NFC West: Jeb Putzier
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals? They just kept moving toward their inevitable NFC West title.
The latest roided-out rosters, available for download here, show how the teams in this division stack up against one another and against league averages. Enjoy.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says emotions run high for Larry Fitzgerald when asked about heading to Seattle. Fitzgerald: "This game has been big for me since I saw the schedule come out. I have never been close in a game in Seattle in my five years. Going to Seattle has always been a death sentence. They have been the division champion for however long, and to be the champion, you have to beat the champion."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are looking to snap a five-game losing streak in Seattle. If not now, when?
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune quotes the Cardinals' Antonio Smith as saying Seattle has the NFL's best fans for generating crowd noise.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times questions whether Matt Hasselbeck's return will make a big difference for the Seahawks.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks signed Jamar Adams from their practice squad to fill in for the injured C.J. Wallace. Tight end Jeb Putzier was the odd man out. Putzier opened the season as part of the rotation at tight end, but the Seahawks benched him after Putzier struggled.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks find themselves in an unfamiliar place -- looking up at Arizona.
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks are looking to delay what appears to be an inevitable passing of the torch within the NFC West.
Also from Johnson: Hasselbeck's return could be too little, too late.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle singles out Jason Hill's emergence as a positive for the 49ers.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat stands up for 49ers executive Paraag Marathe, who has come under criticism for the way he advises the coaching staff during games.
Also from Maiocco: Isaac Bruce's former teammates revere the veteran receiver.
Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at the overachieving ways of 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill, a former track star whose hustle on the basketball court sent him on his way.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers have no plans to return Jonas Jennings to their starting lineup. The longer he's out, the longer he has to heal, coach Mike Singletary said.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' run defense has betrayed them during recent defeats to the Cardinals and Jets. That could be a problem against the 49ers.
Also from Thomas: He says the Rams' pass offense and pass defense enjoy advantages against the 49ers.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sums up the Rams-49ers rivalry this way: "This used to be a proud and esteemed rivalry, until both franchises ended up living in a dumpster in the alley behind NFL headquarters on Park Avenue in New York."
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams could get a large dose of the ground game from Mike Martz.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
- Bills 34, Seahawks 10
The Seahawks spent all offseason working to improve their running game. While that work appeared far from finished during a 34-10 defeat at Buffalo, the passing game needs even more attention -- especially if Seattle hopes to overcome shoddy special-teams play.
The situation at receiver went from potentially serious to grave for Seattle when a knee injury forced Nate Burleson out of the game. Burleson was the Seahawks' only healthy wideout with meaningful experience. The other starter Sunday, Courtney Taylor, averaged 9.5 yards on two receptions. He dropped the ball and wasn't a factor.
The Seahawks were excited about working veteran tight end Jeb Putzier into their three-receiver packages. He had trouble holding onto the ball and finished with zero receptions. Seattle converted only three times in 16 third-down chances.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck needs receivers to find open spots when plays break down. Hasselbeck waited for receivers to find open spots, but they never did. Veteran receiver Bobby Engram, sidelined for at least another game or two, was extremely valuable in those situations.
This wasn't the first time the Seahawks have stumbled on offense during a season opener. But those previous teams didn't have Mike Solari and Mike DeBord coaching the offensive line. They didn't have tight ends as versatile as rookie John Carlson. They didn't have veteran guard Mike Wahle, the player coach Mike Holmgren identified as the single most important addition of the offseason.
History tells us not to overreact after one game. The Seahawks return to Seattle for home games against the 49ers and Rams over the next two weeks. A fast start is still possible and even likely.
Seattle needs to restore balance to its roster for the benefit of special teams. The Bills piled up 120 yards on six punt returns, including a 63-yard return for a touchdown. Special-teams plays contributed to 21 points for Arizona. That was even more than expected against a Seattle team carrying two kickers, six running backs and a league-low 13 linebackers and defensive backs.
- Eagles 38, Rams 3
The Rams made it through their predictable season-opening sacrifice in Philadelphia without losing left tackle Orlando Pace to a season-ending injury. Quarterback Marc Bulger also left Philadelphia in one piece following the 38-3 defeat against the Eagles.
