NFC West: Donovan Raiola

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals' decision to sign veteran center Melvin Fowler and release backup center Donovan Raiola sent me through my notes from recent pass-rush drills in Arizona.

No doubt, the Cardinals' backup centers struggled in those drills. That's pretty typical, though. Centers are often a little more nimble than other offensive linemen, at the expense of power. My one note on Raiola from Cardinals camp included the line, "78 blew up 50" to reflect Alan Branch defeating Raiola.

Fowler started the first five games with Buffalo last season before suffering an injury against San Diego. His replacement, Duke Preston, played very well against Jamal Williams in a victory over the Chargers. Preston remained the starter. Fowler became a free agent and remained unsigned until now. His agent, Eric Metz, also represents Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. Folwer, 30, has started 60 regular-season games. Raiola, 26, had no starts.

The Scouts Inc. report on Fowler reads this way:

Fowler is six-year veteran who has been a very steady performer in the middle of the Bills' offensive line. He has above-average size and strength, but wins with quickness, technique, intelligence and toughness. Fowler does a great job to snap and step quickly while taking proper angles to gain leverage. He has good hand use and foot agility to stay connected. He can slam and chip well to the second level or scoop offset-defenders with great quickness and technique. He doesn't have great power to get movement on the larger defensive tackles in the league and can be walked back some when one-on-one verse bull rushers. He has excellent flexibility and understands how to set and reset quickly to recover as the play unfolds. He has excellent instincts and a tremendous feel for the game, making all the line calls up front. He reacts quick to changing fronts and blitzes to keep Buffalo's offensive line in the best blocking schemes. Fowler has been very durable over the past few seasons and has become a mainstay on this improving Buffalo offensive line.

This looks like an upgrade for Arizona, at least on the surface, and something the Cardinals probably needed to do.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

A quick look at 53-man rosters from Feb. 1, date of Super Bowl XLIII, provides a reference point for seeing how NFC West teams have changed so far this offseason.

I'll continue with Arizona.

Gone from the Cardinals' 53-man roster and injured reserve list in the 58 days since the Super Bowl (9):

Offense

Pat Ross, C

J.J. Arrington, RB

Terrelle Smith, FB

Jerame Tuman, TE

Scott Peters, OL

Defense

Eric Green, CB

Monty Beisel, LB

Antonio Smith, DE

Special teams

Nathan Hodel, LS

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

  • Add former Rams tight end Anthony Becht and former Seahawks center Donovan Raiola to the list of players the Cardinals have signed to contracts. Guard Elton Brown and defensive tackle Rodney Leisle were the others. The team announced the moves. All four signed one-year contracts. Becht can be a strong blocking tight end. He might provide insurance while Stephen Spach recovers from knee surgery.
  • One more note on Becht: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt coached tight ends for the Jets when they drafted Becht in 2000.
  • Seahawks president Tim Ruskell was also attending the workout for Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. We previously noted that offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was there.
  • Free-agent 49ers cornerback Donald Strickland paid a visit to the Titans.
  • The Rams signed tackle Daren Heerspink. He signed with the Dolphins last season as an undrafted free agent from Portland State. The Rams now have nine offensive linemen.

Practice-squad update: Rams

September, 1, 2008
9/01/08
2:15
PM ET
Rams eligible for
practice squad
Pos.Current Status
Brock BerlinQB53-man roster
Chris LongDE53-man roster
John GrecoOL53-man roster
Donnie AveryWR53-man roster
Roy SchueningOL53-man roster
Chris ChamberlainLB53-man roster
David VoboraLB53-man roster
Derek StanleyWRPractice Squad
C.J. Ah YouDLPractice Squad
Russ WeilFBPractice Squad
Marc MagroLBPractice Squad
Lance BallRBPractice Squad
Dustin FryOLPractice Squad
Darius Vinnett
CB
Practice Squad
Mark LeVoirOL53-man roster (Pats)
Marques HagansWRPractice Squad (Chiefs)
Julius WilsonOLPractice Squad (Bucs)
Cortney GrixbyDBWaived
Nick CleaverTEWaived
Marcus RileyLBWaived
Donovan RaiolaOLWaived
Henry SmithDLWaived
Willie WilliamsDLWaived
Matt CaddellWRWaived
Tanard DavisDBWaived
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams have filled seven of eight spots on their practice squad. Cornerback Darius Vinnett was the notable addition; he previously slipped through the cracks when I listed Rams players with practice-squad eligibility.

Derek Stanley provides needed practice depth at receiver. Injuries continue to affect that position for the Rams.

The Patriots' signing of Mark LeVoir to their active roster surprised me. The Rams lack depth on the offensive line after placing Mark Setterstrom and Brandon Gorin on injured reserve. But the Patriots' might be even more desperate for help at tackle. New England has considered everyone but Bruce Armstrong as potential stopgaps at the position this summer. We'll see how long LeVoir lasts.

Update: The Chiefs signed Marques Hagans to their practice squad. Earlier in camp, a scout for another team asked me if I thought Hagans would earn a roster spot. Hagans' potential as a return specialist had caught his attention. 

Julius Wilson obviously has some talent. He went from the Dolphins to the Rams to the Bucs' practice squad in a short time period. Scouts must see potential.

I watched Wilson struggle terribly during the Rams scrimmage.

As noted then: "Defensive end Eric Moore beat [Wilson] for what would have been a sack on Brock Berlin. [Marc] Magro tossed Wilson to the outside and surged forward for what would have been a free shot on Berlin. Shortly thereafter, running back Lance Ball was gliding along for what should have been an easy touchdown, but a linebacker slammed him to the ground in front of Wilson as Ball crossed the goal line.

