NFC West: Flipper Anderson

NFC West Stock Watch

September, 18, 2012
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FALLING

1. Injured money men. Injuries prevented some of the higher-profile players in the NFC West from helping their teams as much as anticipated. The list included Russell Okung, Zach Miller, Sidney Rice, Beanie Wells and Steven Jackson. Rice and Wells are healthy enough, their coaches have said, but both have been banged up recently. Neither played extensively Sunday. Rice played just more than half the offensive snaps against Dallas after playing 89 percent in the opener. Wells played 38 percent against New England. He has become a rotational player after topping 1,000 yards last season.

2. Rookie receivers. Second-rounder Brian Quick isn't playing much for the Rams. First-rounder Michael Floyd isn't playing much for the Cardinals. First-rounder A.J. Jenkins isn't getting onto the field for the 49ers. Those three rookie wideouts combined for nine snaps during their teams' victories in Week 2. None of this is particularly shocking. Rookie receivers often aren't ready right away. Of note: New York Jets rookie Stephen Hill has five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns thus far.

3. Braylon Edwards, Seahawks WR. Edwards' stock took a hit when he couldn't handle the potential winning touchdown pass against Arizona in Week 1. Golden Tate's return from injury dealt another blow to Edwards, who went from 65 snaps against the Cardinals to nine during a 27-7 victory over Dallas. Tate played well.

4. Cardinals RB combination. Second-year running back Ryan Williams has lost a fumble in each of the Cardinals' games this season. The one he lost while running down the clock against New England nearly gave away a hard-earned Arizona victory. Williams is averaging 1.2 yards per carry through two games. Wells is averaging 2.8. Cornerback Patrick Peterson (17 yards) and receiver Andre Roberts (15) own Arizona's longest runs from scrimmage.

RISING

1. Ray Horton, Cardinals DC. The Cardinals have held Seattle (16 points) and New England (18) to one touchdown apiece through two games. Horton, Arizona's second-year coordinator, has been getting impressive results since the second half of last season. Arizona has held nine of its last 11 opponents to 20 or fewer points. Horton interviewed for the Rams' coaching vacancy last offseason. He'll get additional opportunities and more legitimate ones if the Cardinals continue on their current course defensively. Horton is getting great play from Calais Campbell and others. That helps, too.

2. Sam Bradford, Rams QB. Bradford completed all nine of his third-down passes, seven of them for first downs, while matching a career high with three scoring tosses during the Rams' 31-28 victory over the Washington Redskins. Bradford completed 26 of 35 passes for 310 yards, his fourth career game with at least 300 yards.

3. Danny Amendola, Rams WR. Twelve first-half catches and 15 for the game more than offset the fumble Amendola lost following his first reception. Amendola finished the game with 160 yards and a touchdown. He made five catches on third down. The 15 receptions tied a franchise single-game record shared by Flipper Anderson and Isaac Bruce.

4. Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB. Wilson followed up a so-so debut at Arizona with a far more efficient performance in the absence of the constant pressure the Cardinals generated. Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He set a franchise rookie record for completion percentage in a single game (min. 20 attempts). Wilson, backed by Marshawn Lynch's 122-yard rushing performance, completed 8 of 10 passes for 71 yards and five first downs on play-action attempts.

Around the NFC West: Expert opinions

August, 17, 2012
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San Francisco 49ers coaches know they can trust Alex Smith to execute their game plan and lead the offense.

They appreciate the quarterback's temperament, too.

Greg Roman, the 49ers' offensive coordinator, explained the appeal during a conversation Wednesday.

"Extremely even-keeled," Roman said of Smith. "That was evidenced last year in a lot of the games when we needed to make some fourth-quarter comebacks to win. As a team and a coach, you can certainly draw on that because you know what you’re getting every day and you can plan accordingly."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Jim Harbaugh held up Smith as having become an "expert" in the 49ers' offense about a year ahead of schedule. Harbaugh: "He's very smart. He already has great ideas. He already is very creative. He already is knowledgeable in how to use everything in the system. ... He's way ahead of the curve. I think after a year, you really know it. It takes about two years in the system to be a real expert at it. He's cut that in half." Noted: It's pretty clear the 49ers are expecting good things from Smith this season. San Francisco faces most of the top quarterbacks in the NFL this season. How will Smith measure up?

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers' offense put together another strong day in camp.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox will not face an NFL suspension this season after missing 2011 during legal proceedings associated with a sexual-assault case. Cox was acquitted.

Also from Barrows: Alex Boone has worked to overcome alcohol-related troubles.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Randy Moss appears to be having fun and working hard, according to Smith.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles 49ers receiver Brian Tyms, who has overcome much during his journey to the NFL. Branch: "He was physically abused by both biological parents, and each incident prompted the Department of Children and Families to intercede. At 7, his mother, Jada Tyms, who had split with his biological father, hit him in a store and the incident was reported. His half-sister, Alysha Bernett, went to live with a grandfather and Tyms began his odyssey in group homes and foster care. After three years in group homes, his biological dad, Kenneth Stephens, was granted custody, but the arrangement in Seattle lasted less than two years. Deep into alcoholism, Stephens and Brian, then about 11, got into a physical altercation and his dad began choking him."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' new leadership welcomes back former players, a change from recent seasons. Torry Holt and Aeneas Williams have been at camp this week, offering tips to players. Holt: "It's good for guys to see the history of our organization because we've got a lot of history in this organization. I've talked about it before. When I was a rookie and a couple years in the league, Deacon Jones and Jack Youngblood, they'd come back and talk to us and just talk about the pride and the tradition of Rams football. And I mentioned that to the receivers in the (meeting) room. I said, 'There's a standard here in regards to the receiving position, all the way back to Henry Ellard, Crazylegs (Hirsch), Flipper Anderson, myself, Isaac (Bruce), Ricky (Proehl) -- the list goes on and on of guys that played the position at a high level. So keeping that standard, keeping that tradition alive, I think it's huge."

