both barrels. He called Schlereth names and the team was well on its way to turning things around. The Rams went 1-15 that season, but they were indeed in the early stages of turning around the franchise.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams running back Steven Jackson commended students for participating in a reading drive. Jackson told students reading helped him overcome a fear of public speaking. Jackson: "Thanks to some good teachers and my mom and dad, I overcame the fear and became an avid reader. My passion for literacy has continued."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat shows where Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, among others, measured up at the 26-27-60 formula for quarterbacks. The formula favors college quarterbacks with at least a 26 on the Wonderlic, 27 college starts and a 60 percent completion rate. Smith hit in two of three categories. Hill hit in none. Drew Brees and Sam Bradford were among those hitting the mark in all three categories, but so was Max Hall.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the new rules for kickoff returns could help the 49ers. Maiocco: "The 49ers were the worst team in the league last season on kickoffs. Their return teams ranked 29th in field position -- both in returns and coverage. Moreover, the 49ers have sustained some significant injuries the past two seasons on kickoffs. Jeff Ulbrich's career ended in 2009 when he sustained a concussion while trying to break a wedge. Dominique Zeigler (torn knee ligament), Will James (concussion) and Phillip Adams (broken ankle) saw their seasons end with major injuries on kickoffs."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along comments from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh regarding top quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL draft.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt declined to discuss reports suggesting Arizona could have interest in Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. Somers: "I would be surprised if the Cardinals were willing to give up the fifth overall pick in the draft. If the Eagles hold out for that, I don't think a deal will be done."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team supports the new rules for kickoffs, according to club president Michael Bidwill. Bidwill also offered thoughts on receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is heading into the final year of his contract. Bidwill: "He’s been very clear that he wants to be a Cardinal for life. We’ve been very clear that we want to take the necessary steps to make sure that happens. We’ll get it done. I’m confident of that."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers thoughts on whether the Seahawks should bring back quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. O'Neil: "It's not an easy decision by any means, and if you built an argument around not bringing Hasselbeck back and pointed to his performance in early December as the reason, I could say I disagree, but it would be tough for me to say you're flat-out wrong. You would just have a different assessment. I just think it's so hard to find a guy capable of running your offense at a high level that it's much worse to pull the plug too early as opposed to too late. Re-signing a starting quarterback in the NFL isn't cheap. Letting one with tread on the tires walk away can prove way more costly, though."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says the Seahawks' return specialist, Leon Washington, has come out against rules changes governing kickoffs. Washington: "It's going to take a lot of strategy for the coaches to come up with a plan for how to take advantage of the opportunities you do have," he said. "I think as a returner you have to really study the game, study the kickers and try to approach the game from that angle. Hopefully it doesn't go through but if it does, special teams coaches have to really, really prepare themselves and really game plan around how to take advantage of when you do have opportunities because early on in the season when kickers' legs are feeling good and strong, they're going to be kicking out of the end zone. But later in the season, there's going to be a few chances where you do have opportunities."

Also from Henderson: NFL Network's Jamie Dukes wonders why the Seahawks haven't showed interest in Matt Leinart. Coach Pete Carroll would know Leinart better than most would know him, so no one can accuse Seattle of making an uninformed decision.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who remains noncommittal regarding the current structure of the team's front office. Kroenke would not say whether or not the team planned to hire a team president. Kroenke: "Right now we're not hiring because we're in this lockout. A lot of this is common sense. We can parse it, but it's common sense -- nothing any different than what we would do in a normal business. We'll get some clarity at some point, and if we feel like we're going to be playing football, we'll see where we go from there." If Kroenke preferred the current structure, he could certainly say so. It's not like he has to worry about ticking off the owner. He is the owner. The more significant question would be to what extent hiring a team president would precipitate other changes.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Joe Staley is among 49ers players leading offseason workouts away from team headquarters. Staley: "We're professional athletes. We get paid to work out and stay in shape." Not now.

