NFC West: James Carpenter

RENTON, Wash. -- Here are a few observations on the defense from the first day of organized team activities (OTAs) this week for the Seattle Seahawks, along with some comments from coach Pete Carroll.

The media’s only access was Tuesday, but a few things stood out:

Whoa Mayowa: I think those 15 pounds guard James Carpenter lost were transferred over to defensive end Benson Mayowa, and that’s a good thing. Bigger and stronger (possibly 265 now) is just what was needed for Mayowa to step up and make an impact as a Seahawks pass-rusher.

He was really active in the Tuesday practice and looks up to the challenge he will face from rookies Cassius Marsh and Jackson Jeffcoat, along with Greg Scruggs, who is healthy again after missing last season with a torn ACL.

Scruggs gets praise from Carroll: Speaking of Scruggs, he had an interception on Tuesday and played with a lot of intensity.

“He’s really determined,” Carroll said. “He’s worked so hard through this offseason. He’s ready to go physically. It’s been a long haul for him. I feel really good about him being back out with us.

“It seems like he’s been a part from this for so long. I think he’s ready to max it out and he’s going to get a great chance to be a big part of it. Our expectation is he will be a factor right there in the rotation.”

Toomer the boomer: Linebacker Korey Toomer stood out in the rookie minicamp and kept it up on Tuesday in the first OTA. He had a stop in the backfield and another at the line of scrimmage on a run up the middle. Toomer was playing inside and outside, and looked good in both spots. After spending his first two years on injured reserve, it’s obvious why the Seahawks kept him around.

A battle at defensive tackle: Brandon Mebane has one defensive tackle spot locked down, but Carroll mentioned three players who are in the mix for the DT spot -- returning starter Tony McDaniel and 2013 rookies Jesse Williams (who missed last year with a knee injury) and Jordan Hill.

“I’m excited to get Tony re-signed and get him back here,” Carroll said. “He had a very good year for us in doing the stuff that we wanted him to do. I think he comes in here trying to own that 3-technique spot. That’s what he came here to do. I was really proud that he was able to accomplish that, but guys are nipping at his heels here.

“Jesse Williams will be back out in the next couple of days and working with Jordan Hill. Those guys are battling for that spot. It’s going to be really competitive and it’s going to take a long time to figure that out. There’s no rush. We’ll have to get into pads and through the preseason before we really know what’s going on with that.”

Injuries a small concern: Two of these three are on defense, so I’m listing them here as a group. Not having strong safety Kam Chancellor (hip surgery), right tackle Russell Okung (toe surgery) and outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (ankle surgery) on the field was noticeable to everyone.

All of them are expected back for training camp, but no one knows for sure until it gets here. All three men are key players for the Seahawks.
As expected, the Seattle Seahawks have declined to exercise guard James Carpenter's fifth-year contract option for the 2015 season.

Carpenter, who played college football at Alabama, was the 25th overall pick of the 2011 draft. As a first-round pick, the Seahawks had the option of signing him through 2015, but it would have cost the team over $8 million for that season.

So Carpenter will play the 2014 season under his current contact, which pays him $2.4 million this year. The Seahawks could still re-sign him to a new deal, but Carpenter will become a free agent at the end of the year if that doesn’t happen.

That's the likely scenario. Carpenter has not lived up to expectations as a first-round pick. The Seahawks are high on 2013 rookie offensive linemen Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey. They are also likely to draft an offensive lineman early in next week's NFL draft.
SEATTLE -- It's becoming a theme for the Seattle Seahawks: They make a lot of mistakes and play without discipline at key points of the game, but have enough talent and make plays at the right moment to usually come out with the victory.

That's what happened Sunday in a 20-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans. In addition to fumbling the ball five times (including twice on one play), the Seahawks were hurt by red-zone woes. Seattle made it inside the Tennessee 20 -yard line five times Sunday, scoring all five times, but three of those scores were field goals. And that doesn’t include reaching the Titans' 25 on a Russell Wilson scramble in the first quarter, only to have the play called back for holding by left guard James Carpenter. That drive resulted in no points.

"The red zone is still kicking our [tails]," said center Max Unger, who was back in the starting lineup Sunday after missing the previous two games with a triceps injury. "We need to get it done there. I don’t have an answer for it right now. We [will watch] the film and come up with something."

