NFC West: Early Doucet

The perceived NFC West offseason arms race between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks should not include the receiver moves each team made Friday.

Austin Collie and Early Doucet are not going to decide the NFC West race. They might not even earn spots on their new teams' 53-man rosters, let alone spots in the receiving rotation when games start counting.

But with the 49ers adding Collie and the Seahawks adding Doucet, I've found a parallel to satisfy your need to sustain the rivalry narrative. The chart shows their their third-down numbers since 2009, when Collie debuted with the Indianapolis Colts and Doucet was a second-year pro with the Arizona Cardinals.

Both Collie and Doucet where primarily slot receivers on third down during that time. Both are 6 feet tall, more than 200 pounds and lacking in top speed by NFL standards for the position.

Arizona released Doucet this offseason after firing coach Ken Whisenhunt. Collie last played for Indianapolis in 2011, when he suffered a season-ending torn patella tendon.

The 49ers and Seahawks have lost receivers to injury. Options on the free-agent market are scarce this time of year because the roster limit is at its 90-man maximum. Teams tend to carry about 12 receivers on a 90-man roster (384 total if each team had exactly 12). Most of the best ones already have jobs, in other words.
Carlos Rogers' contract with the San Francisco 49ers ranks among the NFC West's top three for cornerbacks in guaranteed money ($10.65 million), 2013 base salary ($5.5 million) and average per year ($7.325 million).

Where does Rogers rank as a corner?

"I'm lukewarm on him," Matt Williamson, ESPN's NFL scout, said. "He would start for just about every team, but if he is a $7 million guy, maybe I'd rather use a second-round pick on a corner and use that money on someone else."

[+] EnlargeCarlos Rogers and Victor Cruz
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesCarlos Rogers has 15 interceptions in eight seasons, including a career-best six in 2011.
The 49ers did not take that route in the 2013 draft, and when it ended, reporters asked general manager Trent Baalke whether he felt Rogers could match up against some of the new wide receivers in the NFC West, notably Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin. Last season, Rogers had his hands full against the St. Louis Rams' Danny Amendola, leading former NFL coach Rick Venturi to say Amendola turned Rogers "every way but loose" in Week 10.

The 49ers, by their actions in the draft and free agency, do not appear particularly concerned.

"You always talk about matchups -- are we manning up these guys, or are we playing zone and covering them in an umbrella type of situation?" Baalke told reporters when pressed about the team's options at slot corner specifically. "So, I think we've got to look at it a lot of different ways. And you take care of certain things with scheme more than just one-on-one matchups."

Cian Fahey of Pre-snap Reads, who previously took game-by-game looks at NFC West cornerbacks Richard Sherman (here) and Patrick Peterson (here), dove into Rogers' 2012 performance this week. He saw what Venturi saw against Amendola, who is now safely outside the NFC West after signing with New England. Fahey also noted Rogers' struggles against slot receivers Early Doucet, Randall Cobb, Doug Baldwin and Austin Pettis.

But there are reasons the 49ers decided to guarantee $1.25 million of Rogers' upcoming salary by keeping him on the roster past April 1.

"Tackling is a vital part of Rogers' game," Fahey wrote. "While he doesn't have the superior coverage ability of his peers, he is a good fit with the 49ers because he doesn't allow big plays after the catch and he's not a liability in run defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Rogers made 59 tackles last season and missed just three. That ratio for a player who primarily played the slot cornerback role in the NFC West is incredible."

I circled back with Williamson for some final thoughts:
"Rogers is a tough evaluation. He came in as a first-round pick. He is a first-round caliber tools guy: not small, long arms, pretty fluid, moves well. But he more or less never lived up to that in Washington. His first year with the Niners (2011) was his best as a pro, and not just for the six interceptions. I would bet he will never reach those six picks again. I felt like that first year in San Francisco on a very good defense with a good pass-rush, he was good. Last year, I thought he was an average NFL starting corner. I don't know the guy or know his motivation, but I wondered if he coasted a little bit. He can play the slot, and he benefits from a strong supporting cast. He will not be a top corner who you put on the opponent's best receiver every week. He is a good fit, but it wouldn't shock me if you're looking to replace him, too."
Adam Snyder's release from the Arizona Cardinals made him the sixth player to leave the team's roster this offseason after starting at least 10 games for the team in 2012.