Also from Barrows: 49ers kicker Joe Nedney offers thoughts on the NFL proposal to change rules regarding kickoffs. As Barrows notes, the 49ers lost Phillip Adams, Will James and Dominique Zeigler to injuries suffered on kickoff returns.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers probably would not trade their first-round choice to Philadelphia for Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb. I don't think the 49ers would give up a first-round pick for a quarterback unless they were convinced they were getting an elite player. Kolb would upgrade the position overall for San Francisco -- David Carr is the only quarterback under contract to the 49ers, and he is not expected back -- but I've seen nothing from the 49ers to suggest they're going to make a strong play for him.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers a few Cardinals-related thoughts. Somers on a report that the Cardinals had not given up on Max Hall: "True enough, but John Skelton is ahead of him. And Ken Whisenhunt and his staff like what they saw of Rich Bartel late in the year. Currently, Bartel is ahead of Hall for the No. 3 job . If a rookie and/or a free agent is added, Hall should hope Whisenhunt is open to keeping a QB on the practice squad."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says it's possible the Eagles are floating the idea that a team or teams are clamoring for Kolb on the trade market.

Also from Urban: Dan Williams finished his rookie season strong. Pro Football Focus offers statistical evidence.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Matt Hasselbeck's 5-year-old son ranks 103rd out of nearly six million participants in ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament Challenge. Aaron Levin of q13fox.com has additional details: "In the Southwest Region, he chose 12-seed Richmond, 11-seed VCU, 10-seed Florida St., and top-seed Kansas to advance to the Sweet 16. He was one of only 2811 entries to have all four teams advancing."

Also from O'Neil: Defensive end remains a position of interest for the Seahawks in the draft even though Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock put up strong sack numbers last season. O'Neil: "Brock is scheduled to be a free agent for one, and then there's the fact that expecting veterans to replicate career years can be problematic. Then top it all off with the fact that defensive end just might be the deepest position in this draft."

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 27, Cardinals 6

November, 29, 2010
11/29/10
11:47
PM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' victory over the Arizona Cardinals on "Monday Night Football" in Week 12:

What it means: The Cardinals appear finished. They've lost six in a row, falling to 3-8 and they are showing no signs they can bounce back. It's almost certainly going to be a long December in Arizona even though the Cardinals' schedule appears favorable. The 49ers helped bring clarity to the division by affirming this is a three-team race between St. Louis, Seattle and San Francisco. The 49ers showed they could bounce back from an embarrassing defeat the previous week. The way they ran the ball against Arizona should put Seattle on notice for when the teams play at Candlestick Park in Week 14, particularly if Frank Gore returns from the hip injury he suffered Monday night.

What I liked: The 49ers showed a killer instinct early. They were conservative on their opening drive, running seven times in 10 plays. But when Arizona lost a fumble on its first offensive snap, the 49ers went to the end zone immediately. Troy Smith's 38-yard touchdown strike to Michael Crabtree set the tone for this game. Arizona went away quietly.

What I didn't like: The Cardinals appear to be getting worse. They're well past the point of blaming turnovers for the majority of their struggles. This is a bad team, through and through. An offseason roster overhaul appears appropriate.

Injurie(s) of note: The 49ers lost Gore to a hip injury. They lost center David Baas (jaw) and receiver Dominique Zeigler (knee). None returned. Brian Westbrook filled in admirably for Gore. Tony Wragge took over for Baas.

Tomorrow's Talker: Does this 49ers victory mean they are primed for a late-season run to the playoffs? They travel to Green Bay in Week 13, followed by the Seattle game and then two more on the road. Life in the NFL is week to week. The 49ers beat a bad team Monday night. Let's see if they can sustain their momentum. They're more firmly back in the race if they win one of their next two games.

Unsung Hero: Ted Ginn Jr. gave the 49ers favorable field position with long returns on punts and kickoffs. He had a 42-yard punt return and a 41-yard kickoff return. Ginn justified the 49ers' decision to name rookie receiver Kyle Williams inactive.