Rams eligible for
practice squad
Pos.Probable Status
Brock BerlinQBKeeper
Chris LongDEKeeper
John GrecoOLKeeper
Donnie AveryWRKeeper
Roy SchueningOLKeeper
Chris ChamberlainLBKeeper
David VoboraLBBubble
Derek StanleyWRBubble
C.J. Ah YouDLBubble
Russ WeilFBLikely cut
Marc MagroLBLikely cut
Cortney GrixbyDBWaived
Lance BallRBLikely cut
Nick CleaverTEWaived
Marcus RileyLBWaived
Donovan RaiolaOLWaived
Dustin FryOLLikely cut
Julius WilsonOLLikely cut
Henry SmithDLWaived
Mark LeVoirOLLikely cut
Willie WilliamsDLWaived
Matt CaddellWRWaived
Marques HagansWRWaived

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' released 10 players in anticipation of the 53-man roster limit, which goes into effect Saturday.

I've singled out eight of them on our chart of Rams players with practice-squad eligibility. The eighth and ninth players released, veteran safety Jerome Carter, and cornerback Tanard Davis, have no such eligibility.

Expect the Rams to make their remaining cuts before the 6 p.m. ET deadline Saturday.

The Rams are carrying 66 players once they move Steven Jackson to the active roster from the exempt list.

Die-hard alert: Updated roided-out NFC West rosters here.

Earlier: The chart shows each of the Rams' players with practice-squad eligibility, according to the team.

Practice-squad rules can be confusing, and exceptions sometimes apply to relatively experienced players.

I've categorized each player based on his perceived likelihood of earning a spot on the 53-man roster. Those are rough characterizations. Teams still have not made decisions. It's conceivable that a player listed as a "keeper" could face his release.

(Read full post)

Practice-squad report: Rams

August, 29, 2008
8/29/08
12:20
PM ET
Rams eligible for
practice squad
Pos.Probable Status
Brock BerlinQBKeeper
Chris LongDEKeeper
John GrecoOLKeeper
Donnie AveryWRKeeper
Roy SchueningOLKeeper
Chris ChamberlainLBKeeper
David VoboraLBBubble
Derek StanleyWRBubble
C.J. Ah YouDLBubble
Tanard DavisDBLikely cut
Russ WeilFBLikely cut
Marc MagroLBLikely cut
Cortney GrixbyDBLikely cut
Lance BallRBLikely cut
Nick CleaverTELikely cut
Marcus RileyLBLikely cut
Donovan RaiolaOLLikely cut
Dustin FryOLLikely cut
Julius WilsonOLLikely cut
Henry SmithDLLikely cut
Mark LeVoirOLLikely cut
Willie WilliamsDLLikely cut
Matt CaddellWRLikely cut
Marques HagansWRCut

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The chart shows each of the Rams' players with practice-squad eligibility, according to the team.

Practice-squad rules can be confusing, and exceptions sometimes apply to relatively experienced players.

I've categorized each player based on his perceived likelihood of earning a spot on the 53-man roster. Those are rough characterizations. Teams still have not made decisions. It's conceivable that a player listed as a "keeper" could face his release.

As noted: Rosters spots are serious business for NFL players lacking job security. For some, the next 30 hours or so will determine whether they'll earn $17,352.94 per week or whatever the real world pays.

The minimum NFL salary is $295,000. Players get paid in 17 installments, one for every week they spend as a paid member of the organization.

NFL teams must trim rosters from 75 players to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. Teams can establish eight-man practice squads beginning Sunday. Practice-squad players earn a minimum of $5,200 per week during the regular season and playoffs.

Once a player signs with a practice squad, he can practice with the team. He becomes eligible to play in games only if a team signs him to its 53-man roster. Practice-squad players are free to sign with any team's active roster at any time during the season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Season-ending injuries to backup guards Mark Setterstrom (knee) and Brandon Gorin (shoulder) leave the Rams even thinner on their offensive line. The team has no immediate plans to sign a free-agent lineman or two, coach Scott Linehan told reporters Sunday.

The Rams weren't necessarily counting on Setterstrom and Gorin this season, but losing them severely impacts depth. Center Brett Romberg has a broken bone in his snapping hand. He did not play in the exhibition game Saturday night, but he could be ready for the regular season. Nick Leckey is starting in his place.

I've updated the Rams' positional glance for the line. Fifth-round rookie Roy Schuening and veteran Adam Goldberg are probably locks at this point, just given sheer numbers.

Offensive linemen (13)
Average number kept on opening-day roster since 2003: 9.2
Locks: Orlando Pace, Jacob Bell, Brett Romberg, Richie Incognito, Alex Barron, Nick Leckey, John Greco
Looking safe: Roy Schuening, Adam Goldberg
On the bubble: Donovan Raiola, Dustin Fry
Also: Julius Wilson, Mark LeVoir
Comment: The Rams started 18 line combinations last season.

Several other Rams suffered injuries. Running back Brian Leonard sprained a shoulder and might miss the next game. Linebacker David Vobora could miss the rest of the preseason with a severely sprained ankle. Quarterback Marc Bulger has a strained shoulder, but the Rams aren't concerned about it, Linehan said. Linebacker Tim McGarigle suffered a toe injury, but he should be available.

Linehan on Bulger possibly seeing doctors: "No, we are not going to. We are just going to see how he feels throwing tomorrow, if he can. It is really not serious, but it hurt enough that he would not have been able to play that next play, so we just used that situation to put Trent (Green) in and leave him in there because it was a preseason game."

The Rams might add a running back, linebacker or safety to their roster, Linehan said.

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