This St. Louis team will have to settle for small victories, particularly against a Super Bowl contender such as Philadelphia. Getting through this game without losing Pace or Bulger will have to suffice. Nothing else went right, and even Pace wasn't unscathed. He took a hit to the ribs when the Rams were trailing, 38-0. And if Bulger keeps taking shots the way he did Sunday, he won't last.
The Rams will improve on offense as long as Pace and Bulger remain available. They can't get much worse after failing to convert any of their 11 third-down chances. This was the Rams' first game under new coordinator Al Saunders. Steven Jackson held out through training camp, so he was going to be a rusty. A new offense needs time to develop continuity. Torry Holt is not going to finish with one catch for 9 yards every week.
The breakdowns suffered on defense might be more troubling. Allowing 522 yards wasn't as bad as allowing so many of those yards on big plays. The Eagles, despite entering the game without either starting receiver, produced pass plays of 47, 31, 52 and 90 yards during their first five possessions. The Rams' offense never had a chance to find balance after falling behind early.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Starting jobs around the NFC West could change based on what happens in the first week of the regular season.
- Arizona Cardinals
Deuce Lutui vs. Elton Brown, right guard.
Lutui enters the season as the starter. Coaches continually push him. I asked Lutui about this following the Cardinals' preseason game at Oakland. He said: "Coach [Ken] Whisenhunt has done an excellent job putting guys in position for competition. Really telling me to focus on things, addressing it in film session. For the most part, it's been mostly technique and it was assignments last year, getting caught up in the league my third year. I've shown some maturity and good things this year. I'm optimistic."
- Seattle Seahawks
Maurice Morris vs. Julius Jones, running back. The Seahawks haven't named a starter. Expect both to play extensively this season. Morris ran more effectively during the exhibition season. Jones shined in pass protection, a skill the Seahawks value after living with Shaun Alexander's deficiencies in that area.
Lawrence Jackson vs. Darryl Tapp, defensive end. The Seahawks haven't named a starter. Jackson seemed to overtake Tapp as the exhibition season progressed. The rookie also seems better suited to early downs because he's bigger and stronger.
Olindo Mare vs. Brandon Coutu, kicker. Look for Mare to prevail in the first week. It's unclear if the Seahawks will carry Coutu through the weekend or send him to the practice squad via waivers. Mare must kick well to keep the job. His power on kickoffs has impressed.
John Carlson vs. the field, tight end. The Seahawks have not formally declared a starter. Carlson projects as the best all-around candidate at the position. Jeb Putzier could see considerable playing time in passing situations. The team might also use more two-tight end groupings. Which player starts at tight end might not matter as much because Seattle mixes up its personnel so much.
- St. Louis Rams
Nick Leckey vs. Brett Romberg, center. Leckey has taken over after Romberg suffered a broken hand. Leckey could conceivably keep the job, but nothing is decided for the long term.
Quinton Culberson vs. Chris Draft, strong-side linebacker. Culberson has won this job for now. Draft projects as an ideal backup because he can play all three positions. Culberson, with one regular-season start on his resume, still has to prove he can be consistent over time.
- San Francisco 49ers
Adam Snyder vs. David Baas, left guard. Snyder is the incumbent. Baas was projected to start at right guard, but Tony Wragge beat him out while Baas recovered from pectoral surgery.
Jeff Ulbrich vs. Takeo Spikes, "Ted" linebacker. Spikes might be the favorite to win this job with a little more time in the system. Ulbrich is the starter for now. Newly signed linebacker Ahmad Brooks currently projects as a backup to Patrick Willis at the other inside linebacker spot.
Those are the primary starting jobs at stake in the division heading into the first week of the regular season. Bryant Johnson will start at receiver for the 49ers unless an injury dictates otherwise. The 49ers are going with Mark Roman over Dashon Goldson at safety. Leonard Pope beat out the injury-slowed Ben Patrick at tight end for the Cardinals. The quarterback battles around the division appear settled for the time being.
KIRKLAND, Wash. -- The Seahawks released tight end Zac Alcorn after signing rookie tight end John Carlson. The team just announced the roster move. Seattle now has four tight ends: Carlson, Will Heller, Jeb Putzier and Joe Newton. The team generally keeps three. ...