The Seahawks had 404 yards of offense and averaged 6.1 yards per play, but came up a little short when they moved into the red zone. Still, Wilson was more optimistic about it than Unger.

“I’m not concerned about our offense at all,” he said. “Before this week, we had a lot of guys out. We were 2 for 5 in the red zone. But the offense made some big plays when we needed to. After the second or third series, we were really rolling.”
RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday he doesn’t think offensive tackle Russell Okung can play this weekend because of a toe injury suffered early in the game with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Carroll said. “We’ll wait and see. There are some options that we’ll deal with to try to figure it out. We need to wait and see. It’s a spectrum of options."

Whatever option the Seahawks select, it won’t be as good as Okung, a Pro Bowl player and the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Okung (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) has a torn ligament in his toe, leagues sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday. Carroll would not confirm the specifics of the injury.

“We’re still taking in information to know what it’s all about,” Carroll said. “We’re waiting for more info. We don’t know yet. If I told you something different I’d be making it all up.”

With Okung likely out for Sunday’s home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Seahawks will have some tough decisions to make at the crucial left-tackle spot.

Paul McQuistan moved from left guard to Okung's left-tackle spot when Okung left Sunday's game in the first half. James Carpenter came in to play left guard. But the Seahawks coaches might opt to play one of their two rookie offensive tackles -- Alvin Bailey or Michael Bowie -- against Jacksonville and leave McQuistan at guard to split time with Carpenter.

Both Bailey and Bowie were on the inactive list against the 49ers. Bowie (6-foot-4, 330) was a seventh-round draft choice out of Northeastern State in Oklahoma. Bowie suffered a shoulder injury in the final preseason game against Oakland, but was back practicing full speed last week.

Bailey (6-foot-3, 320) was an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas. He is listed as Okung’s backup on the Seahawks' depth chart, which is unofficial.

Another option for Seattle could be to bring back free agent Mike Person, who was released last week. Person (6-foot-4, 300 from Montana State) is a tackle who was working as the team’s third tight end before the Seahawks signed veteran tight end Kellen Davis last week.

Seattle is one of the deepest teams in the NFL, but the offensive-tackle spot is a thin area on the depth chart.

Okung struggled with ankle problems his rookie year, missing the first three games of the season before starting 10 games.

He missed four games in 2011 with a torn pectoral muscle, but he started 15 regular-season games last year and both playoff games, along with being voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Carroll said the only other injury from Sunday's game was rookie running back Spencer Ware, who suffered a sprained ankle at the end of the game.

“It’s a significant sprain,” Carroll said.

A dozen NFC West spectators to watch

August, 29, 2013
A look at 12 potential NFC West starters who have played zero preseason snaps heading into their teams' final exhibition games Thursday night:

Arizona Cardinals

TE Jeff King: King started 12 games last season. He could still figure prominently in the two-tight end sets new coach Bruce Arians prefers over using two backs. But with knee trouble preventing King from factoring to this point, the team has yet to get a look at him in game situations. Perhaps that changes Thursday night.

Seattle Seahawks

G James Carpenter: The Seahawks expect Carpenter to make his 2013 preseason debut Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders. Carpenter can still emerge as a starter this season, but he has to stay healthy. The foot injury he suffered recently set him back. The career-threatening knee injury Carpenter suffered as a rookie in 2011 has not been a problem.

TE Zach Miller: Miller is scheduled to make his preseason debut against the Raiders, his former team. The Seahawks want him to get game reps before the regular season. Miller is one of the more valuable role players on the team. Foot trouble sidelined him through training camp. Working him into the offense is a priority.

WR Sidney Rice: The Seahawks will hold out Rice until the regular-season opener. The move appears to be precautionary after Rice underwent a non-surgical procedure to address a knee condition. Coach Pete Carroll: "We know that he’ll be ready unless there’s a setback next week in practice again. He’ll go next week."

DE Cliff Avril: A hamstring injury continues to sideline Avril while calling into question his availability for the opener.

DE Chris Clemons: The Seahawks hope Clemons can return from ACL surgery in time for the regular-season opener. There are no guarantees, but moving Clemons from the active/physically unable to perform (PUP) list to the reserve/PUP list appears unlikely. Players entering the season on reserve/PUP cannot practice before Oct. 15. Clemons will presumably return before that.