Paris Lenon, Kerry Rhodes, William Gay, Snyder and Adrian Wilson each started at least 14 games last season before departing the roster. D'Anthony Batiste, an unrestricted free agent, started 10 games.

Quentin Groves, Beanie Wells, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and LaRod Stephens-Howling were part of a group of former Cardinals to start between five and seven games for Arizona last season.

Rich Ohrnberger, Ryan Lindley, Pat McQuistan, Early Doucet, Greg Toler, Reagan Maui'a, Nick Eason, Vonnie Holliday and Todd Heap started between one and four games for the team before leaving the roster.

You get the point. The Cardinals have a new head coach and new general manager. They weren't very good on offense last season. Some of their players' contracts reflect what the team's previous leadership once thought of those players. They've become outdated. And so the Cardinals are turning over a pretty fair percentage of their roster by design.
The NFL draft becomes a blur on the final day as teams select lesser-known players one after another.

By the end, it's helpful to take a look at the bigger picture.


The chart above shows which general positions NFC West teams targeted. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are listed as skill players. The other group names are self-explanatory.

Seattle Seahawks seventh-round pick Jared Smith played defensive tackle at New Hampshire. He will play guard for Seattle. The chart reflects that change. There will be other tweaks and distinctions as we learn more about how teams plan to use players.

A few thoughts initially based on available information:
  • RB picture: NFC West teams loaded up on running backs. That position was already evolving with Steven Jackson's departure from the St. Louis Rams and Beanie Wells' departure from the Arizona Cardinals. Spencer Ware, the running back Seattle selected from LSU in the sixth round, projects at fullback to some extent, coach Pete Carroll said.
  • WR shifts: Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Early Doucet, Randy Moss and Ben Obomanu are among the veteran wide receivers to leave NFC West teams this offseason. The division added Anquan Boldin and Percy Harvin before selecting five wideouts in the draft, four in the first four rounds.
  • DT focus: Seattle drafted three players listed as defensive tackles, not counting Smith. No other team in the division drafted one. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters the team could address that position in free agency.
  • Safety numbers: Every team in the division but Seattle needed a safety. The 49ers took Eric Reid in the first round. The Rams took T.J. McDonald early in the third. The Cardinals did not take one, but they plan for early third-round choice Tyrann Mathieu to play a hybrid safety-corner role. Mathieu is listed as a cornerback.
  • Front seven: Think the 49ers wanted to help their front seven, which wore down last season and needs to develop players for the line in future seasons? San Francisco drafted three players listed as defensive ends. Tank Carradine is 275 pounds with versatility. Corey Lemonier, at 255 pounds, is more of an outside linebacker type. Quinton Dial is 318 pounds and a pure lineman.

Eight in the Box: WR status check

March, 29, 2013
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?

Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd comprise a solid top three. LaRon Byrd and Kerry Taylor are the only other receivers on the roster. First-year coach Bruce Arians has said receiver is one position he doesn't worry about. Floyd's continued development after an encouraging finish to the 2012 season will be important. The former coaching staff envisioned moving Roberts to the slot, with Fitzgerald and Floyd on the perimeter. That could still happen. Arians also plans to move Fitzgerald around the formation the way he moved Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis last season. Drafting a receiver for depth would make sense, but there's no need to chase one early. The Cardinals released veteran Early Doucet, who struggled with drops last season.

St. Louis Rams: Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Austin Pettis are the top three. Nick Johnson and Raymond Radway are the only other receivers on the roster. The Rams are eager to develop young players. Givens had five receptions of at least 50 yards during his 2012 rookie season, matching the combined total for wide receivers from every other team in the division. Pettis made a difference around the end zone. The Rams still must add to the position after letting Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson leave in free agency. Having two first-round picks should give the Rams an opportunity to consider a highly rated prospect at the position. It's clear the team is committed to youth regardless. We should remember, too, that recently added tight end Jared Cook lines up at receiver quite a bit. He made all but six of his 42 receptions from the slot last season.