What's next: The 49ers visit the Packers. The Cardinals are home against the St. Louis Rams.

Around the NFC West: Warner's new role

October, 8, 2010
10/08/10
9:34
AM ET
Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic checks in with Kurt Warner as the former Cardinals quarterback prepares to work his old team's game for Fox. The Cardinals are starting a rookie quarterback because Warner decided to walk away from the final year of his contract. Warner: "You can't help but feel a little responsible. You don't know if you should feel that way, but I'm still connected to the team. I did what I felt was right for my situation, yet there's also the part that wishes I could help." Network broadcasters meet with players and coaches from both teams as part of production meetings where inside information sometimes flows in an effort to provide on-air talent with a better feel for the team. Those meetings can be awkward when they feature someone close to one of the teams. There's nothing awkward about Warner, but he'll have an unusually strong feel for the Cardinals in this game.

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic says it's been a long time since an undrafted rookie started an NFL game this early in a season. Young: "After an exhaustive search through the data bases at Pro-football-reference.com, it appears that Hall has moved into a starting role faster than any undrafted rookie quarterback since 1987, when a couple of Arizona State products named Jeff Van Raaphorst and Todd Hons were among several undrafted signal callers who started as replacement players during a strike-shortened season. We're not counting 'rookies' who came to the NFL from Canada. Between then and now, it appears that the earliest an undrafted rookie has moved into the starting job behind center was in Week 8 when Chad Hutchinson replaced Quincy Carter as the starter in Dallas during the 2002 season." I was looking through similar information Thursday and saw that Brad Goebel started for the Eagles as an undrafted rookie on Oct. 6 and Oct. 13 of the 1991 season. Those were the Eagles' sixth and seventh games of the season.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the nine sacks Arizona allowed against San Diego.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Hall will become the fourth Cardinals rookie to start at quarterback for the team since the franchise moved to Arizona.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' line found some redemption during practice.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks and Patriots have discussed a trade that would send Deion Branch back to New England. O'Neil: "The possibility of Branch returning to New England has been discussed as far back as February, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has been consistent in his assessment that Branch is a big part of Seattle's offensive plans."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune has this to say regarding Branch: "We might view Branch as redundant once they got Brandon Stokley, but an improved running game could open things up for more of the kinds of routes Branch and Stokley run. And Pete Carroll went out of his way recently to project Branch into a role as a slot receiver on the side opposite Stokley. Of course, that is the same coach who said Julius Jones was going to be back in running back rotation the day before he was released."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Danny Amendola grew up tough in part because he hung around an older brother. Said Amendola's former high school coach: "Younger brothers get to be tougher, because they have the hell beat out of them every day as they're growing up."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams need to keep winning for validation. Steven Jackson on facing the Lions: "If any other football team in the National Football League understands where Detroit is, I think we (do). They're an 0-4 team that's very good. They've been in every contest that they've been a part of. I know they're going to be feisty and upset with us about stealing one last year in their stadium, so we have to stay focused. We have not arrived yet, and although we're getting good, we're not in position to overlook anyone."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says cornerback Bradley Fletcher is giving the Rams a lift.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Jackson worked more extensively in practice Thursday than he has since suffering a groin injury.

Also from Wagoner: a more extensive look at Jackson's progress.

More from Wagoner: Fred Robbins appears rejuvenated with the Rams.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers will win the NFC West if they win their five remaining division games. Maiocco on whether the game against the Eagles qualifies as a must-win: "No, I don't call it a must-win. But it's one of those games the 49ers really, truly should win. The Rams have already won their game against the NFC East opponent, so it's important in that sense. The 49ers still play five games against NFC West competition. If they run the table in those games, they will win the division."