WR Percy Harvin: Harvin is on the reserve/PUP list already while recovering from hip surgery. He can resume practicing between Oct. 15 and Nov. 19. Once he resumes practicing, he has 21 calendar days to join the 53-man roster and become eligible for playing in games this season.

San Francisco 49ers

ILB Patrick Willis: Willis is recovering from surgery to repair a broken hand. The feeling is that he could play if the games counted. Until further notice, all signs point to Willis returning for the regular-season opener.

WR Kyle Williams: Williams came off the PUP list early in camp after recovering from ACL surgery. He has also overcome a hamstring injury suffered early in camp. Williams could emerge as the starter opposite Anquan Boldin even though the 49ers have held him out of games to this point.

WR Michael Crabtree: The 49ers already placed Crabtree on the reserve/PUP list while he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon. He's not expected back until late in the regular season. He can resume practicing between Oct. 15 and Nov. 19.

WR Mario Manningham: Manningham is on the reserve/PUP list while recovering from a torn ACL. The same rules framing the timetable for a possible Crabtree return apply to Manningham.

St. Louis Rams

TE Lance Kendricks: Kendricks is coming off knee surgery and is expected to be ready for the regular season. He has alluded to participating in warmups for the Rams' game against Baltimore on Thursday night, but he is not expected to play in the game. Kendricks' versatility is important to a Rams offense that will feature Jared Cook as a receiver.
Eleven days before the season opener, injuries are starting to become a concern for the Seattle Seahawks.

Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril, the projected starters at the defensive end spots, probably won’t be ready for the opener at Carolina on Sept. 8. Starting fullback Michael Robinson, recovering from a virus, also may not play in the opener.

The Seahawks already know defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin won’t play the first four games because of a suspension, reportedly for PEDs.

Two other starters -- defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and receiver Sidney Rice -- won’t play Thursday night against Oakland in the final preseason game. Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a possible starter at the 3-technique spot, also won’t play Thursday because of a groin pull.

Mebane suffered a groin injury in practice Monday. Coach Pete Carroll hopes Mebane and McDaniel will be ready for the opener.

Carroll said Rice will play in the opener, but had an unusual comment: “He’ll be ready unless there is a setback next week at practice again.”

A setback again? When was the first practice setback? Rice flew to Switzerland four weeks ago for a 20-minute platelet-enriched plasma treatment on his knee. But he later returned to practice and didn’t show any problems. He has not played in the preseason.

The biggest concern for the Seahawks is the defensive line. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett also won’t play Thursday because he having a procedure done on an injured toe. Carroll expects Bennett to play in the opener.

Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill is out with a shoulder injury and fellow rookie defensive tackle Jesse Williams is on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The Seahawks hoped to shore up their pass rush this season, but two key cogs are iffy in Clemons and Avril. Clemons, who led Seattle with 11.5 sacks last year, still is recovering from off-season ACL surgery.

“He’s making great progress,” Carroll said of Clemons. “We have a big decision to make there.”

The decision is whether to place Clemons on the reserve/ physically unable to perform (PUP) list or to place him on the 53-man roster. If Clemons goes to the PUP list, he can’t play until Week 6. Either way, it’s doubtful he plays in the opener.

Avril, Seattle’s top free-agent acquisition in the offseason for the defense, has a hamstring injury and hasn’t played in the preseason. His status for the opener is tentative at best.

“As of this morning he’s feeling better and we’re hoping he will be able to go next week,” Carroll said. “But we won’t know until we get there.”

Even if Avril does play, how effective will he be after missing so much time?

On the bright side, starting tight end Zach Miller will play Thursday and guard James Carpenter also will see action in the Oakland game.

“It’s necessary for him to get out there and play again,'’ Carroll said of Carpenter. “He was really making some progress and missed a couple of weeks here, so it will be great to get him out.”

But the injury problems, especially on the defensive line, are worrisome. The Seahawks may have to rely on two players who weren’t part of the picture a month ago -- free agent defensive ends Benson Mayowa and O'Brien Schofield.

Both have looked good in the preseason, especially Mayowa, an undrafted rookie from Idaho. He has 2.5 sacks and 10 total tackles in three preseason games. Schofield, who played for the Arizona Cardinals the previous three seasons, has a sack, force fumble and fumble recovery in the preseason.