San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are clearly the top two receivers. Mario Manningham is coming off ACL surgery, took a pay reduction recently and might not figure prominently this season. The 49ers, like the Rams, could use more contributions from a receiver drafted early in 2012. A.J. Jenkins, chosen 30th overall and three spots before the Rams selected Quick, did not catch a pass during his rookie season. What's ahead for him? The 49ers aren't saying much. No one is quite sure. Coach Jim Harbaugh recently sounded more excited about former practice-squad wideout Ricardo Lockette, whose size-speed combination sets him apart from most prospects. Lockette flashed ability with Seattle previously, but his career never took off with the Seahawks. Kyle Williams, Chad Hall, Joe Hastings and Marlon Moore are the other receivers on the roster.

Seattle Seahawks: The addition of Percy Harvin changed the outlook for the position quite a bit. He and Sidney Rice appear to be the top two receivers, but Golden Tate is gaining momentum heading into his contract year. Rice and Tate each caught seven touchdown passes last season. Both averaged 15-plus yards per reception. Doug Baldwin needs improved health to factor as a slot receiver. Even then, opportunities could be scarce. The team thinks Phil Bates and former Cardinals receiver Stephen Williams have the potential to become contributors. Bryan Walters, Charly Martin and Jermaine Kearse are the other receivers on the roster. Drafting for the position would help for long-term planning given Tate's contract situation. Also, injuries have limited Harvin, Rice and Baldwin at times in recent seasons. Rice did stay healthy last season, however.
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at whether each NFC West team has been a winner or a loser in free agency.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals set a low bar in free agency and cleared it pretty easily. They weren't in position to attack the market aggressively because they had some salary-cap and player-valuation issues to address in the immediate term. New coach Bruce Arians and new general manager Steve Keim parted with Kevin Kolb, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, William Gay, Beanie Wells and Early Doucet. Some of those moves cleared significant cap room, but the dead money left over was enough to crimp the Cardinals' style. The first nine players Arizona signed in free agency (Frostee Rucker became the 10th on Wednesday) counted $12.9 million against the salary cap in 2013. That was about how much the team cleared by releasing Kolb and Rhodes. Call it addition by subtraction and give the Cardinals a passing grade in free agency under difficult circumstances. Quarterback Drew Stanton and running back Rashard Mendenhall are the only offensive players added to this point in the process. Arians thinks better health will restore the offensive line. He also loves the talent at that position in the draft. The team is setting itself up to draft for offense, it appears.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams are losers in free agency if you think they "lost" Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson, Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Gibson and Robert Turner. The team was willing and sometimes even eager to move on from most of those players, however. The Rams plan to develop their younger players while acquiring more of them through free agency and the draft. They paid big money for two free agents, and both are relatively young, a plus. Tight end Jared Cook is not quite 26 years old. Left tackle Jake Long could be an old 27 based on recent injuries, but he's right around the league average for age. We could mark down St. Louis for losing both starting safeties (Quintin Mikell was released for cap purposes) and failing to land a replacement. The draft appears strong at that position, however, and Mikell could be re-signed at some point. We're only 10 days into the process, and the Rams haven't made any ridiculous moves. Getting Long on a relatively short-term deal (four years) seemed like a positive.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers watched longtime contributors Delanie Walker, Isaac Sopoaga and Dashon Goldson sign elsewhere. That was the plan given the price tags associated with all three players. The 49ers knew they couldn't pay premium dollars to those players after fielding the NFL's most expensive defense last season. Their disciplined approach to the market has served them well in recent seasons. This year, it helped them find room on the balance sheet for receiver Anquan Boldin, acquired from the Baltimore Ravens. The signing of Glenn Dorsey to the defensive line seemed curious at first, but it's clear to me the 49ers have special plans for the player drafted fifth overall back in 2008. Although Phil Dawson's signing stabilizes the kicking situation, his $2.35 million cap figure for 2013 means the team will again be paying a bit of a premium at the position, particularly with former kicker David Akers' terminated contract still counting against the cap. With 14 draft picks, couldn't San Francisco have found a rookie to do the job at lower cost?