Also from Maiocco: 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has no problem with Nate Clements' decision to go for a touchdown when sliding to the ground probably would have won the game for the 49ers in Atlanta. Manusky: "Got an opportunity, go score. Why not? I would. ... Did he want to fumble the ball? No. He tried to make a play. The more players on your team that try to make plays, the better off you're going to be."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee quotes Steve Young as saying Alex Smith is playing too cautiously. Barrows: "He struck a similar note about the offensive coaching. He said the 49ers must lift the defensive-minded yoke and allow (offensive coordinator Mike) Johnson to have the license to do what he thinks is best."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with 49ers rookie Taylor Mays.

Also from Branch: Ted Ginn Jr.'s return could help the 49ers' offense. Ginn could share reps with Dominique Zeigler as the 49ers' third wide receiver while Ginn gets back to speed following a knee injury.

Silver linings: 49ers at Falcons

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
10:03
AM ET
The facts: The 49ers fell to 0-4 with a 16-14 road defeat to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • Receiver Dominique Zeigler, coming off a game in which he made a 19-yard reception on third-and-15 at Kansas City, blocked a punt to help the 49ers jump to a 14-0 lead against the Falcons.
  • Rookie safety Taylor Mays fielded the blocked punt in the end zone, got both feet down inbounds and maintained possession of the ball throughout. His impact on special teams was greater even though the 49ers reduced his reps in that area overall.
  • Mays seemed to play well at strong safety after replacing Michael Lewis in the starting lineup. Reggie Smith had beaten out Mays for the No. 2 spot during training camp, but Mays got more work late in the week as the 49ers tried to get him up to speed. This performance was a positive one for Mays.
  • The 49ers were ready to play from the beginning. They scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time since the 2008 season. They made early plays on defense and special teams. Coach Mike Singletary couldn't afford another performance along the lines of the game in Kansas City. This effort showed the team could still respond.
  • Tight end Vernon Davis caught a touchdown pass.
  • Michael Crabtree became more involved, catching five passes for 58 yards.
  • The 49ers' defense controlled the Falcons' running game while holding quarterback Matt Ryan to his lowest passer rating since Week 10 last season.
  • Punter Andy Lee helped pin the Falcons inside their 20-yard line three times.
  • Parys Haralson had 2.0 sacks and Travis LaBoy had 1.0.
  • The 49ers are only two games out of the NFC West lead with five division games left to play and only one game in an opposing team's stadium between Monday and Nov. 29.
Looking ahead: The 49ers face the Philadelphia Eagles at Candlestick Park in Week 5.

Silver linings: 49ers at Chiefs

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
9:57
AM ET
The facts: The 49ers fell to 0-3 with a 31-10 road defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • Receiver Dominique Zeigler made an impressive grab for a 19-yard gain on third-and-15 when the game was still close in the third quarter.
  • Inside linebacker Takeo Spikes was able to play despite concerns about a knee injury.
  • Frank Gore finished with a career-high 102 yards receiving. He's the 49ers' first running back with at least 100 yards receiving since Garrison Hearst caught four passes for 105 yards against Chicago in 2001.
  • Joe Nedney made a 51-yard field goal to prevent the 49ers from entering halftime without points.
  • Shawntae Spencer picked off a pass early in the second quarter, before either team had scored.
  • The 49ers called plays quickly enough to avoid delay penalties or wasted timeouts, an improvement from their previous road game this season.
  • San Francisco appeared to avoid serious injuries, although Josh Morgan hurt a knee late in the game.
  • The 49ers converted on two of their first three third-down opportunities. Alex Smith found Vernon Davis for 10 yards on third-and-4. He found Gore for a 31-yard gain on third-and-3.
Looking ahead: The 49ers visit the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
7:42
PM ET
Arizona: The Cardinals are depleted at receiver with Early Doucet potentially having a sports hernia. The Week 1 success Arizona enjoyed with four-receiver personnel minus Doucet was misleading because the Rams were without their third and fourth corners. Future opponents won't have such limitations. The Cardinals could use more from rookie receiver Andre Roberts, who suffered a shoulder injury during preseason and was inactive for the opener. The options on offense are already limited to a degree by the injury that sent fullback Nehemiah Broughton onto injured reserve. I'm expecting the Cardinals to use two tight ends more frequently. Beanie Wells has had success running with one back and two tight ends, but a bruised knee could keep Wells from playing again this week. I wouldn't bank on him getting extensive carries unless he practices fully Thursday and Friday.