If needed, starting defensive end Red Bryant can move inside and play tackle. Bryant has seen quite a bit of action inside during the preseason.
The Arizona Cardinals hope rookie first-round draft choice Jonathan Cooper can recover from a broken leg in time to play the final six or so games in 2013.

The injury was a tough one for the Cardinals. They are rebuilding their long-neglected offensive line around Cooper, the seventh overall pick in the draft. Injuries sidelined multiple starters on the line last season, including left tackle Levi Brown and center Lyle Sendlein. Losing Cooper before he plays a regular-season game reduces the margin for error even though overall line depth is improved.

There is hope for Cooper. Other highly drafted offensive linemen have bounced back from injury-shortened rookie seasons in recent years. Russell Okung, taken sixth overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, rebounded to earn Pro Bowl honors in his third season. Cincinnati's Andre Smith and Atlanta's Sam Baker have been more durable lately after rough early stretches.

The chart below ranks first-round offensive linemen from 2008 through 2012 by most games missed as rookies.

Chris McIntosh, Steve Hutchinson, James Carpenter, Okung and Jason Smith are five first-round offensive linemen from NFC West teams to miss time early in their careers since the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions for the 2002 season. All but Hutchinson suffered significant injuries as a rookie. Hutchinson suffered a broken leg four games into his second season.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said defensive end Cliff Avril will not play Thursday against Oakland in the final preseason game, and Carroll doesn’t know if Avril will be ready for the season opener against Carolina.

Avril was one of Seattle's top off-season acquisitions and a free agent from Detroit who was viewed as a player that could help improve the Seahawks' pass rush. But he aggravated a hamstring injury last week and has not played in the preseason.

“That was a whole week ago, way back when,” Carroll said after practice Monday. “That’s why he isn’t practicing. We don’t know if he’s going to be ready [for the opener].”

Starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane suffered a groin injury in practice Monday, but Carroll didn’t know if Mebane will miss any practice time.

Tight end Zach Miller was back practicing full speed and said he wants to play Thursday, but Carroll is being cautious.

“Zach is ready to go and could play this weekend,’’ Carroll said. “He wants to play, but we’ve been shooting for the opener all along.”

Starting fullback Michael Robinson continues to miss practice with an unspecified illness.

“He’s better, but he was really sick,” Carroll said of Robinson. “There still are some concerns with whatever he’s got. I don’t know a lot about it.”

Defensive end Chris Clemons, who had ACL surgery in the off-season, continues to rehab his knee, but when he’ll return to the field isn’t known.

“Chris had a terrific workout for 40 straight minutes [Sunday],” Carroll said. “He’s making great progress. He feels really good and he’s not favoring the knee, but I don’t know how many games or how many weeks away he is.”

Guard James Carpenter returned to practice Monday after being out with a foot injury. If Carpenter is healthy, he could get in the mix for one of the starting spots at guard.
RENTON, Wash. — Seattle guard John Moffitt was traded, then not traded, then traded again, all within 24 hours.

Moffitt was dealt to the Cleveland Browns on Monday afternoon for defensive lineman Brian Sanford, but Cleveland voided the deal Tuesday afternoon, reportedly due to health concerns over a previous Moffitt knee injury.

Moffitt has been on the field throughout training camp, played in both of Seattle's preseason games and said he was in better shape than any time in his career.

Less than 30 minutes after news broke of the trade being nixed, the Seahawks had traded Moffitt to Denver for Broncos defensive tackle Sealver Siliga.

[+] EnlargeJohn Moffitt
Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsAfter his trade to Cleveland was voided over a health issue, Seattle sent guard John Moffitt to Denver for defensive tackle Sealver Siliga.
Maybe both teams liked what they saw from those players in the Seahawks' 40-10 victory over Denver on Saturday night in Seattle.

Siliga, 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, is in his second season out of Utah. He had two assisted tackles against the Seahawks.

Moffitt still will need to pass a physical with the Broncos, but assuming that gets done with no problems, Seattle’s decision to trade Moffitt clears up some things:

1. Starting battles for the offensive line are over. The only real contest up front was between J.R. Sweezy and Moffitt, but obviously Sweezy won out. The other OL starters are set: Russell Okung at left tackle, Paul McQuistan at left guard, Max Unger at center and Breno Giacomini at right tackle.

Moffitt has more experience than Sweezy and might be a better player from a technique standpoint, but Sweezy has a toughness to him and a hard edge that offensive line coach Tom Cable loves, which is why he wanted to see what he could do when the team moved Sweezy to offense last season.