Seattle Seahawks: Jason Jones is the only Seattle free agent to sign with another team this offseason. Seattle appeared to upgrade from Jones by getting Tampa Bay's Michael Bennett on a one-year deal counting $4.8 million against the cap. Signing Bennett and former Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril to short-term deals makes the Seahawks a pretty clear winner in free agency to this point. Percy Harvin was not acquired in free agency, so he isn't counting in the equation. His addition addressed the position, however, diminishing the need for Seattle to sign a veteran wideout. Upgrading the pass rush was really the only priority for the Seahawks once the Harvin trade went through. Bennett and Avril combined for 18.5 sacks last season. Both are playing on short-term deals with plenty to prove and only short-term cap ramifications for the team.
PHOENIX -- The Seattle Seahawks and especially the San Francisco 49ers added to their 2013 NFL draft hauls Monday when the NFL awarded compensatory selections to offset net losses in free agency last year.

The 49ers received the 131st overall pick, a fourth-rounder, plus the 246th and 252nd choices, both in the seventh round. The Seahawks received the 241st and 242nd overall choices, also in the seventh round.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.

"Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks," the NFL announced. "Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula."

The 49ers received compensatory choices because free-agent losses Blake Costanzo, Josh Morgan and Madieu Williams outweighed free-agent addition Mario Manningham according to the formula. The Seahawks received picks because free-agent losses Atari Bigby, John Carlson, David Hawthorne and Charlie Whitehurst outweighed free-agent additions Matt Flynn and Jason Jones. Update: The NFL clarified that Adam Snyder, who signed with Arizona from San Francisco, factored into the equation awarding the 49ers three comp picks.

I've put together lists below showing all unrestricted free agents added, lost and re-signed by NFC West teams last offseason.

Update: I've also made available for download an Excel file with tentative 2013 draft order, reflecting comp picks and known trades. This is unofficial. The league has not yet released the official order; additional trades could affect it.

The 49ers have a league-high 14 picks, including two picks in each of the second through fifth rounds. They're in prime position to stock their roster for the future.

By my accounting, the Cardinals hold the 7th, 38th, 69th, 103rd, 140th, 174th and 176th picks. The 49ers hold the 31st, 34th, 61st, 74th, 93rd, 128th, 131st, 157th, 164th, 180th, 227th, 237th, 246th and 252nd choices. The Seahawks hold the 56th, 87th, 123rd, 138th, 158th, 194th, 220th, 231st, 241st and 242nd choices. The Rams hold the 16th, 22nd, 46th, 78th, 113th, 149th, 184th and 222nd picks.

Update: The Seahawks sent the 214th choice, acquired from Buffalo in the Tarvaris Jackson trade, to Minnesota as part of the Percy Harvin trade.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed: D'Anthony Batiste, Mike Leach, Early Doucet, Jay Feely, Dave Zastudil
Added: Adam Snyder, William Gay, James Sanders, Quentin Groves
Lost: Richard Marshall, Sean Considine, Deuce Lutui

San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed: Tavares Gooden, Carlos Rogers, Alex Smith, Ted Ginn Jr.
Added: Mario Manningham, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson
Lost: Josh Morgan, Adam Snyder, Blake Costanzo, Reggie Smith, Madieu Williams, Chilo Rachal

Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed: Heath Farwell, Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy
Added: Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, Deuce Lutui, Barrett Ruud
Lost: John Carlson, Atari Bigby, Charlie Whitehurst, Tony Hargrove, David Hawthorne

St. Louis Rams

Re-signed: Kellen Clemens
Added: Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, Quinn Ojinnaka, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Mario Haggan, Barry Richardson
Lost: Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chamberlain, Donnie Jones, Jacob Bell, Bryan Kehl, Gary Gibson

Good morning, NFC West. Here's hoping the free-agent signing period that opens Tuesday will be more exciting than the ongoing three-day window for negotiating.

Alas, a weekend designed to help NFL teams add players will instead be remembered for notable roster subtractions. While teams were allowed to speak with representatives for projected free agents, the NFL warned teams against reaching contract agreements even in principle. It's not yet clear to what degree the three-day window will help teams get a feel for what players might command in free agency.

In the meantime, teams reduced salary-cap obligations.

The Arizona Cardinals, having already cut safety Adrian Wilson, released receiver Early Doucet, leaving NFC West teams with five of the 28 players they drafted in 2008.

The St. Louis Rams, having already cut Wayne Hunter and watched Steven Jackson void his contract, planned to release safety Quintin Mikell. Those moves gave the Rams enough salary-cap room to strike for a marquee free agent if the team wants to go that route for a second consecutive offseason.