St. Louis: The Rams lack sufficient depth to weather injuries and they're hurting pretty badly for having played only one game. Chris Chamberlain's absence with a toe injury hurts the special-teams units. Expect quarterback Sam Bradford to continue feeding the ball to Mark Clayton now that two other potential targets -- tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and receiver Laurent Robinson -- are hurting. Hoomanawanui will not play. Robinson missed practice Wednesday after suffering an ankle injury Sunday. The Rams are hurting in the secondary, threatening their ability to defend three or more wide receivers at a time. That could affect their blitzing. It's not good for the Rams to see running back Steven Jackson on the injury report this early in the season. Jackson's knee swelled after the game Sunday and he did not practice Wednesday, though MRI results were normal. He's played through injuries in the past, but he was sometimes less effective.

San Francisco: Dominique Zeigler becomes the 49ers' third receiver now that Ted Ginn Jr. will miss time with a sprained knee. San Francisco hasn't been much of a three-receiver team outside two-minute situations and third down (by two-minute situations, I'm also talking about times when the 49ers are in catchup mode). Ginn had fared well enough during camp to make me think the 49ers might use those three-receiving groupings on early downs and early in games, but that did not happen against the Seahawks and it's probably not going to suddenly start happening now. Zeigler has shown good hands. He's known for running precise routes. He has taken advantage of opportunities recently. Right guard Chilo Rachal (stinger) and outside linebacker Manny Lawson (ribs) were hurting Sunday. The 49ers still have pretty good depth on their offensive line, but losing Lawson or having him at diminished capacity would hurt the defense.

Seattle: Another week, another new starting offensive lineman. Losing right guard Max Unger to a season-ending toe injury shouldn't hurt the Seahawks too much because his replacement, veteran Stacy Andrews, has experience. Andrews is best suited at right tackle and that's where he might end up eventually, but the team needs him at guard for now and that is where Andrews will play Sunday. It's not like the running game is suddenly going to lose momentum. Seattle hasn't gotten much push to this point. Perhaps Andrews can help in that area. Tyler Polumbus remains the starting left tackle while Russell Okung recovers from an ankle injury. Okung has been running on a treadmill without putting all his weight on the ankle, but the joint isn't strong enough for him to play.
Re-signing receiver Jason Hill after losing Ted Ginn Jr. to a knee injury should, in theory, affect the speed element within the San Francisco 49ers' offense.

I'm not so sure after watching the 49ers in the regular-season opener at Seattle.

In breaking down the 49ers' personnel use through most of the first half -- I'll finish charting the game Tuesday night -- I've noticed the team using Ginn as its third receiver on third down, and as the lone receiver in its "22" personnel package with two backs and two tight ends (primarily a short-yardage grouping). But I have yet to see the 49ers use three-receiver personnel outside a third-down context (or the 2-minute offense).

As a result, the speed element Ginn offers was not a regular part of the 49ers' offense. The team instead used its familiar "12" personnel grouping with running back Frank Gore, tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, plus receivers Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan. That "22" grouping has been a good one for the 49ers, but I thought we might see more "11" personnel on early downs, with Ginn replacing Walker.

Ginn could miss the next couple of games. Hill's experience in the 49ers' offense should make for a smooth transition, but I don't expect the 49ers to use him extensively. Dominique Zeigler figures to get playing time. If the team wasn't going to use three receivers much when Ginn was healthy, why would that change with Zeigler moving up the depth chart?

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