Sweezy was a seventh-round draft choice last year as a defensive tackle from North Carolina State. He was moved to the offensive line, partially because of an arm injury to Moffitt in training camp last season. Sweezy struggled early on, but improved as the season progressed.

Moffitt hoped to win the starting job at training camp this year, but it didn’t happen.

The only thing that could change the starting lineup on the O-line (other than an injury) is having James Carpenter back on the field and healthy. Carpenter was a first-round pick out of Alabama in 2011, but injuries have plagued his time in the NFL.

A foot injury has sidelined him so far in the preseason. If Carpenter is healthy and gets some time on the field soon, he could eventually return to a starting spot at guard, but that’s a big if at this point.

2. As they’ve shown in the past, the Seahawks aren’t afraid to move an early-round draft choice if they feel other players, not as highly touted, are doing better jobs.

Moffitt was a third-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2010. He played well his rookie season and was viewed as a possible anchor at guard for the long term, but injuries slowed his progress.

He became expendable because the Seahawks are pleased with what they’ve seen from rookies Ryan Seymour (a seventh-round pick out of Vanderbilt), Michael Bowie (a seventh-round pick from Northeastern State in Oklahoma) and Alvin Bailey (a free agent from Arkansas).

Seymour now is listed as the backup to Sweezy. Bowie and Bailey are listed at tackle, but they also can play the guard spots.

Around the NFC West: Successful start

August, 12, 2013
Good morning, NFC West. The first round of exhibition games for 2013 were a success around here for two reasons. One, teams from the division avoided season-altering injuries. Two, three-fourths of the division remained a safe distance from Bernie Kosar.

Most of the injury news has been positive or better than feared.

St. Louis Rams right tackle Rodger Saffold (shoulder) and Seattle Seahawks left guard James Carpenter (foot) are expected back after another couple weeks or so.

The San Francisco 49ers activated incumbent No. 2 running back Kendall Hunter from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Hunter was already counting against the 90-man roster limit. His activation from PUP means Hunter passed a physical examination. It means he won't be eligible for PUP consideration during the regular season and will count against the 53-man limit once it goes into effect Aug. 31. That was the plan all along for Hunter.

In Arizona, the Cardinals remain short-handed at running back, but they suffered no new injuries of note at the position while generally leaving a positive overall impression during a 17-0 victory at Green Bay.

None of the division's on-field opponents inflicted as much punishment as Kosar delivered against the Rams from his seat in the Browns' preseason broadcast booth Thursday night. The performance was harsh enough for Browns president Joe Banner to issue an apology. Kosar called Rams coach Jeff Fisher separately.

This should be the last we hear from Kosar in the NFC West. The Browns conclude their preseason schedule with games against Detroit, Indianapolis and Chicago.
Good morning, NFC West.

The San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams opened training camps Thursday. The Arizona Cardinals will follow suit with a first practice scheduled for 2 p.m. local time Friday.

The division is already making headlines.

The Cardinals announced deals with veterans John Abraham and Eric Winston. They also cut projected starting outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield while announcing rookie receiver Ryan Swope's concussion-induced retirement.

Tarell Brown, cornerback for the 49ers, was in the news unexpectedly when Brian McIntyre reported Brown had unwittingly lost $2 million in salary simply by failing to show up for the team's offseason program.

The hip injury preventing Percy Harvin from practicing with the Seahawks was the biggest story of them all even though it's tough to know whether Harvin will miss an extended time.

One of the more positive NFC West developments slid a bit under the radar. James Carpenter, the Seahawks' first-round pick in 2011, participated fully in practice after battling a career-threatening knee injury over his first two seasons. Having a healthy and productive Carpenter would count as a significant bonus for Seattle. His situation is one to watch as camp progresses.

Around the NFC West: Off to camp

July, 25, 2013
Good morning, NFC West.

Everything changes with NFC West training camps beginning Thursday. I'll be heading over to Seattle Seahawks headquarters for the first three days of camp before heading to Arizona -- Glendale, not Flagstaff -- for a look at a largely remade Cardinals team.

That's right, the Cardinals remain in the NFC West. You might not have heard much about them this offseason. They've got a new quarterback and a new head coach, but with the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers commanding most of the national spotlight, Arizona and the St. Louis Rams have been lurking in the shadows.