Kevin Kolb's contract situation stands as perhaps the biggest unresolved issue in the NFC West heading into free agency. Arizona recently placed a second-round tender on restricted free-agent quarterback Brian Hoyer, an indication he figures into their plans for now, at least. Will Kolb take a reduction from his $9 million salary, or might he reach the market for the first time in his career?

On Early Doucet's unusually long run

March, 10, 2013
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Wide receiver Early Doucet might not feel like a success story following his release from the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.

Doucet struggled with drops and lost playing time last season, after all. Those were negatives, but the bigger picture looks upon his Cardinals tenure more favorably.

Consider that Doucet's departure from the Cardinals leaves NFC West teams with four players from the 28 they selected in their 2008 NFL draft classes.

Chris Long (St. Louis), Calais Campbell (Arizona), Red Bryant (Seattle) and Larry Grant (San Francisco) comprise that short list. Grant played three seasons with St. Louis before re-signing with San Francisco. That places Doucet on a shorter list of 2008 picks lasting five years with the teams that drafted them.

NFC West teams drafted Long, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Lawrence Jackson, Kentwan Balmer, Donnie Avery, John Carlson, Chilo Rachal, Campbell, John Greco and Reggie Smith before the Cardinals selected Doucet.

Doucet never became a regular starter, but Fitzgerald and Boldin were well-established as franchise cornerstones when he arrived. And after Arizona traded Boldin in 2010, the team used a third-round choice for Andre Roberts.

Doucet was scheduled to earn $2 million in salary and workout bonus in 2013. He is 27 years old and could help a team as a slot receiver, in my view.

Doucet has 1,213 yards receiving from the slot since 2008, third on the Cardinals behind Boldin (1,352) and Fitzgerald (1,221) over that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also has 14 drops on those plays, matching the total for Boldin (eight) and Fitzgerald (six).

The Arizona Cardinals' plan for upgrading at running back could include the Miami Dolphins' Reggie Bush, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Tuesday.

That is the word from Mike Garafolo of USA Today.

New coach Bruce Arians spelled out his vision for the position this way: "Can they run the football, do they have vision, patience? Second, can they pass protect on second down? Can they pass protect on third down when it really gets complicated? Will we throw to the backs? Yeah. But the receivers are the ones paid to catch it.”

The chart compares Bush's 2012 production to that of the Cardinals' primary runners. Injuries wiped out Arizona at the position. Injuries also limited the offensive line and quarterbacks. That was a horrible combination. Arizona will almost surely improve in its running game simply because it's unlikely so many things will go wrong again.

Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams are coming off injuries for a second consecutive year. Bush, who turns 29 later this month, has missed one game over the past two seasons. He missed 20 games over the previous four seasons.

Also from Arizona: The team announced Early Doucet's release. He had slipped on the depth chart last season and was scheduled to earn nearly $2 million in salary for 2013.


NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 26, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals placed second-year tight end Rob Housler (shoulder) on injured reserve. Receiver LaRon Byrd (knee), receiver Early Doucet (concussion), guard Mike Gibson (calf), tackle Nate Potter (ankle), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and safety Adrian Wilson (illness) did not practice Wednesday. Arizona is now without its top two tight ends entering the season. Housler is out and former starter Todd Heap was released. Potter's injury is concerning because he could be diminished, or the team could have to play D'Anthony Batiste at left tackle in his place. The 49ers' Aldon Smith will be gunning for the NFL's single-season sacks record.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams held out cornerback Cortland Finnegan (thigh), running back Steven Jackson (foot), linebacker James Laurinaitis (back) and center Scott Wells (knee). Safety Craig Dahl (knee) was limited. Not much new here. The same players appeared on the Rams' injury report last week. All played during the Rams' victory at Tampa Bay. Finnegan was limited to 54 percent of the defensive snaps. Rookie Trumaine Johnson showed he can play well with increased snaps. He played 94 percent. Laurinaitis appeared to play well. He played every snap against the Bucs. Wells played every snap as well. Jackson played 82 percent. The Rams appear to be limiting snaps in practice as a precaution.