Also from Thomas: Sam Bradford downplays concerns over his ankle.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com sees progress from rookie receiver Brian Quick: "Quick is getting reps with the first team this week and he’s now put together perhaps his two best practices of his young career. He skied for a ball from Kellen Clemens in 7 on 7s and brought it down in the end zone then proceeded to catch everything thrown his way during the workout. Jeff Fisher said Quick looked like he did at his now famous workout at Appalachian State and said maybe Quick just likes the indoors. That could bode well since the Rams play indoors."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Terrell Owens enjoyed another strong practice: "Owens caught a half dozen passes today, including one where he got behind Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner and another where he fought his way through being jammed by rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane. Owens is playing flanker, although Pete Carroll has said he’d also like to look at the 6-foot-3, 224-pound Owens as a possible replacement Mike Williams at split end."

Also from Farnsworth: camp awards featuring Marshawn Lynch (offense), Richard Sherman (defense) and Robert Turbin (rookie) as top players.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times sees good things from Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung. Line coach Tom Cable: "The thing that's changed for him is how detailed he has become. I thought before, he was a really talented guy who knew he was talented. In this league, there's so much more to it. And I think with great respect to him, he has really succumbed to that. That it's not about where they picked me. It's not about what my talent is. It's about what I put into it. He has done a marvelous job."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says coach Ken Whisenhunt put the Cardinals on alert this week. Also, receiver Larry Fitzgerald addressed the team about stepping up its game. Somers on the QB situation: "John Skelton has been adept at avoiding pressure and buying himself time. But he missed a lot of open receivers in practice this week. Improving accuracy remains his priority. Kevin Kolb, in contrast, looks uncomfortable in the pocket, as if he doesn't trust his protection, or that a receiver is going to come open."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com is watching to see which cornerbacks step up over the remaining exhibition games. Urban: "Interesting that DC Ray Horton mentioned to Kent Somers no cornerback has really challenged William Gay for the starting spot opposite Patrick Peterson. I didn’t get the impression that was because Gay has been flawless either. It’s one of the reasons this game means a lot to the defense too -- where is that unit with the 2011 closing kick?"

Josh Weinfuss of azcardinals.com passes along thoughts from center Lyle Sendlein on the Cardinals' preseason struggles. Sendlein: "For whatever reason we’re locking up mentally when we’re getting out there. It’s things our coaches go over with us the day before and that’s why they’re so disappointed in us because they know we can do it. There’s a fine line of being relaxed and being uptight and I don’t think we’re uptight. I think we’re just trying to do too much. I know we are good and we will be good but the problem is we’re just trying to do more than (our) job and when you do that, you make mistakes and things aren’t executed the way they should be."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The guy wearing tan slacks and a black dress shirt in the "M" lot outside MetLife Stadium -- me -- stood out more than the St. Louis Rams fan I was tracking down Monday night.

I kept scanning the crowd for a Sam Bradford jersey or blue-and-gold Rams face paint. No luck. A few glances at Ray Giasullo's Facebook profile provided helpful clues, and once I spotted a somewhat familiar visage, I approached the large group with some confidence.

"Ray?"

Yep, found him, as planned.

There was a Rams logo on the front of his T-shirt, but nothing on the back. The 19 Giants fans tailgating with him give him enough grief as it is without any over-the-top getup to incite them. They said Giants fans are friendlier than Eagles fans and generally not looking for a fight, but wearing too much enemy garb into any NFL stadium carries some risk.

Most impressive: Those 19 Giants fans, including season-ticket holders dating to the 1970s, knew quite a bit about their team's Week 2 opponent. These are knowledgeable fans. They rattled off names from the Rams' depth chart the way a fan at training camp in Earth City, Mo., might do: Danny Amendola, James Laurinaitis and, of course, the ex-Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo brought over to the Rams, from Craig Dahl to Fred Robbins to James Butler, plus all the long-retired greats.

The Giants fans had great things to say about Spagnuolo, and not-so-great things to say about former Rams receiver Flipper Anderson, whose overtime touchdown catch at the old Giants Stadium knocked the Giants from the playoffs following the 1989 season. Anderson famously ran through the end zone and into the tunnel to the locker room, leaving Giants fans in agony.

Ray smiled at the memory. His friends, not so much. I was remiss in not writing down all their names. We were having too much fun talking football and enjoying the perfect weather.

I shot some video from the parking lot capturing the scene. It'll need some editing, though, as one of Ray's buddies got a little carried away with his commentary. I hope to post it at some point in the not-too-distant future.

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