Most of the stories previewing Seahawks camp focus on elevated expectations. That is an unavoidable angle and a legitimate one. I'm mostly interested in watching practice to see how players such as Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, Walter Thurmond and James Carpenter are going to fit. We'll finally get a chance to do that beginning Thursday.

What are you most interested in learning from NFC West camps? Let me know in the comments section or through the NFC West mailbag.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What are the three key camp issues facing each NFC West team?


Offense: Top running backs
Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams have combined for one ruptured patella tendon (Williams), one torn ACL (Mendenhall) and one shoulder surgery (Williams) during the past two seasons. Williams has played five games in two seasons. Mendenhall missed 10 games last season (one to suspension) after returning from his knee injury. So while new quarterback Carson Palmer rightly commands much of the attention heading into camp, the running backs deserve our attention as well.

Defense: Coaching change
The coaching change from Ken Whisenhunt to Bruce Arians cost the Cardinals their defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, just as the defense was gaining momentum. Arizona ranked third behind Chicago and Denver in defensive EPA last season. New coordinator Todd Bowles comes to Arizona after a difficult 2012 season with Philadelphia. Can the Cardinals sustain their recent defensive success under new leadership?

Wild card: Kitchens' health
Quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens underwent emergency heart surgery in early June after experiencing chest pain during practice. Last we heard, Kitchens was recuperating and expected to return sometime during camp, perhaps on a limited basis at first. Kitchens' health is a leading issue for the Cardinals even though the team has enough depth on its coaching staff to cover for him.


Offense: Second-year second-rounders
Two second-round picks from 2012 will help determine the Rams' trajectory on offense. Receiver Brian Quick and running back Isaiah Pead each started one game as a rookie. Quick played 174 snaps and caught 11 passes, two for touchdowns. Pead played 39 snaps and had 10 carries. It's time for both to become meaningful contributors. They should have increased opportunities after St. Louis parted with veterans at their positions.

Defense: Rookie safety T.J. McDonald
The Rams will want to get McDonald up to speed quickly. They did sign veteran Matt Giordano for insurance, but McDonald, a third-round choice from USC, is the player they envision in the lineup. Coach Jeff Fisher has experience putting rookie safeties into the lineup right away. Tank Williams started all 16 games as a rookie under Fisher with Tennessee in 2002. Michael Griffin started 10 games as a rookie under Fisher with the Titans in 2007. Williams was a second-round choice. Griffin was a first-rounder.

Wild card: O-line health
The Rams are young just about everywhere except along their offensive line. That's OK as long as those veterans avoid some of the injury troubles they've suffered in recent seasons. Left tackle Jake Long has had two arm surgeries the past two seasons. Right guard Harvey Dahl is coming off a torn biceps. Center Scott Wells has had two surgeries on his right knee, plus a broken foot, in the past year and a half. Tackle Rodger Saffold has had a torn pectoral and a neck injury since late in the 2011 season. The group should be healthy going into camp. Will the good health last?


Offense: Developing wideouts
Eight wide receivers have played in games for the 49ers during two seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh. The list -- Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Kyle Williams, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn Jr., Josh Morgan, Braylon Edwards and Brett Swain -- includes zero players the team drafted and developed under Harbaugh. The team will be looking to develop young wideouts A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette while Crabtree and Manningham recover from serious injuries. Jenkins and Patton were draft choices under Harbaugh. Lockette was signed last season.

Defense: Roles on the D-line
General manager Trent Baalke has suggested the team could stand to expand its rotation on the defensive line. How will that play out once the 49ers are on the field and the coaching staff takes over? What role will newcomer Glenn Dorsey play to that end? Starters Justin Smith and Ray McDonald could benefit from a little more rest now and then. They rank among the NFL leaders in total regular-season and postseason snaps played in the past couple of seasons. Smith, in particular, is hugely important to the defense's success.

Wild card: Eric Mangini
The coaching staff will have a different feel with Mangini as the new senior offensive consultant. Harbaugh has kept together his staff for two seasons, an upset for a team that has enjoyed so much success on the scoreboard and in scheming. We easily could have credited Harbaugh for staying the course in the name of continuity. Adding a coach with Mangini's profile shakes things up. It'll be interesting to see how Mangini assimilates.