San Francisco 49ers: Injuries to key players are mounting for the 49ers. Tight end Vernon Davis (concussion) and defensive lineman Justin Smith (elbow) did not practice. Davis did not finish the game at Seattle. Smith has not played since the second half at New England two weeks ago. Receiver Mario Manningham (knee) is out for the season. It's looking like Randy Moss, Delanie Walker and Garrett Celek could see more playing time than usual. That was already the case against Seattle. Moss played 74 percent of the snaps. He had been in the 30 percent range before the 49ers lost Kyle Williams and Manningham to season-ending injuries. Celek played 51 percent of the snaps against Seattle. Walker was at 77 percent. Justin Smith's injury is making life tougher for an defensive line rotation that lacks depth. It's also creating fewer favorable matchups for Aldon Smith.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks held out from practice receiver Sidney Rice (knee), tight end Anthony McCoy (back), tackle Breno Giacomini (elbow), running back Marshawn Lynch (back), linebacker Leroy Hill (hamstring), cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) and defensive end Red Bryant (foot). Cornerback Marcus Trufant and defensive tackle Alan Branch practiced. Both have been injured recently. Trufant has been out for weeks. Thurmond's continued absence could hurt if the team loses starting corner Richard Sherman to a suspension. The NFL is expected to rule on Sherman's case as early as Thursday. Fellow corner Brandon Browner remains suspended until the team's first playoff game.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 19, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals did not list running back Beanie Wells on their participation report after he played 46 percent of the snaps Sunday. Wells scored three touchdowns against Detroit and appeared to be moving well. The team had listed him on its injury report in each of the past four weeks, first with a toe injury and later for knee trouble.

Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), tackle Nate Potter (knee), defensive lineman Ronald Talley (ankle), nose tackle Dan Williams (hamstring), cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring), defensive end Calais Campbell (calf), guard Mike Gibson (calf), linebacker Quentin Groves (foot) and tight end Rob Housler (knee) were limited. Receiver Early Doucet (concussion), safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and safety James Sanders (calf) did not practice.

St. Louis Rams: Cornerback Cortland Finnegan (thigh), cornerback Bradley Fletcher (illness), center Scott Wells (knee), running back Steven Jackson (illness), linebacker James Laurinaitis (back) and defensive end Robert Quinn (illness) did not practice Wednesday.

The Rams did not list receiver Danny Amendola on their injury report, a change from recent weeks. He played 75 percent of the offensive snaps against Minnesota despite the foot injury that had sidelined him previously. Amendola caught six passes for 58 yards. He averaged 1.3 yards after the catch, a season low, but he made five first downs on those six catches.

San Francisco 49ers: Defensive end Justin Smith (elbow) and outside linebacker Clark Haggans (shoulder) did not practice. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), cornerback Tarell Brown (shoulder), linebacker Tavares Gooden (ribs), receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder), running back Bruce Miller (shoulder), linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder) and defensive lineman Will Tukuafu (concussion) did not practice Wednesday.

Smith's status is a key variable given his 185-game starting streak and the 49ers' injury situation at the position. Other teams running 3-4 defenses tend to carry six or seven linemen on their 53-man rosters. The 49ers had greater flexibility when Tukuafu was healthy and before tight end Demarcus Dobbs, a former defensive lineman, landed on injured reserve. I found it telling -- concerning might be a better word -- that Smith returned to the game against New England for just one play before departing. He's as tough and durable as they come.

Kicker David Akers (pelvis), guard Alex Boone (knee), linebacker NaVorro Bowman (shoulder), running back Frank Gore (wrist), guard Mike Iupati (shoulder), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder) were full participants.

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive tackle Alan Branch (ankle), defensive end Jason Jones (knee), running back Leon Washington (illness), receiver Sidney Rice (knee), cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring) did not practice. Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) was limited.

The already diminished depth at cornerback would become a bigger issue if the NFL were to suspend starter Richard Sherman following his hearing Friday regarding a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. The league generally announces suspensions early enough in the week for teams to adjust their rosters in time for practices, however.

Fantasy Watch: Receiver injuries in focus

December, 16, 2012
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Receiver injuries are affecting the NFC West on the field and on fantasy football rosters.