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic singles out tight end Ben Patrick as a potential surprise player for the Cardinals this season. Patrick does have a shot at the starting job, as we discussed this morning. ...
The most spirited competition of 49ers training camp might involve reporters Matt Maiocco and Matt Barrows. Where else can you get play-by-play information, complete with stats, from unpadded practices? Kevin Lynch is on the scene, too. At this rate I fully expect to see training-camp passer ratings. ...Steve Korte's blog at the Belleville News Democrat features Rams practice notes topped by La'Roi Glover's thoughts on retirement. Glover hates training camp, but friends have told him to enjoy every moment of his remaining career.
Some of the interior offensive linemen I've covered in Seattle -- Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray come to mind -- always told me they respected Glover and retiring 49ers defensive lineman Bryant Young as much as anyone in the game. They respected them not only for their abilities but for the way they played the game and conducted themselves. ...
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gives his take on the Seahawks' situations at receiver and right cornerback. He's not reading much into Mike Holmgren's comments about right corner Kelly Jennings' job security being in question. He also makes a good point about Jordan Babineaux being an option as a backup. But I wouldn't dismiss Kevin Hobbs entirely. He's a big corner with blazing speed and certainly a player to watch for Seattle.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
KIRKLAND, Wash. -- The Seahawks have finished their first practice of training camp. The only negative from this angle was not being able to watch the rest of the division at the same time. We'll get to that beginning Sunday. In the meantime, here's what I can tell you:
- The Seahawks' roster moves also included releasing defensive tackle Kevin Brown. Second-round tight end John Carlson remains unsigned, but the sides are apparently close to an agreement.
- The team limited several players coming off surgeries. Defensive end Patrick Kerney and left tackle Walter Jones were two of them. Kerney said he's been working against Jones in one-on-one drills in preparation for camp. They've been testing their shoulders in pass-rush and run-blocking situations. Kerney said he feels great.
- Kevin Hobbs has a chance to push Kelly Jennings for the right cornerback job, but don't get too excited about that one just yet. Jennings has played well this offseason. He provided a reminder during this practice by leaping high to pick off a pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Nate Burleson. Marcus Trufant, Deon Grant, Jordan Babineaux, Brian Russell, Josh Wilson and Jennings worked together in the same secondary at one point.
- The tight ends had some problems gathering the ball and protecting it during drills in which linebackers and defensive backs swatted at the ball. Jeb Putzier made a nice sideline grab, but the Seahawks really want Carlson to emerge as the clear-cut starter once he gets in camp.
- Seattle worked in shorts, shoulder pads and (of course) helmets this morning. They won't put on the pads until Sunday morning, which means we won't see Julius Jones working in live action until then. Jones and Maurice Morris are sharing time. I saw Morris with the starters quite a bit today. I'd expect Jones to emerge as the starter eventually, but coach Mike Holmgren said he's approaching the situation right now as if both are starters. In other words, they won't make a decision for some time.
- Bobby Engram practiced and said he'll honor his contract even though the organization has refused to extend his deal, which expires after the upcoming season. Engram mostly wants to know whether he figures into the team's plans beyond the Holmgren era.
- Holmgren said he regards Tyler Schmitt as an excellent snapper. We saw one snap at the ankles today but he was consistent the rest of the time.
- The team wants to see Charlie Frye step up as a solid third quarterback, which would allow Holmgren to feel better about using No. 2 quarterback Seneca Wallace as a receiver. Wallace is going to be the No. 2 this season, Holmgren said. That isn't the question. The question is whether Holmgren feels good enough about Frye as a backup to risk using Wallace as a receiver. Holmgren called it a "stretch" to think Wallace's skills as a receiver would directly affect the number of players Seattle keeps at the position, but he said they do talk about Wallace as a receiver in meetings.
- Rookie Lawrence Jackson blew up one play in the backfield. After practice, he said he thought getting into camp on time was important because it showed veterans he was serious about his job. It's always refreshing when the rookies know their place.
- Not practicing today: punter Ryan Plackemeier, receiver Deion Branch, Carlson, defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs and linebacker Will Herring. According to Holmgren, Herring is undergoing tests to evaluate an unspecified condition that has possibly made Herring more prone to injuries. Update: Herring's condition is producing what a team spokesman called "recurring join inflammation".