Offense: James Carpenter
Carpenter's health is a key variable for the future of the offensive line. Coach Pete Carroll has indicated Carpenter should be available for the start of training camp after missing nine games last season and seven as a rookie. Drafted to play right tackle, Carpenter's future is at guard if he can get healthy, stay healthy and regain quickness. Having Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and Pro Bowl center Max Unger flanking a healthy Carpenter would give Seattle a line more like the one Carroll envisioned.

Defense: Cliff Avril's transition
Seattle will be looking to see how pass-rushing defensive ends Avril and Bruce Irvin fit at linebacker as the coaching staff promotes versatility through the front seven. Avril is particularly important in the short term because Irvin faces a four-game suspension to open the season while starting defensive end Chris Clemons continues to rehab from the torn ACL he suffered during the wild-card round last season. Carroll has hinted that Clemons could return in time for the season, but that's a best-case scenario.

Wild card: Keep it clean
All NFL players must submit to testing for performance-enhancing drugs when they report for training camp. That's significant for the Seahawks after Irvin became the fifth Seattle player since 2011 to incur a PED-related suspension. What are the chances another player tests positive?

Eight in the Box: Offseason regret

July, 12, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the one offseason move each team in the NFC West needed to make, but didn't:

Arizona Cardinals: Pass-rushing outside linebacker is one position where the team could have upgraded more aggressively. Using a fourth-round pick for Alex Okafor addressed the position to some degree. Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield and Lorenzo Alexander are the other players expected to factor on the outside in 3-4 looks. The Cardinals haven't been hurting for sacks. Their defensive front could generate pressure more directly if the responsibilities for ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett evolve as expected. But with inside linebacker and leading 2012 sacker Daryl Washington serving a four-game suspension to open the season, Arizona might need more pass-rush presence from the perimeter.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams appear set on defense except at safety, where Darian Stewart and 2013 third-round choice T.J. McDonald are the projected starters after the team parted with 2012 starters Craig Dahl (signed by San Francisco) and Quintin Mikell (released for salary reasons). Stewart played 83 percent of the defensive snaps in 2011, but his playing time fell to 7 percent last season. McDonald is just getting started. Safety is one position the team could address by adding a veteran as the summer progresses. For now, it's a question mark. We should note, however, that rookie linebacker and first-round pick Alec Ogletree adds considerable range and coverage potential to the defense. He could wind up drawing some coverage responsibilities.

San Francisco 49ers: This roster doesn't have many holes, so we'll have to reach a little. Some thought the 49ers needed to upgrade more at cornerback, but the team thought restoring its front seven would plug some of the leaks that sprung in the secondary late last season. On offense, hindsight says the team could have moved even more aggressively at wide receiver, but there was no way to know Michael Crabtree would suffer a torn Achilles tendon during routine offseason workouts. Even then, San Francisco was proactive by acquiring Anquan Boldin before Crabtree's injury. Swing tackle was one position where the 49ers arguably needed another option. Re-signing Adam Snyder provided some insurance there.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks, like the 49ers, have a roster without many holes. They addressed key needs for a nickel corner (Antoine Winfield) and pass-rush help (Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett). The offensive line is one area where the team arguably could have moved more aggressively. An injury to one of the starting tackles could force guard Paul McQuistan to play out of position while taxing depth on the interior, particularly if 2011 first-round pick James Carpenter doesn't shake significant injury concerns. The Seahawks believe in line coach Tom Cable's ability to make just about any situation work. He's their insurance policy.

Links: Seahawks' Okung high on Carpenter

July, 1, 2013
Arizona Cardinals

A young man facing brain surgery got a surprise visit and gifts from some members of the Arizona Cardinals.

Former NFL defensive end Michael Haynes held a safety clinic for youth football coaches at the Cardinals' facility on Saturday.

St. Louis Rams

Turf Show Times takes a look at the last several seasons of Rams home openers.

San Francisco 49ers

The Harbaugh family was honored with the Blanton Collier award Friday in Kentucky. According to the award "was established in 2007 to honor individuals who excelled on the football field and utilized that platform to 'give back' off the field. Past winners include Rich Brooks, Tony Dungy, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and the Archie Manning family."

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks tackle Russell Okung is high on returning left guard James Carpenter. "When he’s healthy, he’s hard to beat," Okung told The News Tribune. "I don’t think there’s a guy who can line up over him and really say they can beat him, when he’s healthy.”