Let's run through what we know for Week 15:
  • Arizona Cardinals: A concussion will prevent Early Doucet from playing for Arizona against the Detroit Lions. Doucet was once the Cardinals' go-to receiver on third down. The last time Doucet missed a game, in Week 12, rookie Michael Floyd played 67.5 percent of the offensive snaps, a season high at the time. Floyd played 94.4 percent the following week, when starter Andre Roberts was out. Tight end Rob Housler is questionable for the game against Detroit. That could mean additional playing time and targets for wide receivers. The problem, of course, has been getting the ball to those receivers.
  • St. Louis Rams: Danny Amendola was listed as probable on the injury report, a strong indication he'll return from a foot injury. Amendola once played in a game this season when listed as doubtful. The Rams average 7.0 yards per pass attempt on third down with Amendola on the field. The figure is 6.1 yards per attempt on third down without him. If Amendola plays, there could be fewer short and intermediate opportunities for rookie Chris Givens, who has emerged as more than just a deep threat in recent weeks. Austin Pettis would probably see his playing time reduced with Amendola available. Brandon Gibson's playing time has held steady for the most part. He's coming off a strong game against Buffalo.
  • Seattle Seahawks: Coach Pete Carroll declared receiver Sidney Rice ready to play despite a foot injury. Rice practiced without limitation Friday. He's been much more durable this season than in the recent past. Third receiver Doug Baldwin played a season-high 71.4 percent of the snaps against Arizona last week. Rice and Golden Tate played less than in the recent past, but the lopsided nature of the game (58-0 final score) surely had something to do with that. Rice, Tate and Baldwin are clearly the top three receivers. Jermaine Kearse and the newly re-signed Deon Butler are the only other receivers on the 53-man roster. Ben Obomanu (injured reserve), Braylon Edwards (released) and Charly Martin (injured reserve) are out of the picture.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Mario Manningham has a shoulder injury and will not play against New England. That probably means additional snaps for second tight end Delanie Walker. Walker has set season highs for playing time in the two games Manningham missed previously. He was at 68.3 percent or higher in both. Walker has played 54.5 percent for the season. Randy Moss' snaps also figure to continue their recent rise. He played a season-high 50 percent against Miami last week. Rookie A.J. Jenkins played 13.8 percent, the first time he has played in a game this season. His playing time came at Ted Ginn Jr.'s expense. Ginn was at 8.6 percent against the Dolphins after playing a season-high 19.5 percent the previous week, San Francisco's first without Kyle Williams, who is on injured reserve.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 13, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals placed quarterback Kevin Kolb on injured reserve, where he joins left tackle Levi Brown, center Lyle Sendlein, backup center Rich Ohrnberger, outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, running back Ryan Williams and others. Rookie Ryan Lindley will start at quarterback against Detroit. Receiver Early Doucet (concussion), defensive lineman Ronald Talley (ankle) and nose tackle Dan Williams (hamstring) did not practice. Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf), defensive tackle Nick Eason (ankle), tight end Rob Housler (knee), safety Kerry Rhodes (abdomen), receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) and cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) were limited. Coaches and players have long said training rooms tend to clear out when a team is winning because players are so eager to get onto the field. Arizona's nine-game losing streak robs the Cardinals of that additional incentive.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams held out cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), safety Craig Dahl (head), running back Steven Jackson (foot), middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (back), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and center Scott Wells (knee). Linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow) was a full participant. The one player limited in practice, receiver Danny Amendola, is the most volatile variable. Coach Jeff Fisher indicated Amendola needs to be near full strength to function at a high level. That is presumably because Amendola depends on his quickness and ability to change directions, attributes compromised by a foot injury. The Rams have won their past two games without Amendola. Rookie receiver Chris Givens has filled some of the void. But having Amendola in the lineup would certainly improve the Rams' chances.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers listed linebacker Tavares Gooden (ribs), receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder), fullback Bruce Miller (shoulder) and linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder) as limited. Kicker David Akers (pelvis), linebacker Navorro Bowman (shoulder), cornerback Tarell Brown (shoulder), cornerback Chris Culliver (knee), running back Frank Gore (wrist), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), defensive tackle Will Tukuafu (wrist) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder) are listed as full participants. Manningham's status is most compelling. While most or all the other injured players are expected to play against New England, Manningham missed the Week 13 game at Miami, so his status is in a bit more question. Randy Moss figures to play extensively regardless, but if Manningham misses the game, the 49ers could feature Moss a bit more against his former team.

Seattle Seahawks: Seattle held out receiver Sidney Rice (foot), cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring), safety Kam Chancellor (groin) and defensive end Red Bryant (foot) missed practice Wednesday. The team continues to list running back Marshawn Lynch (back) as limited despite every expectation he'll be able to play. Cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) was a surprise addition to the injured list Wednesday. He's had injury problems in the past. Durability is a concern. Depth at corner isn't as strong with Brandon Browner serving a suspension and Trufant sidelined recently. Seattle is no longer listing linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle). Malcolm Smith could wind up keeping the job.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
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Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb (ribs) does not appear close to returning. John Skelton will start at quarterback. Receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) and defensive end Ronald Talley (ankle) did not practice. Defensive end Calais Campbell, held out of the Cardinals' Week 13 game, practiced on a limited basis. He's recovering from a calf injury. Campbell has six career sacks against Week 14 opponent Seattle. That is the most for Campbell against a single opponent. Safety Kerry Rhodes (quadriceps), linebacker Reggie Walker (knee) and running back Beanie Wells (knee) were also limited. Wells played 43 percent of the snaps against the Jets. Fellow running backs William Powell (35 percent) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (19 percent) also played extensively. Cornerback Justin Bethel (shoulder), receiver Early Doucet (ribs), snapper Mike Leach (back) and linebacker Paris Lenon (shoulder) practiced fully Wednesday.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams held out receiver Danny Amendola (foot), linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow), center Scott Wells (knee), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and running back Steven Jackson (foot). Amendola's status is one to monitor closely. He played against Arizona two weeks ago despite being listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report. He did not play against San Francisco last week. Rookie receiver Chris Givens appears to be developing quickly and has taken over some of the shorter routes previously reserved for Amendola. With Amendola out, Givens and Brandon Gibson each played 90 percent of the snaps at receiver. Givens was the player quarterback Sam Bradford targeted. He has 16 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown over the last two games. Austin Pettis (66 percent) and Brian Quick (15 percent) also factored.

San Francisco 49ers: Receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) and cornerback Tarell Brown (hamstring) missed practice Wednesday. Nickel corner Chris Culliver (illness) was limited, as was kicker David Akers (pelvis) and outside linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder). The team listed cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder), running back Frank Gore (wrist), linebacker Tavares Gooden (elbow, knee), guard Mike Iupati (shoulder) and linebacker NaVorro Bowman (shoulder) as full participants in practice. Depth at wide receiver is more of a concern with Manningham hurting and Kyle Williams on injured reserve. Michael Crabtree (62 percent), Randy Moss (41 percent), Manningham (36 percent) and Ted Ginn Jr. (18 percent) logged snaps at receiver against St. Louis. The 49ers have hinted that rookie running back LaMichael James could make his 2012 debut shortly. Gore played 87 percent of the snaps against the Rams, an unusually high number. Veteran Brandon Jacobs played 11 percent. He does not represent the change of pace Kendall Hunter provided before landing on injured reserve. James would.

Seattle Seahawks: Starting left guard James Carpenter is finished for the season. His absence requires an adjustment, but the change could produce an upgrade in the short term. Carpenter wasn't healthy and it showed in his play. John Moffitt is a natural candidate to start. Seattle has had eight linemen start this season. That is tied for third-most in the NFL behind Philadelphia (nine) and St. Louis (nine). The Seahawks held out defensive end Red Bryant, who surprised the coaching staff by playing -- and playing well -- against the Bears despite a foot injury. Bryant wore a boot on his foot in the locker room after the game in Chicago. Cornerback Marcus Trufant also missed practice. He has a hamstring injury. It sounds like the team will try Jeremy Lane at nickel corner while Trufant recovers. Walter Thurmond is expected to play right corner while Brandon Browner serves a four-game suspension. It's possible Thurmond could play inside as well. Receiver Sidney Rice does not have a concussion, according to the team, but he was listed as limited with a head injury after absorbing a hard hit while making the winning touchdown catch Sunday. Leroy Hill (ankle) was limited. Coach Pete Carroll sounded excited about Hill's replacement, Malcolm Smith.

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